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C-Zero raises $11.5M Series A to produce clean hydrogen from natural gas via methane pyrolysis

C-Zero Inc., a pioneer in natural gas decarbonization, recently raised $11.5 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Eni Next, with participation from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and AP Ventures.

The funding will accelerate the first commercial-scale deployment of C-Zero’s drop-in decarbonization technology, which will allow industrial natural gas consumers to avoid producing CO2 in applications such as electrical generation, process heating and the production of commodity chemicals such as hydrogen and ammonia.

C-Zero’s technology, which was initially developed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses innovative thermocatalysis to split methane into hydrogen and solid carbon in a process known as methane pyrolysis. The hydrogen can be used to help decarbonize a wide array of existing applications, including hydrogen production for fuel cell vehicles, while the carbon can be permanently sequestered.

When renewable natural gas is used as the feedstock, C-Zero’s technology can even be carbon negative, effectively extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently storing it in the form of high-density solid carbon.

The investment signals cooperation around accelerating the use of “turquoise hydrogen,” which could further strengthen the hydrogen value chain. Hydrogen produced via methane pyrolysis processes such as C-Zero’s is increasingly being referred to as “turquoise hydrogen,” as it combines the benefits of both “blue hydrogen,” (SMR with CO2 sequestration) and “green hydrogen” (produced by splitting water via electrolysis) by being low-cost and low-emissions, respectively.

As part of its investment, MHI will examine the potential of using the company’s technology for the production and supply of hydrogen that could then be utilized for power generation systems and the decarbonization of industry.

Background. The methane decomposition reaction is moderately endothermic; the energy requirement per mole of hydrogen produced (8.9 cal/mol H2) is slightly (<10%) of the heat of formation of methane. Combustion is desired to compel the process. In addition to hydrogen, the process produces elemental carbon.

This method reduces the simultaneous production of carbon oxides and consequently avoids the need for water gas shift and carbon dioxide elimination stages, mandatory by conventional processes making the process simpler. A significant reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions, compared to conventional processes is the most important benefit of thermocatalytic decomposition process, according to a 2017 review by researchers in India (Srilatha et al.).

The catalyst plays a crucial role in this process.


  • K. Srilatha, D. Bhagawan, S. Shiva Kumar, V. Himabindu (2017) “Sustainable fuel production by thermocatalytic decomposition of methane – A review,” South African Journal of Chemical Engineering, Volume 24, Pages 156-167 doi: 10.1016/j.sajce.2017.10.002 (open access)

  • Khalida Harun, Sushil Adhikari and Hossein Jahromi (2020) “Hydrogen production via thermocatalytic decomposition of methane using carbon-based catalysts” RSC Adv., 10, 40882-40893 doi: 10.1039/D0RA07440C (open access)



That would be something if it worked out.
As always, the devil is in the details, like how long will the catalyst last?
(And 10 other things that I am unaware of).


How much 'renewable' methane will be used? Likely very little, so it will encourage more natural gas production with all the attendant methane leaks.


I imagine they will use no renewable methane at all. People will use that to "green" their gas grid, or whatever.
They'll just have to get better at handling methane to prevent leaks.
And this includes Russia et al., not just "the west"


Seems good as the H2 heat of combustion is 286kJ/mol as compared to the endothermic cost (8.9 cal/mole = 0.037 kJ/mole), much less than 1%. Next research task here is figure out how to use this process to produce carbon fiber, and you have a huge new high value zero carbon emission alternative use.



The water-gas shift produces almost twice as much H2 per mole of methane, though.  (You lose some to the combustion which powers the process.)


There's a small article in wikipedia which is of interest:
They say it uses 1/7 the electricity of H2 from hydrolysis.
However, the reaction happens at 1050 degrees C so you probably want to run it all the time, and not just when you have excess renewables on the grid.


Employing renewable energy to produce H2 via electrolysis has an extremely low overall efficiency and subsequently, is a pure waste of energy. It is highly recommendable to use that energy for a far more efficient process e. g. charging a battery. If it must be H2, then produce it without wasting precious energy; e. g.


For every kg of hydrogen, you should recover 3 kg of carbon so what do you do with the carbon? Sell it as green or "turquoise" coal? :) Use to back fill the existing coal strip mines? Seriously, this would be a real problem as our existing oil refineries are producing petroleum coke by the rail car load every day and in some locations, there is not much of a market for it.

I still think that the cleanest and most efficient way to make hydrogen is to use nuclear power and high temperature electrolysis. I know that the English are planning to do this combined with wind energy. When the wind is blowing, the wind turbines provide the power for the grid and the nuclear plant provides the heat and power for electrolysis. When the wind is not blowing the nuclear plant provides the base load power for the grid.

our existing oil refineries are producing petroleum coke by the rail car load every day and in some locations, there is not much of a market for it.

There's petcoke piling up at the refineries south of Detroit.  This is practically next door to the coal-fired plants at Monroe, but the coke isn't being used there.  I suspect it's because emissions are too high when petcoke is being burned.

The IGCC plant at Wabash River burned (maybe still does) Venezuelan petcoke.  I guess it was cheaper to barge a waste product up-river than to buy coal.


@ sd:
Carbon could be used for production of Graphene; Graphene is slowly replacing silicon ranging from semi-conductors up to concrete reinforcement for replacement of steel. There's virtually no limit for Graphene applications.


There are numerous uses of clean carbon or as it is commonly called carbon black. One of he major uses is as an additive to most rubber products. It is also used as a pigment for paint, plastics, etc. Apparently, the world production of carbon black is around 15 million metric tons. I would assume that the carbon produced by methane pyrolysis could be used for any of these applications. But what do you do with the excess carbon. In a above article, a group was proposing to produce 3.6 million MT of hydrogen per year. If this was done using methane pyrolysis, it would produce 11 million MT of carbon. In any event, it would be easier to sequester solid carbon than it is to sequester carbon dioxide.

PetCoke may contain too much sulfur and heavy metals to be considered a usable substitute for coal. The PetCoke produced in Utah is cleaner and is apparently used to make carbon electrodes. So what do we do with the excess dirty PetCoke? We export some of it to other countries that have less stringent pollution regulations. Apparently, we export about 30 million tons per year mostly to be burned as fuel.

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