A US start-up says it will produce carbon-negative green hydrogen from wood waste at a plant in Bakersfield, California, as soon as 2024.
By utilising biomass that has absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grew, and then capturing and storing that CO2, the process actually removes carbon from the air.
Mote says it uses “proprietary integration of proven equipment in a novel process”.
“Biomass is heated in a limited-oxygen environment to above 1500°F [815°C], converting it to a mixture of gases,” the Los Angeles-based start-up explains on its website. “In a series of operations, the mixture is reacted, separated, and purified into hydrogen for sale as a transportation fuel and CO2 for storage. We recover the small amount of remaining ash and sell it as an additive for fertilizer.”
Engineering work for the first facility is already under way, with plans for the plant to produce 7,000 tonnes of H2 annually as soon as 2024, while removing 150,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
The company says its hydrogen will have a “producer sale price and carbon intensity score significantly lower than its competitors”, due to its dual revenue stream of H2 and carbon credits.
“As the world’s first carbon removal project converting biomass to hydrogen, we are addressing the ever-growing demand for renewable hydrogen with a carbon-negative approach,” says co-founder and CEO Mac Kennedy. “With this new facility, Mote is laying the groundwork for affordable hydrogen offerings on a global scale while also supercharging natural carbon-removal processes.”
Although Mote claims its project will be a world-first, a Singaporean venture called CAC-H2 announced in October that it would produce carbon-negative green hydrogen from biomass using a “unique gasification process“ in Australia by 2023.
Mote says the extracted CO2 will be “permanentaly placed deep underground for ecologically safe storage”, but does not explain how it will do so.
However, the company adds that is in discussions with CarbonCure Technologies to permanently store the CO2 in concrete.
Mote was formed by Kennedy and his friend Joshuah Stolaroff, who was formerly head of the carbon capture programme at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Stolaroff co-authored a landmark report into carbon-removal technologies in 2019, which found that gasifying waste biomass to hydrogen was the cheapest and most scalable option for removing CO2 from the air.
“After spending the last 20 years researching carbon capture and clean energy, it's amazing to have a solution that can address both and even divert waste to a beneficial use,” said Stolaroff, who is now Mote’s chief technology officer.
Mote is co-developing its pilot plant with engineering giant Fluor and gasification system provider SunGas Renewables.
Investors in the start-up include climate-focused angel investor Preston-Werner Ventures, and carbon-removal investment firm Counteract.