News Release

The commercialization of CO2 utilization technology to produce formic acid is imminent

Development of a CCU process for formic acid production with both economic and environmental viability. Expected to expedite the commercialization of CCU through the world's largest-scale demonstration.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National Research Council of Science & Technology

[Figure 1] Process for Formic Acid Production via Carbon Dioxide Conversion


Flowchart of the process (above) for producing formic acid through the conversion of newly developed carbon dioxide (CO2) using Carbon Capture & Utilization (CCU), and pilot-scale process verification data (below).

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Credit: Korea Institute of Science and Technology

CCU (Carbon Capture & Utilization), which captures CO2 and converts it into useful compounds, is crucial for rapidly transitioning to a carbon-neutral society. While CCS (Carbon Capture & Storage), which only involves CO2 storage, has entered the initial commercialization stage due to its relatively simple process and low operational costs, CCU has only been explored at the research level due to the complexity of conversion processes and high production costs of compounds.

Dr. Lee Ung's team at the Clean Energy Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST, Director Oh Sang Rok) announced the development of a novel CCU process that converts CO2 into formic acid. Formic acid, an organic acid, is a high-value compound used in various industries such as leather, food, and pharmaceuticals. Currently formic acid retains a large market consuming around one million tons annually, which is expected to grow in the future owing to its potential use as a hydrogen carrier. Moreover, it has a higher production efficiency compared to other CCU-based chemicals, as it can be produced from a single CO2 molecule.

The research team selected 1-methylpyrrolidine, which exhibited the highest CO2 conversion rate among various amines mediating formic acid production reactions, and optimized the operating temperature and pressure of the reactor containing a ruthenium (Ru)-based catalyst, thereby increasing the CO2 conversion rate to over twice the current level of 38%. Furthermore, to address the excessive energy consumption and formic acid decomposition issues during CO2 separation from air or exhaust gases and formic acid purification, the team developed a simultaneous capture-conversion process that directly converts CO2 captured within the amine without separating it. As a result, they significantly reduced the formic acid production cost from around $790 per ton to $490 per ton while mitigating CO2 emissions, compared to conventional formic acid production.

To evaluate the commercialization potential of the developed formic acid production process, the research team constructed the world's largest pilot plant capable of producing 10 kg of formic acid per day. Previous CCU studies were conducted on a small scale in laboratories and did not consider the product purification process required for large-scale production. However, the research team developed processes and materials to minimize corrosion and formic acid decomposition, and optimized operating conditions that led to successful production of formic acid with a purity exceeding 92%.

The team plans to complete a 100 kg per day pilot plant by 2025 and conduct process verification, aiming for commercialization by 2030. Success in process verification with the 100 kg pilot plant is expected to enable transportation and sales to demand companies.

Dr. Lee Ung stated, "Through this research, we have confirmed the commercialization potential of our process that converts CO2 to formic acid, which is a huge breakthrough considering that most CCU technologies are being conducted at lab-scale." He further expressed his intention to contribute to achieving the country's carbon neutrality goal by accelerating the commercialization of CCU. .



KIST was established in 1966 as the first government-funded research institute in Korea. KIST now strives to solve national and social challenges and secure growth engines through leading and innovative research. For more information, please visit KIST’s website at

This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT (Minister Lee Jong-Ho) as part of KIST's major projects and the Carbon-to-X project(2020M3H7A1098271). The research results were published in the latest issue of the international journal "Joule" (IF 39.8, JCR top 0.9%).

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