CO2 Capture Engineering Aids Soda Ash Product Development
It’s hard not to roll our eyes when we hear the term, “clean coal” but India-based Carbon Clean is proving that it can drastically reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning boilers.
Chemical engineers Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb, who founded the company in 2009, have developed a process that captures the CO2 generated by coal-fired boilers and turns it into usable soda ash. Already a leader in CO2 capture technology, the company hoped that creating a saleable product from CO2 emissions rather than sequestering them deep under ground them, as is currently done, would help defray the cost of the process.
Soda ash, or sodium carbonate, is used in the manufacture of a number of products including automotive glass, fertilizer, and baking powder. It is also used to react with the sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid produced by some industrial plants, making their emissions less harmful to the environment. Soda ash is commonly sourced from dry lake beds and can also be generated synthetically, though this is an expensive process.
With help from the Institute of Chemical Technology at Mumbai and the Imperial College in London, Sharma and Bumb got funding for their project from the UK. Carbon Clean then partnered with Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals and Fertilisers to build a plant producing soda ash from the CO2 emitted by its own coal-fired boiler. The process uses a specially developed type of salt that bonds with the CO2 in the gases in the chimney and strips them out more cheaply and efficiently than currently used capture methods.
The owner of the plant, Ramachadran Gopalan, told the BBC in January of 2017 that the plant is operating at an almost zero emission rate and he wants to build another boiler to create even more of the soda ash his business needs.
Sharma recently told Quartz Media of plans to build a second and third plant. Said Sharma, “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.”