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”)

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

Next in Top Stories

Your guide to what matters today

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.