The perpetual rise of Carbon dioxide emissions has led to alarming situations on the planet. Several scientists and research organisations have effectively ‘tamed’ the situation but one Indian chemical plant has sped past all of them.
Tuticorin Alkali Chemical Plant in Tuticorin, Kerala has become the pioneer in carbon capture and utilisation.
The plant is expecting to convert around 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually into baking soda and other chemicals. This may lead to a conversion of about ten percent of the global carbon emissions from coal.
However, carbon capture technology is not a new process but what is remarkable is that this plant runs on its own profit with no help from the government. It implies that the plant has come up with a practical and profitable system that could commercially expand.
Managing Director of the plant, Ramachandran Gopalan commented:
I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet,I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.
What is the process that this plant follows?
The plant runs on a coal-fuelled burner to make steam that powers the numerous chemical making processes. A mist containing a London-based chemical company’s product separates the CO2 emissions in the burner’s chimney. This is then mixed with salt and ammonia to produce baking soda and other chemicals which can be used in disinfectants, sweeteners, glass industry etc.
How is this process different than the earlier process?
The entire idea of separating CO2 molecules from flue gas is not something new, but this plant filters the chemical more efficiently than amine compounds that scientists previously used. Also, it uses less energy to run.
The plant’s CEO Anirudha Sharma believes that their approach is to think more realistically, partnering with modest, low-risk enterprises as it builds itself up. He says:
So far the ideas for carbon capture have mostly looked at big projects, and the risk is so high they are very expensive to finance. We want to set up small-scale plants that de-risk the technology by making it a completely normal commercial option.
Apart from this, the other huge advantage is that this technology uses the carbon in a positive way to manufacture another thing rather than dumping and storing the CO2 in huge underground bunkers. The storage facilities cost millions and hence, the ability to sell a by-product is an excellent economical opportunity.
This humble chemical plant may have just provided the solution to a catastrophic problem.