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SK Inc. leads investment in Monolith Materials to accelerate U.S. green hydrogen expansion

| By Mary Bailey

SK Inc. (Seoul, South Korea) announced that it is the lead investor in the latest round of funding for Monolith Materials (Lincoln, Neb.), a U.S.-based leader in green hydrogen technologies. The investment will support expansion of Monolith’s green hydrogen production facility in Nebraska and further SK’s strategy to make carbon-neutral energy accessible to global markets as part of a commitment to Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) management practices.

In addition to the investment, SK Inc. will collaborate with Monolith Materials on future expansion into global markets. Monolith Materials is the first U.S. manufacturer to produce an industry-transforming hydrogen known as “green hydrogen” on a commercial scale using its proprietary methane pyrolysis process. Through this process, Monolith manufactures clean, economically sustainable hydrogen using 100% renewable energy. Monolith’s hydrogen is classified as green hydrogen, which is the cleanest hydrogen available today. Monolith also counts Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a major investor.

Monolith Materials

Olive Creek 1 in Hallam, Nebraska, is Monolith Materials’ first commercial-scale emissions-free production facility for making carbon black along with clean hydrogen. SK Inc. led a consortium of investors in Monolith as part of SK’s strategy to back green energy (Source: SK, Inc.)

“Monolith Materials’ proprietary green hydrogen production process supports SK’s initiative to lead the global transition to a hydrogen economy and make meaningful progress toward a more sustainable energy system,” said Moo-hwan Kim, executive vice president of SK Inc. “SK recognizes the critical role hydrogen plays in alternative energy sources, and we are encouraged by Monolith’s technology that advances clean hydrogen production.”

SK Inc. led a consortium of investors that also included NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, a leading clean energy company headquartered in Juno Beach, Fla., and Perry Creek Capital. This round also included additional investment from current Monolith funders Azimuth Capital Management, Cornell Capital and Warburg Pincus.

“When evaluating potential investors, it was critical that we work alongside organizations that share Monolith Materials’ vision for a decarbonized world that includes green hydrogen,” said Rob Hanson, co-founder and CEO of Monolith Materials. “SK and NextEra Energy Resources are global clean energy leaders that share our enthusiasm about the promise of green hydrogen, and we are honored to have them by our side in our pursuit of a clean energy future.”

Monolith Materials, which was founded in 2012, developed a process technology that uses renewable energy to convert natural gas into clean hydrogen and a solid carbon material called carbon black, a critical raw material in the automotive and industrial sectors. The company is currently in the operating stage of its first commercial-scale production facility in Hallam, Nebraska. Along with producing green hydrogen, the company recently announced its plans to produce clean ammonia at a second phase production facility nearby.

When its expansion is complete, expected to occur in 2024, Monolith Materials’ production of green hydrogen, clean ammonia and carbon black is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 1 million metric tons per year compared to traditional manufacturing processes.

For SK, hydrogen has become a key part of its overall green energy growth strategy. SK Inc. is pursuing various strategies to foster hydrogen businesses, such as diversifying hydrogen production methods, expanding demand development and forming global partnerships. SK Inc. aims to secure clean hydrogen leadership and accelerate the global hydrogen ecosystem.

SK Inc. established a “Hydrogen Business Development Center,” a group-level hydrogen business, at the end of last year and proposed a goal of establishing a value-chain from hydrogen production, distribution and consumption by 2025. SK plans to produce a total of 280,000 tons of hydrogen, including about 30,000 tons of liquefied hydrogen from 2023, and 250,000 tons of eco-friendly clean hydrogen from 2025.

In addition, SK Inc. invested about $1.6 billion with SK E&S in January in Latham, N.Y.,-based Plug Power, a leading provider of hydrogen fuel cell and fueling solutions, and is specifying its partnership to jointly enter the Asian hydrogen market.

The Monolith investment also reinforces SK’s commitment to expanding its U.S. businesses. In 2019, SK Group Chairman Tae-won Chey committed to investing $10 billion to create new jobs and opportunities for communities across the U.S. SK companies have more than 2,000 employees at sites in 10 states with plans that could more than triple its U.S. employee base in the next three years.