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Transform Materials and Denka announce agreement for low-carbon acetylene supply

| By Mary Bailey

Industrial electrification is driving major value creation opportunities for industrial companies across the value chain. Transform Materials, a sustainable chemical company that uses microwave plasma technology to convert hydrocarbons and natural gas into acetylene and hydrogen, has made significant progress in its mission to establish itself as a key enabler of industrial electrification — specifically for battery energy storage systems.

Acetylene black is a key component of lithium-ion batteries, demand for which has skyrocketed with the emergence of EVs (and EV mobility in general) and energy storage for solar PV panels. In fact, acetylene black is so essential to produce lithium-ion batteries that the Japanese government has deemed it crucial to ensure a reliable domestic supply of the gas.

To that end, in August of this year, Transform Materials’ customer Denka, a large Japanese chemical manufacturer , announced that a Japanese government agency, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, will grant Denka a subsidy of up to 3.3 billion yen to accelerate the development of mass-production technology for low-carbon acetylene.

This move underscores the strategic importance of Denka’s agreement with Transform Materials to install acetylene and hydrogen production facilities based on Transform’s plasma technology at its Omuta, Fukuoka Plant (Omuta City, Fukuoka Prefecture).

Acetylene is a diverse compound that can be used in a broad range of applications. It can be used as a chemical feedstock for polymer and carbon-based applications, and for specialty carbon solids. One such specialty carbon solid is acetylene black, which requires a pure form of acetylene as an input.

“Acetylene black is an essential component of lithium-ion batteries, and battery producers are looking for sources of low-carbon acetylene to boost production,” said Kenn Flessner, CEO at Transform Materials. “Transform Materials offers the only solution for emission-free acetylene production. Our process changes the carbon equation by fully utilizing the carbon in hydrocarbon streams, and ensuring no carbon is released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. This enables the lowest possible carbon intensity acetylene black in the industry.”

Until now, Denka has relied on calcium carbide to produce acetylene, and over the past 100 years has successfully optimized the carbide chain for acetylene production (such as acetylene black), achieving lowest-possible carbon intensity when using coal-based feedstocks. By using Transform’s plasma technology, Denka can obtain acetylene with even lower carbon intensity.

“Transform has helped us understand how microwave plasma technology makes it possible to produce acetylene gas with large volumes of hydrogen. The project with Transform Materials is one of the most significant transformations in our company history since we started our business,” said Toshio Imai, CEO of Denka. “We are always trying to change the world and society for the better by utilizing advances in chemistry. Transform Materials’ technology is attractive to achieve a reduction of CO2 and fits our process — which is why we chose Transform Materials,” he added.