‘World first’: Indian firm succeeds with subsidy-free carbon capture and utilisation project
An Indian chemicals company has introduced a world first to the carbon capture market, by utilising subsidy-free technology to turn CO2 from its own boilers into make base chemicals with a wide range of uses.
Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals, based in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, will use patented carbon-stripping technology from UK-based innovators Carbonclean to capture 60,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. The company states that the plant is now running with virtually no emissions seeping into air or water.
Carbonclean originally announced the launch of the project in October 2016, but the Tuticorin plant has this week revealed that the initiative is running without the aid of government subsidies. Previous carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects have been hindered by high costs and reluctant support from national governments.
Speaking at the launch in October, Carbonclean’s chief executive Aniruddha Sharma called the project a “game changer” noting that the CO2 could be captured and re-used at just $30 per tonne.
“We believe that there is an opportunity to dramatically accelerate uptake of CCU technology, with its many benefits, around the world,” Sharma said. “This is a project that doesn’t rely on government funding or subsidies – it just makes great business sense. We are delighted to be partnering with TACFL to make this project a reality.”
The Carbonclean technology converts the captured carbon into soda ash, which is used as a base chemical in glass manufacturing, paper production and detergents amongst others. The chemical strips CO2 emissions from boiler chimneys through the form of a fine mist.
While Carbonclean has suggested that the technology could capture between 5-10% of the world’s coal emissions, the company still views CCS in a very pragmatic light. The firm’s managing director, Ramachandran Gopalan, recently told BBC Radio 4 that the technology was the “best way” of obtaining a reliable stream of CO2 and this was the primary concern compared to “saving the planet”.
Carbonclean claims that its technology differs from current CO2-derised chemical materials, most of which are usually produced cheaply in the brewing industry. The firm says that the chemicals produced are less corrosive, and require less energy and equipment handling.
While the project is proving its worth in India, its origins actually trace back to the UK. Operating in the UK, the US and India, Carbonclean was formerly supported with grants from the now-defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
In fact, the UK’s ties to India in the low-carbon sphere could potentially enable the project to commercialise here. The two countries penned a £10m joint research collaboration into new low-carbon technologies in 2015, and Prime Minister Theresa May has since visited India to reinforce the India–UK Strategic Partnership.
While the cancelation of the £1bn CCS competition fund has hindered CCS uptake in the UK, the project in Tamil Nadu commenced just 100km away from the world’s largest single-location solar project.
The 648MW Kamuthi solar plant was switched on in November 2016, just eight months after the project was commissioned. The plant, constructed by Indian solar development company Adani, will generate power for 150,000 homes.
With large-scale solar projects now cheaper than coal in India, Prime Minister Modi is revamping subsidy allowances as part of an overall goal to generate enough solar power to support 60 million homes by 2022. India will also aim to source 40% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030, a target which has already enabled the roll-out of a 710 million LED bulb retrofit across the country by 2018.
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