An Indian Factory Is Converting CO2 From a Coal Plant Into Baking Soda

A thermal power station on the Bay of Bengal in southern India has found a way to make carbon capture profitable.

Carbon dioxide emissions account for 65 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world - and 81 percent in the U.S. So reigning in those emissions is an important step in slowing climate change.

Reducing the human activities - burning fossil fuels used for energy and transportation - that create those emissions is an important step. And while scientists disagree on the efficiency of scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere, negative emissions are an important part of the Paris Climate Agreement, along with reducing the use of fossil fuels. For that reason, many people have been hard at work developing technologies to capture and store CO2 emissions.

A power plant in India is proving that it's possible to turn those emissions into something useful - at a price that's attractive - even without subsidies.

The Tuticorin thermal power station on the Bay of Bengal in southern India - coincidentally about 60 miles from the world's largest solar farm - is using a technology invented by the two Indian chemists who founded of Carbon Clean Solutions, now a global leader in the low-cost carbon dioxide capture from power and industrial plants.

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Their solution captures CO2 from a plant's flue gases and converts it into soda ash (Na2CO3) - also known as baking soda. "Once captured," said Aniruddha Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Carbon Clean Solutions, "CO2 is converted into various chemicals, making carbon capture profitable and sustainable."

The Tuticorin project is a notable first test of the technology because it's both a method of reducing greenhouse gases and, for the Tuticorin power plant, a sound financial decision.

Tuticorin employees saw the technology demonstrated at various international demonstration sites, such as the Technology Center Mongstad in Norway and National Carbon Capture Center in the U.S.

"We were convinced that we could capture CO2 from their coal boiler at the lowest cost," Sharma said. "We are now capturing CO2 at less than $30 a ton. That is a price point so low that it makes business sense to convert the CO2 into a product." The plant now produces close to zero emissions.

The captured CO2, converted to soda ash, is mostly supplied to industry for glass making, Sharma said. That permanently locks the CO2 into an inert product.

Carbon Clean Solutions has already signed another CO2 capture and utilization project.

"This project serves as a first of its kind proof-of-concept project without any subsidies," Sharma said. "We want to launch a wave of decarbonization projects where captured CO2 is converted to products."

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