First-of-a-kind projects are, by definition, unproven. Despite the abundance of capital in climate tech these days, the valley of death for new technologies still exists.

But there are solutions. And this week on Catalyst, we have a case study of one of them. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has $40 billion of capacity to help solve this exact kind of problem. It just announced its first conditional commitment for a $1 billion loan guarantee to help Monolith scale up its first megaplant in Nebraska. 

Monolith uses methane pyrolysis – heating methane up to high temperatures – to split the gas into hydrogen and carbon black, which is an essential component of tires, plastics, rubber and other materials.

It’s a key indication of where the department is putting its priorities. 

We brought both sides of the negotiating table on the podcast: Rob Hanson, the CEO and co-founder of Monolith; and Jigar Shah, the Director of the Loan Programs Office. 

Jigar shares what he’s heard from lenders about why loan guarantees are important, and why commercial banks are reluctant to place bets on these first-of-a-kind plants. He also addresses misconceptions about the office’s role in the climate tech ecosystem.

Rob dives into Monolith’s decade-long process to reach this milestone, and points out key differences between venture capital and infrastructure capital. He also talks about what Monolith’s second- or third-of-a-kind climate tech plant could look like.

Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at

Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit to learn more.