A coal-fired power station in India is turning its carbon dioxide emissions into baking soda.
A plant in the industrial port of Tuticorin, southern India, converts the CO2 from its own coal powered boiler into the useful kitchen product.
The system installed at Tuticoin Alkali Chemicals produces 60,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, and is now transforming the greenhouse gas into sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda. This base chemical has a variety of uses including glass manufacture, and the production of sweeteners, detergents and various paper products.
The technology was invented by firm Carbonclean, who believe that it needs less energy, is less corrosive and requires cheaper and smaller equipment than traditional methods of carbon capture.
The inventors of this process are two chemists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, and they believe that capturing usable CO2 will deal with around 5 – 10 percent of the world’s emissions.
The technology is currently running without any form of subsidy from a government or private donation, marking a breakthrough in this area of environmental science. Previously, the extraction of CO2 has been fairly expensive and required the forcing of the small concentrations of CO2 found in flue gas into underground rocks. Tuticoin Alkali and Carbonclean have overcome this problem by using a new CO2 stripping chemical.
The managing director of Tuticorin Alkali chemicals, Ramachandran Gopalan, told the BBC: “I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet. I needed a reliable stream of CO2 and this was the best way of getting it.”
After initially failing to get funding from the Indian government, this project was eventually supported by the UK government who offered a grant, and the firm’s headquarters are now based in Paddington, London.
CEO of Carbonclean, Aniruddha Sharma told the Guardian: “So far the ideas for carbon capture have mostly looked at big projects, and the risk is so high they are very expensive to finance.
“We want to set up small-scale plants that de-risk the technology by making it a completely normal commercial option.”