Carbon Dioxide-Free Hydrogen and Solid Carbon from Natural Gas via Metal Salt Intermediates

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OPEN 2018
Baltimore, Maryland
Project Term:
06/28/2019 - 12/27/2023

Critical Need:

By mass, natural gas (NG) is the most-extracted material on the planet. Natural gas extraction releases large amounts of methane, NG’s main ingredient and a potent greenhouse gas, which can be burned for energy generation or converted into hydrogen (H2). Each year, steam methane reforming (SMR) of NG produces more than 10 million metric tons of H2, as well as 70-100 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The H2 market is increasing at a combined annual growth rate of >6%, intensifying the need to generate H2 from abundant, domestic resources, with a low-to-zero CO2 footprint. Methane pyrolysis is an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly approach to produce emission-free H2 and carbon products—but to be commercially viable, these products must be useful for large-scale applications.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Johns Hopkins will scale up a novel process to convert natural gas into hydrogen and solid carbon with no water input while reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Leveraging industrial partners Southern Company and Cabot Corporation, the team will scale up its cyclic process based on early laboratory demonstration. ETCH, INC, is commercializing the process, which is expected to produce H2 from NG at costs comparable to the state-of-the art commercial technologies, while lowering energy input, reducing CO2 emissions, and producing high-value pure carbon materials.

Potential Impact:

Johns Hopkins proposes rapid development of a radical new method to produce H2 and solid carbon from NG.


The U.S. transportation sector depends on petroleum for its energy. Increasing the diversity of energy-dense liquid fuels would bolster energy security.


The new technology would reduce or eliminate roughly 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from current H2 production.


This technology would expand the H2 market and spur the identification and use of new high-value solid carbon materials.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Jonah Erlebacher
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