Tata Chemicals Europe’s Northwich plant will eventually capture 40,000 tonnes of CO2 per year for use in the production of sodium bicarbonate.

CO2 into baking soda
Northwich Tata Chemicals Europe plant  Tata Chemicals Europe Limited


Today marks the start of the UK’s largest carbon capture project, with carbon dioxide being used to produce sodium bicarbonate for dialysis machines, pharmaceutical tablets, and baking soda.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is regarded as a “critical” technology for achieving net-zero emissions by the UK’s climate change advisers, but it has a checkered history, with several major projects canceled.

The new Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE) plant in Northwich, northwest England, is on track to capture approximately 36,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This will eventually increase to 40,000 tonnes, accounting for about 11% of the facility’s emissions and more than 100 times the amount captured in Drax’s power station pilots.


According to Martin Ashcroft of TCE, the £16.7 million demonstration project, which was aided by a £4.2 million government grant, demonstrates that going net-zero does not imply outsourcing manufacturing overseas. “We cannot effectively decarbonize the UK through deindustrialization,” he says.

The CO2 is captured from a gas-fired power plant at the facility, purified, and converted into liquefied CO2 to produce sodium bicarbonate. “We’re effectively producing our own raw material,” says Ashcroft. TCE previously purchased the majority of its CO2 from two of the largest fertilizer plants in the UK, one of which is closing.

The company was concerned that the CO2 captured from flue gas would not be of high enough quality for the pharmaceutical industry, but the sodium bicarbonate made with it has been shown to be suitable for use in hemodialysis for people with kidney disease, as well as as an ingredient to control the pH in tablets. Some of the product, which is more commonly known as baking soda, is also sold to the food industry.

Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom welcomes the project, which he compares to a coal plant in India that uses CO2 to produce sodium bicarbonate. However, he claims that because the CO2 is not permanently stored at the Northwich site, it is eventually released into the atmosphere. “This is a reduction in emissions, not a permanent and long-term removal of the fossil carbon released by burning methane gas,” he says.


Ashcroft is considering a second carbon capture project at the facility or at a nearby salt plant, and he believes it is critical that the UK government invests in two “CCS clusters” it has backed in the northwest and northeast of England.

Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom welcomes the project, which he compares to a coal plant in India that uses CO2 to produce sodium bicarbonate. However, he claims that because the CO2 is not permanently stored at the Northwich site, it is eventually released into the atmosphere. “This is a reduction in emissions, not a permanent and long-term removal of the fossil carbon released by burning methane gas,” he says.


Ashcroft is considering a second carbon capture project at the facility or at a nearby salt plant, and he believes it is critical that the UK government invests in two “CCS clusters” it has backed in the northwest and northeast of England.

Source: Newscientist

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