Mote unveils plans to build its second biomass-to-hydrogen plant in Northern California


Mote Inc, a Los Angeles, California-based clean energy startup, is planning to build its second biomass-to-hydrogen and carbon sequestration plant in Northern California, in collaboration with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the company announced last week. 

Mote received $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Conservation, and the California Department of Forestry for the facility, and will work with SMUD – its hydrogen offtake partner – to develop it. The facility should be able to produce roughly 21,000 metric tons of carbon-negative hydrogen annually, which can then be used to generate power or in the transportation sector, according to the company. 

The plant will be designed to use up to 300,000 metric tons per year of wood waste and other forest residue, which would otherwise be burned or sent to a landfill. It would be capable of sequestering more than 450,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to Mote; roughly equal to the emissions generated by 100,000 cars every year. 

Mote’s technology is based on taking in biomass waste, which is then reacted with pure oxygen to produce a gas mixture. That gas mixture, once separated and purified, results in bio-hydrogen and permanently storable carbon dioxide, as well as leftover ash that can be sold to fertilizer companies. The technology captures virtually all of the carbon from waste, Mote said. 

Mote’s first such facility is going to be sited near Bakersfield, in California’s Kern County. The company expects to begin constructing the project in 2025, and reach full operational capacity by 2027. 

The Department of Energy Loan Programs Office nvited Mote to submit the second part of an application for the project. The application is for the office’s Title 17 Clean Energy Financing program, through which the office finances projects focused on clean energy deployment and energy infrastructure reinvestment with the broader aim of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution. The program can offer up to 80% of eligible project costs in loan guarantees, according to Mote. 

According to Mote CEO, Joshuah Stolaroff, there is a pressing need for durable, large-scale carbon removal and scalable solutions that provide low-cost, clean hydrogen, and he said that Mote’s technology does both. 

“Our projects in Sacramento and Bakersfield will be the first commercial-scale projects to utilize sustainably sourced biomass for this purpose,” said Stolaroff. 

Bio-hydrogen – or hydrogen synthesized by converting biomass feedstock – can be a good source of carbon-negative hydrogen and a critical tool in achieving net-zero emissions targets, according to a January report from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. This is especially the case in sectors that are otherwise hard to decarbonize. In the iron and steel industry, for example, electricity only accounts for 13% of the industry’s total emissions, whereas a majority of its emissions come from blast furnaces. 

“As a result, renewable electricity plays a minor role in decarbonizing this sector,” the report said. 

However, the report noted that bio-hydrogen’s carbon-negative status depends on whether it uses biomass feedstocks that have a very low carbon footprint, and whether it is compatible with carbon capture and storage. 

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