Skyonic offers a Feasible Method of Turning CO2 into Carbonate Solids

What would it take to turn CO2 gas into a carbonate solid? According to Mark Clayton, VP of Corporate Relations for Austin based Skyonic, the process could be commercially viable in a few years.

What if fossil fuel had zero emissions?
(Photo: Skyonic)

“Our rough numbers show that with the costs of the chemicals we use and the value of the byproducts, chlorine and hydrogen, the process can almost pay for itself financially,” said Clayton.

Apparently officials at Luminant, one of the biggest power generators in the United States, are in agreement, since they have invested in Skyonic and are working with them to build a demonstration plant. “We want a full scale design by the end of 2008, so we can break ground in 2009 and be operating two years after that,” said Clayton.

According to the EIA, the USA produces about 240 gigawatt-years of power from coal each year; just a little over 50% of all electric power in the USA comes from coal fired power plants. To do this, we mine about 1.1 billion tons of coal each year, and coal fired power plants release about 2.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions each year. So what would happen if 100% of these emissions were turned into sodium bicarbonate using Skyonic’s technology?

As it turns out, the process would require massive inputs of salt – which is a cheap and abundant material – and applying Skyonic’s process would exchange 2.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions for about 3.2 billion tons of sodium bicarbonate. As we note in our post “Plasco’s Waste to Energy,” as well as “Ze-gen’s Waste to Energy,” all municipal solid waste in the USA each year only totals 220 million tons, and all construction debris only adds another 100 million tons. For that matter, as we report in “Astec’s Green Asphalt,” the total volume of rock quarried in the USA each year is only about 3.0 billion tons – a staggering amount – but less than the volume of sodium bicarbonate we would produce if we converted 100% of these CO2 emissions from coal into a solid.

On the other hand, coal plants are becoming more efficient every day, there are other ways to utilize the CO2 – such as to nourish factory farmed algae for biofuel, and we probably aren’t going to eliminate 100% of these emissions right away, anyway. As Clayton pointed out, sodium bicarbonate is a fairly innocuous, non-toxic material, and there is capacity inside the coal mines to refill them with the carbonate waste to replace the coal that was removed. There may be other uses for the carbonate – Clayton noted there may be potential to use carbonate in cement, for example.

And as always, there are other technologies to scrub CO2 from coal fired power plant emissions – yet another scheme was reported today by in their report “Carbon capture gets crystal powered.”

What is potentially most interesting about Skyonic’s technology is that it may have a relatively low cost – Clayton stated this process may actually be economically viable even without dependance on CO2 offset funding. In any case, capturing CO2 as a solid may be more sustainable than attempting to pressurize every underground cavern ever found. Like many solutions to environmental challenges, conversion of CO2 emissions into inert solid matter may be one of an assortment of remedies that in combination provide a comprehensive solution.

6 Responses to “Skyonic offers a Feasible Method of Turning CO2 into Carbonate Solids”
  1. Not only is the disposition of such a huge amount of baking soda problematic, where will they get all the salt? Maybe desalination brine? We will see if Skyonics can actually deliver on this. And you are correct this could better make sense if it were part of a variety of solutions – efficiency improvements at the top of the list.

  2. Phil Jamison says:

    How much salt is required?

  3. Hari Aparajith says:

    I am chemical engineer and I did some calculations based on their reactions. Here are the results

    To treat carbon emission from a 500 MW plant, you need roughly 3.2 million tons of sodium hydroxide. For producing each ton of sodium hydroxide you need 2.4 MWh of electricity (Diaphragm process).Total electricity needed to produce sodium hydroxide is much more than the power plant produce. (Trust me…i checked my calculations million times) Then you have to transport and handle 6.7 million tons of baking soda. (150,000 truck loads)

    it took me 10 min to do these calculations. I cant believe this guy started a company without considering any of these. The worst thing is he even found a sponsor who gave him millions of dollars to try this out.

  4. Welcome to the wonderful world of whole cost accounting. Too much mining and transport, and chlorine gas? Then maybe the technology won’t get too far. Nevertheless, the employees and overpaid management ensure that coal burning won’t stop anytime soon. After all, how much effort does it take to extract coal, and petroleum, not to mention loads of other extracted materials?

    If we capture CO2, then the 2.4 MW for sodium hydroxide makes sense, for example, as would desalination of seawater. Chlorine then needs to be contained usefully.

    That’s also where the diversity of another technology like GreenFuel Technology’s algae greenhouse to biofuel works, then great. Or maybe we can capture CO2 emissions for drinking soda manufacturers. Problems are not prohibitions in this kind of situation. They are opportunities.

  5. Hari Aparajith says:

    To add to my comment above, the process will emit 2.2 tons of CO2 for every ton of CO2 it fixes. I am mind-blown to see how he got this much funding for this.

  6. Maybe says:

    perhaps they do not operate the electrolysis process at normal chlor-alkali industry votage. Normal industry power requirements in chlor-alkali industry are optimized for chlorine production and have a high overvoltage. This greatly reducing the efficiency of caustic production and would likely produce at least one CO2 for each that was captured, but operating in a lower voltage and using the latest available membrane electrochemical technology might improve that. Also, you probably assume 100% CO2 capture, that is likely not going to be the case for any carbon capture technology. This will also reduce the net power plant drain.


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