Carbon black is virtually pure elemental carbon produced by incomplete combustion or thermal decomposition of gaseous or liquid hydrocarbons under controlled conditions. Its physical appearance is that of a black, finely divided pellet or powder. It is a common, essential product found in everyday products like tires, automotive and industrial hoses and belts, batteries, plastics, inks and food packaging.
Conventional carbon black is produced by burning decant oil or coal tar, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At Monolith, we have developed and perfected a new technology that uses renewable electricity to convert natural gas into high-purity carbon black and hydrogen. This clean, environmentally responsible process creates nearly zero local emissions and significantly reduced life-cycle emissions overall. It is also highly efficient, with more than 95% conversion of the natural gas feedstock into solid carbon.
Our process doesn’t introduce oxygen into carbon black production, so Monolith doesn’t release nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur oxide (SOx) and nearly-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. When our Olive Creek project is complete, our process will result in a reduction of over 500,000 tons per year in greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional processes. Also, we’re taking steps to ensure that the electricity used to power our plasma process will be 100% renewable.
Natural gas contains fewer impurities than the decant oil, coal tar or other more traditional carbon black feedstocks. That means carbon black produced from natural gas will naturally contain fewer impurities. For example, our carbon black already meets the purity standards set by the FDA for use in food packaging, without the additional purification steps required by other carbon black manufacturers.
Traditional carbon black manufacturing processes are pollution-riddled and simply can’t meet the environmental standards required for today’s new, modern manufacturing facilities. Many traditional carbon black manufacturers are retooling their facilities to meet minimum requirements imposed by the EPA.
The global carbon black market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8% per year. Global production is approximately 14,525 kilotons per year. That means even at full production, our combined OC1 and proposed OC2 facilities will not even generate enough carbon black to meet annual global growth in demand. What’s more, with 67% of the world’s carbon black being consumed by the tire industry, the projected annual tire demand of 2.9% CAGR through 2028 promises to keep the industry thriving.
For starters, there is an abundance of clean electric power available and an equally abundant source of electricity provider partners willing to supply it. Next, Nebraska is positioned over a deep reservoir of the natural gas that we’ll convert into carbon black and hydrogen. Nebraska’s central location is ideal for shipping our product to our many U.S.-based customers. What’s more, Nebraska’s work ethic, pioneering spirit and stable economy make it an ideal location for successfully building our facilities and operating our company.
Once it’s fully operational, our first commercial-scale plant (OC1) will generate approximately 14,000 tons of carbon black material per year. Plans have been developed for, and we’re currently in the process of securing construction partners for, our next-phase carbon black/hydrogen facility known as OC2. Once completed, our combined annual production capacity (OC1 and OC2) should total 194,000 tons per year.
Our first commercial-scale carbon black/hydrogen facility is located just northeast of Hallam, Nebraska, and just southeast of Olive Creek Lake. We liked the name Olive Creek. As things happen in business, the name was shortened to “OC,” and the first phase of our operation became known as OC1 and the second OC2. When both facilities are referred to together, they are often called the Olive Creek Project.
Hydrogen is the co-product of Monolith’s Olive Creek facilities. It is the lightest element in the periodic table and the most abundant chemical substance in the universe.
We are a next-generation chemical company that believes technology will create the path to environmental transformation. Through innovation and imagination, we are finding new, economically sustainable, technology-forward ways to make everyday products cleaner.
In a way, our name encapsulates our proprietary process. Monolith is from the Greek language meaning “single stone.” It refers to the way our process isolates the single carbon atom from the hydrogen atoms in natural gas.