Chevron Corp. has entered a three-way partnership with Hyzon, a supplier of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, and renewable fuels company Raven SR to turn green waste from a California landfill into hydrogen, the companies said Jan. 9.

Targeting the state’s hydrogen transportation fuel market, the trio plans to use Raven’s patented non-combustion steam/CO2 reforming process technology to convert up to 99 wet tons of food and green waste per day from the Republic Services-operated West Contra Costa Sanitary landfill in Richmond, Calif. 

The hydrogen facility, which will be operated by a newly formed company called Raven SR S1 LLC, is expected to produce up to 2,400 metric tons per year (mt/year) of hydrogen and come online in first-quarter 2024.

“Our strategic partners’ commitment to the first non-combustion Steam/CO2 facility in the world will help drive our commercial operations in Richmond and accelerate similar facilities globally,” Raven CEO Matt Murdock said. “This facility will be the first hydrogen production plant in the world to reduce greenhouse gases, including critically important short-lived climate pollutants, through its process and its product.”

Word of the planned facility comes as parts of the world step up efforts to lower emissions by turning to low and no-carbon forms of energy. Hydrogen is seen by many as critical in the energy transition due to its versatility—it can be used as fuel and transformed into electricity— and its ability to decarbonize a wide range of sectors, including hard-to-decarbonize ones.

Tackling emissions

The facility is targeting the hydrogen transportation fuel market in California, where regulators have set a goal to reduce organic waste disposal by 75% by 2025.

Landfills represent the third largest source of methane in the state, comprising 20% of its methane emissions, according to Cal Recycle. Transportation is the single largest source of the state’s CO2 emissions, which according to the California Air Resources Board, account for about 80% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Developers of the facility say the project could avoid up to 7,200 mt/year of CO2 emissions from the landfill.
Chevron, which holds a 50% equity stake in Raven SR S1, intends to market its share of the hydrogen in California’s Bay Area and Northern California fueling stations, the news release stated.

“Not only are we positioned to commercialize a first-of-its-kind lower carbon hydrogen project, we are working to reduce emissions in a community in which we have a long and proud history,” said Austin Knight, vice president of hydrogen for Chevron New Energies. “With a relatively short lead time, we will be able to further develop the hydrogen ecosystem in the region.”

Hyzon, which holds a 20% equity stake in Raven SR S1, plans to provide refueling for hydrogen fuel cell trucks at a hydrogen hub in Richmond. Raven holds the remaining 30% stake. 

“The Richmond hub enables a local, renewable hydrogen ecosystem by aligning hydrogen production, refueling infrastructure and vehicle availability geographically and technologically,” said Parker Meeks, Hyzon president and interim CEO. “This alignment is expected to reduce total costs to fleet operators, accelerating the transition to zero-emissions vehicles and global decarbonization.”

The technology

Wyoming-based Raven SR is behind the technology. Chevron and Hyzon were among Raven’s initial strategic investors, according to the release.

The waste-to-energy process typically includes burning the waste to release heat that turns water into steam.

However, with Raven’s process, there is no combustion or catalysts, as no oxygen is included. The waste is not burned. Instead, it is converted to a fuel. Hydrogen and carbon are then separated from the synthetic gas, the company explained.

“The power of steam gives Raven SR’s technology the ability to convert any carbonaceous feedstock into a synthetic gas that is 55-65% hydrogen – higher than most processes, including plasma arc gasification,” Raven said on its website. “This hydrogen-rich syngas produces higher quantities of fuels with fewer emissions than any competing technology.”

Raven said its steam/CO2 reforming process is capable of converting 100% of the waste.

The excess carbon, as explained by Raven, is sequestered in a useable powder.

The process does not require freshwater and uses less than half the energy of electrolysis, according to the news release.

Developers also plan to upgrade gas electric generators at the landfill to produce at least 60% of the electricity needed.

Meeks said the project “marks a significant step in demonstrating the commercial viability of a localized, low-to-negative carbon intensity hydrogen economy.”