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)