Turning emissions into baking soda

Emissions from coal fired electricity generation account for a huge amount of the anthropogenic; i.e. human activity related, carbon dioxide pumped into our atmosphere each year.

While there’s been a great deal of buzz about clean coal technologies generally (which is somewhat of a contradiction in terms); this is a particularly interesting idea: turning emissions into baking soda.

According to this article on CNET,  A company by the name of Skyonic has patented a process called SkyMine that grabs 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions emanating from power station stacks, mixes it with sodium hydroxide (aka lye or caustic soda) to make sodium bicarbonate – baking soda; very useful stuff.

Using this technology, A 500-megawatt power plant could conceivably produce 642200 tons of baking soda – a year. Excess heat from the power station would be used to help produce the substance.

The baking soda is said to be better than food grade. I have no idea how big the world’s market is for baking soda, but I guess it wouldn’t take too many power stations using this system in order to satisfy demand. As baking soda is a fairly harmless solid, the excess could be used as landfill or buried in abandoned mines. If there’s something humans do really well, it’s digging stuff up that we want and burying stuff we don’t.

Currently, Skyonic is undertaking a pilot program in real world conditions at the Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas. Quite fitting name for a coal fired station :).

While this is quite a positive development, it still doesn’t get around the fact that coal mining is very destructive in all sorts of ways; a couple of which I mentioned in my recent post on liquid coal – but this could perhaps be a worthwhile stopgap measure while the world switches to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and other alternatives.


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