When we first heard that Skyonic Corp received a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy in 2010, we thought its process sounded interesting.
It could capture carbon emissions and turn them into baking soda – a benign product that could be sold for use in lots of applications. Skyonic was also going to test it as feedstock for algae biofuels. The process neutralizes emissions that cause acid rain, as well as reducing mercury and heavy metals emissions.
The company just raised $119 million for its first commercial project from investors that include BP and ConocoPhillips. It will capture 75,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year from Capitol Aggregates’s cement plant in San Antonio, Texas.
Now we know why those oil companies are interested. Although there are many beneficial byproducts of carbon, ironically this process will support natural gas fracking.
The main product that results from the captured carbon emissions will be the acid that’s used for natural gas fracking.
Acid prices have doubled because of the fracking boom, the company says.
Many people question the validity of injecting carbon deep underground to get rid of it, but in this case, carbon will be turned into acid, which will be injected underground to release natural gas from shale formations.
The other byproduct, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), will be sold to the animal-feed market.
To date, the Department of Energy has supported Skyonic with $28 million in grants.
Sky-high costs are one of the main barriers to carbon capture technology, largely because it is so energy intensive – Skyonic is also working on a process, SkyCycle, which uses less energy.
Another company, Advanced Technology Materials Inc. is commercializing a carbon capture process that radically brings down the cost because it’s more than 90% more energy efficient other approaches.
They see the process as first being used by small-scale, industrial companies that want to cut raw material costs and their carbon footprint by capturing and reusing carbon in their processes.
Other carbon capture projects are the Texas Clean Energy Project, where carbon will be used for enhanced oil recovery and Heat Mining Company, which wants to use captured carbon to create geothermal energy.
Only one plant is currently capturing carbon and sequestering it underground in the US. It’s capturing emissions from an ethanol plant. Shell is looking to reduce carbon emissions from tar sands by capturing it and injecting it underground.
Norway opened a $1 billion capture and storage plant in May 2012 – the largest in the world.