OCOchem Wins $2.5M U.S. Department of Energy Award to Advance Clean Hydrogen Technologies

Award will be used to improve and scale technology to make large quantities of formic acid to develop safer and more cost-effective ways to make, distribute, and use clean hydrogen

RICHLAND, Wash., June 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ —  Clean fuel and chemical innovator OCOchem and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will continue a successful collaboration to make it safer and more affordable to transport clean hydrogen, thanks to a new $2.5 million DOE funding award.

The award is one of 22 projects in 14 states totaling $42 million in DOE funds to advance critical technologies for producing, storing, transporting and deploying clean hydrogen, a non-polluting energy source.

The award will fund a continuing partnership between OCOchem and PNNL, both based in Richland, Wash. OCOchem is focused on making a chemical building block – formic acid – electrocatalytically from recycled carbon dioxide emissions, water, and clean electricity. PNNL is developing a way to safely release clean hydrogen from formic acid. The work builds on a partnership between the two entities funded by a 2020 DOE Technology Commercialization Fund grant and represents a significant milestone in the pursuit of a sustainable energy future.

Clean hydrogen is gaining momentum as a viable solution for decarbonizing various sectors, including transportation, industry, and power generation. Hydrogen has the potential to serve as a versatile, carbon-free energy carrier that can be produced from renewable resources. However, significant technological and economic challenges need to be overcome to fully realize hydrogen’s potential including, most importantly, the high cost of hydrogen storage and transport, which represents more than 70% of the cost of the clean hydrogen production and distribution supply chain.

OCOchem will use the funds to enhance and increase the size of its Carbon Flux Electrolyzer™, which is used to make formic acid from recycled carbon dioxide emissions, water, and clean electricity. By building the world’s largest CO2 electrolyzer, OCOchem will be able to scale and improve the device to commercialize the technology. The formic acid that will be made from the process can be used many ways, including as a liquid carrier of clean hydrogen, so that hydrogen can be stored and transported as a stable non-flammable energy-dense liquid at ambient temperature and pressure, thus making it both safer and less costly to distribute. PNNL will scale its technology to create a hydrogen generator that releases hydrogen from the formic acid.

“The beauty of this strategy is that we are combining hydrogen production and storage in a single step, while simultaneously sequestering carbon dioxide,” said Tom Autrey, a PNNL chemist and collaborator on the project.

The project aims to significantly improve the overall safety and cost profile of the hydrogen supply chain from production, storage, transport and use in various applications. By collaborating, OCOchem and PNNL aspire to make clean hydrogen technologies more economically viable, scalable, and accessible for widespread adoption. Both entities expect to have their technology ready for commercial use by early 2025.

“The world needs a better way to make, store and use clean hydrogen as a clean fuel and clean feedstock to decarbonize industries and transportation,” said OCOchem CEO and co-founder Todd Brix. “We’re making a liquid hydrogen carrier that enables us to more safely and more cost-effectively make and distribute clean hydrogen so it can be used in more places by more people. We are helping to create a circular carbon economy that stops the buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and helps lower the cost of everyday products we consume and use. We are excited to continue working with PNNL and contribute to the local economy with these ground-breaking technologies.”

OCOchem is a venture-backed clean tech start-up developing and commercializing technology that uses recycled carbon dioxide and water to electrochemically make formates and formic acid, which can then be used to create less expensive and more environmentally friendly chemical solutions and be converted to clean hydrogen. Founded in 2017, OCOchem operates its principal R&D laboratories in Richland, Wash. Learn more at https://ocochem.com.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology, and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. PNNL is operated by Battelle for the DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. Learn more at PNNL’s News Center.

Cynthia Flash