back to article Only bicarbonate of soda can save mankind!

A US firm has come up with a plan to turn the carbon dioxide emitted by coal-burning power plants into bicarbonate of soda. Joe David Jones, founder of Skyonic, says he can capture 90 per cent of the carbon coming out of a smokestack and turn it into a harmless baking ingredient thanks to his Skymine process. The "baking soda …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twice as large as what?

    A pile of bicarb twice as large as what? Wales?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Using it in industry...

    ...would just release the CO2 anyway. I don't know how the Bicarbonate cycle works, though, so maybe it would cut down on fossil fuel used to produce it.

    Just don't get it wet...

  3. Hollerith
    Thumb Up

    fresh fridges

    Bicarb will keep every fridge on the planet smelling sweetly, and we'll have plenty left over for scones and other baked goods.

    And it does scrub up a bath nicely.

  4. James

    Trouble is you can't even use it for baking

    ...because that just releases the CO2 it's sequestering. Which is a shame, because I desperately want to see a harassed power station manager shouting "Quick! We need MORE CUPCAKES!"

  5. Robbin Nichol
    Thumb Down

    The point is

    the CO2 needs to be sequestered, i.e. not used for anything, given baking sodas chemical reactivity with water its probably not a good sequestration medium.

  6. Steven Moore

    An Orwellian moment

    Notice how, in a fairly short time, CO2 has become a "pollutant"?

    Time was, a "pollutant" was SO2, or NOx, or a VOC.

    Now, it's something people exhale. Something that plants call "food".

    Already, China has claimed that they should be given carbon credit for their population control program.

    I suppose methane will be next, which means we can expect the US to declare war on Mexico -- to "save the planet".

  7. Robbin Nichol

    Chemistry Shurely

    About time you guys realized that Chemistry is the central science.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Generic title

    "A US firm has come up with a plan to turn the carbon dioxide emitted by coal-burning power plants into bicarbonate of soda."

    Obviously they're rising to the challenge of CO2 emissions then ...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rebranded Sodium Hydroxide scrubber

    So he starts with Carbon Dioxide C02, and produces Baking Soda, NaHCO3.

    Without any additional Sodium, or Hydrogen added, just heat. Methinks he's reinvented the sodium hydroxide scrubber and just forgot to mention the sodium hydroxide part. These are used on power stations to remove toxic metals and sulfur dioxide from high sulfur coals.

    It does reduce CO2 aswell, now if only there was a way to make Sodium Hydroxide without generating huge amounts of CO2 (either directly LeBlanc or indirectly electrolysis).

    Looks like somebodies rebranding their scrubbers as a fix for climate change.

    I wonder how many news papers won't notice the missing sodium or hydrogen....

  10. Sam


    "We're sure Kim and Aggie can find a use for it, somewhere." ®

    Nice link, (probably) but no script blocked the entire site, and I couldn't be arsed to follow it up.

    Bicarb and vinegar have been known about for a long, long, long time, the cleaner corps of this world would rather we didn't know about it.

  11. Paul Cooper


    We call it baking soda over here too!

    I'd question whether this is a serious idea. Baking Soda works because the CO2 is loosely bound and is easily released in baking. Any scheme based on it would have to arrange for long term storage of the sodium bicarbonate in controlled conditions.

    Mars because it would work fine there!

  12. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    So... How is this helping? Did NaHCO3 become a valuable resource or nutrient? If only there was some kind of self-replicating solar powered machine that could separate the carbon and oxygen atoms from CO2.

  13. Nìall Tracey

    Hmmm... interesting.

    says that:

    "Our feed chemical for the reaction to remove the carbon is sodium hydroxide, which is produced on site as a part of the SkyMine™ process. This reaction to produce sodium hydroxide also produces hydrogen and chlorine as byproducts. These can be sold to market at a profit, not only defraying the cost of CO2 removal, but even generating a profit for the SkyMine™ operators."

    It produces Sodium Hydroxide, Hydrogen and Chlorine. Sounds suspiciously like a salt-based reaction... The chloralkali process, mayhaps?

    Is the super new technologically advanced "SkyMine™ process" on-site electrolysis of sea-water (cheaper at a power-station -- no transmission losses) followed by "scrubbing"? Followed by the disposal of half a million tons of water-soluble waste?

    When I read this bit of the article I thought this was a mistake:

    "Some googling, and little more serious research later,"

    I thought it was supposed to be "*a* little more", but it doesn't take much serious research to come up with this (apparently) poorly thought-out system.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Big Brown Steam Power Station? Oh, it's STEAM power! Who said anything about coal? If they're into euphemisms, they should really have called it the Little Green Steam Energy Farm- that sounds even better.

    I should go into marketing.

  15. Steven Moore
    Thumb Down

    More about Skyonic

    From a news release:

    "Called the SkyMine process, Skyonic has created a new method that captures carbon dioxide and other pollutants and converts them to commercial-grade chemicals that are less harmful, such as hydrogen and certain forms of chlorine."

    Now, wait a minute...

    It "converts" Carbon Dioxide to "hydrogen and certain forms of chlorine."? There's only one "form" of chlorine -- unless you're counting isotopes.

    And, how does it "convert" them? Do they wheel up a fusion reactor to the plant exhaust?

    I smell a SCAM!

  16. miknik
    Paris Hilton

    You can make a lot of cakes...

    with 166666 KiloJubs of baking soda!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Raising agent

    Not sure how edible it would be if it contained heavy metals or other contaminants

    Baking powder: add 2 parts Cream of tartar to1 part Bicarbonate of soda.

    Besides Kim & Aggies many uses it could be added to toothpaste, or instead of, for extra cleaning power, or a tsp. in a glass of water as an antacid for those morning after the night before moments (much cheaper than those over the counter remedies).

    Talking of over the counter. A shop I used to work in sold Bicarb (mostly to old grannies who knew how to bake and/or were aware of its magical cleaning properties). Anyway 2 dozen tubs would take most of the year or longer to sell out. Suddenly however, it started selling out in a matter of weeks sometimes days, until a member of the local "Young Team" informed us that they use it to make Speed (Amphetamine Sulphate). They mix it with a concentrated paste to bulk it out into the familiar white powder. Similar problem with Jif lemon juice (used for dissolving Heroin prior to injection). We were surprised at the sudden interest in cookery shown by the younger generation. Now we know why. Needless to say we stopped selling both Jif & Bicarb

  18. Martin Owens

    Baking Powder/Soda

    I don't know about everyone else but Baking Powder/Soda contains extra raising agents.

    I've always called it Sodium Hydrocarbonate, because it surly isn't Sodium Bicarbonate (i.e Bicarb).

  19. FrankR


    Where does he get the alkali from? Its easy to produce it from limestone or sod carbonate. You just heat it up (?) and it expels CO2 into the air.

    It can then be used to catch CO2.

    Other methods I know of are equally pointless (eg electrolysis)

    Anybody know how he gets round this?

    Would be cool if he actually had a source.

  20. Anonymous John

    338,000 tons of CO2 a year

    That's almost 82 MegaJub.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Simple, dump it all in the oceans so the dolphins can bake things for us instead of invading and killing us all.

  22. FrankR


    OK their site says the heat is from waste emissions (fair enuff) and their feed source does not produce CO2. Still unsure how they get the NaOH. Electrolysis from electricity from waste (?)energy or wot? Probably as "This reaction to produce sodium hydroxide also produces hydrogen and chlorine as byproducts"

    Still sounds like perpetual motion, but just possible.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Stop being so paranoid, Steve

    "Time was, a "pollutant" was SO2, or NOx, or a VOC."

    Nope, not so. You're simply being over-specific about the definition of pollutant. The dictionary calls it a waste material, something that renders a natural resource harmful or unusable: that seems a pretty reasonable term to describe CO2 to me. It describes "pollute" as to make impure with waste matter; again, a perfectly reasonable term to describe the excess CO2 emitted as a useless byproduct of industrial processes. Take a look at if you don't believe me.

    "Now, it's something people exhale."

    Umm, yes, that's exactly what a pollutant is: a useless byproduct.

    "Something that plants call "food"."

    That doesn't make it not a pollutant. Hell, some beetles eat shit. I'd still call it a pollutant if I found it in my sandwich; you can't just ignore the context like that.

    Of course, you never actually say what you're getting at in your post.

    Funny, that.

    You suggest that someone has changed the meaning of the word - which as I show above has not happened at all - therefore implying that they have some ulterior motive; presumably the "Orwellian" reference is an attempt to suggest that it's some kind of propaganda or mind control exercise. But you stop short of coming right out and saying what you think it would be for, or about. My guess would be that you think CO2 is somehow not a pollutant, and that you believe that not because you've looked at the definition of the word pollutant and found it doesn't match, but because you have a hidden agenda which, in order for your point of view to be true, would have to mean that CO2 was not a pollutant, and you're reasoning backward from your assumption that you must be right about everything to what-would-have-to-be-the-case in order for you to be right about everything without any reference to facts, evidence, or even a dictionary.

    Go on, tell us how you really feel.

  24. tim chubb
    Paris Hilton

    great arcing jets of sticky white cake piss

    be fine burying in an old mine.....

    till some numpty forgets abouts a rocks PH, and we have the worlds largest baking powder submarine!

  25. Tony Barnes

    @ Anonymous Coward

    The pile of Bicarb would be twice the size of the "pile" of CO2 - so over 700,000 tonnes of the stuff.

    As the 2006 world production was a mere 2.6million tonnes (, I think an excess would be reached a little too easily... and the landfills would just release it far too quickly.

    Nice(ish) idea, but clearly retarded.

    Almost as retarded as the size of the url I just referenced...

  26. Phil Endecott


    This may not be the same technology, but there are some clever approaches to this that use enzymes. You first dissolve the CO2 in seawater, which isn't difficult. Anything with bones or a shell has an enzyme that can precipitate calcium carbonate from a suitable solution, like this. I think they also work for magnesium carbonate. Sodium carbonate [baking soda] might be a bit harder, but there are obviously plenty of sodium ions to play with.

    I think that the bi-product is that the seawater ends up more acidic, which may not be a good thing - especially if it then dissolves the shells of marine organisms or the limestone seafloor, releasing CO2. But I'm sure they would have thought of that....

  27. Cameron Colley


    Stick that up your ass Mr Gore! A way to carry on using power stations as we are without those nasty "Carbons" getting out.

    Shame it's absolute bolocks -- think how muh energy would be required to transport the bicarb, not to mention lining the "old mines" with waterproofing.

    Does highlught the major issue more though -- it's not the "carbons" that are the prblem, it's our reliance on fossil fuels for producing virtually everything, from foods to dyestuffs, that could be addressed. The climate will change by itself, reardless of the planetery disease "humans".

  28. Marvin the Martian

    Baking soda with heavy metals? Yum!

    Saves me time putting the cadmium in there myself... What a greatly convincing idea.

    So indeed you save some effort in distilling the soda you need, but that's a pinch of that stack. You could maybe store it underground, where it will slowly react with water and release itself in the environment anyways.

  29. Morely Dotes
    Thumb Up

    A reasonable solution

    Sorry, I just realized the titel might be considered a pun; not intentional.

    Anyway... The State of Nevada is mostly desert (arguably, including Las Vegas, in a cultural sense). Burying the stuff in tunnels under the desert would lock up the CO2 for the foreseeable future, but make it accessible if it's ever needed (I can't imagine why it might be needed, but that's why you have "contingency plans" - for things you can't foresee).

    And it would make large parts of Nevada, outside of Groom Lake, useful.

  30. Bill L

    You know D*** Well What Would Happen

    Some terrorist would pilot a plane full of vinegar into the mound, which would be pretty spectacular a scene if there were red dye mixed into the vinegar and the hill sized pile of sodium bicarbonate was thinly protected with a waterproof covering.

    Science club here we come.

    O.K. Well, all the good responses were already done above so.....

    I'm waiting for the guy who figures out how to take the carbon and using natural forces creates diamonds from them.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Twice as large as the pile of CO2, that's what.

    " Assuming an average 500-megawatt power plant produces 338,000 tons of CO2 a year, we'd be left with a pile of bicarb roughly twice as large."

    Wnat the article is saying is that an average 500-MW station outputs a certain amount of CO2 per year, and that if all that CO2 was combined with sodium and hydrogen and even more oxygen (in order to make bicarb) it would end up weighing twice as much as the original CO2 did before you added the extra ingredients to capture it.

    Blimey, a straight answer to a straight question. I'll get me coat.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Twice as large as what?

    " A pile of bicarb twice as large as what? Wales? "

    Erm, how about twice as large as the 338,000 tons of CO2?

    Just think, 676,000 tons of bicarb would make a lot of cakes.

  33. frank denton
    Paris Hilton

    Re. Rebranded Scrubber

    Our old friend AC has hit the nail on the head with regard to paying close attention to the 'total energy/pollution balance' considerations of the process; something that easily excited politicians hardly ever do.

    The Skymine sites and also the pdf at give a good top-level view of how they achieve it.

    Essentially they use a small percentage of the power station output to electrolise sodium chloride hence producing sodium hydroxide (used as a scrubber) and also hydrogen and chlorine as 'valuable' byproducts. (That was my understanding, please read it yourself since I may have misunderstood).

    How they manage to produce 'better than food grade baking soda' is a mystery to me given the toxic metals that need stripping out but is probably related to the ''Patent IP chemistry' they use. (How you can patent a chemical reaction is a separate issue of course, unless they use a specially developed catalyst?)

    My main concern would be potential involvement of Durga The Hutt so this outfit needs to be watched carefully and all financial flows carefully accounted for. See for an explanation of why.

  34. James Le Cuirot

    And when the coal runs out?

    Nice idea but too little, too late, I fear. I seem to remember seeing a chart way back in science class saying that we'd probably run out of coal by around 2010 or something. How much do we really have left?

  35. Kevin

    Twice as large

    The sentence made sense to me: Twice as large as the number of tonnes of CO2 quoted earlier in the sentence. X Tonnes of CO2 produces twice as much NaCO2 [in tonnes].

  36. Pete Peterson

    Chemical attraction

    "This reaction to produce sodium hydroxide also produces hydrogen and chlorine as byproducts"

    So this is sounding a lot like hydrochloric acid - the dolphins would love that too. In fact, it seems as though they are producing chemicals that absolutely love to react with each other in a nice endothermic kind of way. I can't see this ending any way other than messily.

    What's wrong with the old sinking the carbon dioxide to the bottom of the sea, or ejecting it into space on a carbon nanotube escalator?

  37. Nexox Enigma

    Re: And when the coal runs out?

    We actually have an enormous amount of coal globally. At the current rate of consumption we have 160-200 years left. Compare that to Oil and Natural gas which are closer to 30 years. Figuring out better ways to use coal to replace the other fossil fuels will be quite beneficial in the not-too-distant future.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Combined with the desalination plant

    Convert the sea water to sodium, chlorine, and water. Add the sodium to the water and get sodium hydroxide and hydrogen (and energy and the water has gone).

  39. Fred

    Why not...

    ...plant a massive great big pile of f***ing trees?

    How come no ones thought of that?

  40. Anonymous Coward

    How about

    we genetically engineer a creature that can excrete a covering from a stable compound like CaCO3 and have it live in the ocean so it won't get in the way and while were at it we can make it filter the water of heavy metal pollutants and consume potentially harmful algae then after many generations we could harvest the coverings and use them as aggregate in concrete to further sequester them. It just needs a catchy title.

  41. James Holt


    Yes, not a bad idea. I think it's called a "rainforest" ;-) Unfortunately the Indonesians are destroying those to make way for planting alledgedly environmentally-friendly Palm Oil plantations to manufacture Biofuels......

  42. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Twice as large as what?

    Ah, I understand now, "large" has become a description of weight, not size. Who says that standards of English aren't dropping? Of course, if you were to use the language properly, the pile of baking soda would be many times smaller than the "pile" of CO2, one being a solid and the other being a gas at more or less standard temperature and pressure after it comes out of a power station.


  43. Joe Stalin
    Thumb Up

    Good Ideas Bad Ideas

    So the Bicarbonate is unstable when water is around, what we need to do is further process the bicard. This is not a solution in itself but as a method of catching the emissions at the point of production it sounds good.

    @Desalination Plant, bad idea you don't say where all that chlorine ends up, we still have to think about the ozone layer.

    CO2 is a pollutant. yes I know we all breathe it out but we all pass urine as well. If I piss in the loo then no harm done, if I piss in the local swimming pool then that pollution, same goes for CO2 it depends what you do with it.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I concur this statement....

    "Ah, I understand now, "large" has become a description of weight, not size. Who says that standards of English aren't dropping? Of course, if you were to use the language properly, the pile of baking soda would be many times smaller than the "pile" of CO2, one being a solid and the other being a gas at more or less standard temperature and pressure after it comes out of a power station.


    Spot on - give the man a cee-gar!

  45. GrahamT

    @How about

    This reminded me of the carbon recycling scheme used in the South of France:

    The only reason the Med isn't more polluted than it already is, is that huge mussel beds grow around the sewage outlets, filtering all the crap out of the water. These mussels are then harvested and fed to the tourists, thus removing two problems at the same time.

  46. andy rock
    Thumb Up

    RE: Stop being so paranoid, Steve

    "Hell, some beetles eat shit. I'd still call it a pollutant if I found it in my sandwich; you can't just ignore the context like that."

    hahaha, best thing i've heard so far today!

  47. 3x2

    Standing bet

    [...] but because you have a hidden agenda which [...]

    Now there is always a standing bet on most open net discussions as to how long it would take someone to use the phrase "nazi". I think there should be another where "climate change" is concerned as to how long it takes for "hidden agenda" or "GW denier" to turn up in a post.

  48. TeeCee Gold badge


    The pile of CO2 in question will be the same size as a herd of cats. I'll leave the actual herding of cats and measurement of resulting herd size as an exercise for the reader.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Stop being so paranoid, Steve

    All Steve is saying is that one persons trash is another persons treasure, in this case we exhale CO2 which we do not need, but trees do.

    So stop moaning at other peoples opinions and thoughts.

    Yes CO2 is a pollutant to us, but it doesn't mean it is to other sources of life.

    Oxygen is a pollutant from a trees point of view, i may be wrong, but ah well.

  50. Joe Stalin

    RE: Stop being so paranoid, Steve

    Tree consume CO2 from photosynthisis and produce 02, at night they reverse the process produce CO2 and consume O2.

  51. Phill Holland

    Baking Soda Swimming Pool

    This is a nice idea, I like it although if it gets applyed to all the worlds power station we'll have too much baking soda than we know what to do with, it cannot all be used in baking. We'll probably end up burying the excess, like we do with everything else that we don't know where to put.

    Not sure about banding around the term pollutant though, it seems its definition is simular to that of noise "any unwanted sound", and that depends very much on your persepective. The trouble is, having too much of one "unwanted" substance in a particular place may be defined as a pollutant, that substance could be anything from huge piles of cucumber in my sodding sandwiches all the time or vast amounts of radioactive material.

    The problem here is really about maintaining balance within the eco-system, without creating any new problems to deal with, and one mans pollutant might be anothers mans/creatures gold.

    I'm off too research man bear pig on the interweb thingy now.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Mass cure for ulcers?

    Well at least we'll always have plenty bicarb on hand for treating mouth ulcers. Although were does the heavy metals also extracted go?

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Global Warming solution

    If we made lots of the stuff and worked out how to bury it deep in a log narrow hole with the right geometry, then poured water down it, we might just succeed in shifting the Earth into a wider orbit further from the Sun, where of course it would be cooler.

    So after I finish my Campari at leisure, hand me my Nobel Prize collection gown, I have a taxi to Stockholm to catch. The polar bears want me to be their King.

  54. andy rock

    RE: china

    "Already, China has claimed that they should be given carbon credit for their population control program."

    well, at least they have one. okay, it's shit, encourages infanticide and child kidnapping but nobody else would even consider the only logical conclusion; there's too bloody many of us.

    as Bill Hicks said: "stop rutting for just one minute. let's work out this food/air deal."

  55. Mark


    No, a pollutant is whatever you DON'T want in there.

    Tantalum ions in your GaAs laser is a pollutant (unless you wanted it to fail as a laser). When you're making a high-tensile alloy of steel, it isn't.

    Ideally, we would like to put fuel in the car and get motion. ANYTHING other than that is pollution: we aren't driving our cars to create water, CO2 or anything else. We're just looking for motion.

  56. Mark

    @Nexox Enigma

    That would be 120 years worth of use as long as we don't have to have coal powered transport, yes?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soylent Green is People

    When we think about a pollutant we really are looking at things harmful to us and the ecosystem which we depend upon.

    C02 and 02 is used by plants, 02 less so but it is necessary for most plant growth, without which, green wafers all round.

    Sure, industry and our life styles can cause a shift in the ecosystem, but volcanoes and earthquakes do their share as well.

    I do think we need to pay heed to the reduction of pollutants hazardous to us and the planet's ability to sustain our lives, but hey the most hazardous thing to mankind is mankind itself.

    And part of this global warming charade is the way people are manipulated into focusing attention way from certain areas when the powers that be want to distract. It is also useful in stimulating new areas of business, it keeps people striving to find solutions. So, it is very much a double edged sword.

    The truth of the matter is we don't know really if what we assume is harmful is in fact harmful in the long wrong. There may come a day when having that hole in the ozone turned out to be a good thing.

    Personally, I think a clean water supply, breathable air, rain that is not acidic, an efficient waste disposal system that supports biodegradability and a more ecosystem centric way to produce goods is what we should be looking at. Not, Al Gore's latest offering to the camp horror flick genre.

  58. Bruce H Woodfield
    Thumb Up

    I think -

    (sometimes) - that it is a good idea to sequester the CO2 from lekky gen stations as sodium bicarbonate for the very reason that it is easily and cheaply regurgitatable back to CO2.

    The bicarbonate should then be stored in disused mines ready for the inevitable explosion of Mt Krakatoa or another asteroid hit. Then, as the new ice age approaches with lightning speed, all the greenies can line up at the mouths of the mines to p down them in order to make CO2 to warm their kids since they are not allowed to buy nukey made lekky for the purpose.

    But as the exhaust of CO2 from the mine gathers speed the next greenie in line will cop the full force of the product of the previous greenie, which will be one greenie taking the piss out of another greenie, which will also be a good thing. The clever guys can then put a turbine in the shaft and generate lekky which the greenie will not buy because it is the product of the release of CO2.

    All problems solved......

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @RE: Stop being so paranoid, Steve

    "Tree consume CO2 from photosynthisis and produce 02, at night they reverse the process produce CO2 and consume O2."

    When they think nobody is looking, right? Sneaky beggars.

  60. Mark Pawelek

    Seems better than nothing

    frank denton: "How they manage to produce 'better than food grade baking soda' is a mystery to me".

    - I suppose they use fractional crystallisation. They can throw most of the bicarb away (with the heavy metals and other waste). They only need to make a small amount of 'food grade baking soda' to justify their claim.

    This is the 2nd time, in the space of a week, I've come across this idea from independent sources. I guess the electricity required to make NaOH from brine is much less than that produced by burning carbon to make CO2. That reaction: NaOH + CO2 => NaHCO3 also creates heat which is what, I believe, power stations use to make electricity.

    - I personally think the biggest problem will be getting rid of all that Chlorine made by the electrolysis of brine. PS: Chlorine was used as a poison gas in the 'Great War'.

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