Turning industrial smokestacks into profit centers

And other innovative carbon neutral business strategies you can use

Article first published: Oct. 19, 2019. Image: Recycling symbol inside a globe, Pixabay

What can a company do, realistically, to embed environmentally friendly technology? While Investors, Gen Z’s, and Millennials look to invest their money or time into companies that have a purpose involving saving the planet, the what to do and how to do it are new to most industrial strategic thinking.

Let’s start by diving into some of the technology and pilots that are already working to make this an easy decision for you and your company.

One of the criticisms of electric cars is that, while their emissions are non-existent, the fossil fuel used to make the needed energy is problematic. Enter companies such as Bosch that are at work to combine factory air emission waste (CO2 captured with improved scrubbers) with hydrogen to make a synthetic fuel use to create the electricity needed for electric cars. This eliminates the fossil fuel component for the car’s electric power generation in a carbon neutral manner. The raw material is created from waste already being produced and released into the air while the energy creation plant performing the CO2 and hydrogen combining runs on renewable energy.

Nice for getting people to work, but what about industrial aspects?

Looking at other modes of transportation that are not electric, like airplanes, we find lots of carbon and other waste emissions going into the atmosphere. What to do?

Take a look at the work Virgin Airlines and LanzaTech have been doing to convert steel mill waste industrial gasses (the stuff that goes up in smokestacks) into low carbon ethanol. Using this as aircraft fuel, which they have tested in flight, they estimate a 65% carbon savings compared to current jet fuel.

And it’s not just one airline. At Rotterdam The Hague Airport, a consortium of companies are working diligently to create synthetic fuel out of CO2 extracted from the air – CO2 being found in abundance at airports. Climeworks from Switzerland is supplying proven, early generation ambient air CO2 extractors. The work now is to bring the effort to scale.

Similar synthetic fuels are now at industrial scale for commercial trucking, shipping, and aircraft fuels developed by Carbon Engineering. Using a combination of water (hydrogen), atmospheric air (CO2), and renewable energy (for conversion into fuel), diesel, gasoline, and Jet-A fuel can be created and used in a carbon neutral manner.

What all this means is that the transportation segments of your supply chains can be carbon neutral.

But that still leaves the need for energy to run factories and office buildings and service companies and IT data centers… What about these?

What if…

What if you started with the CO2 from your office air? Or the CO2 from your industrial smokestack?

And what if you used renewable energy from your solar cells or wind turbines to convert that CO2 plus the hydrogen from water into electrical energy to run your office? Or to create synthetic gas to run what was formally a diesel generator in order to deliver electricity to your office. Or to store in industrial batteries for later use.

This means the waste you create is used next to create the energy you use for your office and supply chain transportation needs. CO2 is created which you capture and convert back into energy. The energy when used produces CO2 which you capture and create more energy from …

While up front costs will be greater at this time, you’re carbon neutral for the long haul.

And any excess energy or CO2 you create?

What if you sell it? Your smokestack can become a profit center.

Better than carbon offsets because you’re providing energy to offices and small companies not positioned to make their own energy at this time. But if the smaller companies are not capturing their waste, isn’t this still problematic?

What smaller scale possibilities may open up for these companies down the road?

Researchers in Canada and Germany are working diligently to convert air conditioning and internal building atmospheric air emissions into usable synthetic fuel.  Which can be used to generate energy which when industrially used creates waste which can be captured to create synthetic fuel which can be….


What if no one in your business has the knowledge to implement any of this? We’ve got you covered – watch our FREE webinar to help you transform your business into a talent magnet – the exact talent you want and need to drive your carbon neutrality and leadership.


What if the scenarios that make sense are still in research or are not scalable at this time?

Investment is needed in all aspects. Pick a method of CO2 capture and conversion that makes sense for your business and become an investor by either directly supporting research or through investment funds that support many promising scenarios holding future potential for you. Perhaps you could support early system trials by hosting trial runs or other testing.

Don’t have extra cash? Perhaps small companies developing the technologies you are interested in could use donated professional help with the conversion from small systems and prototypes into scalable industrial sized systems – the stuff operations and supply chain people love to build.

Now is the time to make a difference. You’ll reap the rewards for both carbon neutrality and by having the environmental purpose and people-profit-planet focus Gen Z, Millennials, and investors are looking for.

Let us know how you and your company are taking on leadership roles in environmental care by entering in a comment below.


Key Words and Concepts:  carbon neutral, CO2, people profit planet, supply chain, synthetic fuel, industrial scale carbon neutrality, leadership, free webinar, process

Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky is the president of Process & Strategy Solutions  Our Recession-Proofing Your Business series helps owners, CEOs, and decision makers plot paths to growth, retain talent, and increase revenue by eliminating internal chaos through improved business performance customers pay for.

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