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Indian Chemical Firm Makes Carbon Capture Breakthrough Turning CO2 into Baking Soda

Whether it be turning food scraps into cold-pressed juices or transforming PET waste into raw materials or converting beer waste water into batteries — just a few of the latest examples of the circular economy at work — companies are increasingly finding unique ways to transform and repurpose their waste, byproducts and emissions.

Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals & Fertilizers (TACFL), a chemical and fertilizers company based in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has made a global breakthrough in carbon capture technology, one that promises to prevent emissions of 60,000 tons of CO2 annually. It also has the potential to push forward the circular agenda in India, which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and United Nations Conference for Trade Development (UNCTAD) believe could put India on the path to regenerative and value-creating benefits.

According to the company, the plant is now close to achieving its zero-emissions goal, operating with almost no emissions seeping into air or water thanks to a patented carbon-stripping technology from UK-based Carbon Clean Solutions. The technology employed at the Tuticorin plant converts captured carbon into soda ash, a base chemical used in glass manufacturing, paper production and detergents.

The chemical strips CO2 emissions from boiler chimneys through the form of a fine mist. As the chemical plant’s coal-fired boiler releases flue gas, a spritz of Carbon Clean’s new patented chemical removes the CO2 molecules. To create soda ash, the captured CO2 is mixed with rock salt and ammonia. While Tuticorn appears to be motivated by the financial benefits that the technology offers, Carbon Clean has suggested that it has the potential to capture between 5% to 10% of the world’s coal emissions.

The ground-breaking project, which was launched in October 2016, is the first of its kind and is, interestingly, privately financed. Speaking at the project launch, Carbon Clean CEO Aniruddha Sharma said, “This projects is a game-changer. By capturing and crucially reusing CO2 at just $30 per/ton, we believe that there is an opportunity to dramatically accelerate uptake of CCU technology, with its many benefits, around the world. This is a project that doesn’t rely on government funding or subsidies — it just makes great business sense. We are delighted to be partnering with TACFL to make this project a reality.”

Unlike most carbon capture and storage projects, which typically bury CO2 in underground rocks, the partnership between Tuticorin and Carbon Clean represents the first successful industrial-scale application of carbon capture and utilization, in which carbon is converted for reuse to turn a profit. Additionally, Carbon Clean claims that this new technology differs from current CO2-derived chemical materials, in that the chemicals are less corrosive and require less energy and equipment handling.