Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

A Coal-Fired Power Plant in India Is Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Baking Soda

But most impressive of all, it’s running without subsidies.

In the southern Indian city of Tuticorin, locals are unlikely to suffer from a poorly risen cake. That’s because a coal-fired thermal power station in the area captures carbon dioxide and turns it into baking soda.

Carbon capture schemes are nothing new. Typically, they use a solvent, such as amine, to catch carbon dioxide and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere. From there, the CO2 can either be stored away or used.

But the Guardian reports that a system installed in the Tuticorin plant uses a new proprietary solvent developed by the company Carbon Clean Solutions. The solvent is reportedly just slightly more efficient than those used conventionally, requiring a little less energy and smaller apparatus to run. The collected CO2 is used to create baking soda, and it claims that as much as 66,000 tons of the gas could be captured at the plant each year.

Its operators say that the marginal gain in efficiency is just enough to make it feasible to run the plant without a subsidy. In fact, it’s claimed to be the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing CO2 for use.

It’s a glimmer of hope for the clean coal industry. A string of U.S. problems, among them the wildly expensive Kemper power plant and the folding of Peabody Energy, which bet heavily on clean coal, have served to demonstrate that baking carbon sequestration in from the get-go is economically challenging. But successes of retrofitted systems, such as the W.A. Parish Generating Station in Texas and the Tuticorin scheme, demonstrate that adding capture systems can prove feasible.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that solar power may, on average, be cheaper than coal by 2025—so coal's future as a means of generating power could be limited. But we may still be able to clean up existing plants—and bake some nice cakes along the way.

(Read more: The Guardian, Bloomberg, “A Huge Carbon Capture Scheme Provides New Hope for Clean Coal,” “A Mississippi Power Plant Highlights All That’s Wrong with Clean Coal,” “Peabody Energy’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of Clean Coal”)

AI is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.