Direct Solar Conversion of Biogas to Hydrogen and Solid Carbon: A Novel, Zero-Carbon Process


SCH Number
Public Agency
California Energy Commission
Document Title
Direct Solar Conversion of Biogas to Hydrogen and Solid Carbon: A Novel, Zero-Carbon Process
Document Type
NOE - Notice of Exemption
Document Description
Under grant Agreement PIR-21-004, the California Energy Commission will provide a grant of $749,999 to the Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Los Angeles Campus (UCLA) to design, build, test, and run a pilot demonstration of a technology that produces hydrogen and solid carbon from biogas. In more detail, the purpose of this Agreement is to fund the development and demonstration of a novel hydrogen production pathway that converts 100% renewable biogas into hydrogen and high-value graphitic carbon. Relying on concentrated solar energy as a heat source, the system increases reactor temperature to above 1,000 degrees Celsius. The ultra-low, carbon-negative process results in hydrogen gas for various purposes and graphitic electrode material for use in the rapidly expanding Li-ion battery market. The proposed system is intended to on site for a period of up to one year and operate for a small fraction of that time, estimated as up to several weeks. Beneficiaries will include users of hydrogen and lithium-ion battery manufacturers who use graphitic carbon. The technology, when commercialized, is intended to lead zero-carbon technology development, increase domestic jobs, and the produce clean hydrogen at a very low cost. Utility ratepayer benefits include: 1) Greater electricity reliability by developing a new technology capable of producing: low-carbon hydrogen that can be stored and subsequently used to power backup or resiliency power generation systems. 2) Lower costs for renewable hydrogen production by developing a new, low-carbon, low cost hydrogen production technology capable of converting biogas to hydrogen while further offsetting production costs through co-product sales. Hydrogen generated by the system can be subsequently used for a variety of end uses including transportation, high-temperature heating for industrial processes, and electricity generation in fuel cells or otherwise to support high-efficiency and reduced cost electricity production based on stored renewable energy.

Contact Information

Baldomero Lasam
Agency Name
California Energy Commission
Job Title
Mechanical Engineer
Contact Types
Lead/Public Agency


Los Angeles, Palm Springs
Los Angeles, Riverside
Southern California
Cross Streets
Karen Dr and 20th Ave
Other Location Info
Charles E Young Drive and West Wood Plaza 34.0680616802756, -118.44375004539778 90095

Notice of Exemption

Exempt Status
Categorical Exemption
Type, Section or Code
Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 15306
Reasons for Exemption
Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14 Section 15306 provides that projects which consist of basic data collection, research, experimental management, and resource evaluation activities, and which do not result in a serious or major disturbance to an environmental resource are categorically exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act. Under this grant, first, the technology will be developed and tested at existing laboratory facilities at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. (California Nanosystems Institute, 570 Westwood Plaza building 114, Los Angeles.) Second, the technology will be moved to an existing wind farm for testing at a larger scale, using solar thermal power. There are no sensitive environmental resources at the demonstration site. For these reasons, the proposed work will not have any significant effect on the environment and is exempt under Cal. Code Regs., tit 14, Section 15306,

Exempt Status
Categorical Exemption
Type, Section or Code
Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 15303
Reasons for Exemption
Section 15303, “New Construction or Conversion of Small Structures,” covers construction and location of limited numbers of new, small facilities or structures; and installation of small new equipment and facilities in small structures. The demonstration phase of the project includes preparing and deploying a pilot technology demonstration consisting of at least two skid-mounts or shipping containers holding the technology, a trailer, a parabolic solar collector, a tank truck for renewable biogas, a tank or tanks for hydrogen gas, and appurtenances, with a total area of 5.000 square feet or so, on up to an acre of land. These components will sit on disturbed land at a wind turbine farm within the existing property boundary. After testing, the components will be removed. Hydrogen gas storage safety protocols will be followed. Based on these characteristics, the project is exempt under Section 15303.


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