CO2 Emissions French vineyard to turn carbon dioxide emissions into toothpaste

Published on April 15th, 2013 | by Mridul Chadha


French Vineyard To Turn Carbon Dioxide Emissions Into Toothpaste

April 15th, 2013 by  

As vineyards around the world face the threat of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, one vineyard in France has planned to do its part to reduce its carbon footprint. The business plan makes perfect sense and is one that should be financially and environmentally sustainable.

French vineyard to turn carbon dioxide emissions into toothpaste

Various Bordeaux wines
Image Credit: Colin | CC 2.0

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux in France is famous for its red wine. The owner of the winery has announced plans to capture the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation process and convert it into sodium bicarbonate. He will then sell this sodium bicarbonate to pharmaceutical companies to be used for making toothpaste.

According to the Industrial Agricultural Products Center of the University of Nebraska, each gallon of wine produced is accompied by production of 6.29 pounds of carbon dioxide. While the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation process is minimal when compared to that generated from other related activists like packaging and transportation, it can still prove harmful to the environment and certainly human health.

In 2008, two French wine makers suffocated while treading grapes with feet due to the carbon dioxide generated during the process. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and thus does not dissipate in the surroundings easily. Clearly, large wineries would have more sophisticated procedure of taking care of the CO2 emissions. The gas can be captured in the fermentation trap and reused. Wineries may reuse the carbon dioxide produced to prevent oxidation of the wine.

One option to reduce the release of emissions is to capture and send it to companies involved in storage activities. While the actual economics of such operation are not well known, one would assume that the wineries would be required to pay the carbon storage companies some fee to the transport and subsequent storage.

By converting the carbon emissions to sodium bicarbonate and selling it to pharmaceutical companies, toothpaste manufacturers, and various other industrial sectors, the wineries may end up developing an additional source of income.

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About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

  • Otis11

    Well, that’d actually be carbon-negative as the carbon from fermentation comes from the carbon sequestered by the plants… the only thing is the sodium bicarbonate in the toothpaste is not likely to stay like that, but rather decompose and re-enter the carbon cycle…

    • There’s still the transport to take into account. I’d assume it’s a net positive — otherwise, some people are really doing their jobs poorly. But anyhow, we’re not a research institute set up to evaluate the net benefit (or CO2 cost) of this.

      • Otis11

        (Carbon negative is a good thing… it means we’re taking it out of the carbon cycle. I think you read too quickly?)

        • no, sorry, i just changed the lingo. i was meaning “net positive” for society (i.e. carbon-negative). sorry for confusing things.

          • Otis11

            Ah… subtle. =-P

      • Hans

        That is rather an easy way out. Cleantechnica has been around for a while, and by now you should be aware that besides a lot of useful developments there is also a lot of green-washing, fraud, well meant efforts on red herring technologies etc. From this awareness should come a critical attitude that asks questions. In this case: “how does the process in the article compare with the conventional process to produce sodium bicarbonate?” It does not mean that you should be able to answer these questions yourselves, but, as a mentioned in another comment, the internet makes it incredibly easy to find background info and to contact specialists. The investment of writing a few emails will pay off in better articles.

  • flower

    Too bad this is illegal in the USA

  • Hans, keeping you sharp

    Which process is used? How much energy does it cost to bind the CO2? Could it be that in the end more CO2 is produced during power production than is bound by the process?

    These are very obvious questions. Why don’t you ask them? Be a journalist, not a parrot!

    • i like your new disqus name. 🙂

    • Ronald Brakels

      Which process is used? Why the Solvay process, of course!

      NaCl + CO2 + NH3 + H2O –> NaHCO3 + NH4CL

      Except that since CO2 is being supplied directly it may not be the Solvay process any more. How much energy does it cost? Well, none, the reactants do it on their own, although in practice it is heated to speed up the reaction rate. But since this process is being done anyway on an industrial scale, the real question should be is this better than what is being currently done? And the answer is, yes it is. This process can be carbon neutral while the current industral process is carbon positive.

      • Hans

        Thanks for your info. My questions were meant to enable the answering of the real question that you mentioned. To answer the question completely I would still like to know where the toothpaste industry normally get their CO2.

        However my point is that there are too much rephrased press releases on Cleantechnica, and too little healthy scepticism (in the old meaning, not in the new I-don’t-like-the consequences-of-what-you-are-telling-so-it-can’t-be-true-and-you-are-both-a-fascist-and-a-communist meaning).

  • Ronald Brakels

    The neat thing about CO2 from fermentation is that it’s very pure. So while there may not be a great deal of it, it is a good place to start with carbon capture. It is possible that fermentation could be used on a large scale to produce liquid fuel in the future, so it’s good to get a start on capturing the CO2 now.

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