C-Zero raises $11.5M for hydrogen- methane pyrolysis technology

C-Zero Inc., US thermocatalysis startup, announced today (9th February) to have raised US$ 11.5 million in a Series-A funding round.

The funding round was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Eni Next, and participated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and AP Ventures. C-Zero will use the funding to speed up its work on the first commercial-scale deployment of C-Zero’s drop-in decarbonisation technology.

C-Zero’s technology was initially developed by the University of California, using innovative thermocatalysis to split methane into hydrogen and solid carbon in a process called methane pyrolysis.

C-Zero’s technology is a kind of methane pyrolysis using innovative thermocatalysis to extract the carbon in natural gas in a solid form rather than emitting in a gaseous form. The company is developing a drop-in decarbonisation system which can be placed in between the existing natural gas infrastructure and industrial natural gas consumers to reduce the CO2 emissions. This technology enables industrial natural gas users to avoid releasing CO2 during the production of power, hydrogen, ammonia etc.

Zach Jones, CEO of C-Zero, said: “By converting natural gas to clean hydrogen, a molecule with enormous potential, we hope to be the bridge between existing natural gas infrastructure and a low carbon future.”

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.

Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said “Over $100 billion of commodity hydrogen is produced annually. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of that production comes from a process called steam methane reforming, which also produces large quantities of CO2.”

Yoshihiro Shiraiwa, President and CEO of MHI America, said: “MHI is committed to expanding the hydrogen value chain from production to utilisation by developing technologies such as hydrogen gas turbines and by partnering with innovative technology and solution providers such as C-Zero.”

“Scaling-up this process will potentially be an enormous advantage to produce hydrogen for energy or commodity chemical applications,” said a spokesperson from Eni Next

“Methane pyrolysis offers an efficient pathway to producing low-emission and low-cost hydrogen,” said Kevin Eggers, AP Ventures.

In January 2020, C-Zero won a competitive $1 million award from the US Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office to further study novel methane pyrolysis systems as well as methods of carbon removal.

In May 2020, it again won a competitive $2 million award from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). C-Zero was aiming to use the fund to develop a process for transforming CH4 to hydrogen and valorised carbon cement additive using high-temperature liquids in a multi-phase pyrolysis reactor. ┬áIn 2019, it worked on a US$ 350k joint project with PG&E and SoCalGas for decarbonising natural gas via methane pyrolysis.

Jay Faris

Jay is the special correspondent covering the hydrogen market for H2 Bulletin. Click on the email icon to send me an email or follow me on social media. I am reachable on Phone: +44 (0) 208 123 7812
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