The saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” stands true for the company Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals (TAC). While Carbon dioxide is considered as a dangerous waste for planet Earth, it is an important element for TAC as it is a vital input in making soda ash. The company is completely dependent on a SPIC fertilizer plant for this gas, but in the near future with the changing technology it will have to drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that it requires. In order to prepare itself for this future crunch, the company even attempted to produce the gas by making using of a lime kiln, but unfortunately they had to be abandoned this midway due to poor quality, high costs of lime and a number of other reasons. Hence, the company was in an urgent need of a fresh source of CO2 that could have the potential to take care of the growing soda dash demand that the company was facing. Here’s where Carbon Clean Solutions, a startup by IIT Kharagpur amlumni, came to its rescue.
Started in the year 2009 by two undergraduate students, Mumbai-based Carbon Clean Solutions visions to become a world leader in carbon dioxide separation technology. While extracting carbon dioxide from flue gases in power plants and using it to make valuable chemicals is still considered a difficult task in technology and economic terms, but the startup claims that its method has the potential of achieving the results cheaply.
TAC already had boilers in a small thermal plant for producing flue gases. Carbon Clean Solutions has successfully set up its equipment to capture CO2, which also has the potential of capturing the soot and other pollutants from coal. The thermal plant is now able to function cleanly, and TAC is getting enough carbon dioxide supply for its present needs as well as for future.
Thermal plants are considered as an important carbon dioxide emissions source in the world. There is a strong belief present in the scientific world that capturing and sequestering thermal plant emissions is an important step so as to deescalate the alarming rate at which global warming is currently growing. This is mainly because currently humans have no choice but to keep using fossil fuels for a few more decades.
Research firm Markets and Markets predict that the global market for carbon capture and sequestration will stand at a whopping $8.05 billion by the year 2021. It is important to note that carbon capture technology is still in its nascent stage, and has the potential of becoming something quite big in the near future as billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted each year by coal plants. Seeing the graph of growth that one can have in this sector, there is a sudden urgency all around the world to develop solutions to capture and sequester carbon dioxide, or, if possible, even develop valuable products.
The startup, Carbon Clean Solutions, has been co-founded by Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb, who are currently serving as CEO and CTO of the company respectively. Both the co-founders are Alumni of the prestigious IIT Kharagpur and are involved in the day-to-day operations of the company so as to achieve the company’s mission of delivering step changing products that can significantly reduce the cost of carbon dioxide capture.
The journey of Carbon Clean Solutions started seven years ago when its co-founders (who were still students back then) entered a business plan competition at IIT Bombay and came third. This was followed by them winning an award at the prestigious Pan-IIT conference. This is when a mentor, who is still unnamed, approached them and offered to give them some seed money. Since, back then, their Alma matter IIT Kharagpur did not have the labs where one could carry out this kind of research, they decided to started building things from scratch, outside from the purview of IIT Kharagpur. This led them to approaching Mumbai’s Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Mumbai, where they ended up setting a small pilot plant. At ICT, they both developed and tested a proprietary solvent that could successfully dissolve carbon dioxide using a proprietary catalyst. The solvent proved out to be extraordinary according to the existing industry standards back then and could remove 90% of the carbon dioxide from flue gases.
This success led Sharma and Bumb to venture out of the country for testing and expanding their business. During its seven year long journey, they have succeeded in getting angel investment from India and Europe, and a whopping $6 million from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change for technology demonstration. In fact, the startup also received money from the US government, for demonstration in a pilot plant. In 2015, the startup raised another $5.7 from private equity firms. Its technology has also been tested at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, called TNO in Europe, and according to TNO’s principal scientist Earl Goetheer, the startup has made a breakthrough in energy consumption.
India is currently generating approximately 186 gigawatt of coal-based power, and these plants are emitting about 600-700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide gas every year. When compared globally, Indian thermal power plants are considered highly inefficient as they emit far more carbon dioxide than most of the plants in the world. In fact, even if the country has very efficient plants, it will still be emitting far more carbon dioxide than the country should, if it is serious about controlling the rapid climate change that planet is currently experiencing.
Although the number of coal-fired thermal plants are now declining in the developed world, they still continue to hold importance in the developing countries for a while. This is the reason that a number of public-funded labs and private companies are trying to develop innovative methods to capture and sequester carbon dioxide but at a cheap cost.