Californian startup C-Zero has raised more than $11m to scale up its “turquoise” hydrogen technology that will be “critical to unlocking” the molecule’s potential to decarbonise major sectors.
Turquoise hydrogen is a by-product of a process known as methane pyrolysis, which splits methane into hydrogen gas and solid carbon.
Some consider that this makes turquoise hydrogen a low-emission hydrogen choice — but this depends on the energy-hungry thermal process being powered with renewable energy and the carbon being permanently stored.
C-Zero’s technology, which was initially developed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses innovative thermocatalysis to split methane – the primary molecule in natural gas – into hydrogen and solid carbon in methane pyrolysis.
The hydrogen can be used to help decarbonise 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.
C-Zero this week said it raised $11.5m in a Series A funding round led by Bill Gates-founded 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 decarbonisation technology, which will allow industrial natural gas consumers to avoid producing CO2 in applications like electrical generation, process heating and the production of commodity chemicals like hydrogen and ammonia.
“Over $100bn of commodity hydrogen is produced annually,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
“Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of that production comes from a process called steam methane reforming, which also produces large quantities of CO2.”
“Finding low cost, low emission methods of hydrogen production – such as the one C-Zero has created – will be critical to unlocking the molecule’s potential to decarbonize major segments of the agricultural, chemical, manufacturing and transportation sectors.”