SoCalGas aims to lower hydrogen production costs through spin-off products

Updated Jan 5, 2018

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) today announced it is partnering with a development team to advance a new process that converts natural gas to hydrogen, carbon fiber, and carbon nanotubes.

The low-emission process, selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), will create both hydrogen that can be used in fuel cell vehicles and industrial processes, as well as carbon fiber used in applications from medical devices and aerospace structures to building products.

The goal of the partnership, led by C4-MCP, LLC (C4), a Santa Monica-based technology start-up, is to offset the hydrogen production expense with the sales of the carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes, reducing the hydrogen’s net cost to under $2 per kilogram, thus helping make hydrogen fueled cars and trucks cost-competitive with conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles.

In addition, this technology will virtually eliminate CO2 emissions from the methane-to-hydrogen process.  These efforts support FCTO’s focus on early stage research and development to enable innovations to be demonstrated and to help guide further early stage research strategy.

The technology commercialization team includes SoCalGas, C4, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Richland, Washington, and West Virginia University (WVU).  As a result of the DOE selection, the team will negotiate a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) consisting of $375,000 in prior year DOE funding and a $375,000 co-funding contribution from C4 and SoCalGas. The CRADA will fund PNNL and WVU to develop the technology.

“This technology takes methane, turns it into a zero-emission automotive fuel—hydrogen—then uses the carbon captured in the process to make the strongest possible materials to be used in high-tech manufacturing,” said Yuri Freedman, SoCalGas senior director of market development. “Further advances in development of this technology will bring about a unique and potentially revolutionary combination of environmental, manufacturing, and economic benefits.”