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A deal to make fuel from a steel plant's CO2 emissions shows the promise of new tech

A French utility and an American startup are working together on a half-a-billion dollar project to capture carbon dioxide emissions from a steel factory in France and turn that pollution into sustainable fuel.

It's an example of how American ingenuity from companies like Infinium Holdings are being deployed in Europe where tough regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions are creating opportunities for new businesses.

The deal between the French utility Engie and Infinium is worth more than $500 million Euros ($572 million) and will create a joint venture called Reuze. Reuze applies Inifinum's technology to convert captured CO2 and from a big steel factory owned by Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal and Hydrogen from Engie into fuels for planes and ships.

By combining green hydrogen, which is made from renewable energy sources rather than natural gas, with carbon dioxide captured from a manufacturing facility, Infinium can make synthetic fuels which should be carbon neutral.

As governments push industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, businesses are looking for ways to profit or at least cancel out the expense of capturing those emissions.

Increasingly, those companies are looking at the creation of synthetic fuels, plastics, or other materials as a way to offset costs or create new revenues -- and take advantage of government subsidies for these new products.

“Hydrogen and e-fuels are going to have an important role to play in reducing the CO2 emissions of difficult-to-decarbonize industrial sectors, as well as in ensuring the sustainability of major transport companies,” Sebastien Arbola, Engie’s head of thermal generation, hydrogen and energy supply told Bloomberg News.

The French project using Infinium's technology expects to produce roughly 2,500 barrels of synthetic fuel per day. That's a drop in the bucket of the over 1 million barrels per day that were used in the UK and Europe in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

Arcelor Mittal, the steel maker which will supply the CO2 for the project, has received support from the French government for its own nearly 2 billion Euro plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% through 2030.

Infinium is far from the only company using captured emissions from factories to make products. In Atlanta, the flooring, tile, and carpeting manufacturer, Interface, uses captured carbon dioxide in its floor tiles. The cement companies CarbonCure, Carbicrete, Fortera, and Solidia have technology that captures carbon dioxide in the concrete and cement used in buildings and construction projects.

These companies are part of a new generation of businesses looking to reuse the carbon dioxide from industrial operations to create a more circular economy and reduce the use of new fossil fuels in manufacturing.

“Think back maybe 200 years, when this whole Industrial Revolution began, when we moved away from what was largely a circular economy to one that’s extractive,” Volker Sick, a professor at the University of Michigan who runs the Global CO2 Initiative (which promotes carbon utilization in industry), told The New York Times. “We began to take from the earth, use and then dispose. So, I think we need to use things in a circular way again. And the way it works is not that we go back to before — build a log house and hunt and collect berries. There are too many of us around. We have to have industrial processes.”

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