“We produce biogas and biochar from biogenic feedstocks and the resulting biogas contains hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxide,” said Steve Wirtel, executive vice president of the commercial development of Kore. “Carbon monoxide can also be converted into more hydrogen, and we can use it for hydrogen applications.”
California is a prime location for biomass conversion because the primary feedstock is abundant. Kore has partnered with Southern California Gas to develop a commercial-scale demonstration facility in Los Angeles.
“We expect that as we begin to commercialize our technology, strategic companies looking to develop hydrogen, particularly negative carbon renewable hydrogen, will be interested in partnering with our company and possibly acquire us at some point,” Wirtel said.
Wirtel said the state could offer more than 40 million tons of biomass per year.
“In addition to nearby urban woody biomass and agricultural residues, California has a new initiative to thin forests to reduce wildfire risk,” he said, noting that the state also offers supportive policies.
Going forward, economies of scale and lower technology costs should favor similar locations. They will likely be the first to see hydrogen costs drop.
“The US Department of Energy has a target of $1/kg of hydrogen by 2030. So everyone is aiming for that. And we think it’s doable,” Wirtel said, noting that the process is carbon negative. “With the Kore process, half of the carbon in the feedstock is converted into gas and the other half is converted into solid elemental carbon coal. This solid carbon will not turn into carbon dioxide or methane. When used as a soil amendment, carbon is permanently removed from the atmosphere. The hydrogen produced is therefore carbon negative. In other words, carbon is removed from the atmosphere.
Paul Martin, one of the founders of the Hydrogen Science Coalition, said biogas should be a priority because converting biogas to hydrogen is energy intensive.
“The reason why hydrogen is expensive at filling stations is that the filling stations themselves are very complex. Hydrogen heats up when you expand it, so you don’t just need high pressure storage tanks and compressors, you need a massive mechanical refrigeration unit to pre-cool the hydrogen, so that ‘it doesn’t cook the tanks of the vehicle,’ he said.
Gasification technologies – biomass to hydrogen, but also plastic waste to hydrogen – are not new. But the current geopolitical situation, waste concerns and energy issues are now highlighting new applications.