High-throughput Methane Pyrolysis for Low-cost, Emissions-free Hydrogen

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OPEN 2018
Palo Alto, California
Project Term:
06/21/2019 - 12/20/2022

Critical Need:

By mass, natural gas (NG) is the most-extracted material on the planet. NG 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:

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its partners will explore a targeted molten metal as a catalyst in a methane pyrolysis mist reactor to convert natural gas into hydrogen and solid carbon at a low cost without carbon dioxide emissions. The technology could augment or replace current H2 production methods, while simultaneously sequestering carbon in high value materials.

Potential Impact:

The PARC team will design a pressurized molten alloy mist reactor that will enable a high rate of H2 production to ensure low reactor capital cost compared with SMR. This technology could:


Place the U.S. in the lead for a fast-growing H2 economy.


Displace >30 quads (8.8 trillion kWh) of polluting energy in chemical production, transportation, and electric generation.


Accelerate the growth of the H2 market through low prices and serve as the keystone of a clean energy economy.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Dr. Brad Rupp
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Stony Brook University
Cabot Corporation
Gas Technology Institute

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