A Saskatoon man heading a clean energy company in the United States is using a carbon-free process to contribute to tire and fertilizer manufacturing — and it's attracted attention from the U.S. government and a large tire manufacturer.
Monolith Materials, co-founded by Saskatoon-born and raised Rob Hanson (BE'06), signed an agreement with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company to contribute a clean component to their tires. Monolith also received approval for a conditional loan of $1.04 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand their facilities.
Hanson told Garth Materie, host of CBC's Afternoon Edition, how their use of methane pyrolysis — a fancy way to say they divide methane into hydrogen and solid carbon — is being used to make ammonia and something called carbon black.
Their technology to convert natural gas into the two components "creates nearly zero local emissions," Monolith said in a press release.
He calls ammonia the "mother of all fertilizer," which the company is making "for the farmers of the region to help increase the yields and grow the crops that feed and fuel the world."
But it's the carbon black that earned them a collaboration agreement and letter of intent from Goodyear, which said it would help advance their goal to use more sustainable materials.
Agreement with Goodyear
By splitting methane, "you've just created hydrogen without creating any CO2," he said, explaining that solidifying the carbon keeps it from entering the atmosphere.
"If you do it just right you get the carbon out in a form called carbon black."
Monolith recently completed a facility in Hallam, Nebraska, in 2020 and, as part of its agreement with Goodyear, is expected to provide the company with cleanly produced carbon black.
Carbon black is used in one-third of all tires around the world, Hanson said, and it's a key ingredient in tires that increases durability. It composes about 15 to 20 per cent of a typical tire but is commonly produced by burning decant oil or coal tar.
Monolith said it's production of carbon black is able to prevent about 2.3 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere for every ton of carbon black produced, compared with conventional methods.
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