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Air Products wins $130m NASA hydrogen contracts

Air Products will supply liquid hydrogen for several NASA locations including the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and other NASA facilities.

Air Products was awarded several supply contracts from NASA totaling more than $130m to provide liquid hydrogen for several NASA locations including the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and other NASA facilities, according to a news release.

Under one public contract, Air Products will supply NASA liquid hydrogen to support operations at the Kennedy Space Center and nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The multi-year contract, which is already in effect, includes a maximum value of approximately $75m.

NASA also awarded Air Products a separate public contract, valued at a maximum value of over $57m to supply liquid hydrogen to facilities across the agency including NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

NASA uses liquid hydrogen, combined with liquid oxygen, as fuel in cryogenic rocket engines, and hydrogen’s unique properties support the development of aeronautics.

“Air Products has a long history of working with NASA, stretching from the very beginning of the United States’ space program, to the Apollo 11 moon landing, and to the more recent missions to study Mars,” said Francesco Maione, Air Products’ president, Americas. “We are proud to provide NASA with the industrial gases they need for their important work and look forward to continuing our many decades-long working relationship with the U.S. space program.”

Air Products’ working relationship with NASA began in 1957 with the commissioning of an industrial gas plant in Ohio and has since continuously supplied NASA with liquid hydrogen and other industrial gases for advancing the U.S. Space Program. In addition to product supply to space launches, Air Products also has had a long-term relationship with NASA’s engine testing program at Stennis Space Center, Johnson Space Center in Texas, as well as Marshall Space Flight Center.

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Southwest Airlines acquires SAFFiRE Renewables

Southwest transitions from investor to sole owner of SAFFiRE, a developer of sustainable aviation fuel from ethanol.

Southwest Airlines Co. has acquired SAFFiRE Renewables, LLC as part of the investment portfolio of its wholly owned subsidiary Southwest Airlines Renewable Ventures, LLC (SARV).

SARV is dedicated to creating more opportunities for Southwest® to obtain scalable sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), according to a news release.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

SAFFiRE is part of a project supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and produce scalable renewable ethanol that can be upgraded into SAF. SAFFiRE expects to utilize technology developed at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to convert corn stover, a widely available agricultural residue feedstock in the U.S., into renewable ethanol.

“This acquisition marks Southwest’s transition from investor to sole owner of SAFFiRE, expressing our confidence in SAFFiRE’s technology and its potential to advance our sustainability goals as well as the goals of the broader industry,” said Bob Jordan, President & CEO of Southwest Airlines. “Championing SAF is a key pillar of Southwest’s Nonstop to Net Zero plan and our work toward a more sustainable future for air travel. We look forward to continuing our journey with SAFFiRE as part of our efforts to propel this promising technology forward.”

Southwest first invested in SAFFiRE during phase one of the pilot project in 2022. With this acquisition, SAFFiRE is expected to proceed with phase two of the project by developing a pilot plant hosted at Conestoga’s Arkalon Energy ethanol facility in Liberal, Kansas. Initially, this plant is intended to utilize SAFFiRE’s exclusive technology license from NREL to process 10 tons of corn stover per day for the production of renewable ethanol. Then, the plan is for the ethanol to be converted into SAF by LanzaJet, Inc. (LanzaJet).

“Renewable ethanol is an important feedstock to realizing high-volume, affordable SAF, which is a critical part of the journey to net zero carbon emissions,” said Tom Nealon, President of SARV and CEO of SAFFiRE. “We are enthusiastic about the ethanol-to-SAF pathway and SAFFiRE’s potential ability to produce renewable ethanol at a scale that is economically viable.”

The acquisition of SAFFiRE comes shortly after Southwest announced an investment in LanzaJet, a SAF technology provider and producer with a patented ethanol-to-SAF technology and the world’s first ethanol-to-SAF commercial plant.

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Power plant manager seeking capital for Boston acquisitions

A manager of natural gas power plants is seeking capital to acquire two facilities in the Boston area and convert them into low-carbon generation assets.

US Grid Company, an owner and operator of electric generation assets in US cities, is seeking to raise capital to make a pair of acquisitions in Boston.

The New York-based plant manager is targeting facilities owned by Calpine and Constellation, CEO Jacob Worenklein said.

Calpine owns the Fore River Energy Center, a 731 MW, combined-cycle plant located 12 miles southeast of Boston, while Constellation owns Mystic Generating Station, a 1,413 MW natural gas-fired plant in Everett, Massachusetts.

Worenklein would acquire the assets and seek to implement lower-carbon generation solutions such as batteries, renewables, or clean fuels, he said.

He has held conversations with both Calpine and Constellation about acquiring the assets, and would need approximately $100m of equity capital to make an acquisition, he said, with the balance coming in the form of debt capital.

US Grid Company previously had investment backing from EnCap Energy Transition and Yorktown Partners, but the funds for the deal were pulled.

Worenklein has had a storied career in the US power sector, serving as a global head in roles at SocGen and Lehman Brothers. He was also founder and head of the power and projects law practice at Milbank.

From 2017 to 2020 he served as chairman of Ravenswood Power Holdings, the owner and operator of a 2,000 MW gas-fired plant in Queens, New York.

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SAF developer closes on development capital investments

The development capital milestone will allow the company to reach FID on a $4.2bn SAF facility in Louisiana.

DG Fuels, a SAF developer, has closed investment transactions with two Japanese companies, according to a news release.

With the investments in DGF made by aviner & co., inc., Chishima Real Estate Co., Ltd. (Chishima) and an undisclosed investor, DGF has now exceeded its minimum investment target as part of its final round of parent level development capital needed to fund the remaining expected expenses required to reach FID, including the ongoing FEL 3 and related expenses.

ReSource previously reported that DGF was working with Stephens and Guggenheim as investment bankers to advance a capital raise.

The relatively modest balance of the maximum $30m capital raise is expected to fund in the next few months. DGF currently expects that FID on its proposed $4.2bn, 180 million gallon per year SAF facility in Louisiana to occur in early 2024.

The Louisiana SAF facility will be the template for multiple other such facilities to be built across North America, Europe and Asia.

Yoshiyuki Shibakawa, representative director of Chishima said, “We believe the SAF to be produced by DG Fuels makes a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions in the aviation industry. Through its partnership with DG Fuels, we will contribute to the decarbonization of the aviation industry.”

Aviner, which is active in aircraft management and renewables, has worked closely with DGF as its strategic partner and representative in Japan and broader Asia to market DGF’s SAF product to off-takers in the Asia Pacific region as well as jointly studying potential production of SAF by DGF in the region.

“SAF sits right in between aviation and energy which are the prime focus of ours. We have strong belief in the DGF team and are excited to be part of this project. SAF produced by DGF’s high carbon conversion efficiency technology uses woody biomass feedstock which will not face limitation in feedstock supply and we expect DGF’s technology and know-how can be replicated in various locations around the world.” said Hideyuki Yamanaka, CEO of aviner.

“The DG Fuels facility will produce 180 million gallons of zero carbon emissions SAF,” said Michael C. Darcy, CEO of DG Fuels, The facility itself has a very minor atmospheric emissions and zero water discharge to the local environment and will bring 600 new permanent operating jobs and up to 2,100 construction jobs over three years to the local community.”

“We have worked diligently with our investors in implementing this long-term relationship to mutually focus on decarbonizing the aviation sector in a responsible manner,” said Christopher J. Chaput, president and CFO of DG Fuels. “The DG Fuels SAF product relies on no feedstock that would negatively impact the food supply and our highly efficient production process allows us to profitably sell SAF to airlines at attractive prices.”

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Exclusive: Carbon conversion startup planning capital raise

A Halliburton Labs-backed startup is developing a pilot plant in the Pacific Northwestern US, while forming financial relationships for an industrial-scale carbon conversion facility in the same location.

OCOchem, a Washington state-based carbon conversion startup, will seek new capital partners to build its first commercial scale facility in 2026, CEO Todd Brix said in an interview.

Starting in late 2024 or early 2025, the company will likely go to market for new liquidity – including project debt and equity, Brix said. He declined to talk about capex, but said the first commercial plant in Richland, Washington will cost “multiple tens of millions of dollars.”

The company is working with two EPCs now and is represented legally by Miller Nash law firm in the Pacific Northwest, Brix said. The company does not have a formal relationship with an investment bank but will likely form one for a Series A and later rounds.

“We’ve been in touch with a number of private equity and project finance people,” Brix said of early-stage discussions.

OCOchem is considering land options in Richland for its first plant and is organizing to begin permitting, Brix said. There is opportunity to form relationships with industrial partners in need of an offtaker for their CO2 emissions and new incremental revenue streams, as well as customers for chloral hydrates and other formic acid products.

“We expect to build hundreds of these plants all around the planet,” Brix said, referring to the process of electrochemically converting emitted CO2 and water to formic acid, which can then be used to make a suite of products like hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and formate (methanoate) derivatives. “We are close to industrial size on our plants right now.”

CO2 is captured from steam methane reformers, natural gas processing and piping, and ammonia production, among other processes. The gas is then combined with water in a cellular, modular process producing formic acid, derivatives of which can be used in a range of industries like pharmaceuticals.

The company recently raised $5m in seed funding from lead investor TO VC, which joined backers LCY Lee Family Office, MIH Capital Management, and Halliburton Labs. An additional $8m has been raised in grant funding from the US departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD).

The company is also partnered with the Nutrien Corporation on a small scale facility in Kennewick, Washington, just upriver from Richland, Brix said. Financing for that project is largely arranged with the FEED completed.

Brix owns a majority of the company with his father.

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Exclusive: Biofuels developer interviewing bankers for capital raise

The developer of a renewable diesel and SAF plant in East Texas is seeking a banker for assistance raising development and FID capital.

Santa Maria Renewable Resources, a biofuels developer with a project in East Texas, is interviewing bankers for an upcoming capital raise.

The Houston-based firm is seeking a banker to help it raise some $40m in development capital, in a role that would then pivot to arranging project finance for a final investment decision, CEO Pat Sanchez said in an interview.

The company recently announced its selection of Topsoe as technology provider for the 3,000-barrels-per-day facility, which will produce renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel. It also tapped Chemex to conduct the FEED study.

Sanchez is the former COO of Sanchez Midstream Partners, having left in 2020 after preferred shareholder Stonepeak took over the company.

He perceives headwinds for capital raising in the biofuels space, but believes the project profile he is promoting is superior to peers due to its hedged profile and the incorporation of a sustainable agriculture component that extracts additional value from an oilseed.

The superior returns, which he claims are north of 25% on an unlevered basis, “come from the integration of two industries” – biofuels and agricultural commodities – “on one site.”

Using Topsoe technology, the proposed plant can swing between 100% SAF to 100% renewable diesel, depending on the needs of the offtaker.

The project has an agreed-upon term sheet for offtake with an oil major. Under the agreement, the oil major is required to deliver feedstock in the form of camelina, canola, and soybean, he said.

Only one company in the U.S. closed on a development capital raise for a bio-based fuel project in 2023. That company was DG Fuels, and it raised up to $30m in development capital for a woody biomass-based Louisiana SAF plant expected to cost $4.2bn and reach FID in 2024.

“There seems to still be some headwinds in some companies on the biofuels side that are struggling to raise development capital,” Sanchez said, noting that the biofuels and clean energy sectors were some of the worst performers in 2023.

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Exclusive: Mississippi green hydrogen developer assembling banks for debt raise

The developer of a potentially massive network of green hydrogen production, transport and salt cavern storage — estimated to cost billions — is seeking banks to support a project debt raise.

Hy Stor, the developer of hydrogen generation and salt cavern storage, is currently raising “billions” in project finance for the first phase of its home state hub in Mississippi, Chief Commercial Officer Claire Behar said in an interview.

The first phase is expected to enter commercial service in 2026, guided by customers, Behar said.

Connor Clark & Lunn are equity partners in the Mississippi hub and is helping Hy Stor with its debt raise. Hy Stor is working with King & Spalding as legal advisor.

“We are already seeking banks and lining up our needed debt,” Behar said. She declined to say a precise amount the company will raise but said it will be in the billions.

Hy Stor plans to soon announce their renewable development partner to build dedicated off grid renewables, Behar said. The same is true for offtake in non-intermittent 24-hour industries like steel, plastic and fertilizer manufacturing.

“The customers are willing to pay that twenty-to-thirty percent premium that the market would need,” Behar said. “The business case is there.”

When asked if traditionally carbon intensive industrial manufacturing interests were actively seeking to co-locate with Hy Stor in Mississippi, Behar said the company has been advancing those agreements and hopes to have announcements soon. 
There is evidence of this type of activity in the state. Recently American steel manufacturer Steel Dynamics announced Columbus, Mississippi as the location of its upcoming aluminum flat rolled millwith a focus on decarbonization. Job postings for engineering roles at a separate facility detail plans to convert biomass into a direct carbon replacement suitable for steelmaking. 

Hy Stor hopes to have announcements in the coming weeks about a co-location opportunity, she added. Both domestic and international strategics are interested in the geology offering co-located salt cavern storage and geography offering river and deepwater port logistics networks, as well as highway and rail corridors.

Off-grid renewable generation means the company is not at the mercy of transmission interconnection queues. It also offers reliability because the lack of grid adage helps guarantee performance, and affordability because the company doesn’t have to pay utility rates, Behar said. Additionally, the electricity is decoupled from the grid and therefore absolutely decoupled from fossil fuels, which is important to Hy Stor’s prospective offtakers.

“This is what customers are demanding,” Behar said, adding that first movers are highly dedicated to decarbonization, needing quantitative accounting for all scope emissions, driven often by pressure from their customers.

The company has received a permit to take 11,000 gallons per minute of unpotable water from the Leaf River in Mississippi, Behar said, and is also looking at in-house wastewater treatment and water recycling.

Don’t go after gray users

Behar said the concept that users of gray hydrogen are the first targets for green hydrogen developers is misguided.

“The refineries, the petrochemicals, for them hydrogen is an end product already used within their system,” Behar said. “Those are not going to be the first users that are going to pay us a premium for that zero carbon.”

Hy Stor is instead focusing on new greenfield facilities that can co-locate.

“We’ve purposefully outsized our acreage,” she said of the 70,000 acres the company has purchased outside of Jackson, Mississippi, the Mississippi River Corridor, and the state’s southern deepwater ports in Gulfport and Port Bienville. New industrial projects can co-locate and have direct access to the salt cavern storge.

Looking forward the company’s acreage and seven salt domes mean they are not constrained by storage, Behar said. At each location, the company can develop tens and hundreds of caverns.

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