138: Clean Energy Breakthrough: Tony Pan Unveils Modern Hydrogen's Innovations
Guest Name(s): Tony Pan
Tony Pan, the CEO of Modern Hydrogen, discusses the company’s world shaking technology of converting natural gas, CH4, into clean hydrogen while sequestering carbon in the form of carbon black, a valuable material used in various products like asphalt.
Tony also highlights the company’s progress, including significant funding, partnerships with utilities, and plans for large-scale manufacturing units while touchin on the limitations of using existing natural gas pipelines for transporting hydrogen.
Matt & Tony also talk about government support, with the Inflation Reduction Act emphasized as a climate bill providing generous support for clean hydrogen technologies. The legislation aims to incentivize clean hydrogen production without favoring specific technologies, promoting a level playing field for companies.
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You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Tony Pan on the show. He is the CEO of Modern Hydrogen. It’s a company that takes natural gas and turns it into hydrogen. While doing so he takes out the carbon, which is a bit of a modern miracle. So Tony, welcome to the program.
Thanks so much for having me.
Well, tell us a little bit about Modern Hydrogen, how did it start? What got you to this particular idea?
So we’re playing tech startup. Basically, our founding mission is to make energy both cleaner and cheaper. And that’s actually really hard to do. I think what most folks don’t get the true difficulty of getting away from fossil fuels, is, fossil fuels are incredibly cheap. Back when oil prices were a bit lower, I think this might be true today, now that oil prices have come down.
I like to do the analogy that literally like a gallon of oil is cheaper than a gallon of milk at a supermarket. And so that’s really hard to be. And therefore, that’s why it takes a lot of ingenuity to find solutions that can not only be cleaned, but can economically compete with fossil fuels.
So our that’s our founding mission and explain that because we basically came out of a clean tech incubator, and then had investments directly from Bill Gates to basically build new technology, what Bill likes to call energy miracles, that basically you need new technology, a new solution that can come down some cost curve, so that at the end of the day, it’s fundamentally economically competitive with fossil fuels.
That’s our belief of what would it take to get any solution to scale because as we kind of like to joke in office, but it’s really true, like we’re based in Seattle, Seattle is a very liberal city. But it really doesn’t matter if Seattle goes to like zero emissions. If people in Texas or Mississippi or India or China don’t decarbonize, we’re screwed anyways. And most of the places on the planet are not going to do this for some environmental goal.
So we came up with an incubator focus on producing like new technologies, like, fundamentally be cost competitive, and cleaner at the same time. So that was a very long answer. And I have even told you what the company actually does. But I think the if you look at our company, we’re like, we’re like 75%, engineers or scientists. And so you have to understand the flavor of why are we trying to do all these crazy tech that lasts the reason?
Well, you know, I think it’s an incredible mission when I when I heard about it, and I thought this, this could get you nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize if it works. So why don’t you explain the technology and why it’s so revolutionary.
So simply put, we produce clean hydrogen by decarbonizing natural gas. Natural gas is chemically what we call CH for it’s one carbon atom. And for hydrogen atoms, it’s 80% Hydrogen already. And hydrogen basically, is if you burn hydrogen for energy that just produces clean water.
So you really have no objections to 80% of natural gas, but it is a fossil fuel because of that one carbon atom in it. And when you burn that, of course, that produces CO2 and goes into the atmosphere and screws up our planet. So we just made the observation, well, why don’t we can just split this molecule splits it into a solid carbon atom, and also clean hydrogen, then you can use the clean hydrogen for clean energy, but also do something useful with a solid carbon atom. Now it’s no longer CO2, and therefore, you basically decarbonized by avoiding production of CO2 in the first place.
Well, I I was researching for the to the show, and I saw a little segment that you did on Fox Business and you showed Maria Bartolomeo, a little sample of of the carbon that that you had taken out of a you know, I think it was a 32nd or one minute amount of running the natural gas furnace, say in an average home.
And it was, I don’t know, a few ounces of carbon, which was kind of shocking because it, if we’re running it for hours and hours, it must create a heck of a lot of carbon, just from one, one furnace. So tell us a little bit about what would we do with all this waste product? I mean, the carbon, are we going to just bury it or spread it around? What what’s the, what’s the goal there?
Yeah. So the neat parts of what we do in terms of the technologies that when we pulled the carbon out, is in the form of a material called carbon black. This is actually an existing commodity for over 100 years, people use this to build everything from tires, rubber, and asphalt, you know how tires and roads are black colored.
That’s because they have very high carbon content. And therefore, when we pull this carpet out, not only have we done basically a form of carbon capture away from the gas, you can almost think of this as pre combustion carbon capture. But then now we have this carbon material that we basically sell for money. And for our company, we’re first focused on the asphalt market, we have literally sequestered our carbon in, you know, roads, pavements in five states plus Canada now.
That’s great. So tell me about the rollout. So let’s say you’ve got this miracle product that takes natural gas and takes the carbon out. And then you can sell the carbon to make roads. How are you going to manufacture enough of these units to place in gas, natural gas plants around the world?
Through a lots of hard work, and many years and lots of capital, I want to be very transparent that we’re a startup, we’re still less than 100 people. So we have a few units deployed out in the field. But we are still a few years away from being able to make hundreds of these things, if not 1000s per year.
And you have to imagine like, these are pretty big boxes. Our hydrogen is an intended for use primarily in commercial and industrial, I think that’s where you see the, frankly, where hydrogen is higher valued, because some processes and commercial and industrial energy things like literally manufacturing thing, if you imagine making steel, or making giant molten volt like molten glass, that those are extremely high temperatures are very hard to electrify. And that’s why they need hydrogen.
So we’re, that’s our intended use of hydrogen. So we need to produce a lot. So these are boxes to do this conversion process are literally the size of shipping containers. We we have a small pilot manufacturing facility in the suburbs of Seattle, about like in Seattle, we have about 40,000 square feet of space. But eventually we’re gonna need to build a factory that has like several 100,000 square feet to have much larger manufacturing lines to get these things at scale.
Yeah, absolutely. So what’s the trajectory there? Where are you at on the curve in terms of raising money going public, and rolling out this product? on a wider scale?
We’ve raised $100 million to date, with a lot of gratitude to our early investors who were could bet on us before the technology was more mature, like Bill Gates, he has been very consistent supporter of making these very big bets. In addition, we have raised a lot of money actually from strategics, meaning corporations that see the energy transition as essential and see this technology as making a big needle mover for their business.
And in particular, there’s two types in our company. One is major utilities. So next era, energy is the largest publicly traded utility. In the US they back US National Grid is one of the only multinational utilities earlier both in the USA and UK, and they also back us. And that’s because from a utility perspective, this is one of the holy grails because we basically allow them to speed up decarbonisation without having to tear up infrastructure.
And I’m sorry, that doesn’t really answer your like fundraising question, but I think that’s a neat point. I’ll go for events. Okay. Sure. One of the most important value props we have is actually this idea of speed and skipping infrastructure. Because we have 3 million miles of natural gas grid in United States like I like to tell folks, this is true.
We have used as much natural gas in terms of energy content in the USA as cold plus nuclear plus hydro electricity, plus solar plus wind combined about the same size of natural gas, and we have all this infrastructure to move around.
But as this dirty fossil fuel, we only have less than 2000 miles of hydrogen pipeline. So less than 2000 versus 3 million. If we had to wait for new millions of miles of hydrogen pipelines to be built, it’s going to take like a century.
And so what we can do by basically removing the cover from natural gas as we allow folks to reuse or like pipeline infrastructure, but learns to have clean hydrogen at the end of the pipe, and this is very attractive for utilities, because that means they can actually meet their decarbonization goals and not have to spend trillions of dollars and 50 years just to get you know, our start.
That’s a great a great situation to use the existing infrastructure. You know, I guess one thing before we go to the break was that I talked to other guests on the program and saying that we could probably use the natural gas pipelines to to distribute hydrogen as well, though, they might need to be retooled a bit but they could be used to, to transport hydrogen in the future.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. I’ve got Tony Pan on the program and CEO of Modern Hydrogen and Tony right before the break, I was talking about using these 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines to maybe transport hydrogen in the future. Is that doable or not doable?
Programmatically, not really doable, unless you’re willing to spend crazy amounts of money? So how would I put this, I love the gas companies have a very strong incentive to describe a future where height 100% Hydrogen is flowing through the pipes to justify how things can work out for or problem in the future. But it doesn’t really check the physics, chemistry and engineering box.
Hydrogen is one of the lightest elements in the universe, which means it’s very small. And therefore, hydrogen is uniquely hard to transport. So there are some that you can look at the US Government’s Department of Energy and National Research Council reports. But basically, they observed that you can probably mix 20% of hydrogen, and 80% of natural gas, and that will flow through the pipeline, fine.
But once you get to much higher purities of hydrogen flowing through a conventional gas pipeline, you need to change the pipes. You need to change the compressors, you need to change all the weld points. And like that sounds to me like you’re changing a majority of what’s going on. And shortly you could probably still use the existing right up way.
Yeah, you hear that you can. So you can still use the same land, but you’re basically replacing most of the parts of the pipe. So that’s going to cost like a trillion dollars. And it goes to the back like to give you a sense sorry if I nerd out a bit I’m before I was like a business guy. I was the actual scientist. Hydrogen is so small, the atom is so small that there are some materials that hydrogen can pass through. Like it can pass through walls, because hydrogen is smaller than the gap between other atoms.
So like, that’s why you get like leak when they have like welds in traditional gas pipes, hydrogen will leak through because due to the material use in some of the welds and joint hydrogen will just pass through that solid material. So, no, you can’t use existing gas pipeline infrastructure without any modification. And it’s 100%. Hydrogen.
Okay, but we could go up to 20% hydrogen through the through the existing pipelines, which would, so you can make progress on decarbonization.
That’s absolutely true, like 20% would be fine.
Yeah, it’s a big leap forward from where we’re at now, which is probably zero. You know, I’m kind of curious as to your take on this and a little off topic, but since you’re hydrogen genius, I’m gonna ask you anyway, there’s been a lot a lot in the news recently about some places striking out and getting finding reserves of clean hydrogen in just like drilling for oil or natural gas, people are drilling now for hydrogen. And do you see that as you know, being a great lead forward? Do you see it it’s affecting your business? Or do you still think that they’ll still be a great need for your product, even if they strike mother loads of clean hydrogen?
It’s definitely a minor competitor to our business, for sure. But honestly, as a sustainability guy, I’m actually pretty excited. It’s early, we don’t like the error bars on how much clean hydrogen reserves are there underneath the ground. Like the error bars on the estimates are like 100x, or 1,000x.
So it’s gonna take a few years to figure out if this is actually real or not. But it says promising. And like, let’s just say, I know some of the leaders in this space. It’s exciting. And let me explain why. Because we know clean, clean hydrogen can be naturally produced in nature. The surprise here is that we also knew no clean hydrogen is like actively destroyed. So in the past century, there was not a lot of expectation that you actually get big accumulations of hydrogen deposits underground? Well, there’s been a few findings. I’ve found, like, modest reserves. And that’s why there’s a lot of excitement and hype in the sector.
But the reason behind the excitement is that, yeah, we don’t really know how big the reserves are down there. But if they’re big ones, remember, I said like, the hardest thing about fossil fuels is that they’re actually really cheap. So drilling technology, then it looks like big, heavy equipment, but actually drilling for stuff is really cheap. So if they actually find that large hydro reserve underground, then they can basically drill for hydrogen and price you with drill for natural gas, which is also super cheap.
So this could be one of the cleanest forms of clean hydrogen in the market. Sorry, one of the cheapest forms of clean hydrogen and market. And that’s why there’s a lot of excitement. Yeah, yeah, the issue is, these will be in weird geological formation. So they’re in the middle of nowhere. And remember, I said hydrogen is one of the hardest fields to transport. So basically, the expectation is that like most of this hydrogen coming out, like it’s not economical to truck it anywhere.
So you’re probably talking about scenario where the majority of heights like you’re gonna move your ammonia plants, or some, or maybe like sustainable aviation fuel factory directly where these geological sites are. So they will definitely help decarbonize some applications of hydrogen. But they can do close to everything not even close. Because the hydrogen is not going to be located where the man users for hydrogen are going to be.
Yeah, it’s kind of fascinating how this puzzle is fitting together. And I guess that’s why lots of experts are saying, Hey, we should try all these different technologies, because you don’t know at this point in time, how they’re all going to play out. But getting back to the tech that you are working on it at MITRE, Modern Hydrogen, maybe you could kind of go back to the beginning as to what led you to this path as you were in school, and what led you into the field of kind of being an environmentalist?
So I’m a physicist by training, so just I hate no credentials, but my education was like Stanford, undergrad physics and a Harvard PhD physics. So Uber nerd by training, but really why I’m in sustainability. I spent five years in the UK as a kid and we’ve watched BBC and like, I watched like all the David Attenborough nature documentaries. I like I literally, like I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister John Mayer at a time “Oh, hey, like, can we bend foxhunting.” Did I know that like, I was that kid? I thought I was going to join Greenpeace.
And so yeah, like, that’s always been a big part of who I care about. I don’t really know why that is, but I just, I was that kid. And it’s like, I, I want there to be like a rich planet, like in terms of the, you know, the still does grandeur of nature still around when I’m old and for my children and grandchildren, right?
And but yeah, but I think also, from a physicist standpoint, if it was very clear energy was it’s exciting, like the physicists view of like human civilization, right would be the Industrial Revolution. What happened in industrial revolution, is that per capita per human being, energy use went up 100-fold. The difference between us and someone living in this 16 Something century is that each American uses 100x more energy. And that is where our quality of life came from. And though like that sector is was always like, sort of fundamentally exciting to me. So that’s, that’s where yeah, that’s, that’s how I got into the field.
So then what led you to this kind of discovery of, of splitting the carbon off of a natural gas molecule? And then kind of patenting this technology? Is this something that you’re considering sharing with other companies? Or is this something that you guys are going to just roll out yourselves?
Primarily rollouts ourselves, at least into markets close to us. So in think North America, we are going to roll out ourselves with a lot of other kinds of partners, the channel partner sales partners, we work very closely with the utilities.
Now in other countries, we just started our first international partnership last year, in Japan, with a company actually that like, like this single company, is responsible for I think, 2.5% of all of Japan’s emissions, like they make half of Japan steam. And so with companies like that, we will take a closer collaboration like, well, we’ll have more pieces for them to do just it’s not as practical for us being a company in the US to do everything by ourselves in a global markets.
So you license your products to other companies?
Yeah. We may also manufacture some components. We don’t. That international model, we haven’t completely figured it out yet. To be honest.
It’s fascinating, because based upon the technology and my understanding of it, this really is World shaking, because you’re taking what is a major power source and taking it and making it clean. What is the I’m curious, we’re going into a break right now. But after we get back from the break, talking about what is the government both in the US, the EU and other places around the world, doing to encourage this technology? Because it seems like it could be revolutionary.
So you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’m talking to Tony pan, who is the CEO of Modern Hydrogen. And we’ll be right back in just a minute after the break, to talk more to Tony about this amazing technology.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. I’ve got Tony Pan on the program of Modern Hydrogen. Tony, right before the break asking you about government and its role in encouraging this technology. Tell us a little bit about what government is doing or not doing to help you, you know, change the world.
So here, I do actually want to give a shout out to policy makers, which I think is pretty rare nowadays. But the inflation Reduction Act, right is because climate bill under planets right now, and one of the most generous support in the inflation Reduction Act is for clean hydrogen, and Elise, coming out of Congress, the laws were written, I think, in a fairly smart manner, which really helps startups like me, and, frankly, helps innovators because a lot of times when government right rules, they kind of make it like they do pick winners and losers, they just write, “hey, like this, corn is gonna get like subsidy for ethanol production and keep like the voters in Iowa swing stay happy.”
But for the clean hydrogen subsidy, it’s called like section 45. D, the rules are, they didn’t pick any particular technology to win or lose, it’s a flat playing field. As long as you are clean, you will get the subsidy, it just measures Hey, how much CO2 emissions are associated per kilogram of hydrogen production. And even better, the cleaner you are, the less CO2 emissions you have with your hydrogen production, you get much more subsidy, it’s, it’s back in less than a year.
So there’s this very strong incentive to push to clean hydrogen production. But at the end of the day, it is open for everybody open for us open for our competitors. And that was a pretty smart way to write the law.
Well, it’s great to hear that our policy makers had a win on that front. Had a number of guests talk about the IRA and how good it is. But I think I don’t recall anybody making this particular point that you’re making, which is writing the law to incentivize good behavior. And that’s, that’s good law. Right, you know, good legislation.
So I’d love to hear more of that in the future from our governmental officials. Why don’t we just talk a little bit about go back to this carbon piece? And what, what your company is doing with the carbon that gets created when you’re splitting the natural gas molecule? And and why that’s so important?
Yeah. So the beauty about what we’re doing really is selling the carbon asset material and locking it into the ground. So let me tackle the economic angle. First. Our business model, in some senses, really, dumb is the simplest one in existence, right? Buy low, sell high. What do I mean by that? Natural gas in the United States is super, super cheap.
And usually people just burn us for energy. And we have basically enabled the observation that, hey, if you can split the carbon out when the right and the right quality, then the carbon is actually more useful, and much more economically valuable think an extra zero is more than 10 times more valuable to sell the carbon as a material versus burning it for fuel. And therefore what we’re really doing is, you know, get natural gas for cheap, and then sell the components carbon and hydrogen for a lot more money. That’s it. That’s the business model.
And that also goes back to my economic piece of this allows us to do the transition in a scalable and competitive way. Like we don’t, we won’t get the you know, we qualify for all sorts of government support and incentives from the IRA. But we don’t really need it. Because ultimately, right like, for a lot of other folks, for example, let’s take CO2 capture, carbon capture and sequestration. Essentially, CO2 is a waste product.
And so people spend money capturing it and injecting it in odd old oil fields. And for most part, they to do all this work, they rely on government paying them, paying them for the CO2 avoided. We don’t rely on that, like our carbon is more than 10 times more valuable than doing the CO2 capture stuff.
And the people buying our carbon don’t necessarily care anything about the clean credentials. They just need the carbon as a solid useful material to build their build their stuff. Today, so like road so as I said, right, we saw a carbon to basically make rolls asphalt. So if you look at a row A road is today made from a bunch of aggregates.
And this material called asphalt or bitumen that is basically made from the oil and gas industry. So on. And so basically, we allow folks to buy less other products and buy our stuff. And that helps actually make robots 10 to 20% stronger. So they’re doing all of this, not because the government is forcing them to budget because it’s good for their wallets.
And I think that’s kind of the holy grail in any like payment solution.
Right? Like how they convince somebody who is much less rich in, in try not to go and do this.
Well, that’s, that’s amazing and a great outcome they’re making using less oil and gas products to make asphalt and use this carbon, which is a better product and in a sequestering carbon at the same time, I guess I have a question. In terms of say we roll this out. And you know, we’re just making mega tons of this carbon black from, which is the kind of waste product from splitting the natural gas?
How many? Will we really have a use for all that? I know, there’s used for making the asphalt and the roads. But do we make that much? Yeah. Do we make have that many roads to to use all this carbon black? Or are there other purposes for it?
That’s a phenomenal question, the answer is not to decarbonize off natural gas. So in the next, like 20 years, I’m not worried 200 million tons of petrol ministers every year just to make roads. So there is so much runway for us to grow and expand as a business and make sure this carbon has a home to go to. But as big as the asphalt markets is natural gas is bigger right now, is still much bigger. And so at some point, you do run out of like roles where you can sequester this stuff.
And so then you need to go into other market applications. And one one that we’re looking very closely at is also concrete, we’ve done some tests where concrete with some of our carbon mix then becomes stronger. And that is a that is much higher volume than even like roads. And so that could be another market to swallow oldest carbon.
But yeah, sort of what I hope will happen in 20 years is that actually, some of not a lot of natural gas demand goes down because things have been electrified. So there’s actually less gas that Mike is needed for my company to decarbonize. I know, this is like, maybe, but you know, I’ll tell them that investors too, like I, I, like, I don’t want to decarbonize all the natural gas on the planet. I want to know that I live on love that to be electrified.
But it’s just that there’s all these applications, especially cameras that industry are making like food that you can electrify. And so like our technology needs around to like make hydrogen for that. But I hope that actually, like we don’t have to find a home for all the carbon buildup of the current demand from natural gas, because it’s gonna go down.
Well, that’s good. Yeah. I mean, we’re gonna work in concert with other technologies.
When do you think you’re looking at having an IPO with the company?
Or is that some I’d say, four to five years, it’s always not necessarily the company’s choice, because you also look up market conditions like last year, this year would probably not be a good time for IPO. And we’re too early anyways. So but I think in four to five years, time will definitely be ready.
And I would just be here, how is the market condition? Looking? What’s the right time that you probably heard the trend, right? Like it’s because of the large influx of private equity and venture capital, startups have had the optionality to stay private for longer and time to market conditions? So that’s probably what we will do.
Okay, tell us a little bit about this project and biogas that you’re doing and why is that so exciting?
Oh, it’s our smallest project, but I’m most excited about it. So biogas right like think basically biogas is produced to be net zero like it’s neutral, because a CO2 gets sucked out the atmosphere by plant like grass. And then and then biogas is either manufactured from the plant itself or in some cases, right a cow eats the grass and then the biogas comes from the cows waste products, like literally cow poop.
So when you burn up biogas and emits the CO2 back into the atmosphere, but because the CO2 came from the atmosphere, it’s it’s neutral. But now, if we add our technology on To the biogas lab, we break the biogas apart and end up with clean hydrogen and solid carbon that we are sequestering into the ground.
So when you pair biogas with our technology, it is equivalent to pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting carbon back into the ground. This is the holy grail of negative emissions. In the Paris Climate Accords, it’s already pretty much admitted that it’s kind of already too late. We’ve already emitted CO2, too much in the atmosphere, we are going to need ways to pull CO2 back out and put it underground to truly save the planet as incredibly hard.
And I think our technology solution is one of like, maybe less than, like four options on the table that can actually economically do that. So this is like one of the only ways I think that would be pragmatic to repair the atmosphere. Oh, just makes me happy.
Yeah, that’s super exciting. So tell us a little bit about how that works in a practical application? And also how you came up with this idea? And is it patented?
Oh, yeah, like we have a lot of patents. However, we, unfortunately have to spend a lot of money on lawyers. The hard thing about doing deep tech is like, anybody can cut our thing in half, and then look at how it works inside. And so we need to be very judicious about trade secrets and patents. It’s right, like it’d be terrible for our investors. If they spent all these like literally right, we paid $200 million, they invested all this money, and then just let like China, copy it like that. That wouldn’t be great. Right? So, so what, we’re gonna go into a break, but maybe when we come back, you just will tell me kind of in the audience a little few secrets about your technology, and we won’t let anybody else know. It’ll kind of be our secret. To secret sauce.
Here’s the secret sauce is coming, everybody. Stay tuned. Tony is gonna give you the secrets of the universe in just one minute. You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Tony Pan Modern Hydrogen on the program. We’ll be right back.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. And I’ve got Tony Pan of Modern Hydrogen on the program. Tony, right before the break, you were planning to give us the secrets to biogas and how to create negative emissions, which is, as you said, the holy grail of the environmental movement, which is to sequester more carbon and pull it out of the atmosphere so that we can potentially really give ourselves a better chance at not having a complete environmental disaster.
Yeah, I can’t actually reveal the secrets of how the technology works. But the I will say that like, in our technology space, really the carbon piece is the more important piece, right?
So it turns out, it’s actually not that hard to split fossil fuels into hydrogen and carbon, you just basically puts it in a box without oxygen and heat it to very high temperatures. It’s called pyrolysis, you can break a lot of hydrocarbons, up, if you just heat it in a low oxygen, or no oxygen environment, the hard pieces that is the really the secret sauce of our technology is number one, being able to do it so that the carbon comes out of a particular quality.
That’s hard because the carp, like again, right that economics depend on you being able to sell the carbon for a lot of money. And we can we already have. But like that part’s hard to get, right. Second is like solids handling like this is a lot of carbon has been rated. A turns out you rate probably three to four kilo grams of carbon per kilogram of hydrogen. And carbon is just heavier. So you actually need a lot of things, mechanical systems to handle the carpet.
That was a really hard, that’s something that we’re very good at. And the last thing is do this efficiently, this process where I said you didn’t need to heat it up, so it takes energy. And so if you’re not like doing this efficiently, you end up wasting a lot of energy hurts that economics hurts the overall like CO2 footprint. And so you also need to get that right. So devils in the details.
Right, as far as the biogas let me just kind of get back to it in terms of like animal creation of biogas. How is it that you could capture any of that? It seems that’s kind of a difficult, tricky thing.
Ah, yeah, good question. So the simple answer is, other folks do that our company doesn’t. So for example, our project is literally with callaloo. So there is an existing biogas farm in Washington State, actually, with the Chile, the tribe, that the locals that basically lately have a callback, or at least collect the cow poop and put it into what’s called a digester.
So that all the cow poop ferments, and then that emits essentially, methane, which is the biogas that you need to put some poop through some filter. So it’s pure enough, but a live actually already built that. And there’s biogas projects all around the country. But yeah, you basically have to aggregate aggregates the material whether it’s plants or animal waste, and then you basically let it ferment it’s actually not that dissimilar from what happens Eric guts a few you know frankly, when you Berber flatulence, a lot of that is also methane, natural fermentation.
So this is more artificial fermentation. So but other companies deal with that. We add on the step to turn the biogas into clean hydrogen sequestered negative footprints carbon.
So you’re taking that cow poop emissions and taking it and cleansing it further than what the you know, the existing technology was said. Yeah, that’s right. So again, biogas that can reach a carbon neutral, but we can’t turn that carbon negative.
So tell us just one more time for those of us who didn’t do as well as physics that you as you did, or chemistry, how that’s done.
Yeah. So it all starts with photosynthesis, which is plants, right? Plants make their food by using sunlight, water and CO2 from the atmosphere to make sugars. So plants are sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere all the time. Usually, unfortunately, what happens afterwards, there’s like the plant dies, and then the case and a CO2 gets remitted back into the atmosphere.
But you can step into it. If you step into it either by harvesting the plant material or in some cases that the cow eats it, then you’re harvesting that cow material if you harvest that material and ferment it in the process, methane’s which is the same chemical as natural gas that’s created. And now a few interfere in that loop and capture it, then you can use that for energy and burn it.
And usually when you do that, yeah, when you burn it, the CO2 does end up back in the atmosphere again. So the jump that closed cycle CO2 comes back comes from the atmosphere in the plant, and then when you burn the fuel that’s created, the CO2 gets remitted back into the atmosphere, but net net nets out at zero, with Modern Hydrogen intervening in the process, now, when we intervene and take the field, the methane molecule CH four, and split it up into solid carbon and hydrogen land, we put a solid carbon back into ground, CO2 is never created.
And then hydrogen is used for fuel that burns cleanly, which means that we’ve stopped the latter end of the CO2 going back into the atmosphere. So then you still have the front end where the plants are pulling it out. So plants are putting CO2 out of the atmosphere with modern involve the CO2 does not get back into the atmosphere, and therefore net, it’s negative emissions you are you’re you’re sucking CO2 from the atmosphere and putting the carbon in the ground.
Thank you, Tony, you’re a good teacher. So I think you’ve educated me at least, to, you know, maybe a little higher than kindergarten level, we’ve got a little ways to go on my chemistry, education, but you’ve made a good start.
Tell us a little bit about infrastructure permitting and the electricity grid. And we’ve certainly heard a lot about that recently, and what’s your kind of in Modern Hydrogens? You know, kind of concerns related to that going forward?
Thank you. So Modern Hydrogen, one of Modern Hydrogen superpower is being able to reuse existing infrastructure to deliver clean energy. In fact, that’s for our utility partners. That’s the most important reason why they’re engaging with us. But this is still a problem that deeply concerns me, not just someone in the sector and an environmentalist, frankly, right.
Like, we need to electrify how a lot of our economy, for example, with renewable electrons, solar and wind, and hydro and nuclear and all that, but essentially, the colder projections, energy demand is still going up, right. And there’s a few statistics that people in climate typically know Right? Electricity is only 1/3 of all energy demand. And even in electricity today, renewables are about like 10%, total solar and wind, I think 12%. So you know, they’re 12% of 33%.
So they’re a tiny fraction of total energy, we need that to go up. And because renewables are intermittent, it’s even more important to have transmission and distribution lines, because you need to the sun, actually, solar typically has a capacity of only 20%, versus their peak capacity a day, because the sun goes up and down. And then, you know, there’s night.
So it becomes even more important to have grids that can move electrons around, so that you can have access to renewable electrons from different locations, because they’re not all going to be up at the same time. So it comes down to like, we need to double at least double if not triple the capacity of our grid, to to do a sensible fraction of the energy transition.
And in contrast, so the US grid is depending on counts at six or 7 million miles long. Last year, I think about a few 100 miles of transmission lines were permitted. And those were after like a 15 year process. Yeah, so we were only able to build a few 100. And but we need to double or triple something that has a baseline of millions.
So we’re like, we’re kind of screwed, our ability to build infrastructure is totally going to derail the energy transition, like my company’s sort of doing our part to balance it by offering a technology solution that skips the need to build an infrastructure. But we’re not going to be enough like this is like this huge issue.
Well, I feel like we need to do more rooftop solar, so that the solar is at the site of where the users are not far away from it. And that could help and, you know, just talking with Arnold Schwarzenegger at an event recently saying, hey, if we put rooftop solar on every commercial building in California, we’d have enough to power the entire state.
So and then we wouldn’t have to permit it out in the desert and wherever else but that’s something that needs to be worked on. So Tony, tell us a little bit and just the last minute before we sign off a little bit about what you’re doing at the company. How fast are you guys growing and hiring and, and what does it look like to to work at this fast pace? You know, tech startup.
It’s crazy. It’s a frenetic energy in the office, right. And I will say startups are not for everyone. We we have to change our processes or every year because we’re just scaling too fast. So something that works for like a 50 person company does not work for 100 person company, something that works when you’re only having like, three units out and field does not work when you have 10.
So you have to like reinvent yourself every year. But right now, we have our hydrogen into like actual hydro units in the ground as in two states. And we are working on projects in four states, our carbon is in like five states. And so you know, there’s like 50 states in the country.
So it’s a lot of what’s next is just do a lot more find a way to do a lot more. And that means more people think or factories produce production lines, finding more customers, more sales, more marketing, everything. Well,
I appreciate your great work and appreciate you coming on the program to share the miracle of Modern Hydrogen with the audience and looking forward to watching you guys grow to help save our planet. So Tony Penn, great work that you’re doing. And again, thank you for being on the show.
Thank you. It’s so important to just convince I think more and more people that this is important. The climate fight.
Absolutely. So best wishes going forward and we’ll stay in touch.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
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