H Quest Vanguard Inc.: Low-cost hydrogen production from natural gas through microwave plasma pyrolysis

G. Skoptsov
H Quest Vanguard Inc.,
United States

Keywords: methane pyrolysis, decarbonization, microwave plasma, carbon black, ethylene, graphene, hydrogen, net-zero, zero CO2


In the US, some 190 thousand manufacturing facilities combust 6B MMBTU per year of natural gas, relying on it for 92% of their energy. There is an urgent need for decarbonization solutions, but presently none are economically or technologically viable. Electrification of these plants and processes is cost-prohibitive, while CO2 capture is not logistically viable. Against this backdrop, zero-CO2 hydrogen is very attractive: it can be blended into the fuel stream immediately at proportions of up to 20% with an immediate reduction of CO2 emissions, with gradual transition toward 100% hydrogen. At H Quest, we offer a point-of-use zero-CO2 hydrogen as industrial fuel at the price point of natural gas. Our customers are natural gas utilities and manufacturing facilities, under regulatory and societal pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. With our reactor, we offer a low-cost, non-disruptive way to decarbonize their industrial process and make progress towards net-zero operation. Carbon is intrinsically sequestered in a valuable co-product, enabling broad decarbonization of various industries. The lack of cost-competitive sources of zero-CO2 hydrogen fuels significant market demand for our technology. Competitive advantages include: zero-CO2, electrically driven process, liberating hydrogen from natural gas. 4x higher output of hydrogen per kWh of electricity compared to electrolysis. low CAPEX compared to electrolysis and other methane pyrolysis technologies. essentially free zero-CO2 hydrogen owing to co-production of higher-value carbon commodities. Two key advantages are the low energy requirement driven by moderate temperatures of microwave plasma and the highly tunable co-product slate: crumpled graphene sheets, high-structure carbon blacks, or platform petrochemicals like ethylene, mitigating market risk. Reliance on extensive natural gas infrastructure allows highly distributed deployment for rapid, systemic decarbonization. Our beachhead application is non-disruptive partial or complete decarbonization of natural gas via point-of-use hydrogen production, with co-production of sustainable carbon black, at: the source (oil wells with associated gas flares) distribution (municipal utilities blending hydrogen in their gas distribution networks to reduce customers' carbon footprint) end point use (manufacturing plants relying on natural gas energy source to power their processes) The process can also be employed by operators in the carbon black industry, decarbonizing plants directly (via production of zero-CO2 carbon black) and indirectly (with zero-CO2 hydrogen as furnace fuel). In this scenario, H Quest displaces non-sustainable feedstocks (coal tars and slurry oils) and reduces the carbon footprint of legacy carbon black furnaces. The simultaneous decarbonization of residential natural gas supply (4,650 bcf/year in the US) and carbon black industry (14M m.t./year), followed by decarbonization of the ethylene industry (158M m.t./year) is achieved by direct substitution of these conventional CO2-intensive commodities. Displacement of the total current demand with H Quest's sustainable commodities would require deployment of 150,000 base modules, corresponding to a current TAM of $747B. The stage of our technology is perfect for current American geopolitics given that the IRA has allowed federal funds to develop hydrogen infrastructure in the United States improving our ability to commercialize our products.