Sakowin (€8M to develop microwave plasma pyrolysis of natural gas for on site clean hydrogen production)

Sakowin (also known as Sakowin Green Energy), a French cleantech startup founded in 2017, develops plasma pyrolysis technology that converts natural gas to clean hydrogen and solid carbon with zero CO₂ emission. The company offers compact, modular, and scalable systems that can be integrated into existing industrial and gas infrastructures for on-site and on-demand hydrogen production.

Challenges: hydrogen fuel

The majority of the world’s hydrogen (over 60 million tons) is currently produced via steam methane reforming (SMR) process, which requires a significant amount of energy input and emits a substantial amount of CO₂. The SMR process emits between 5 and 9 tons of CO₂ per ton of hydrogen (H₂) produced.

In addition, hydrogen produced in centralized industrial plants must travel a great distance to reach its users. Hydrogen transportation involves either pressurizing the hydrogen gas above 300 pounds per square inch gage (psig) or cryogenically cooling the hydrogen gas to -253 ºC to create liquid hydrogen. The International Energy Agency estimates that the costs of hydrogen transportation could be three times that of its production.

Sakowin Technology

Sakowin develops an on-site hydrogen gas production system based on the microwave plasma technology that converts methane into cost-competitive hydrogen gas and solid carbon without emitting CO₂. The system produces hydrogen while consuming five times less electricity than an electrolyzer. The hydrogen produced on-site  can be supplied directly to fuel cell vehicles, combustion engines, and energy conversion devices.

Sakowin hydrogen

The diagram below depicts the system of microwave plasma pyrolysis of methane. 

Sakowin's system of microwave plasma pyrolysis of methane
Sakowin’s system of microwave plasma pyrolysis of methane (ref. WO2022200694A1).

The system consists primarily of natural gas (methane) feedstock, a reactor, a separation and filtration device, a compressor, a hydrogen storage tank, and a control module. The reactor consists of multiple generators that provide microwave radiation to the microwave antennas via microwave guide, a funnel-shaped reaction chamber containing feedstock gas nozzles and multiple microwave antennas, and a pipe coupled to the reaction chamber in order to cool the reaction products (hydrogen gas and carbon).

The multiple microwave generators generate microwaves to create plasma at each microwave antenna. The microwaves can have a power between 1 kW and 500 kW and a frequency between 400 MHz and 6 GHz (such as 2.45 GHz). To reduce electromagnetic interference between two adjacent microwave antennas, the microwave antennas are arranged as shown below.

The arrangement of microwave antennas in the reaction chamber of Sakowin's reactor
The arrangement of microwave antennas in the reaction chamber of Sakowin’s reactor (ref. WO2022200694A1).

By using multiple microwave antennas, the reactor has expanded plasma area compared to the conventional reactor using a resonant microwave cavity. Consequently, the reactor can produce more hydrogen gas.

The natural gas feedstock enters the funnel-shaped reaction chamber via high pressure nozzles. The arrangement of the nozzles creates a vortex of natural gas flow that flows around the microwave antennas. The plasmas are ignited by the ignition device once the required microwave power is attained. After the plasma’s priming phase, the natural gas flow in the vortex coupled with the microwave radiation emitted by the antennas produces stable plasmas around the antennas. The natural gas undergoes pyrolysis reaction:

CH₄(gas) → C(solid) + 2H₂(gas)

The products exit through the funnel-shaped reaction chamber’s nozzle and enter a pipe that extends from the upper part of the reaction chamber and completely surrounds the reaction chamber’s nozzle. The pipe has a cooling chamber that cools the products to enhance the carbon’s solidification.

The internal surface of the cooling chamber is covered with a multitude of fins to improve heat transfer with the reaction products that come into contact with the fins. In addition, the outer wall of the cooling chamber has a fluid circulation device, which further improves the heat transfer.

The cooled products enter a separation and filtration device that has at least one vortex separator. The cooled solid carbon thus deposited on the separator’s inner surface is collected. The separation and filtration device’s filtration system purifies the separated hydrogen. The purified hydrogen can be used in a fuel cell, combustion engine, heating system, or gas turbine.

The production of hydrogen gas can be regulated by a control module. When the filling level of the hydrogen storage tank exceeds a threshold level, the control module sends a control instruction to the ignition device, to the microwave generators, and the valve to stop or slow down the production of hydrogen. When the filling level of the hydrogen storage tank falls below a threshold level, the control module sends a control instruction to these devices to increase the production of hydrogen.

Sakowin Patent

  • WO2022200694A1 Decarbonised dihydrogen production unit
  • WO2022096817A1 Carbon-free dihydrogen production and delivery unit; method for operating said unit
  • WO2022129736A1 Energy production device comprising a dihydrogen production unit; method using this device

Sakowin Technology Applications

Decarbonization of industry

Sakowin’s technology can play a crucial role in the decarbonization of various industries. For instance, Sakowin has partnered with the Swiss Association for the Decarbonization of Industry to provide a cost-competitive, on-demand decarbonized hydrogen production demonstrator.

Industrial processes

Sakowin’s technology can be used in various industrial processes that require hydrogen. Hydrogen is a key raw material in the production of a wide range of products, including ammonia and methanol. Sakowin’s technology can provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly source of hydrogen for these applications.

Mobility

Hydrogen produced by Sakowin’s technology can be used in fuel cell vehicles, which use hydrogen to produce electricity that powers the vehicle. This can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Solid carbon usage

The solid carbon co-produced in the process has potential use in industrial and environmental applications, such as construction materials and agriculture. This not only provides an additional revenue stream but also contributes to carbon sequestration, further enhancing the environmental benefits of the technology.

Production of green electricity and heating of buildings

The hydrogen produced by Sakowin’s technology can be used to generate green electricity and for heating buildings, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector.

Sakowin Products

Sakowin aims for an industrial pilot of microwave plasma pyrolysis of natural gas by 2024 and commercialization of the technology by 2025. Sakowin develops a 6-kW prototype.

Sakowin Funding

Sakowin has raised a total of €7.5M in funding over 3 rounds:

Their latest funding was raised on Aug 24, 2023 from a Convertible Note round.

The funding types of Sakowin.
The funding types of Sakowin.
The cumulative raised funding of Sakowin.
The cumulative raised funding of Sakowin.

Sakowin Investors

Sakowin is funded by 5 investors:

The funding rounds by investors of Sakowin by 2023
The funding rounds by investors of Sakowin.

Sakowin Founder

Gerard Gatt is Founder.

Sakowin CEO

Gerard Gatt is CEO.

Sakowin Board Member and Advisor

Giovanni Trimboli is a board member.

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