Clean, Affordable Cogeneration of Hydrogen
Hydrogen is an important commodity chemical and clean burning fuel that could also play a key role in the clean energy transition. However, hydrogen’s current production from fossil fuels leads to around 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brimstone Energy has developed a technology platform for low-energy electrochemical production of hydrogen, based on the co-generation of other key commodities, including sulfuric acid, and cement. Brimstone Energy is forging a path toward making hydrogen a clean, efficient and affordable commodity or energy molecule of the future.
Cody Finke earned his Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering under Prof. Michael Hoffmann at Caltech. During Finke’s Ph.D. he has specialized in electrochemistry and techno-economic modeling where he attempted to find economically efficient ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Finke also helped develop and bring to market an electrochemical wastewater treatment technology for applications in low-income countries. Finke hopes to draw on these experiences as he commercializes his own electrochemical process for cost-competitive clean hydrogen and sulfuric acid generation.
Finke earned a B.A. in chemistry with distinction at Carleton College, where he received numerous awards including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Finke founded Brimstone Energy to find money-making and job-creating solutions to the global crises caused by greenhouse gas emissions. To date, Brimstone Energy has received grants from the California Rocket Fund, Caltech, and participated in the Creative Destruction Labs’ Energy Accelerator Program.
Drawing down greenhouse gas emissions related to industrial processes is key to addressing climate change. By specializing in the generation of low-energy hydrogen as well as various commodity products, Brimstone Energy is focused on developing multiple routes to cleaner production of key industrial inputs at a low price point. Today, hydrogen production, mostly done via steam methane reforming, produces around 1 percent of global greenhouse gases. Cement production also has a significant climate impact producing around 6.5 percent of greenhouse gases. Few technologies exist that can make these commodities energy-efficiently. Water splitting, for example, is an alternate means of producing hydrogen, and while this method does not rely on fossil fuel combustion, it is energy intensive, expensive, and has not been scaled to meet the current or future demand for hydrogen.
By meeting its technical milestones, Brimstone Energy will generate hydrogen and value-added commodities at the same purity and quality as traditional production methods but with reduced energy consumption and price.
To allow for rapid scale-up, Brimstone Energy is developing small scale, low-cost hardware to address its likely first market: irrigation water acidification. Currently, irrigation water is acidified to aid crop growth all around the world, especially in the Western USA. Unfortunately, irrigation water acidification usually involves either dangerous onsite storage of sulfuric acid, or inefficient smog-causing sulfur burning. Brimstone Energy’s technology can solve both of these problems and deliver irrigation water acidification at a reduced cost to farmers. Brimstone’s method does not require sulfuric acid storage and may be a multiplication factor more efficient than current technologies. This use case represents the first market that Brimstone Energy will address, but in the long term it will address all markets for hydrogen, sulfuric acid, and cement.
Potential for Impact
For large-scale customers, the advantages of Brimstone’s process include lower energy requirements, lower or no carbon dioxide emissions, and convenient co-generation which can reduce shipping costs, hazards, and plant footprints. If this technology were to replace the entire world's demand for sulfuric acid and cement it could make almost 200 million tonnes of cleaner hydrogen per year (or 4X the commodity market for hydrogen). This could produce enough hydrogen to fuel all of the transportation in the United States, it could also remove the greenhouse gas emissions associated with cement and hydrogen production. Combined, hydrogen and cement account for approximately one third of total industrial emissions.
cfinke [at] brimstoneenergy [dot] com
Banner image: Maaren Takens