Technological watch

Methane goes from foe to feedstock for PHB production at new Ohio facility

Newlight Technologies Inc. will use captured methane emissions to produce its Aircarbon bio-based material in a 15-year agreement with CNX Resources Corp. at a Hannibal, Ohio, facility

Newlight, based in Huntington Beach, Calif., will capture waste methane emissions from third-party industrial activities. CNX will gather, process and deliver the methane through new and existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, the companies said in a July 14 news release.

Newlight will acquire contractual rights to a portion of the captured methane, to serve as feedstock for the production of its Aircarbon PHB, a biopolyester belonging to the PHA family of bioplastics. The agreement, say the companies, will enable the large-scale reduction of both carbon emissions and plastic pollution.

"Our goal is to abate methane emissions at world scale through the application of biological carbon capture, and this agreement takes us another step closer to that goal,” Newlight CEO Mark Herrema said.  "CNX is a world leader in methane capture and processing, and by partnering with their exceptional team, we will have the opportunity to meaningfully reduce the amount of carbon going into the air and plastic going into the ocean.”

The present agreement will ultimately see CNX, which operates, develops and explores for natural gas primarily in Appalachia, establishing several manufacturing facilities in the Appalachian region with Newlight, which will advance critical decarbonization goals and boost area economic activity, capital investment, and job growth.

"For years, government and economic development officials have worked to leverage the vast energy resources found in the Appalachian basin as a catalyst for economic growth and new manufacturing," said CNX President of New Technologies Ravi Srivastava. "CNX is excited to work with Newlight to immediately accelerate those efforts."

Part of the captured methane will be used to produce Aircarbon at a new facility Newlight previously announced for Hannibal, located on the Ohio River near the West Virginia border.

That facility, which will be built in partnership with Long Ridge Energy Terminal, a subsidiary of Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors LLC, and an affiliate managed by GCM Grosvenor, a global alternative asset management solutions, will, over time. also use methane from anaerobic digestion of food and agricultural waste as well as carbon dioxide from energy facilities and direct air capture, the companies said.

Long Ridge and certain of its subsidiaries entered into certain agreements with Newlight, which will see Long Ridge lease land and sell power and gas to Newlight. In addition, a subsidiary of FTAI has agreed to invest 25 percent of the project costs, or up to $75 million, subject to certain conditions, to participate in the economic returns associated with the project.

The Ohio facility will be the Newlight’s second commercial-scale Aircarbon production facility. The first, Eagle 3, went on line in 2019 at Huntington Beach.

"Through Aircarbon-Ohio, our aim is to establish one of the largest carbon capture manufacturing hubs in the world, showing that we can harness greenhouse gas as a resource to help improve the environment while creating long-term jobs and economic value,” Herrema said.

Newlight’s Aircarbon is produced through the fermentation of air and greenhouse gas by naturally-occurring microorganisms. The PHB they produce is a muscle-like material which is used by these microorganisms for energy storage.  PHB is made in most living organisms, from marine microorganisms to the roots of plants and the human body. Newlight is the first company to directly transform greenhouse gases into PHB at commercial scale. 

AirCarbon competes on performance with various grades of polypropylene, the second largest-volume plastic in the world. With a variety of potential industries to serve, Newlight's initial focus is on addressing ocean plastic pollution by displacing conventional plastic in the foodware market, starting with straws, cutlery, and coated paper products. In addition to foodservice items, Newlight is currently also exploring applications in both the automotive and fashion industries.

Publication date: 15/07/2022

Plastics News - automotive


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.