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NPPD Sheldon Station

Monolith Materials plans to build a carbon black manufacturing plant next to Nebraska Public Power District's Sheldon Station one mile north of Hallam.

A California-based industrial technology company announced Wednesday that it will make Lincoln its manufacturing headquarters.

Monolith Materials, which has its corporate headquarters in the San Francisco Bay area, said it plans to hire 50 people locally, including engineers, project managers, plant operators and materials handlers, over the next 18 months.

The announcement coincides with Monolith's partnership with Nebraska Public Power District to build a $50 million plant next door to Sheldon Station near Hallam that will produce carbon black, a fine, flour-like powder used in tires, plastic, inks and cellphones.

That collaboration was announced last year, and Monolith will break ground on the plant later this month. As part of the partnership, NPPD is converting one of its coal-fired burners at the plant to burn hydrogen.

Monolith plans to use electricity to extract the carbon from natural gas. Byproducts of the process are hydrogen and water, and Monolith will sell the hydrogen produced to NPPD as fuel.

Monolith is a startup company that says it has developed a first-of-its kind technology to manufacture carbon black from natural gas. Most carbon black manufactured today uses oil as a feed stock.

Rob Hanson, one of the founders of the company and its chief commercial officer, said the first phase of the plant is expected to be completed by early or mid 2018. Monolith hopes to have a second phase operating by early 2020 and as part of the second phase would hire an additional 50-100 employees.

The company said the project has the potential to eventually bring 600 jobs to the area.

Hanson said Monolith originally just planned to build the plant near Hallam but after spending time working on development of it realized that by basing its manufacturing offices here, it could take advantage of an educated workforce with a great work ethic.

Monolith currently is operating out of temporary office space at 80th and O streets, but Hanson said it is negotiating a lease for space in a downtown building that it should be able to move into by Nov. 1.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler called Monolith a "great, great business for Lincoln" and said that while the jobs and investment the company is bringing are important, the project also will have an important environmental impact.

Sheldon Station is Lancaster County's largest source of air pollution, and the conversion of one of its boiler units from coal to hydrogen will greatly reduce emissions, Beutler said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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