A coal-powered chemical plant in Tamil Nadu, India, is doing something rather extraordinary. It’s capturing its own carbon dioxide emissions and turning them into baking powder and a range of other useful chemicals.
It’s the first time carbon capture has run without subsidy and could inspire businesses around the world to make their own investments in the tech.
The plant is expected to save a massive 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. It now produces almost zero emissions.
But for the site’s owner, that was a secondary consideration. When Ramachadran Gopalan was considering the tech, which is developed by Carbonclean Solutions, his priority was cost.
“I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet,” he told the BBC. “I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.”
The carbon dioxide can be used to make several materials and chemicals, including glass, sweeteners, detergents and more.
In every other instance, carbon capture technology relies on storage rather than utilisation, an expensive process that requires government funding.
Last September, ministers were urged to invest in a vast network of pipes designed to store CO2 in rocks under the North Sea.
The scheme would require a huge upfront investment, but experts said it could cut the cost of meeting emissions targets by billions a year.
The breakthrough in India comes just weeks after the region saw the opening of the world’s largest solar farm.
With more than 2.5 million solar panels, which are cleaned daily by robots, it generates enough energy for more than 150,000 homes.