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Texas-based company Skyonic hopes to make carbon capture profitable by turning pollutants into a common baking ingredient. The first of Skyonic’s Skymine facilities is currently under construction at a cement factory in San Antonio, and will capture carbon dioxide and other emissions from the industrial process and convert it into sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid. These products can then be sold, and the total process is expected to offset more than 300,000 tons of CO2 each year.
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The process—carbon capture and mineralization—is perceived as a potentially more attractive alternative to carbon capture and sequestration. The latter process involves capturing waste carbon dioxide from industrial processes, and storing it in underground geological formations. It’s been in use for over ten years, but has met with many false starts in technology, and extremely high costs.
Which is where Skyonic’s carbon capture and mineralization technology could step in. The process entails scrubbing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals from the waste gases. The heavy metals are then stored, while the C02 is placed into absorption chambers where it is treated with caustic soda (made from salt) and water. The end result produces baking soda, hydrogen gas and chlorine gas.
All of these components—even they heavy metals such as mercury—have a commercial value, which helps to make the process far more appealing than carbon capture and storage. The technology also provides additional appeal to companies looking to clean up their act, as Quartz explains, regulations “already require polluters to scrub out sulfur and nitrous dioxides that cause acid rain… [Skyonic] can do it cheaper than the current commercial scrubbers that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and millions more on annual maintenance.”
Though as Forbes points out, we likely won’t be making cakes with Skyonic’s baking soda any time soon, but that’s not a problem with the quality of the ingredient: “The baking soda that SkyMine produces is actually cleaner than baking-grade baking soda, but since people will freak out about scones made with factory emissions, the output will probably be sold to industrial users.”
The Capitol Skymine will go into operation in 2014.