Bill Gates Fills a Pothole with Emissions-Free Asphalt

The billionaire philanthropist, investor and co-founder of Microsoft was in unfamiliar territory recently pushing a wheelbarrow filled with asphalt.

Bill Gates announced on social media that he had “filled a pothole,” and at the same time, “reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

It was part of Gates’ visit to Washington-based startup company Modern Hydrogen, of which Gates is an investor, to show off its “carbon-sequester asphalt.”

Modern Hydrogen has developed a system to remove carbon from natural gas at the meter for commercial and industrial operations, before it is burned and produces carbon-dioxide that enters the air. After removing the carbon, clean hydrogen is left to be burned for fuel. The process creates solid carbon and water vapor as byproducts. The solid “carbon black” byproduct can be used as binder in hot-mix asphalt, cold patch and asphalt sealers, the company says.

The carbon-captured asphalt has been used for sealing an asphalt parking lot in Portland, Oregon, and for paving a driveway with hot-mix asphalt in Seattle (see the video at the end of this story). The product has also been used in private parking lots and driveways in California, New Mexico, Florida and in Alberta, Canada, the company says.

Road Recyclers, an Austin, Texas-based designer of asphalt binders for the road recycling industry, has been testing Modern Hydrogen asphalt in a six-month pilot project in Bexar County, home to San Antonio. The county has become the first in the U.S. to use the carbon-capture product on public roads, the company says.

“With an innovative process that removes carbon from natural gas to get emissions-free hydrogen, Modern Hydrogen is decarbonizing the energy market,” Gates says in his social media post, with accompanying video. “And by sequestering that carbon in asphalt used to build roads (and repair potholes), the company is decarbonizing the building materials market, too. I’m proud to have been an early investor in Modern Hydrogen, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Check out this video below of a driveway in Seattle being paved with hot-mix asphalt made with Modern Hydrogen’s captured carbon: