A climate-focused tech company announced plans to open a $100-million plant outside Bakersfield, Calif., to convert wood waste into hydrogen fuel to prevent the material from emitting greenhouse gases. There has been no construction contract award, to date.

The firm, named Mote, says it expects to produce about 7-million kg of carbon-negative hydrogen, and to remove 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that would be released into the air — the equivalent of taking more than 32,000 cars off the road — each year.

Mote, which announced its plans on Dec. 15, aims to start hydrogen production in 2024. Mote is working with engineer Fluor Corp. and gasification systems maker SunGas Renewables Inc. to develop the plant. 

The waste-to-fuel process, developed by Mote, would gather waste that would otherwise be burnt or left to decompose, from farms, forestry and other sources, and use commercially available equipment for the fuel production. In addition to producing clean energy, gasification and treatment would extract remaining carbon dioxide from the wood waste in liquid form. The liquid carbon would then be added into concrete mixes for construction projects to store it permanently.

Mote is in talks with CarbonCure Technologies, which works with concrete producers to inject recycled carbon dioxide into concrete batches, to use CarbonCure’s equipment to store the remaining carbon in concrete.


Lower Price 

The process’ efficiency and scalability would allow Mote to provide hydrogen at a lower price and lower carbon intensity than other clean hydrogen projects, it claims.

“As the world’s first carbon removal project converting biomass to hydrogen, we are addressing the ever-growing demand for renewable hydrogen with a carbon-negative approach,” Mote co-founder and CEO Mac Kennedy said in a statement. 

Joshuah Stolaroff, Mote’s chief technology officer, is the former head of the carbon capture program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he co-authored a 2020 report that included biomass-to-hydrogen as a strategy for California’s 2045 carbon neutrality goal. The company says it expects to help the state in recycling the 54-million metric tons of wood waste generated there annually.

Rice University selected Mote for the inaugural class of its Clean Energy Accelerator program this year, and the company says it raised money from investors after closing a seed round of undisclosed value this fall.