major moves

Houston-based clean energy tech company reaches commercialization with latest partnership

A new partnership for Houston-based Syzygy will generate 1.2 million tons of clean hydrogen each year in South Korea by 2030. Image via Syzygy

Houston-area energy tech startup Syzygy Plasmonics is part of a new partnership that will develop a fully electric chemical reactor for production of clean hydrogen in South Korea.

The reactor will be installed in the second half of 2023 at Lotte Fine Chemical’s facilities in Ulsan, South Korea. Lotte Fine Chemical, Lotte Chemical, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas are Syzygy’s partners in this venture.

The Lotte Fine Chemical installation marks the first time Syzygy’s technology will be used in a commercial setting.

Using green ammonia, Lotte Fine Chemical plans to generate 1.2 million tons of clean hydrogen each year in South Korea by 2030.

The traditional thermal cracking of ammonia uses high heat and pressure to convert it to hydrogen gas. The heat required to drive this process is achieved by burning fossil fuels, meaning ammonia cracking is quite carbon-intensive. Using fully electric reactors gives hydrogen producers a way to reduce or eliminate reliance on combustion to process ammonia.

Syzygy has developed reactor technology that uses light from ultra-high-efficiency LEDs to power chemical reactions, eliminating the traditional method of producing hydrogen with heat from burning fuel.

“Simply improving existing tech isn’t enough to reach the world’s decarbonization goals. Stopping climate change will require industries to reimagine what is possible,” Syzygy co-founder and CEO Trevor Best says in a news release. “Our technology expands the accepted paradigms of chemical engineering. We have demonstrated the ability to replace heat from combustion with renewable electricity in the manufacture of foundational chemicals like hydrogen.”

Sumitomo, a Japanese conglomerate with a Houston office, first invested in Syzygy in 2019. Sumitomo executive Shinichi Hasegawa says the partnership with Syzygy and Lotte “is one of the important steps we are taking to make good on our commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and lead the decarbonization of society.”

Lotte Chemical produces raw materials for a variety of chemical products, including ethylene. Lotte Fine Chemical makes an array of chemical products. Both companies are based in Seoul, South Korea.

In May, Syzygy announced it was moving its headquarters from 9000 Kirby Dr. in Houston to Pearland. It’s leasing a 44,800-square-foot building in Pearland for its headquarters, R&D operations, and manufacturing facilities. The facility, expected to open later this year at 3250 S. Sam Houston Pkwy., will be home to about 60 employees.

Founded in 2017, Syzygy has created technology that produces clean hydrogen from various feedstocks. Syzygy’s technology is based on a field of science called photocatalysis, which uses light from LEDs driven by renewable electricity to perform chemical reactions. The technology can electrify the production of chemicals such as hydrogen, liquid fuels, and fertilizer.

In 2021, the startup — whose technology is based on Rice University research and was recently recognized as a most-promising company by investors — raised $23 million in series B funding. According to Crunchbase, Syzygy has raised a total of $30 million.

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