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Air Liquide and ENEOS partner on low-carbon hydrogen in Japan

The companies will focus on developing upstream and downstream hydrogen applications in Japan.

Air Liquide and ENEOS Corporation have signed an MoU to collaborate on accelerating the development of low-carbon hydrogen in Japan and contribute to the energy transition, according to a news release.

The partnership intends to capitalize on ENEOS’ strong energy infrastructure and market presence in Japan as well as on Air Liquide’s more than 60 years of expertise across the entire hydrogen value chain – from production, liquefaction, transport, storage and distribution to usages – as well as mastery of carbon capture, utilization and storage.

Upstream, the partners will study the development of low-carbon hydrogen production, using both CCUS and electrolysis technologies. Furthermore, they will examine possible collaboration in the development of an international liquid hydrogen supply chain to serve the Japanese market from abroad. Downstream, the partnership will envisage joint initiatives to develop hydrogen mobility in Japan, including through a hydrogen refueling station infrastructure. In addition, Air Liquide and ENEOS will explore a collaboration in innovation along the hydrogen supply chain.

“ENEOS is currently considering MCH as our main hydrogen carrier, but through this MOU, we also pursue the exploration of liquefied hydrogen in the future to contribute to the formation of a decarbonized society,” Tomohide Miyata Representative Director, Executive Vice President, ENEOS, said in the release.

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Heliogen appoints new CEO

Heliogen CFO Christie Obiaya will take over as CEO after Bill Gross was removed.

Heliogen, Inc., a provider of AI-enabled concentrating solar energy technology, yesterday announced that its board of directors has appointed Christie Obiaya as chief executive officer and added Obiaya to the board of directors, effective immediately.

Obiaya, head of Heliogen’s executive committee and formerly its chief financial officer, replaces Bill Gross, who was removed as CEO and has resigned from the board of directors, according to a news release.

The company, which trades on the NYSE, has been working to advance a hydrogen project in Lancaster, California, and another in Arizona.

“As Heliogen moves forward on commercial projects, Christie brings almost two decades of operational and financial experience, with degrees and a working background in both business and engineering,” said Robert Kavner, Heliogen’s lead independent director. “Having served as chief financial officer of Heliogen and chair of the executive committee, she is intimately familiar with our innovative renewable energy technology, our customers, and the priorities to drive our future success. This knowledge, together with her experience growing and managing energy and infrastructure development and sustainable technologies, make her the right person to take on these additional responsibilities. Christie, together with the rest of Heliogen’s management team, will focus on and advance the company’s strategic plan.”

Obiaya joined Heliogen in March 2021 as CFO and has worked closely with the company’s management team on commercializing its solar energy and thermal storage systems technology. Prior to joining Heliogen, Obiaya served as the head of strategy and chief financial officer for Bechtel Energy’s multi-billion-dollar, global energy business unit from 2017 to 2021. She also held various leadership roles at Bechtel in finance, strategy, project development, investment, and execution from 2010 to 2017. Prior to Bechtel, Obiaya worked on renewable energy projects in Kenya and India from 2008 to 2009.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the company as we bring Heliogen’s renewable energy technology to customers looking to decarbonize their operations,” said Obiaya. “I look forward to bringing together Heliogen’s exceptional talent with our industry partners, and to delivering with excellence for our customers, employees, and stockholders.”

As part of the leadership transition, Kelly Rosser has been appointed interim CFO. Rosser has served as Heliogen’s chief accounting officer since August 2022.

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Fitch lays out credit considerations for green hydrogen financing

Key operating metrics include the efficiency and rate of hydrogen production, plant availability, the ability to respond to intermittent power, and hydrogen purity levels.

Fitch Ratings has set out specific credit-risk considerations relevant to green hydrogen projects in a new report.

Fitch considers the credit risks of such projects to have the closest parallels to those of thermal power assets, and to generally be at least equal to – but potentially greater than – thermal power risks. Future technology and process developments will be evaluated and incorporated in ratings as the industry matures.

Whilst there are two key proven electrolyser technologies for producing hydrogen from renewable energy and water, the green hydrogen market is still nascent, meaning that precedents for project-financed transactions are very limited.

Green hydrogen projects have a greater range of balance of plant than solar, wind or thermal power projects. Complexity, and consequently integration risk, will therefore have a key influence on the completion risk assessment in any rating.

The availability of alternative replacement contractors to complete a project will be key for whether it can be rated above the incumbent contractor.The immaturity of the market will heighten the weight given to independent experts’ (IE) views in relation to such replaceability. We also generally expect high dependence on project parties, such as original equipment manufacturers, who will be key in O&M activities due to their expertise and equipment warranties.

The limited number of peer green hydrogen projects also means Fitch will be more reliant on the IE’s views of the reasonableness of a project’s budgeted or contracted operating costs. Any perceived lack of credibility, competence and experience of the project parties could be factored into the financial profile assessed in our ratings.

Key operating metrics include the efficiency, and rate, of hydrogen production, the plant availability, the ability to respond to intermittent power, and, where this is critical, the hydrogen purity levels.

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Hystar to establish North American electrolyzer production

The Norway-based electrolyzer maker will begin hiring for North American headquarters, with plans to establish a multi-GW facility by 2027.

Norwegian electrolyzer maker Hystar is planning to expand into North America, establishing a headquarters next year and a multi-GW factory by 2027, according to a news release.

As part of its expansion, Hystar will soon initiate the hiring process for its new North American headquarters. Additionally, the company is in discussions with key stakeholders in both the United States and Canada to establish its first GW factory on the continent, where Hystar expects its commercial operations may exceed its European plans within the decade. The company has not ruled out the possibility of investing in further GW factories before 2030.

Hystar said in the same release it will deliver a fully automated 4 GW electrolyser factory in Høvik, Norway (just west of Oslo) by 2025, with construction commencing in early 2024.

The company earlier this year raised $26m in a Series B funding round co-led by AP Ventures and Mitsubishi Corporation. Additional investors in the round included Finindus, Nippon Steel Trading, Hillhouse Investment and Trustbridge Partners, alongside existing investors SINTEF Ventures and Firda.

Commenting on their expansion plans, Fredrik Mowill, CEO of Hystar, said: “Our Høvik GW factory demonstrates our commitment to rapidly expanding our European operations and meeting the strong demand for our technology across Europe. As we continue to scale up our operations, we are now looking at opportunities beyond Europe – the North American market has created a highly favourable environment for companies like ours to thrive in. We are looking forward to identifying the ideal North American location for Hystar.

Hystar has already commenced production of its electrolyzer stacks for its upcoming PEM electrolyzer deliveries using its existing facilities, which have a production capacity of 50 MW annually.  As such, Hystar’s ramp-up to a GW factory marks a significant expansion to meet the surging demand for its breakthrough technology. The supplier for the Høvik GW automated production line will be selected later this year, and the factory’s production line will be fully operational by 2026.

Upcoming deliveries from Hystar include a 1 MW electrolyzer in Q4 2023 for Norwegian companies Equinor, Yara Clean Ammonia, and Gassco, for the HyPilot field project in Kårstø, Norway. This will be followed by a 5 MW electrolyzer for Poland’s largest private energy company, Polenergia, in Q3 2024 for their H2HubNS project in Nowa Sarzyna, Poland.

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California biomass-to-hydrogen firm in Series A

A woody biomass-to-hydrogen firm in California is conducting an in-house Series A for engineering and design on its first project, one that will need more than $800m of debt and equity in the future.

Mote Inc. is aiming to finish a Series A round, raising between $12m and $15m, by the end of the year, CEO Joshuah Stolaroff said in an interview.

The company does not have a relationship with a financial advisor and has been conducting the raise in-house, he said. Moving forward the company will need a financial advisor.

The Series A will provide some 18 months of technology development runway, plus engineering and design on the first project in Bakersfield, Kern County. That will require some $800m in debt and project equity to start in the next year.

A second project in Sacramento is in the pre-Feed stage. That development is the subject of a recently secured grant from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

“We need big partners to do it on any meaningful scale,” Stolaroff said of biomass-to-hydrogen. Investors tend to be technology VCs with little or no knowledge of project finance, and infra funds looking for no-risk projects. “We fall somewhere in between.”

Part of the Arches H2 hub in California, Mote has ambitions to expand to other areas of the US with good biomass supply and CO2 storage, like the southeast and Gulf Coast, Stolaroff said. The company would also like to expand internationally.

“We are a great deal right now,” he said of the Series A,” adding that a Series B or project equity round will follow shortly.

Majority equity is held by the company’s six employees, Stolaroff said. There are also seed investors that hold equity.

Abundant feedstock and a growing offtake market

Mote’s three primary feedstocks are agricultural and forestry reside and urban green waste. California produces some 45m tons of it per year and the number nationwide is about half-a-billion, Stolaroff said.

Mote is confident for demand from hydrogen customers, Stoaroff said. Transportation is expected to be a strong demand source by the time Mote is operational. The Arches hub also has connections with municipal users, filling stations and the ports of LA and Long Beach.

“We are all planning for growth,” he said.

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Exclusive: Seattle biomass-to-chemical firm planning equity round

A firm with plans for a biorefinery in Washington state will raise its first large equity round early next year.

Planted Materials, a Seattle-based biomass-to-chemicals company, is in early design stages for its first biorefinery in eastern Washington state and planning to raise an equity round in early 2025, co-founders Noah Belkhous and Greg Jenson said in an interview.

The company will seek to raise between $10m and $20m ahead of FID on the biorefinery, Belkhous said. The four-year-old company has raised $500k from angel investors to date and is currently raising another $1m from high net worth individuals in the Seattle region.

Planted Materials does not have a relationship with a financial advisor but is open to one, Belkhous said.

The company’s recycling model takes municipal landfill waste and converts it to chemical materials for pharmaceutical, paper, plastic and other manufacturing industries.

The proprietary recycling process is something the company would like to license to municipalities in the US and abroad, in addition to building biorefineries in the Pacific Northwest, Belkhous said. The company’s lab is currently based in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Early design work on the first biorefinery is underway. The duo expects CapEx to cap at $50m, reaching FID in 2026 and beginning construction that year.

While the majority of the company’s feedstock will likely come from the major metropolitan regions in the western PNW, refining capacity is more attractive in the east for reasons of space and existing waste management infrastructure. Jenson noted the presence of the relevant research campus of Washington State University in Pullman, as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Recently, the team accompanied Washington Governor Jay Inslee and members of the Washington State Department of Commerce on a trip to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. The company has applied to a pair of $350k grants from the state.
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Exclusive: Hydrogen blank-check deal and capital raise on track

A de-SPAC deal and associated capital raise for a hydrogen technology and project development firm are still on track to close this year, despite this year’s busted SPAC deals and sagging hydrogen public market performance.

H2B2 Technologies is still on track to close a de-SPAC deal and related capital raise before the end of this year, CEO Pedro Pajares said in an interview.

Spain-based H2B2 announced the deal to be acquired by RMG Acquisition Corp. III and go public in a $750m SPAC deal in May. In tandem, Natixis Partners and BCW Securities are acting as co-private placement agents to H2B2 for a capital raise that the company must close as part of the acquisition.

The company said recently in filings that the deal as well as the capital raise would close before the end of 2023, a fact that Pajares reiterated in the interview. He declined to comment further.

Many publicly traded hydrogen companies have dropped significantly in value in recent months, and dropped further on Friday following news from Plug Power that it would need to raise additional capital in the next 12 months to avoid a liquidity crisis.

Meanwhile, there have been 55 busted SPAC deals this year, according to Bloomberg, with Ares Management’s deal for nuclear tech firm X-Energy the latest to not close.

Expansion

H2BE recently inaugurated SoHyCal, its first facility in Fresno, California, and wants to get the message out to offtakers in California’s Central Valley that it has hydrogen available to sell.

“What we want to show is that H2B2 is the solution for those who are seeking green hydrogen in the Central Valley,” Pajares said.

Phase 1 (one ton per day) of the plant was funded by a grant from the California Clean Energy Commission. Phase 2 (three tons per day) will involve transitioning to solar PV power, and the company could consider a project finance model to finance the expansion, though Pajares believes the market is not yet ready to finance hydrogen projects.

In addition to project development, the company is also an electrolyzer manufacturer. It is focusing its efforts in the California market on future projects that are larger than SoHyCal, as well as those related to individual offtakers, Pajares said. End users will be in mobility and fertilizer, with offtake occurring via long-term contracts as well as through spot market transactions.

The company is pursuing developments in other regions of the US as well, he added, declining to name specific areas.

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