Start-up designs revolutionary technology to shrink carbon

Deepa Krishnan

Amid the buzz and hype over climate change comes a start-up that’s attracting global attention for its carbon-capture technology. Launched by two college buddies who are still their 20s, Carbon Clean Solutions (CCS) promises two things any industrial plant longs to hear – significant cost-savings and 30-per cent lower energy consumption compared to the technology currently being used to reduce carbon emissions.

Classroom Project

The carbon-capture technology – called APBS Technology – was devised by Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb while they were working on a project at IIT-Kharagpur in 2008. They designed a special solvent and heating system to extract carbon from flue gases to clean effluents and extract carbon from it.

Excited about their innovation, Sharma and Bumb started as consultants but were dismayed that “no one wanted to take advice from 23-year-olds”. So they participated in competitions in India and overseas to showcase their technology. They won three competitions, including a pan-IIT contest, which had participants from all over the world. But it was a clean technology forum in San Francisco that was a turning point.

First Break

The forum had invited more than 800 clean technology experts, from researchers to lawyers, among them Martin Haemmig, a Stanford University researcher and lecturer. Haemmig was their first investor and mentor, and after that, there was no looking back.

Sharma and Bumb launched their Mumbai-based Carbon Clean Solutions 2009, with Rs 25 lakh in angel funding from Haemmig and a few other investors. They received a second round of funding from global angel investors.

After extensive research with the help of two professors from the Institute of Technology, the duo developed a cutting-edge solvent and piloted a technology to capture carbon in a cost-efficient manner. They partnered with TNO, a Dutch organisation, for applied scientific research to test their product. Sharma and Bumb were finally ready with their revolutionary APBS technology and commercially launched it in 2012.

How The Technology Works

The Process: The APBS process involves capturing carbon dioxide using a proprietary regenerable solvent combined with a unique heat-coupling method. The flue gas is extracted from a chimney stack and fed to the CCS unit through a flue gas duct. After cleaning the gas, it is passed through a cylinder called an absorber to capture the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide thus recovered can be reused as a raw material for downstream industries like the dry ice and beverages industry, fire extinguisher companies, to produce fuel feedstock and to manufacture chemicals. It can also be used in oil wells and natural gas fields to enhance recover.

Benefits: Carbon Clean Solutions is not the first company to come up with carbon-capture technology. This is a highly capital-intensive proposition and many clean technology start-ups who sell this technology are struggling to stay viable. But Sharma and Bumb may have found a way. Sharma claims his APBS Technology can extract up to 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions from effluent gases in industrial utilities at 30-per cent lower energy consumption than conventional technology. Also, he claims, his technology cuts carbon-capture costs by as much as half, compared to conventional technology. "We have to compete with majors like Siemens and Alstom. But we have found an efficient solution,” points out Bumb.

Going Commercial

Carbon Clean Solutions has bagged its first client, the Indian subsidiary of German company Solvay Chemicals, and set up a plant for them close to Chennai, in August 2012. Sharma estimates that through the CCS technology, the company will save at least Rs 60 lakh in costs per annum.

Revenue Model

The company’s revenue channels will be primarily through licensing the process and the solvent package. They estimate an earning of up to Rs 90 lakh from a single mid-size customer. "We will give the know-how and demonstrate how the plant will operate," explains Sharma. At present, they are contract-manufacturing the solvent chemical to a company in Gujarat. To set up a small-scale project, the timeline is four months, nine to ten months for a mid-scale project and 18 months for a large project. This product can be used for any industry that has chimneys emitting carbon dioxide like steel, petrochemicals, fertilisers, iron and steel, Sharma adds.

Road Ahead

Carbon Clean Solutions recently received a grant of £ 3.5 million from the UK government and will be piloting their technology in power plants in the UK. They have also been selected by the US Department of Energy for a fully-funded demonstration of their product, and is the only Indian company on the list, among four global majors. Naturally, Sharma and Bumb hope this exposure translates into a solid business model.

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