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Bringing carbon resources back into balance

KAUST’s Circular Carbon Initiative (CCI) brings together many disciplines to fill an innovation gap and to support Saudi Arabia in its vision to achieve a circular carbon economy. Through the CCI, KAUST aims to change the carbon narrative to one of reduce, reuse, recycle and remove.

The CCI aims to create a strong and well-informed network of research, from developing clean-burning fuels to optimiz­ing the performance of renew­able energy technologies and from maximizing the oceans’ storage of blue carbon to mini­mizing the energy input needed to drive industrial processes.
— Donal Bradley


Vice President for Research


Professor, Mechanical Engineering


Professor, Chemical Engineering


Professor, Bioengineering


Professor, Chemical Engineering


Professor, Energy Resources and Petroleum Engineering

Why do we need a CCI?

Pragmatism is needed to address climate change. The CCI offers a framework that allows different countries to reach the objective of zero emissions through different paths and recognizes the value of carbon as a fuel and as a very important raw material.
– Jorge Gascon

It’s really important for engineers, physical scientists and biologists to speak together about carbon dioxide — how it can be used or stored — because the scales that we work at are often very, very different.
– Bill Roberts

Decarbonization of the global economy will only be possible with subsurface solutions; anything else cannot, and will not, remove and store sufficient volumes of CO2 timely and effectively. Saudi Arabia offers abundant opportunities for subsurface solutions. Clean energy export and CO2 utilization are feasible, especially for the Kingdom, when enhanced by geothermal energy.
– Thomas Finkbeiner

The linearity of our current economy models needs to shift to circularity, where the wastes of one process or industry can be feedstocks for the next. The CCI creates an amazing narrative that engages stakeholders in all fields to look at this problem and find design solutions to bring our carbon resources back into balance.
– Kyle J. Lauersen

The breadth of research in the CCI

We are finding efficient ways to utilize CO2 (reuse) and develop new catalytic processes that result in lower emissions (reduce).
Jorge Gascon

We are looking at what to do with CO2 and then considering options across the entire value chain. First, we need to see how we can use CO2 and then determine what are the requirements for a specific use, such as storage options or purity.
– Bill Roberts

We are looking for geo- and subsurface solutions for the removal and storage of CO2 (remove). Research on geothermal energy and energy storage for renewables is an integral part of this.
Thomas Finkbeiner

We use genetic engineering and bioprocess design to bioconvert CO2 into valuable products (reuse) like medicines, biofuels, materials or clean water. For example, we can engineer microalgae to be light-driven green cell factories that convert waste carbon, such as CO2, into tailored valuable bioproducts for consumers and industry.
– Kyle J. Lauersen

My research evaluates and develops clean hydrogen technologies, which can be used to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, we are enabling the use of clean e-fuels, produced from recycled CO2, in road and marine transportation. – Mani Sarathy

What difference does the CCI make to your research?

It gives us a helicopter view to show us that there isn’t a single technology to address the whole climate change and emissions issue. It will be through very different technologies and nature-based solutions that we will manage to address this gigantic challenge.
Jorge Gascon

It means I speak with a variety of industries that I don’t usually talk to so I can really start to put together what I am going to do with the carbon once it is captured. That’s really important because what you plan to do with carbon dictates the best way to capture it.
Bill Roberts

It brings into sharp focus the utilization aspect of CO2 and carbon capture, utilization and storage. We have a clear vision for “utilization”: it is the generation of zero-emission fuel + CO2-based geothermal electricity.
Thomas Finkbeiner

It has kick-started our efforts in bioprospecting new photosynthetic microbes from Saudi and the Red Sea. It also provides a valuable funding structure to support our efforts in exploring nature’s treasure chest of undiscovered photosynthetic organisms.
– Kyle J. Lauersen

It creates an environment where I can work with colleagues across KAUST to address challenges related to CCI technologies. The CCI enables interdisciplinary research between application-focused engineers, discovery-driven scientists and technology-enabling digital experts.
– Mani Sarathy