São Paulo, October 8, 2021 – Shell and FAPESP (São Paulo State Research Foundation) will invest R$ 63 million (R$ 51 million from the company and R$ 12 million from the Foundation) to put an ambitious plan into action making Brazilian science an international reference in support of public and private sector strategies for combatting climate change. The beneficiary of these funds will be the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) – an Engineering Research Center (CPE) headquartered in the University of São Paulo (USP), which until now has been investigating the sustainable use of natural gas, biogas, and hydrogen, including the management, transport, storage, and use of CO2.
From now on, the RCGI studies will be focused on innovations that enable Brazil to meet the commitments assumed in the Paris Agreement, within the scope of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). “At the present time, we know that the challenge of merely finding solutions for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is not enough. We need to go deeper: capture and store carbon; transform CO2 into raw material for the chemical industry; as well as overcome market, regulatory, and public perception bottlenecks,” stresses Julio Meneghini, the RCGI’s General and Scientific Director. “It is within this scenario that we will take action on our projects.”
FAPESP’s President, Marco Antonio Zago, sees the broadening of this research scope leading the RCGI towards investigations related not only to the sustainable use of energy, but also to climate change. “Fighting the causes of global climate change is an important challenge for humanity, and has become the top priority of all countries, as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic diminishes,” he emphasizes.
The RCGI’s Deputy Director General, Alexandre Breda, an executive at Shell, also points out that several of the new RCGI challenges are aligned with the company’s global strategies, which intends to be carbon neutral by 2050. “In addition to an excellent team of some 400 researchers, the center now has a level of maturity and organization that enables it to deal with complex challenges,” he says.
Disruptive innovations – With this change of focus, the company’s name becomes Research Center for Greenhouse Gas Innovation, keeping the same acronym (RCGI). The center will also have five new programs: NBS (Nature Based Solutions); CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilization); BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage); GHG (Greenhouse Gases); and Advocacy. These five programs put forth 19 research projects, several of which have the potential of being disruptive in nature.
The Nature Based Solutions (NBS) program, for example, will seek means for driving carbon sequestration in vegetation and soil through reforestation projects of native species, the restoration of degraded pastures, and integrated crop-forest-livestock systems. It will support the provision of ecosystem services, in addition to working on the development of public policies and encouraging social well-being.
Tracking new chemical biological or electrochemical routes and transforming CO2 into raw material for the chemical industry are within the scope of the CCU program. Another innovative proposal is the application of carbon capture and storage technology in the bioenergy industry, which the BECCS program provides. In this case, the challenge will be to obtain a negative carbon footprint in the bioenergy chain, which would make Brazil the world leader in this fuel.
The GHG program will work on finding ways to bring greater reliability to Brazil’s greenhouse gas emission inventory, in addition to developing innovative technologies to restrict them. “It is no use having economically viable products and processes, with a zero emissions footprint, yet not have quality carbon credits to sell them,” emphasizes Meneghini. “Furthermore, it will be necessary to assess the feasibility of each project in economic, legal, and social terms, in order to develop strategies and present them to interest groups, which will be the responsibility of the Advocacy program.”
Meneghini sees Brazil as holding a strategic and advantageous position on the world stage: with a relatively clean energy matrix; industrial sectors that allow highly efficient CO2 capture; and large-scale agriculture, which is capable of establishing itself as a major CO2 sink. “The country also has geological reservoirs suitable for carbon storage, and we are already developing the technology to do so,” he concludes.