Raven SR’s Waste to Hydrogen Project with Republic Services Could Have Implications Beyond California

Dive brief:

  • Republic Services recently announced an agreement with Raven SR to process more than 99.9 tonnes of organic waste per day at the West Contra Costa landfill in Richmond, Calif., And create up to 2,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per day. year.
  • Raven plans to sell the hydrogen to commercial gas stations, as well as to zero-emission truck maker Hyzon, and achieve negative carbon intensity under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credit. ) of State. This site, as well as another to a site not yet announced The California landfill is expected to open by summer 2022.
  • Raven just made a $ 20 million investment, with backers including Chevron and Hyzon. This previously announced plans to build up to 250 hydrogen hubs with Hyzon, starting with these Californian sites.

Dive overview:

Hydrogen is currently attracting increased interest in the utility and transportation sectors. Steam methane reforming (SMR) remains a primary method for the production of hydrogen, but it is considered a “brown” source of fossil fuels as opposed to “green” hydrogen, which is the most common. often produced by electrolysis powered by renewable energies. Raven describes her non-combustion process as another green method that uses less water than electrolysis and could be self-sufficient in terms of energy use.

Although these broader trends in fuel and energy production should not have Short-term applications in the US waste industry, they could offer a new option for materials management. As California prepares to implement SB 1383 in 2022, a policy that calls for a 75% reduction in organic waste disposal by 2025, the state has a processing capacity deficit. Republic is speeding up its composting operations and using third-party organic processing sites, which is seen as an additional option.

“We [as an] industry has to figure out how to handle this in California, ”said Pete Keller, Republic’s vice president of recycling and sustainability, of process capacity. Keller considers this hydrogen process best suited to the state for several reasons, but he said that “if there are other states that act as aggressively from a public policy perspective as the California, then that could be a possibility. “

Raven and Republic refused to share financial terms of their agreement, except to say that there would be a lease for Raven to operate the landfill. In the past, analysts say, Republic has preferred a royalty-based deal when working with third-party landfill gas companies. Republic will also see a capacity savings benefit by removing those tonnes from their system, and Keller noted the possibility of incorporating a solid carbon by-product from Raven into their composting operations.

Raven founder and CEO Matt Murdock said his first goal was to prove the concept at the two California sites, which could produce enough hydrogen to power about 200 heavy trucks a day. Although Raven previously announced another industry partnership, she has not confirmed the location of her second facility. Keller said Republic was not involved. Raven has already discussed potential expansions of the two facilities with its partners, with the potential to eventually process up to 500 tonnes per day at each site.

According to Raven, its hydrogen production system can handle a range of waste streams – not just source-separated organics – as well as landfill gases that would otherwise be flared. Materials such as glass and metal would ideally be mined first, but the technology would be flexible.

“I can do plastic bags and banana peels at the same time, we don’t have to go our separate ways,” Murdock said. “As a diversionary technology, that’s exactly what landfills are looking for.”

Going forward, Murdock’s goal is for Raven to potentially charge tip fees in future iterations. Raven will also benefit financially from the LCFS credit. He said the company’s process can be used to create a range of fuels for ground transportation and aviation, as well as other products. Raven designed the technology to be mobile and scalable, with a chassis-mounted configuration, and she hopes have a more efficient authorization process if regulators already know the host site.

Noah Kaye, senior research analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., said transportation is a fast-growing investment area for hydrogen because its “high energy density” offers notable autonomy benefits for fleets. long-haul heavy goods vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells are also seen as attractive because they offer faster refueling times than other diesel alternatives. Cummins hosted a Hydrogen Vehicle Investor Day last fall, and Toyota, Hyundai and Nikola have also embarked on the search for hydrogen fuel cell trucks.

Given the waste and recycling industry’s track record of investing in alternative fuel options, such as natural gas and battery-electric vehicles, Kaye said this could be a future area of ​​focus. . Companies such as Ballard Power have highlighted the potential of hydrogen fuel cells in garbage collection and Glasgow, Scotland recently placed what could be the largest order for such vehicles to date.

“There is certainly potential in the waste industry for a closed-loop hydrogen production system, using methane derived from MSWs to produce hydrogen which then enters fleets,” Kaye said. “The development of this ecosystem is nascent, but we will be delighted to learn more about the economics of this project and its potential for replication elsewhere.”

Republic touts its involvement in 75 “renewable energy” projects and is bullish on battery-electric vehicles, but it may not be the first to step up to hydrogen fuel cells.

“If the hydrogen is going to take off, it’s going to take off in California first,” Keller said. “We don’t think fuel cells are the right application for our industry. Fuel cells probably have a role in road applications. “

Murdock said he sees great potential for hydrogen fuel cells in the waste industry, especially in California, but the best near-term opportunity might be on the processing side. While Raven’s Method currently costs more than SMR, he expects this to change once the technology develops. His goal is for it to be cost competitive without political factors, citing Texas as a market he would like to enter, and to accommodate a range of financial arrangements.

“We see ourselves as very complementary to the landfill company,” he said, noting that discussions are underway with several other US and European landfill operators. “We are really open to any structure that wishes to be offered.