Oh well done to The Guardian here

Indian firm makes carbon capture breakthrough
Carbonclean is turning planet-heating emissions into profit by converting CO2 into baking powder – and could lock up 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year

The slight problem being:

A breakthrough in the race to make useful products out of planet-heating CO2 emissions has been made in southern India.

A plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin is capturing CO2 from its own coal-powered boiler and using it to make soda ash – aka baking powder.

No, soda ash is sodium carbonate. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.


Isn’t Roger Harrabin supposed to be a science reporter?

37 thoughts on “Oh well done to The Guardian here”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    If they are using a simple method to produce the sodium bicarbonate, they may produce sodium carbonate as an intermediate step.

    CO2 + 2 NaOH → Na2CO3 + H2O

    Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 NaHCO3

    Of course either way the main problem is getting your sodium hydroxide. That would involve some brine and a lot of electricity. The electricity would involve producing carbon dioxide I suspect.

    (Or they could just use the Solvay process but no matter)

    If they are willing to bung me ten thousand quid I can sell them something to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Half a dozen or so of such “plants” are remarkably maintenance-free, they don’t need a lot of capital or energy input, there are no great demands in labour. All in all a bargain for a five figure sum.

    Best of all, after a couple of hundred years you can turn them into very nice furniture.

  2. Titles are what matter at the PCBBC. Not skills–save bullshitting skillz.

    So long as the menials can press a button to start the recordings then the Lords and Lordlings will continue to have much more important CM stuff to focus on. And status of course. Always that.

    After all state education has produced a chump base who don’t know or care anyway.

  3. What’s the bet that the process in question is itself powered by coal either directly or indirectly, and there’s as much subsidy-capture as carbon-capture going on?

  4. Bloke In Italy said:
    “Just what is the global demand for baking powder anyway?”

    Don’t forget all those baking programmes on the tellythese days.

  5. Baking powder is not the same as bicarbonate of soda: I have two separate little tubs, one red, one blue. The red tub says it contains sodium diphospate plus some bicarb as active ingredients.
    Mr Harrabin doesn’t know the difference neither between sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate nor between baking powder and sodium bicarbonate.
    Nor does he know that there is a bigger market for bicarb for cleaning purposes than as a raising agent and there is a market for sodium carbonate to neutralise chemical spills (not big but probably larger than baking powder which is sold in ubs containing a few grams each).
    His ignorance is approaching 0.1 of a Murphy.

  6. I believe that Mr Harrabin has a degree in English – this is sufficient for him to be the BBC’s (and presumably the Grauniad’s) “science” correspondent. His complete ignorance of chemistry, physics and maths appear to be a requirement for such posts.

  7. Given that he doesn’t know the difference between baking soda and washing soda, I conclude that Mr Harrabin doesn’t employ a housemaid or has turned his wife into one.

  8. Mr Harrabin’s precise title is “environment analyst”. I can’t recall any other BBC talking heads being introduced as “analysts”.

  9. john77’s quite right. “Baking powder” also contains the acid needed to release the CO2 in the bi-carb to make the dough rise.
    Soda bread etc, where you use the straight bi-carb, employs heat to achieve the same end.
    (See the advantages to having had an ex who couldn’t cook to save her f****g life?)

  10. @Pogo
    I never cease to be amazed at the profound ignorance of our supposed educated classes. Hence, I’ve come to the conclusion that a university education is a process of removing knowledge rather than instilling it.

  11. Category: Man’s never ending struggle to be relevant.

    “the natural decay of organic material in forests and grasslands and the action of forest fires results in the release of about 439 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year” – wikipedia

    ‘and could lock up 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year’

    Whoopee. Why bother?

    60,000 tonnes in 439,000,000,000 tonnes

  12. Why bother?

    ‘Carbonclean is turning planet-heating emissions into profit’

    Profit? I’ll need to see the business model before I believe that.

  13. Even if it were baking powder surely the intention of said baking powder is for it to release its CO2 upon heating as a raising agent.

  14. It gets better.

    Baking powder is a mix of sodium bicarbonate (or the carbonate) and an acid such as tartaric acid.

    In cooking the two react – alkaline + acid – to release… drum roll…. carbon dioxide, which is a leavening agent to make baked goods lighter in texture.

    So, moving CO2 from one part of the atmosphere and releasing into another is carbon capture – now you see it; now you don’t. Now that’s magic.

  15. Isn’t Roger Harrabin supposed to be a science reporter?

    As Bishop Hill and I pointed out some years ago, none of the BBC’s senior science or technical staff had anything ressembling a science degree. And yes, Harrabin was one of those…


  16. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Total mass of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is of the order of 1.8 trillion tons. Usual journalistic failure to appreciate scale and orders of magnitude.

  17. Usual journalistic failure to appreciate scale and orders of magnitude.

    If he had the intelligence to understand scale and orders of magnitude he wouldn’t be a journalist, now would he?

  18. To be honest, Tim, I don’t think many of your readers regard you as a “journalist”. More as someone with a long & successful record of doing other things (which some might [importantly] regard as real, actual work) who’s added journalism to the list.
    And a vital difference, it is.

  19. “Soda ash (Na2CO3), or sodium carbonate, is used in the manufacture of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents. It is also used as a water softener, since carbonate can precipitate the calcium and magnesium ions present in “hard” water.”

    So even if we are talking about sodium carbonate instead of sodium bicarbonate we still get a useful product. If it is cheaper than current manufacturing methods it is a win, although a little to late for those of us in Pittsburgh or Flint with lead water mains.

    I say three cheers to an environmental journalist for actually considering an option that reuses a waste product. Normally they just want to ban everything.

  20. Hence, I’ve come to the conclusion that a university education is a process of removing knowledge rather than instilling it.

    Sir Pterry was there first. Which, to his amusingly warped mind, explained why some books in universities were so dangerous. Because they were used to store the knowledge and started to seek it out on their own. (This is different from Rincewind and the Book of 7b.)

  21. Thanks very much Dennis, yes, thanks very much.

    Your host, a journalist.

    I say this in all seriousness and with the greatest admiration: You are neither an economist nor a journalist. That is why your voice is so valuable. It is also why I hold you in the highest esteem.

    People like Paul Krugman are economists. People like George Monbiot are journalists.

    You, sir, are an economically literate businessman and entrepreneur who writes well. As such, you are far more serious and clear-headed than the likes of either Paul or George.

  22. @john77, January 3, 2017 at 11:39 am


    You beat me to it. Baking Powder is not Baking Soda.

    Sodium Bi-carb is good for cleaning and absorbing odours.

  23. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Highly tangential to the topic, but if you want a really good machinable filler for small repairs etc., pack the item with sodium bicarbonate and then soak it with cyanoacrylate superglue. It sets like stone in a few seconds. Only drawback is it’s slightly exothermic.

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    Pcar – “Sodium Bi-carb is good for cleaning and absorbing odours.”

    How racist would it be, on a scale of one to ten, to suggest, ever so politely, that perhaps there might well be a market for this product in India?

    Because they have such a big glass industry obviously.

    Bloke in Costa Rica – “Only drawback is it’s slightly exothermic.”

    Was your degree in Engineering or Physics? I just want to know so I can use the appropriate units for that “slightly” before the word “exothermic”.

  25. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Engineering or physics? One of each, actually. “Slightly’ means a few degrees temperature excursion, nothing worth bothering with unless the thing you’re filling is extremely temperature sensitive. On the other hand, cyanoacrylate plus cellulose (e.g. cotton wool) is exothermic enough to cause burns.

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