Frequently Asked Questions
What problem is OCOchem trying to solve?
OCOchem is trying to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, cut pollution, lower land-use intensity, and build a more economically and environmentally sustainable world.
How will OCOchem solve this problem?
The key to reducing CO2 emissions is CO2 conversion. Just like what plants and trees do (but not how they do it), OCOchem uses CO2 and water as raw materials to make specific organic molecules useful in a wide variety of chemicals, fuels, and materials applications.
OCOchem’s technology will principally help customers replace their use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels to store and generate power, deliver green hydrogen in a safer and lower-cost way, and make a wide variety of derivative chemicals used in almost all the products we consume. This also helps the public by reducing the addition of new CO2 into the atmosphere and cutting fossil fuel-based pollutants that result from combustion.
How does OCOchem’s technology work?
OCOchem’s technology converts captured, recycled CO2, and combines it with water and clean electricity to make formic acid using a device it developed called the Carbon Flux Electrolyzer. Formic acid is a safe and stable energy dense liquid that can then be used by various industries to make products or store energy.
In this form, CO2 can be used to decarbonize manufacturing, transportation, and agricultural industries by replacing the use of non-sustainable carbon-emitting fossil fuels with sustainable alternative feedstocks with identical chemical compositions but made instead from CO2 and water. Recycling and using carbon captured from the air and surface of the planet, rather than extracting it from the ground in the form of fossil fuels, means the process is carbon neutral and helps create a circular sustainable economy and environment, reducing net CO2 emissions.
What is formic acid?
Formic acid is the chemical name for a naturally occurring molecule made in nature by some plants and ants that use it as a bactericide to preserve their food supply. Most formic made industrially, however, is made from fossil-sourced methane and is one of the most carbon-intensive chemical processes used today. While conventionally made formic acid comes from fossil methane gas, OCOchem makes it from recycled CO2 and water. It is also an emergent liquid hydrogen carrier compound that can be used to store hydrogen in a stable energy-dense liquid form at room temperature and pressure, which can be decomposed to release green hydrogen (see below) when needed. Formic acid is increasingly being used in European countries as a liquid hydrogen carrier
that replaces diesel fuel for portable power generation, battery fast-charging, and powertrains for construction and material handling equipment.
Who are OCOchem’s current customers and partners?
- The U.S. Army has contracted with OCOchem to advance OCOchem’s technology to produce potassium formate to use as a chlorine-free deicer to melt show and ice in a way that helps protect U.S. Army equipment from the corrosion damage caused by the chlorides in traditional rock or road salt deicers.
- Tacoma Power has partnered with OCOchem to demonstrate how OCOchem’s green formic acid can replace fossil fuel in power generator systems used to power Port of Tacoma refrigerated cargo containers that keep Washington fruit cool while awaiting transport.
- The U.S. Department of Energy and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have partnered with OCOchem to scale and demonstrate OCOchem’s technology as a way to transport and generate on-demand green hydrogen more safely and affordably, avoiding costly compressed gaseous hydrogen.
- OCOchem has partnered with CO2 direct air capture company AirCapture to use waste heat from a Nutrien fertilizer plant to directly capture CO2 from the air and then convert it to formic acid for use by local farmers and ranchers as a silage preservative.
Who are potential future customers?
OCOchem’s technology will help a wide variety of customers that want to purchase cleaner and safer products at the same or lower price. While OCOchem’s products are made from CO2, most don’t cost more to make than fossil fuel-based products since the cost of OCOchem’s feedstocks (CO2 and water) are much less expensive than fossil fuels.
What is green hydrogen and how is it different from non-green hydrogen? Green hydrogen is produced from the hydrogen available in water by using renewable electricity in a process called electrolysis in a device called an electrolyzer. It is called green because no CO2 is emitted during the production process, the hydrogen made comes from water, and the electricity used is renewable. By comparison, gray, black and brown hydrogen are produced from fossil fuels.
How is OCOchem’s approach to making hydrogen different?
Typically, green hydrogen is made in an electrolyzer in the form of gaseous molecular hydrogen (H2), which is highly flammable and needs to be highly pressurized and cooled to be stored or transported. In contrast, OCOchem chemically bonds the hydrogen in what’s called a liquid hydrogen carrier form. OCOchem’s process uses a CO2 electrolyzer that creates green hydrogen (H+) from water and then quickly bonds the hydrogen to CO2 to make formic acid. In this form, hydrogen has both been made and bonded in one step into a ready-to-distribute liquid form without needing to be pressurized or cooled. Moving a room-temperature and energy-dense liquid is a lot easier, safer, and less expensive than moving a less energy-dense pressurized flammable gas.
How can communities benefit from OCOchem technology?
Companies, organizations, and governments that use OCOchem’s technology will be able to buy chemicals, fuels and materials made from captured, recycled CO2 and therefore reduce CO2 emissions in their communities.
Where is OCOchem located, when was it founded, and who leads the company?
OCOchem opened its R&D laboratory in 2020 and is headquartered in Richland, Wash. The company is led by CEO and co-founder Todd Brix, a former General Manager and Partner at Microsoft who previously co-founded an industrial automation software start-up and began his career at Chevron Research and Technology as a hydro-processing design engineer in its R&D and refining operations. He holds a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Washington and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.