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Air Liquide invests EUR 140m for low-carbon gas in Quebec

The platform will supply low-carbon industrial gases including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and argon.

Air Liquide will invest EUR 140m to establish in Bécancour, Québec, a platform supplying low-carbon industrial gases including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and argon.

In addition to the Group’s 20 MW PEM electrolyzer, currently the world’s largest in operation, the infrastructure created by Air Liquide will include a new air separation unit producing renewable oxygen and nitrogen, as well as liquid storage capacity, connected by a local pipeline network to best serve its customers, according to a news release.

The Air Liquide low-carbon production platform, in line with the industrial and port zone’s drive to decarbonize, makes Bécancour a unique place for the group to produce renewable industrial gases and develop offers for customers engaged in the energy transition.

Air Liquide will build, own and operate a production and distribution infrastructure, including a new air separation unit (ASU) producing oxygen, nitrogen and argon; as well as a liquid storage capacity. The new ASU will be powered by renewable energy from hydropower sources, in line with Air Liquide’s ADVANCE plan to reduce its CO2 emissions by 33% by 2035. Adding a total oxygen production capacity of 850 tonnes per day, the new infrastructure will primarily supply customers manufacturing battery components for electric vehicles via long term contracts and should be operational in 2025.

The project will also connect its Bécancour PEM electrolyzer, enabling the recovery and valorization of renewable oxygen from the hydrogen production. Leveraging its production platform in the Bécancour port and industrial park, the Group will be able to offer a sustainable, reliable and competitive solution to its customers today and to meet additional market demand tomorrow.

As part of Québec’s development as an energy transition hub, this new investment will support growth in the electric vehicle battery sector, contributing to the decarbonization of mobility. It will initially supply battery component manufacturers, including Ecopro CAM Canada (EcoProBM + Ford + SKO), and will have the capacity to supply others in the Bécancour area as well as bulk clients in Eastern Canada.

Matthieu Giard, Chief Executive Officer of the Americas Hub, said, “Québec stands at the forefront of the energy transition, actively fostering a thriving industrial ecosystem centered on battery components, hydrogen and renewable energy. The electric vehicle battery market is a rapidly expanding frontier, giving rise to a landscape of opportunities and the emergence of ecosystems dedicated to its support and advancement. The region boasts a wealth of valuable assets, including its hydro power resources, a skilled workforce, and a dynamic innovation ecosystem. Operating in Bécancour for more than 35 years, we are delighted to be able to support the development of a growing industry with a reliable and competitive low-carbon offer.”

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EverWind Nova Scotia green hydrogen/ammonia project nets environmental approval

The Point Tupper project, spearheaded by former Stonepeak founder Trent Vichie, today received approval from the Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change released a decision (PDF) today approving the Point Tupper Green Hydrogen/Ammonia Project – Phase 1.

The Minister has approved the undertaking in accordance with Section 13(1)b of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, pursuant to Part IV of the Environment Act, according the the ministry, subject to a number of conditions (PDF).

EverWind will begin construction in early 2023 of the $1bn phase 1 of the project, consisting of a 300 MW electrolysis plant along with a 600 tonnes-per-day ammonia production facility. The project also involves construction of a liquid ammonia pipeline to a jetty for international shipping and a 230 kW substation that will bring in electricity.

The developer approached multiple vendors for electrolysis production technology but only two companies were considered for the final project design: Nel ASA and Siemens, environmental filings show.

The German groups E.ON and Uniper said in August that they aim to buy up to 500,000 tonnes per year of ammonia each from EverWind, starting in 2025, when the project is set to begin production.

In April, EverWind acquired the NuStar storage terminal in Point Tupper to advance the project.

CIBC Capital Markets and Citi are acting as EverWind’s joint financial advisors. International law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP and Canadian firm McInnes Cooper are acting as EverWind’s legal counsels.

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Plastics recycling tech provider strikes insurance partnership

New Energy Risk will provide technology performance insurance to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

New Energy Risk, a wholly owned division of Paragon Insurance Group, and Green Circle, a wholly-owned division of Lummus Technology, have forged a strategic partnership in which NER will serve as the preferred insurance supplier for Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

Upon completing a thorough due diligence process, NER is prepared to provide technology performance insurance solutions to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology. Since 2013, NER’s performance insurance has enabled the financing of over $3bn for development of new and renewable clean energy technologies and other circular economy projects.

“NER provides an extremely valuable service to project owners looking to deploy early-stage technologies at scale through project finance,” said Greg Shumake, managing director of Green Circle. “They thoroughly evaluated our advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology and are confident in its commercial viability. And as a result, it will be easier for our clients to develop bankable projects to drive a more circular economy.”

The waste plastic pyrolysis technology uses a thermochemical process for turning end-of-life plastics into a high-quality product that can be used to reduce the carbon intensity in the production of both transportation fuels and circular plastics. Green Circle is working across the sector, from Fortune 500 companies to independent project developers, to deploy technologies that close the loop of the plastic product lifecycle.

“Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology has been developed with a level of expertise and discipline that is rare,” said Brad Price, managing director of Technical Due Diligence at New Energy Risk. “We are proud to help accelerate the adoption of this technology by providing assurance to owners and investors that this technology will perform.”

Green Circle concentrates and expands Lummus Technology’s capabilities to capture new opportunities in the energy transition and circular economy. Green Circle is a leader in providing economically and technically sound solutions to: process solid wastes containing plastics; process various renewable bio-based feedstocks to value-added chemicals, polymers and fuels; decarbonize refinery and petrochemicals assets; and expand production of blue hydrogen and biofuels.

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Glenfarne’s Texas LNG moving to project finance execution phase

Glenfarne has appointed lawyers and is moving into the execution phase for financing its Texas LNG project.

Texas LNG, a four million tonnes per annum liquefied natural gas export terminal to be constructed in the Port of Brownsville, and a subsidiary of Glenfarne Energy Transition, LLC, a global energy transition leader providing critical solutions to lower the world’s carbon footprint, has received sufficient expressions of interest from leading project finance banks to move to the execution phase of project financing.

Glenfarne has also appointed Latham & Watkins as Borrower’s counsel and Milbank as Lenders’ counsel for the issuance.

These lenders have been key supporters of Glenfarne, having led over $4 billion of financing to Glenfarne’s businesses over the last 10 years, supporting the acquisition and/or construction of various energy transition focused assets, the company said in a news release. Furthermore, these banks are active in LNG, having participated in approximately $44 billion of project finance debt to the U.S. LNG sector alone over the last 24 months.

“Texas LNG’s financing consortium will be comprised of the world’s leading institutions that recognize the attributes of the project and Glenfarne’s excellent history of building energy transition infrastructure,” said Brendan Duval, CEO and Founder of Glenfarne Energy Transition.

ReSource recently interviewed Glenfarne Senior Vice President Adam Prestidge about Texas LNG as well as the company’s hydrogen plans.

Today’s news follows Texas LNG’s recent announcement that it signed a Heads of Agreement with EQT Corporation for natural gas liquefaction services for 0.5 MTPA of LNG. Texas LNG also recently announced partnerships with Baker Hughes and ABB to help develop the terminal, representing more than half a billion dollars’ worth of equipment selections for Texas LNG to date.

The first LNG exports from Texas LNG are expected to be shipped in 2028.

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Exclusive: Zero-emission locomotive start-up in Series B capital raise

A locomotive start-up focused on the US market for zero-emission freight trains is undergoing a Series B capital raise, with sights on a much larger Series C raise next year.

OptiFuel Systems, a provider of zero-emission line haul locomotives and generation solutions, is conducting a $30m Series B capital raise.

The South Carolina-based firm is seeking to finalize the Series B by the end of this year, and plans to use proceeds to advance production of its zero-emission technologies for the rail industry, which represents a massive decarbonization opportunity, CEO Scott Myers said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the firm will seek to tap the market for around $150m for a Series C next year, Myers added. The company is not working with a financial adviser. 

While the Series B will focus on bringing to production some of OptiFuel’s smaller rail offerings, such as the switcher locomotives, the Series C will be mostly dedicated to progressing testing, manufacturing, and commercialization of its larger line haul locomotive.

The company is also considering making its own investments into digesters for RNG facilities, from which it would source the gas to run its RNG-fueled locomotives. As part of its offering, OptiFuel also provides refueling infrastructure, and envisions this aspect of its business to be just as profitable as selling trains.

“We anticipate that we would be the offtaker” of RNG, “and quite potentially, the producer,” Cynthia Heinz, an OptiFuel board member, said in the interview.

A systems integrator, OptiFuel offers modular locomotives for the freight industry that can run on zero-emission technology such as renewable natural gas, batteries, and hydrogen. The company recently announced that it will begin testing of its RNG line haul locomotive, which is a 1-million-mile test program that will take two years and require 10 RNG line haul locomotives.

Image: OptiFuel

The company’s target market is the 38,000 operating freight trains in the U.S., 25,000 of which are line haul locomotives run by operators like BASF, Union Pacific, and CSX. Fleet owners will be required to phase out diesel-powered trains starting next decade following passage of in-use locomotive requirements in California, which includes financial penalties for pollution and eventual restrictions on polluting locomotives. Other states are evaluating similar measures.

“The question is not will the railroads change over: they have to,” Myers said. “The question is, how fast?”

Following completion of testing, OptiFuel aims to begin full production of the line haul locomotive – which has a price tag of $5.5m per unit – in 2028, and is aiming to produce 2,000 per year as a starting point. The smaller switcher units are priced between $1.5m and $2.5m depending on horsepower.

OptiFuel has held discussions with Cummins, one of its equipment providers, to source at least 2,000 engines per year from Cummins to support its production goal. 

“That’s a $10bn-a-year market for us,” Myers added.

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How hydrogen from nuclear power shows pitfalls of ‘additionality’

An interview with the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Director of Markets and Policy Benton Arnett.

Tax credits for low-carbon hydrogen production in the Inflation Reduction Act represent one of the climate law’s most ambitious timelines for implementation, with the provision taking effect late last year. That means low-carbon hydrogen producers can, in theory, already begin applying for tax credits of up to $3 per kilogram, depending on the emissions intensity of production.

However, IRS guidelines for clean hydrogen production have yet to be issued, and industry groups, environmentalists, and scientists are taking sides in a debate over whether the tax credits should require hydrogen made via electrolysis to be powered exclusively with new sources of zero-carbon electricity, a concept known as “additionality.”

In a February letter, a coalition of environmental groups and aspiring hydrogen producers expressed concern to the IRS that guidelines for 45V clean hydrogen production tax credit implementation would not be sufficiently rigorous, especially when it comes to grid-connected electrolyzers. Citing research from Princeton University, the group argued that grid-powered electrolyzers siphon off renewable generation capacity, requiring the grid to be backfilled by fossil power and thus producing twice the carbon emissions that natural gas-derived hydrogen emits currently.

(The group, which includes the National Resources Defense Council, Intersect Power, and EDF Renewables, among others, also argues in favor of hourly tracking, which they say would better guarantee energy used for electrolysis comes from clean sources, and deliverability, requiring renewable power to be sourced from within a reasonable geographic distance. In February, the European Commission issued a directive phasing in, over a number of years, rules for additionality, hourly tracking, and deliverability.)

Benton Arnett, director of markets and policy for the Washington, DC-based Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry trade association, does not believe the concept of additionality was part of Congress’s intent when the body crafted the Inflation Reduction Act. For one, he notes, the text of the 45V provision for clean hydrogen production includes specific prescriptions for the carbon intensity of hydrogen production as well as for the analysis of life-cycle emissions, but says nothing about additionality.

“When you get legislative text, you don’t usually have prescriptions on carbon intensities for the different levels of subsidies,” he said. “You don’t usually have specifications on what life-cycle analysis model to use – and yet all of that is included in the 45V text. Clearly [additionality] is not something that was intended by Congress.”

Reading further into the law, section 45V contains precise language allowing renewable electricity used for the production of hydrogen to also claim renewable energy tax credits, or “stacking” of tax credits. Further, the statute includes a subsection spelling out that producers of nuclear power used to make clean hydrogen can also avail themselves of the 45U tax credit for zero-emission nuclear energy production.

“It’s really hard for me to think of a scenario where the drafters of the IRA would have included a provision allowing existing nuclear assets to claim 45V production tax credits and also be thinking that additionality is something that would be applied,” Arnett said.

Text of the IRA

The NEI emphasized these provisions in a letter to Treasury and IRS officials last month, noting that, “given the ability to stack tax credits for existing sources with section 45V, the timing of when the section 45V credit was made available” – December 31, 2022 – “and congressional support for leveraging existing nuclear plants to produce hydrogen, it is clear Congress intended for existing facilities to be eligible to supply electricity for clean hydrogen production.”

Arnett adds that the debate around additionally ignores the fact that not all power generation assets are created equal. Nuclear facilities, in particular, given the regulatory and capital demands, do not fit within a model of additionality geared toward new renewable energy capacity. (Hydrogen developers have also proposed to use existing hydropower sources for projects in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast.)

This year, the NEI conducted a survey of its 19 member companies representing 80 nuclear facilities in the US. The survey found that 57% of the facilities are considering generation of carbon-free hydrogen. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy’s hydrogen hubs grant program requires that one hub produce hydrogen from nuclear sources; and the DOE has teamed up with several utilities to demonstrate hydrogen production at nuclear power plants, including Constellation’s Nine Mile Point Power Station, Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, and Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Generating Station.

“We’re worried that if [additionality] goes into effect it’s going to remove a valuable asset for producing hydrogen from the system, and it’s really going to slow down penetration of hydrogen into the market,” Arnett said.

As for the research underlying arguments in favor of additionality, Arnett says that it appears to take the 45V provision in a vacuum, without considering some of the larger changes that are taking shape in US electricity markets. For one, the research, which argues that electrolyzers would absorb renewable capacity and require fossil-based generation to backfill to meet demand, assumes that natural gas generation will continue to be the marginal producer on the electrical grid.

“One of the shortcomings of that is that the IRA has hundreds of billions of dollars of incentives aimed at changing that very dynamic. The whole goal of the IRA is that marginal additions of power are carbon-free,” he said, noting incentives for clean electricity production tax credits, investment tax credits, supply chain buildouts, and loan program office support for all of these projects.

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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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