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DG Fuels gets offtake from Airbus

Airbus will offtake production from DG’s first plant in the US, on which it plans to reach FID in early 2024.

Airbus has become a strategic partner with DG Fuels to produce SAF from cellulosic waste, according to a news release.

The partnership with Airbus supports DG’s goal of launching an equity process and reaching FID on building its first SAF plant in the US. The decision would be expected by early 2024.

“In this context, Airbus and DGF have agreed for a portion of the production of the first plant to benefit Airbus’ customers,” the release states.

Resource previously reported that DG Fuels was aiming to build a proprietary network of 30 to 50 sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facilities in North America.

DG’s plant aims to have an initial production capacity of 120m gallons of SAF per year on average. Its production system is based entirely on cellulosic waste products like wood waste from the logging industry, and renewable energy sources.

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8 Rivers opening tech portfolio to Chart Industries

Chart Industries has executed a memorandum of understanding with 8 Rivers Capital evaluate the latter’s portfolio of technologies, according to a news release.

The collaboration includes developing equipment for 8 Rivers’ technologies backed up by Chart’s design and manufacturing capabilities.

”The companies will work together to identify and develop commercial opportunities to integrate Chart offerings into 8 Rivers projects,” the release states.

In March The Hydrogen Source reported that North Carolina-based 8 Rivers was scouting for a location in the US Gulf Coast for its first clean hydrogen production facility and would need to raise capital.

The firm has developed new technologies such as 8RH2, a process to generate hydrogen with full carbon capture, and the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, a process which helps to generate power from carbon-based fuels without air emissions.

Chart would become one of the suppliers of choice for various liquefaction, refrigeration processes, or liquefaction and refrigeration equipment technologies, cold boxes, heat exchangers, compressors, fans, liquid hydrogen storage tanks and trailers, and other associated equipment needed to implement 8 Rivers’ technologies.

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United, Tallgrass, and Green Plains form JV to develop SAF from ethanol

The JV – Blue Blade Energy – aims to develop and then commercialize a novel sustainable aviation fuel technology that uses ethanol as its feedstock.

United Airlines, Tallgrass, and Green Plains Inc. today announced a new joint venture – Blue Blade Energy – to develop and then commercialize a novel sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technology that uses ethanol as its feedstock.

If the technology is successful, Blue Blade is expected to proceed with the construction of a pilot facility in 2024, followed by a full-scale facility that could begin commercial operations by 2028. The offtake agreement could provide for enough SAF to fly more than 50,000 flights annually between United’s hub airports in Chicago and Denver.*

Blue Blade’s new SAF technology was developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a leading center for technological innovation in sustainable energy. SAF, which uses non-petroleum feedstock, is a low-carbon alternative to traditional jet fuel that offers up to 85%** lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.

“The production and use of SAF is the most effective and scalable tool the airline industry has to reduce carbon emissions and United continues to lead the way,” said United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen. “This new joint venture includes two expert collaborators that have the experience to construct and operate large-scale infrastructure, as well as the feedstock supply necessary for success. Once operational, Blue Blade Energy has the potential to create United’s largest source of SAF providing up to 135 million gallons of fuel annually.”

United, Tallgrass, and Green Plains will each provide their unique industry expertise to help develop the joint venture. Under this collaborative approach:

  • Tallgrass will manage research and development of the technology, including pilot plant development, and will manage the construction of the production facility.
  • Green Plains will supply the low-carbon ethanol feedstock, and use its ethanol industry expertise to manage operations once the pilot facility is constructed.
  • United Airlines will assist with SAF development, fuel certification and into-wing logistics, and has also agreed to purchase up to 2.7 billion gallons of SAF produced from the joint venture.

“At Tallgrass, we are striving to innovate how we deliver the energy that powers our nation and enables our quality of life,” said Alison Nelson, Vice President, Business Development at Tallgrass. “Air travel uniquely connects people and improves lives, and the advancement of this novel SAF technology presents a meaningful opportunity to reduce emissions from aviation.  We are excited to partner with industry leaders United Airlines and Green Plains on this initiative.”

If the technology is commercialized, the location of Blue Blade’s initial plant would allow easy access to low-carbon feedstock from Green Plains’ Midwest ethanol production facilities. While the initial SAF facility intends to use ethanol, the technology has the capability to work with any alcohol-based feedstock as its fuel source.

“Our transformation to a true decarbonized biorefinery model has positioned Green Plains to help our customers and partners reduce the carbon intensity of their products by producing low-carbon proteins, oils, sugars and now decarbonized ethanol to be used in SAF,” said Todd Becker, President and CEO of Green Plains. “This partnership with world class organizations like United Airlines and Tallgrass, shows the value creation that is possible with our low-carbon platform. The potential impact of this project is a gamechanger for US agriculture, aligning a strong farm economy and a robust aviation transport industry focused on decarbonizing our skies.”

Blue Blade Energy marks one of the largest direct investments from United Airlines Ventures (UAV), United’s corporate venture arm, into SAF. Launched in 2021, UAV targets startups, upcoming technologies, and sustainability concepts that will complement United’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets. United has aggressively pursued strategic investments in SAF producers and revolutionary technologies including carbon capture, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft and air taxis.

*Assuming current regulations requiring SAF to be blended with conventional jet fuel are removed to allow for the use of unblended SAF.
**Based on United’s current SAF supply

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Gulf Coast ammonia plant trades at 9.3x

Australia-based Incitec Pivot Limited sold the Louisiana plant to CF Industries for an EV-to-EBITDA multiple of 9.3x.

Global hydrogen and nitrogen manufacturer CF Industries purchased the Waggaman ammonia production complex in Louisiana at an EV multiple of 9.3x, executives from the seller, Incitec Pivot, said on a call today.

The multiple is over the through-the-cycle EBITDA generated at the plant, and compares to a five-year EV-to-EBITDA multiple for IPL of 7.3x, the company’s CFO, Paul Victor, said. The facility has a nameplate capacity of 880,000 tons of ammonia annually.

IPL considered several proposals in a competitive sale process, and was similarly focused on securing a long-term supply agreement from the plant for its Dyno Nobel subsidiary, which manufactures commercial explosives.

JP Morgan served as sellside financial advisor while Latham & Watkins was legal counsel. Goldman Sachs is serving as the financial advisor to CF Industries on the transaction. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as legal advisor to the buyer.

Under the terms of the agreement, CF Industries will purchase the Waggaman ammonia plant and related assets for $1.675bn. The companies will allocate approximately $425m of the purchase price to a long-term ammonia offtake agreement under which CF Industries will supply up to 200,000 tons of ammonia per year to Dyno Nobel.

CF Industries expects to fund the remaining $1.25bn of the purchase price with cash on hand.

The buyer also anticipates implementing CCS at the site on an accelerated timeline, according to the deal announcement. Incitec executives declined to say on today’s call whether there would be pricing adjustments in the offtake contract once the low-carbon blue ammonia comes online.

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Exclusive: Renewable fuels firm hires advisor for topco raise

A renewable fuels firm with operations in California has hired a bulge bracket bank to raise project and platform capital for new developments in the Gulf Coast.

Oberon Fuels, a California-based renewable fuels developer, has hired Morgan Stanley for a topco and project capital raise to launch soon, CEO Rebecca Bordreaux said in an interview.

The company, backed by Suburban Propane, plans to reach COD on its next facility in the Gulf Coast in 2026, Boudreaux said. Late last year the company hired its first CFO Ann Anthony and COO Derek Winkel.

Oberon produces rDME at its Maverick Innovation Center in Brawley, California and recently established a partnership with DCC Fuels focused on Europe.

The location of the Gulf Coast facility is not public, Bordreaux said, though the company aims to reach FID on it this year. When operational it would produce 45,000 mtpy of methanol, or a comparative amount of rDME. Capex on the facility is in the range of $200m.

The company is shifting toward production of methanol as a shipping fuel, she said. New opportunities also include using DME as a renewable hydrogen carrier, as the fuel is easily transportable and compatible with many existing logistical networks.

Oberon is also preparing to issue $100m of municipal bonds from the state of Texas, Bordreaux said.

More than $50m has been raised by the company to date, with Suburban Propane being the largest investor and customer in California, Bordreaux said. The company has a third project in the pre-FEED phase.

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US salt cavern developer selling hydrogen storage project

A US-based developer of salt cavern projects for hydrogen storage has retained a financial advisor to sell its first project and is informally seeking an equity investor.

Phoenix Hydrogen, a salt cavern storage developer based in Berkeley, California, has hired a financial advisor to run a sale of its primary project in Arizona, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Scotiabank is leading the process, which will launch next week, the sources said. The sale is for 100% of the company’s first project near Kingman, Arizona. The project is expected to reach FID in the next 18 months.

Phoenix CEO Shawn Drost said in an interview that the company is informally seeking a platform equity investment as well but is only willing to take on a minority partner. An equity sale would need to raise an amount in the “low-tens” of millions, he said. It’s a difficult proposition, as equity providers in the space tend to demand majority positions.

The company wants to bankroll projects from beginning to end as an owner operator, he said, but requires capital to do so.

Phoenix, a six-person team, has a relationship with GHD Group for EPC, he said. The company is seeking relationships with production-side developers to sign site and storage leases.

Scotiabank did not respond to requests for comment.

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Government money still top of mind for early movers in US hydrogen

Gaining access to funding from government and other agency sources is top of mind for many developers seeking to de-risk their projects and reach FID. But only hydrogen, ammonia, and other clean fuels projects exhibiting “the best in the business” are garnering support from government financing agencies and commercial lenders, experts say.

The US Department of Energy came out this week with the news that it was not yet ready to release the long-awaited winners of its $8bn hydrogen hubs funding opportunity, as Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm noted Monday at the Hydrogen Americas Summit in Washington, DC.

The delay disappointed many in the industry, who are also waiting for crucial guidance from the IRS on rules for clean hydrogen tax credits.

Gaining access to funding from government and other agency sources is top of mind for many developers seeking to de-risk their projects and reach FID. But only hydrogen, ammonia, and other clean fuels projects exhibiting “the best in the business” are garnering support from government financing agencies and commercial lenders.

Speakers on a financing panel at the summit yesterday pointed to the successful FID of the Air Products-backed NEOM green hydrogen project in Saudi Arabia as an effective project finance model, where major sponsors working together helped to de-risk the proposal and attract support from export credit agencies and global banks.

In the US, large players like ExxonMobil (Hydrogen Liftoff Hub), NextEra (Southeast Hydrogen Network), and Chevron (ACES Delta) have applied for DOE hydrogen hubs funding, according to the results of a FOIA request, joining major utilities and other oil and gas companies like bp and Linde in the running for funds.

In addition to inadequate regulatory guidance, some developers have already started grumbling that the proposed government assistance will not be enough to meet the scale of decarbonization needs. And the nascent clean fuels project finance market still needs to sift through techno-economic challenges in order to reach its potential, according to comments made yesterday on a panel called Financing Clean Hydrogen.

Leopoldo Gomez, a vice president of global infrastructure finance at Citi, sees a big role for the project finance framework for hydrogen facilities undertaken by independent project developers as well as strategics looking to strike the appropriate risk allocation for new projects.

And Michael Mudd, a director on BofA’s global sustainable finance team, said hydrogen projects are similar in many ways to established facilities like power and LNG, but with additional complexities, like understanding the impact of intermittent power and how to appropriately scale technologies.

Credibility

This year, Pennsylvania-based Air Products along with ACWA Power and NEOM Company finalized and signed an $8.5bn financing agreement for NEOM the project, which will build 4 GW of renewables powering production of up to 600 tons per day of hydrogen. The National Development Fund and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund kicked in a total of $2.75bn for the project, with the balance covered by a consortium of 23 global lenders.

“It is very important from the financing side to make sure the parties that are at the table are the best in the business, and that’s what we’re seeing with the projects that are able to receive either commitments from the DOE Loan Programs office or from commercial lenders and export credit agencies,” Gomez said.

Highly credible engineering firms are also critical to advance projects, and the EPCs themselves might still need to get comfortable integrating new technologies that add more complexity to projects when compared to power generation or LNG projects.

“The bottom line is that having someone that’s very credible to execute a complex project that involves electrolyzers or carbon capture or new renewable power generation within the parameters of the transaction” is critical for providing risk mitigation for the benefit of investors, Gomez added.

Funding sources

Additional funding sources are intended to be made available for clean fuels projects as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the panelists said.

Most notably, tax credit transferability and the credits in section 45Q for carbon capture and sequestration and 45V for clean hydrogen are available on a long-term basis and as a direct-pay option, which would open up cash flows for developers.

“If you can use [tax credit transfers] as a contract, you can essentially monetize the tax credits in the form of debt and equity,” Mudd said. And if a highly rated corporate entity is the counterparty on the tax transfer, he added, the corporate rating of the buyer can be used to leverage the project for developers that don’t have the tax capacity.

Still, section 45V is potentially the most complex tax credit the market has ever seen, requiring a multi-layer analysis, according to Gomez, who advised patience among developers as prospective lenders evaluate the potential revenue streams from the tax credit market.

“First and foremost we’ll be looking at cash flows driven by the offtake contract, but it will be highly likely that lenders can take a view on […] underwriting 10 years of 45V at a given amount,” Gomez added.

Crucial guidance on how to conduct a lifecycle emissions analysis is still outstanding, however, making it difficult to bring all project parties to the table, according to Shannon Angielski, a principal at law and government relations firm Van Ness Feldman.

“It’s going to hinge on how the lifecycle analyses are conducted and how you have some transparency across states and borders” regarding the potential for a green premium on clean hydrogen, she added.

Agency support

In Canada, the Varennes Carbon Recycling plant in Quebec has received CAD 770m of provincial and federal support, primarily from the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the province of Quebec, noted Amendeep Garcha of Natural Resources Canada.

Around CAD 500m of funding from the Canada Infrastructure bank is also going to support hydrogen refueling infrastructure, Garcha said, with the aim of establishing a hydrogen highway that will form the basis of the hydrogen ecosystem in Quebec.

Pierre Audinet, lead energy specialist from World Bank Group, noted how the international development agency was stepping in to provide support for projects that might otherwise not get off the ground.

“In the world where I work, we face a lot of scarcity of capital,” he noted, adding that the World Bank has backed the implementation of clean fuels policies in India with a $1.5bn loan.

Additionally, the World Bank has supported a $150m project in Chile, providing insurance and capital for a financing facility that will reduce the costs of electrolyzers. Chile, while it benefits from sun and wind resources, said Audinet, is less competitive when it comes to transportation given its geographic location.

The agency is also working to help the local government in the Northeastern Brazil port of Pecem. Shared infrastructure at the port will help reduce risks for investors who have taken a stake in the port facilities, Audinet said.

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