The Baking Soda Carbon Fix

“SkyMines” turn power plant effluvia into an odor-fighting household product. But can you bake with it?

If the Austin-based company Skyonic has its way, we will one day have tons more baking soda on hand that could fill cakes or fight fridge odors. CEO Joe David Jones, a carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pioneer, discovered a simple process to turn power plant carbon dioxide emissions into the ubiquitous household powder. His “SkyMine” technology combines a plant’s emissions with lye—created on-site with little more than salt, water, electricity, and waste heat from the plant—to produce food-grade baking soda.

The byproducts are hydrogen and chlorine from lye, which plants can sell for a profit along with the baking soda. The process removes 97 percent of the heavy metals that power plants belch, and 99 percent of acid-rain gases, meaning companies can offset costs by bypassing expensive scrubber systems and avoiding carbon emissions taxes.

According to Skyonic’s spokeswoman, Stacy MacDiarmid, Texas energy company Luminant has been operating a pilot SkyMine since July 2007 with “no major stumbling blocks.” If that remains true, it’s likely more plants will follow.