Hydrogen can be cleaner than ever with 8RH2

A Q&A with 8 Rivers COO Steve Milward on how hydrogen production can now be cleaner than ever thanks to innovative thinking around the role of CO2.

Making hydrogen from natural gas is a time-tested process in the value chains of big industries. Historically, it has also been extremely carbon intensive. Traditional methods of reducing CO2 emissions during hydrogen production are expensive and still result in significant amounts of CO2 entering the atmosphere, which is why the world took note when we announced our breakthrough in hydrogen technology, 8RH2. This method utilizes a proprietary invention to reduce emissions to virtually zero while cutting costs.

In this interview, Steve Milward, our Chief Operating Officer, discusses what sets 8RH2 apart and how it will achieve commercial scale with the launch of our Cormorant facility in Texas.

How does 8RH2 work? What makes it a truly “first-of-a-kind” technology?

Most carbon capture technologies entail installing expensive and energy-intensive scrubbers (“post-combustion carbon capture”) on the back end of hydrogen facilities. These separate the CO2 from the flue gas that emerges at the end of the reforming process. At the highest levels, these systems can capture and sequester anywhere from 94% to 96% of the CO2, leaving a substantial stream still able to enter the atmosphere.

With 8RH2, by contrast, you keep the CO2 separate in the process by design. By combusting fuel with pure oxygen (oxy-combustion) instead of ambient air, you get a very pure stream of very hot CO2. This hot CO2 is utilized as the heat transfer medium in our innovative reforming technology—the CO2 Convective Reformer, or CCR. Within the CCR, natural gas is reformed into syngas, which from there goes through traditional hydrogen processing stages to produce a high purity stream of hydrogen.

The CO2 produced throughout the process is recycled in a semi-closed loop back into the oxy-combustor, increasing cycle efficiency. As new CO2 is produced, a small portion of CO2 is separated out for sequestration. This circular process that uses CO2 as a key component of the cycle not only saves energy—and therefore cost—but also results in a higher rate of carbon capture, as high as 99.99%.


We just announced 8RH2 in the middle of last year. When and where are we going to see it play a role in the emerging hydrogen economy?

The Cormorant Clean Energy facility in Port Arthur, Texas, will be the first facility to produce ultra-low-carbon ammonia from hydrogen made from the 8RH2 process. The fact that we’re going directly to a commercial-scale project without doing a pilot first is significant and a major vote of confidence in our capabilities by our investors and shareholders. Much of the credit goes to our fantastic hydrogen technology team that is working directly with our partners Casale, who have a hundred-year history in this space and provides warranties for our CCRs. Deploying at this scale simply wouldn’t be possible without a great team and great partners.


Where is Cormorant now in the development process? When will it deliver its first shipments of low-carbon ammonia?

The Cormorant site is secured. This includes not just the parcel of land for the factory, but access to the port and guarantees for the vessels that will transport the ammonia. We’ve signed an agreement with a developer to provide ammonia storage and a pipeline to the port. We’ve filed an application for electricity with the relevant utility.

Alongside this, we’re working on all the necessary permits and getting community buy-in. We’ve even started the front-end engineering design process with a partner who should be providing a quote for construction by October of this year. 

If all goes well, this should set us up to make a final investment decision by the first quarter of 2025, and be up and running and producing ammonia by the end of 2027. We ultimately aim to deliver 880,000 tons of ammonia annually, which would rank Cormorant among the largest ammonia facilities operating in the US today.


Who will be the main buyers of this ammonia?

The chief prospects at the moment are in Asia, in countries such as South Korea and Japan, which are planning on procuring low-carbon ammonia in bulk for municipal electricity generation and use in heavy industry. We do not see this as a typical use case, but these two countries in particular are quite limited in their decarbonization options and have urgent net-zero targets they need to meet.

Generally speaking, clean hydrogen will play a major role in decarbonizing industries like steel, chemicals, and marine shipping. The fertilizer industry, which today uses huge quantities of ammonia as a feedstock, will likely eventually become a major buyer of the ultra-low-carbon variety. However, agriculture is a fairly price-sensitive industry and faces less immediate pressure to decarbonize than other sectors.