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Climate Solutions
Indian Students Show the Way Forward for Carbon Capture

A pair of students in India claim to have cracked the code on creating a carbon capture and storage (CCS) system that can help prevent greenhouse gas emissions without breaking the bank, and they have an example to prove it. Reuters reports:

[W]hile most previous technologies have focused on capturing the emissions and pumping them below ground, [Carbon Clean Solution’s] technique is a capture-and-utilize one. It uses a patented molecule that captures carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and uses it to make other useful products like baking soda. The technology can be retrofitted onto existing plants, and is cheaper and more efficient than existing methods, [co-founder Aniruddha Sharma] said. […]

Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals & Fertilizers has used the technology at its plant in southern Tamil Nadu state since October. At the plant, carbon dioxide is captured from a coal-fired boiler and converted into soda ash, which is used in glass manufacturing, sweeteners and detergents.

The process is projected to save 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, a world first, according to Sharma. The cost of capture is about $30 per ton – about half the cost of other technologies in the market, he said.

Figuring out how to use the carbon captured by these CCS systems could be the key to making this a viable option for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions the world over. The key here is that the student’s company, Carbon Clean Solutions (annoyingly and, we presume, intentionally also abbreviated CCS) is converting captured atmospheric carbon into a usable industrial product, in this case soda ash. That means that these systems can actually be seen as revenue streams, and the more useful their CO2 byproducts become, the better the economic case for their installation.

Carbon capture is one of a handful of tantalizing silver bullet technologies that, if it proves capable of being deployed economically and en masse, could virtually overnight change the calculus behind our climate change problem. Imagine a world where a simple retrofit could keep a coal- or gas-fired power plant running while nullifying its effects on the climate. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is… at present. But it’s not just wishful thinking to look forward to a technological breakthrough that could radically and rapidly shift the climate change debate. As these students demonstrate, there’s plenty of research already underway on that front.

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  • Psalms564

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next big “green” breakthrough such as the one above comes from either China or India. Their pollution problem is WAY worse than ours so it makes perfect sense for them to devote a lot of their research time and funding to solving it.

    • ljgude

      I’m skeptical too having read about these ‘breakthroughs’ since the 50s, but I think this kid of technology could be a lot less delusional than say – fusion. I read recently of an operational scrubbing system in an oil based plant in Texas that was effectively removing carbon and repurposing it. I agree that China and India are the countries that need it most urgently.

      • Psalms564

        The next big break through humans as a species really need is in the field of energy, no doubt about it. Whomever finds a way for safe zero-carb power source will become the world’s first trillionaire, probably literally. It has to happen. It’s that or we kill each other off. I’m betting on humanity here.

  • alanstorm

    We’ve seen this movie before.

    If this works out, and is widely adopted (either by mandate or voluntary action), the usual suspects will simply select another target that is somehow “killing the planet”.

    Their religion forbids them from doing anything else.

  • This sounds suspiciously like another of those perpetual motion machines so often touted by Via Meadia. CO2 is very stable. Converting into anything else–e.g., soda ash–will cost energy. The energy cost of this transformation is not indicated in this article.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Precisely right. I have seen things like this in the past, and typically they are pitches for massive subsidies to finance what is in the end nothing more than a way of reducing the efficiency of power generation and making the investors rich.

  • Proud Skeptic

    A solution in search of a problem.

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