New technology turns carbon dioxide from coal plants into baking soda?

Flickr photo courtesy of G & A Sattler.

An Austin, Texas based company called Skyonic has developed a way to capture 90 percent of the CO2 from smokestacks and turn it into baking soda, using energy from the waste heat of a factory. reported about the company.

The system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, as well as most of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds, Jones said.

Luminant, a utility formerly known as TXU, installed a pilot version of the system at its Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas, last year. Skyonic, meanwhile, hopes to install a system that will consume the greenhouse gas output of a large–500 megawatts or so–power plant around 2009. Skyonic is currently designing one of these large systems.

Because it’s a solid, storing baking soda is simply easier, and it allows greenhouse gas emitters to store a lot of carbon in one place. The stuff piles up: A 500-megawatt power plant will produce approximately 338,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Multiply that weight by 1.9 and you get the number of tons of baking soda that the plant will produce. Still, it can be sold, stored in containers, used for landfill or buried in abandoned mines.

There’s another benefit to Skyonic’s system, Jones said. Because the system captures metals and acid gases, it can replace the $400 million scrubbers that power plants currently have to install. Skyonic’s system will probably cost about the same amount as a scrubber. Although the capital budget will be equal, power plant owners will get a salable byproduct and avoid carbon taxes, which may be imposed in the future.

Sounds promising! Let’s hope this one turns into something big.