Successful Demonstration Program Underpins Monolith Materials’ Commercialization Plans
May 28, 2019
Background/Early Project History
Monolith Materials (formerly Boxer Industries), a 100% private equity funded start-up, approached Zeton in early 2013 to discuss a new demonstration plant project. The process technology converts methane into carbon black and hydrogen.
Traditionally, carbon black is produced by the partial combustion of heavy petroleum feedstocks (decant oil), in a low yield process. With the price of oil (in 2013) at over $90 per barrel and an abundance of cheap natural gas in North America, the economics favored Monolith’s process, which directly converts methane (75% carbon) into carbon black at high yield. Furthermore, the process produces a valuable co-product, hydrogen, while greatly reducing emissions – a true win-win for industry and the environment.
Monolith assembled a team of experts in carbon black to support Zeton’s project team through the Basic Engineering Study phase of the project. During that study, Zeton worked collaboratively with Monolith’s staff and experts to find innovative solutions to some of the challenging problems associated with a high temperature process generating both solid and gaseous products. Working collaboratively, a lump sum proposal for the demonstration plant was presented in August 2013, and a rapid decision to proceed to the build phase was made.
Following project sanction, the detailed design, procurement, fabrication and factory testing phase of the project began in September 2013. Fabricated in Zeton’s Burlington, ON shop, detailed design, procurement and fabrication were executed in parallel to accelerate the overall project schedule. The plant itself occupied 8 skids. Each skid was standalone mechanically and electrically to minimize reassembly work at site. Following factory testing, the individual skid modules were shipped to Redwood City, CA in June 2014.
Starting in June 2014, Monolith operated the plant to demonstrate the performance and reliability of the process, and to help design its first commercial plant, currently under construction in Hallam, Nebraska. The carbon black produced was evaluated for a wide range of end markets.
In October 2018, Monolith decommissioned the demonstration plant in Redwood City, CA, and brought the site back to its original condition. The team of engineers, scientists, technicians, and operators who ran the demonstration plant relocated to Nebraska to support construction, commissioning, and eventual operation of Monolith’s first commercial plant.
Monolith’s First Commercial Plant
Monolith is now in late stage construction on the first commercial unit of an eventual world-scale carbon black facility located just south of Lincoln, Nebraska. The first unit will come on line in 2019, with subsequent phases being planned through the early 2020s. The plant is ideally located next to natural gas and electrical infrastructure. There is Class 1 rail on site, and several carbon black customers are within a few hundred miles. Monolith has partnered with the Nebraska Public Power District who agreed to purchase Monolith’s co-product, hydrogen, and refuel an existing coal-fired power plant with clean burning hydrogen. This has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
When fully built, Monolith’s Nebraska facility will support hundreds of high paying manufacturing jobs, have over $500M of annual economic impact, and improve the local airshed while helping to reduce global climate change.
Robert Hanson, Co-Founder and CEO, Monolith Materials: “Having a partner like Zeton has been instrumental to our success these past 5 years. They are experienced, intelligent, rigorous, and understand the nuance of designing demonstration plants that both validate core process innovations as well as demonstrate operational reliability. Hands down, the best in the business.”