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December 05, 2007

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Tim

I don't think that this can put much of a dent on the CO2 problem. You need as much sodium as coal and you wind up with twice as much waste product as coal you used.

eric

One nit. The article talks about producing "sodium carbonate", not "sodium bicarbonate". Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda (NaHCO3) is different from Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3)

As is usual with these sorts of things, the articles are thin on details.

If this does happen to work out, I would expect that the markets for sodium carbonate would be thoroughly overwhelmed by the amounts that could potentially be produced.

The principle of the thing seems sound enough though. I have always been skeptical of talk of sequestration of CO2 gas. Problems with leakage, transportation, and finding suitable storage sites. Storage of the carbon in a solid form just makes a lot more sense as long as everything else works out.

bigTom

This article just doesn't strike me as correct. While I don't agree with eric about sequestration&storage, we are in agreement that this thing wouldn't scale up. Baking soda wouldn't be a long term solution anyway, doesn't it breaks down releasing the CO2? In any case any carbon capture needs to have either recyled (closed loop) material inputs, or incredibly cheap inputs, as input that costs more than the coal would make it uneconomic. At least the amine or amonia based capture methods regenerate the chemicals, and are effectively just means to concentrate the CO2 for liquification and underground disposal.

Unless the bibarbonate is simply a means to concentrate the CO2 for disposal underground, and
the sodium carbonate product is fed back into the process and reused:
2NaHCO3 => Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2
Na2CO3 => Na2O + CO2

also:
Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 NaHCO3

Na2CO3 is claimed to be an ore called trona, so it might be sufficintly stable for disposal.


I'd be very careful about doing due diligence before investing.

oZ

The CNET report says that a 500 MW coal plant will produce 338,000 tons of CO2.
I believe the right number is closer to 3,500,000 tons. 7000 hours x 500 x ton/MWH.

Remember one coal train in, is 3 1/2 co2 trains out. If you add the salt, its 7 trains. If you try to move it out by road,
its a thousand semi truck loads a day. that's 40 an hour, one every 90 seconds.

The fuel costs alone sink the project, not to mention the road costs.

Plus, there is little value in the baking soda, because the process from one plant would swamp the baking soda market.

So, you need salt, water and electricity to produce sodium hydroxide (also called lye or caustic soda), hydrogen and chlorine. Then, the sodium hydroxide absorbs CO2, and becomes sodium carbonate (also called washing soda). Then you have to find a place to put the sodium carbonate underground (oh, and incidentally, it is water soluble, so you'd want to ensure that it does not interact with ground water, regardless of where it goes).

To take the example of a coal-fired electricity plant: you need a mountain of coal to burn, lots of water to turn into steam and to use for cooling in the electric production process, more water to make sodium hydroxide, a mountain of salt to make sodium hydroxide, and you have to use part of the electric output of the plant in the electrolysis of the salt/water solution to make the sodium hydroxide.

How does this make sense, again? And where does all that salt come from? In order to develop this process on a mass scale, lots more salt than is currently mined or produced from water would be needed.

Given the added costs, and the environmental consequences of additional water consumption and sodium cabonate disposal, I am glad that it is private investors, and not governments that are funding this research.

If they can ultimately show that this is a cost- and environmentally-effective solution, great, but there seems to be good reason for skepticism.

Tony Belding

What do you do with all the chlorine produced? Chlorine gas is so poisonous that it was used as a chemical weapon in WW1. I know chlorine is used in industrial processes. . . but we could be talking about producing vast quantities of the stuff. That's much worse than CO2, I would imagine.

Engineer-Poet

Indeed, what do you do with the chlorine?  Sulfur scrubbers can make calcium sulfate (gypsum) suitable for drywall, but it doesn't take many of these plants to saturate the market for gypsum and drive the market price below cost.

Further, these SkyMine folks don't say how much energy would be required to make the sodium hydroxide.  I haven't calculated it, but knowing the energy implicit in hydrogen and chlorine it's going to be a very big number.

It would not surprise me if this scheme turns out to be energetically negative, inherently in the hole.  If so, it fits with what I've been saying about propaganda about energy and global warming.

Christopher

This "invention" has no merit. People have known for more than 100 years that NaOH absorbs CO2 and produces Na2CO3. While sodium carbonate is a somewhat stable storage mechanism, where are you getting your NaOH? You have to produce it, expensively. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#Methods_of_production

Even if they have a new process for producing NaOH it will cost too much energy, and therefore too much money, and creating no saleable end product it will never be feasible.

The only way to store as a carbonate is to start from much cheaper materials that can donate their cations, such as magnesium silicates, which make up a large portion of the earth's crust. Reacting these ultramafic rocks with CO2 is being studied and was reviewed as chapter 7 of the IPCC Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), "Mineral carbonation and industrial uses of carbon dioxide"- arch.rivm.nl/env/int/ipcc/pages_media/SRCCS-final/SRCCS_Chapter7.pdf

NaOH was also used in the first experiments to capture CO2 from ambient air. They have since moved on to less-strongly binding mechanisms for that- http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/213272

Lad

So what we are doing here is developing a mountain of sodium carbonate for a mountain of coal; when we don't really need to burn coal at all and go through all this chemistry. Why don't we have the leadership in Washington to plan more for the far future and work toward that plan? The science for producing energy all points toward the same solution: Energy from the sun transformed to stored electricity and used as needed. If the government would suppliment solar cell and solar thermo development, so the prices would come down, that would be a good start and a chance to leapfrog over all these nasty ideas of continuing to burn toxic chemicals in the atmosphere.

Kit P

As a practical matter, we do need to burn coal because no amount of Washington leadership will (or has) make solar practical. Right now, it is dark and cold. Coal is providing the electricity to keep my family warm. When I lived in California, passive solar could keep my home warm most of the time because I lived on a south facing hill above the valley fog. Even in California, solar does not work very well in the summer time. Sorry if you are hearing this reality check for the first time.

Washington leadership is doing a good job of reducing the environmental impact of using coal. The coal industry has done a great job in that regard while the solar industry has completely failed. Solar is 99% environment impact and 1% delivery of electricity.

My statements make some solar advocates angry. Well focus your anger on the solar industry for failing to deliver.

Paul Dietz

Producing sodium hydroxide by the conventional method (chlor-alkali) is going to be a loser, for the reasons given above. Availability of salt is not a problem, though; energy used and disposal of the chlorine are. To try to make this work, you'd probably want to recombine the hydrogen and chlorine in a fuel cell to make hydrogen chloride, then neutralize the acid with a reactive silicate (olivine, serpentinite).

It might be easier to make the acid directly by separation of brine into alkali and acid solutions by electrodialysis with bipolar membranes (EDBM). This technology is already used to break organic salts into organic acids and bases (sodium lactate into lactic acid and sodium hydroxide, for example), and the Japanese use a related technology (ordinary electrodialysis) to extract salt from seawater.

Paul Dietz

A side note: one use for chlorine could be to release it into the troposphere to destroy methane. Molecular chlorine is readily photolysed to chlorine radicals in sunlight, and these radicals quickly react with trace atmospheric hydrocarbons, stripping off their hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen chloride would then be scrubbed out by rain. You'd do this over the ocean to minimize human exposure.

Cyril R.

Why would solubility in water be an issue? A huge landfill protected by a layer of clay would keep out the water, right?

If the land is covered with another thick layer of earth, the space is freed up for construction and other uses so the landfill wouldn't take up any land for other uses at all.

CO2 could also be used as energy storage. Use surplus renewable/nuclear electricity to electrolyse the CO2 into CO + O and pump these into seperate resevoirs, combining them in an advanced fuel cell later when electricity is demanded. Closed loop. Rather inefficient with today's technology though. And probably rather expensive too.

G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert

In February on RealClimate I suggested pulverizing magnesium silicate and strewing it through a large volume of the troposphere. There are adequately many places where a cubic mile of magnesium silicate can be found within a mile of a given point, and it doesn't have to be brought anywhere near the coal plants, and the pulverization energy is small compared to the electricity yielded by the formation of as much CO2 as is captured.

What was then uncertain, to me anyway, was whether air-suspensible magnesium silicate reacts quickly enough with atmospherically dilute CO2. I have since come across some evidence that it does.

Jeff Taarud

HEALTH HAZARD DATA
For Magnesium Silicate Hydrate
Inhalation: Coughing, wheezing, difficult breathing and upper respiratory tract irritation.
Eye: Temporary discomfort and irritation.
For Epoxy Resin
Eye: May moderately irritate eyes.
Skin: Irritant. May sensitize susceptible individuals.

DO YOU WANT THIS IN YOUR TROPOSPHERE?

G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert

Yes! If anyone takes an MSDS like that seriously, let him put up the one for CO2, which magnesium silicate takes down.

More here.

Christopher

Cyril- I'm not saying it is a bad idea, but please explain why you would rather temporarily store energy in a stationary manner (e.g. neither are portable because both stored forms are gaseous) via CO2 => CO + .5O2 rather than H2O => H2 + .5O2, when the latter is better developed and H2 though it can still be dangerous is far less toxic than CO.

Jeff/G.R.L.- What that MSDS sheet is likely referring to is asbestos. Magnesium silicates (MgSiO4) and hydrated forms (Mg2Si2O5(OH)4) (Mg is really (Mg,Fe)) are astestiform structures whose smallest fibers wreck our lungs. So yes dispersing them in the air could be very bad if they are concentrated and breathable anywhere.

Cyril R.

Well there may be a few advantages. Of course this is just for stationary applications, e.g. to store surplus intermittent energy. CO contains more energy per volume, right? And if sequestration does sets off, why not do something with the CO2? And isn't CO easier to store than hydrogen?

My main question is, could it be done with higher efficiency than hydrogen? Perhaps not; there's that 0.5 O2 causing trouble (not 1:1 reaction fit)

Another issue would be the toxic nature of CO, as you mentioned. But that shouldn't be a problem with the right design and safety measures. Perhaps it could be done in remote areas. Don't know, what fascinated me was the simplicity, and I just wondered if anyone had previously attempted this.

Thomas

How long are we going to cling to coal with all its problems? We could replace the vast majority of all coal fired plants with a mix of wind, solar thermal and nuclear right now. It is a very big proposition, but the U.S. put a man on the moon when that seemed incredibly far fetched. It is just a matter of committing to do what is necessary in order to achieve sustainable energy.

chimico

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Daniel

I think a read of the patent application is worthwhile before jumping to conclusions. One of the things I think is very interesting is using cheap off peak renewable power to generate the NaOH.

Anyway the patent application can be read here:

http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220060185985%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20060185985&RS=DN/20060185985

SNAIL

What about less consumption and self-sufficient neighborhoods as well as houses and buildings. Where does the poo go?www.nEarlUrl.msn

SNAIL

I have seen snippets of solar-powered heating, cooling, baking, and electricity. Using the least effort makes sense: if you need torque, go with strong movement (wind to draw up a rope) and for a small amount of energy over time, a small load can be put to use. I ramble here, but think, too, about the applications of the energy. Use more efficient cooling/heating systems. Interesting: for cooling desktop/tower computers the airflow was reversed so that air was drawn downward over the insides and then out as opposed to in from the bottom and up. Don't accept that what is manufactured is the best or the only solution. Mix it up. Try to understand the principles behind the workings of things that way you can challenge their design and maybe improve it.

Hari

I am a 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 produces. (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) which will again emit CO2

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.

David

SNAIL, the Diaphram process has been abandoned by the chlor-alkali industry in favor of the far more efficient Membrane process, which now accounts for the vast majority of all NaOH production in the world.

Skyonic is only one of several companies now entering this field, with significant venture funding. Mineralizing the CO2 as Carbonates is far superior to the whacko idea of pumping gaseous CO2 into holes in the ground and hoping it will stay there - or undersea, which creates huge 'dead zones' devoid of all marine life.

However, the best way to do it is to use the HCl you get from the Membrane Cell to release the captured CO2 from the Na2CO3 in a concentrated, controlled fashion where you want it. For example, into an algal bioreactor, to produce Ethanol and Biodiesel. The CO2 ends up back in the air, but has displaced petroleum and its CO2 along the way.

When you combine the HCl and Na2CO3, you release the CO2 with no additional expenditure of energy, and the only thing left over is saltwater, which you started with.

John Small

OK so the energy cost to product NaOH is lower via the membrane process, but by how much? Anyone know what the energy cost per tonne of NaOH via the membrane process is?

I like the idea of recombining the HCl with Na2CO3 to release the stored CO2. One of the big problems with algal production is getting enough CO2 into the process to make it viable. Potentially you could have a closed cycle you use some energy to get HCl + NaOH from brine. You use the NaOH to capture CO2 from flue gas or even air, then mix in the HCl to get the C02 out to feed the algea, and the algea produce BioDiesel for the generator. The big question is the energy cost in producing the NaOH.

I agree with people who think the patent isn't worth much. It is pretty obvious that you can use NaOH to clean CO2 from flue gasses so it fails the test of not being an obvious extension of known technology.

Charlie

I looked at the quantities involved. If you were to use this for more than 1% of the world's coal consumption (at present rates) you'd produce more chlorine gas than the total world production of chlorine gas. Producing excess chlorine gas that we have not use for is more of a problem than a solution. And sequestering only 1% of the CO2 from coal is not a solution.

Kyle

Does anyone have info on Skyonic's progress? Did the Big Brown Steam Electric Station trial not workout? There has not been a bit of news out of them for a year. I assume it didn't work.

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French

I have been wondering if we humans aren't doing the earth a favor by bringing carbon back above the earth's surface. Think about it: All of that carbon was above the surface to begin with and when those ancient plants/animals died, the ecosystems lost all of that carbon. Furthermore, the earth has been in a 3 million year cooling cycle, and we could be helping to stabilize the temperature by adding our global warming. Just a thought.

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supraveni

Supraveni Chemicals manufactures plenty of chemical products like sodium sulphate, sulphuric acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, barium sulphate & sodium hydroxide

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I am growing some mini lettuce and two grape plants, and i was wondering if you had ANY suggestions for fertilizer...thanks... all help is appreciated.

Hydrochloric

Supraveni Chemicals manufactures plenty of chemical products like sodium sulphate, sulphuric acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, barium sulphate & sodium hydroxide, for more details visit http://www.supravenichemicals.com/

Intex

This Seems like a great opportunity to save money..

Thanks for the information. It is important that business owners begin looking at their carbon footprint.

Regards,
Intex

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I hope that they are not selling that backing soda to the consumer... I would not want something that is a by-product from a power plant.

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I really enjoy seeing/hearing about how people are re-purposing or recycling. It's just smart.

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