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This Is CDR Episode 20: Carbon-Negative Hydrogen From Wood Waste with Mote

This Is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. This week, we welcome Mac Kennedy...

This Is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. This week, we welcome Mac Kennedy and Josh Stolaroff of Mote, a startup making carbon-negative hydrogen out of wood waste. Mote will be opening a 150-kiloton-CO2-per-year demonstration plant in Bakersfield, California in 2024, so this is an exciting moment to hear from them.

Like one of our past guests, Charm Industrial, Mote is built on the observation that converting waste biomass could provide us with the majority of carbon removal we need. Josh Stolaroff, the company’s CTO, researched conversion of waste biomass at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and found that California could hit net zero through waste biomass; he believes the same should apply nationally and globally.

According to Josh’s research, the most cost-effective approach would be converting waste biomass to hydrogen. That’s where Mote believes they can reach the lowest cost per ton of CO2 removed. But in order to make the economics work, the market for hydrogen will have to grow 6X by 2045. That sounds like a lot, but those of us in the CDR space are used to seeing some daunting projections, and we need only look to the recent history of solar tech to see that a lot can happen in a short time.

Mote’s approach is to gasify wood waste, separating it into CO2 to be stored geologically, and H2 to fuel vehicles. Mote can therefore sell hydrogen to hydrogen buyers and carbon removal to carbon removal buyers. Both of those are likely to be trillion-dollar markets by the middle of the 21st century, but they won’t get there unless we find cost-effective approaches in the present. Since a big challenge for CDR is its current high cost, a strategy like Mote’s that closes the gap could really help the technology spread and build out some runway for further research and improvement.

You can learn lots more about the company, including the low-level details of their process, by watching the video above. Check it out, and be sure to come back next week for more This Is CDR! For more, you can watch the whole This Is CDR series on our resources page.

Peter Malamud Smith Peter Malamud Smith is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn.

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