Resource logo with tagline

Analysis: Premium for clean hydrogen unlikely

A group of hydrogen offtakers say they have every intention of decarbonizing their fuel intake, but barring the implementation of a carbon-pricing mechanism, paying a premium for it is unrealistic.

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act ignited investor interest in the global market for clean hydrogen and derivatives like ammonia and methanol, but offtake demand would be better characterized as a flicker.

And while many questions about the nascent market for green hydrogen remain unanswered, one thing is clear: offtakers seem uninterested in paying a “green premium” for clean fuels.

That doesn’t mean offtakers aren’t interested in using clean fuels – quite the opposite. As many large industrial players worldwide consider decarbonization strategies, hydrogen and its derivatives must play a significant role.

Carbon pricing tools such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism in Europe could introduce a structural pricing premium for clean products. And industry participants have called for carbon levies to boost clean fuels, most recently Trafigura, which released a white paper today advocating for a carbon tax on fossil-based shipping fuels.

But the business case for clean fuels by itself presents an element of sales risk for potential offtakers, who would have to try to pass on higher costs to customers. Even so, there is an opportunity for offtakers to make additional sales and gain market share using decarbonization as a competitive advantage while seeking to share costs and risks along the value chain.

“It’s a very difficult sell internally to say we’re going to stop using natural gas and pay more for a different fuel,” said Jared Elvin, renewable energy lead at consumer goods company Kimberly-Clark. “That is a pickle.”

Needing clean fuels to reach net zero

Heavy-duty and long-haul transportation is viewed as a clear use case for clean fuels, but customers for those fuels are highly sensitive to price.

“We’re very demand focused, very customer focused,” said Ashish Bhakta, zero emission business development manager at Trillium, a company that owns the Love’s Travel Shop brand gas stations. “That leads us to be fuel-agnostic.”

Trillium is essentially an EPC for fueling stations with an O&M staff for maintenance, Bhakta said.

As many customers consider their own transitions to zero-emissions, they are thinking through EV as well as hydrogen, he said. Hydrogen is considered better for range, fueling speed and net-payload for mobility, all of which bodes well for the clean fuels industry.

One sticking point is price, he said. Shippers are highly sensitive to changes in fuel cost – and asking them to pay a premium doesn’t go far.

Alessandra Klockner, manager of decarbonization and energy solutions manager at Brazilian mining giant Vale, said her employer is seeking partnerships with manufacturers, particularly in steel, to decarbonize its component chain.

In May Vale and French direct reduced iron (DRI) producer GravitHy signed an MoU to jointly evaluate the construction of a DRI production plant using hydrogen as a feedstock in Fos-sur-Mer, France. The company also has steel decarbonization agreements in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.

In the near term, 60% of Vale’s carbon reductions will come from prioritizing natural gas, Klockner said. But to reach net zero, the company will need clean hydrogen.

“There’s not many options for this route, to reach net zero,” she said. “Clean hydrogen is pretty much the only solution that we see.”

Elvin, of Kimberly-Clark, noted that his company is developing its own three green hydrogen projects in the UK, meant to supply for local use at the source.

“We’re currently design-building our third hydrogen fueling facility for public transit,” he said. “We’re basically growing and learning and getting ready for this transition.”

The difficulty of a “green premium

The question of affordability persists in the clean fuels space.

“There are still significant cost barriers,” said Cihang Yuan, a senior program officer for the World Wildlife Fund, an NGO that has taken an active role in promoting clean fuels. “We need more demand-side support to really overcome that barrier and help users to switch to green hydrogen.”

Certain markets will have to act as incubators for the sector, and cross-collaboration from production to offtake can help bring prices down, according to Elvin. Upstream developers should try to collaborate early on with downstream users to “get the best bang for your buck” upstream, as has been happening thus far, he added.

Risk is prevalently implied in the space and must be shared equitably between developers, producers and offtakers, he said.

“We’ve all got to hold hands and move forward in this, because if one party is not willing to budge on any risk and not able to look at the mitigation options then they will fail,” he said. “We all have to share some sort of risk in these negotiations.”

The mining and steel industries have been discussing the concept of a green premium, Klockner said. Green premiums have actually been applied in some instances, but in very niche markets and small volumes.

“Who is going to absorb these extra costs?” she said. “Because we know that to decarbonize, we are going to have an extra cost.”

The final clients are not going to accept a green premium, she said. To overcome this, Vale plans to work alongside developers to move past the traditional buyer-and-seller model and into a co-investment strategy.

“We know those developers have a lot of challenges,” she said. “I think we need to exchange those challenges and build the business case together. That’s the only way that I see for us to overcome this cost issue.”

Unlock this article

The content you are trying to view is exclusive to our subscribers.
To unlock this article:

You might also like...

Group to bring zero-emissions passenger flights to Denmark

DAT, Everfuel, and Universal Hydrogen Co. will collaborate on regional aviation by enabling zero-emissions flight using clean hydrogen by the end of 2025.

DAT, Everfuel, and Universal Hydrogen Co. will collaborate on regional aviation in Denmark by enabling zero-emissions flight using clean hydrogen by the end of 2025.

The three companies will combine their expertise in flight operations, hydrogen fuel production, and hydrogen logistics and aircraft propulsion to bring into service hydrogen-powered ATR 72-600 regional aircraft on DAT routes in Denmark, with the goal of converting all of DAT’s domestic flights to true zero-emission flights by 2030, according to a press release.

DAT plans to use ATR 72s converted using Universal Hydrogen technology. These aircraft will accommodate 56 passengers following conversion to hydrogen. Universal Hydrogen will also provide fuel services to supply green hydrogen using modular capsules, without the need for changes to existing airport infrastructure.

The green hydrogen will be produced at Everfuel’s first Power-to-X (PtX) plant in Fredericia, the release states.

The collaborative effort between the three companies follows the Government of Denmark’s request for tender to develop zero-emission commercial flights in Denmark.

Read More »

RONN Motor Group completes paperwork for SPAC merger

The Arizona-based Hydrogen Fuel Cell automaker has to-date delayed the completion of their S-1 because of market conditions.

RONN Motor Group, a multi-National hydrogen solution company, has completed all significant filings, including the u-1 filing, to list on the NASDAQ through a reverse triangular merger with Lee Pharmaceuticals, according to a news release.

RONN Motor Group created one of the first hydrogen-assisted supercars in 2008 and has been active in the automotive space for many years. The company will be submitting the application for a corporate name change to “RONN” along with a ticker change, but their logo will remain.

The company’s form 10 submission had begun; RONN plans to complete their S-1 in 2023, which was delayed in 2022 due to market conditions. The S-1 will be completed with updated financials when market conditions improve.

Read More »

Grön Fuels’ massive Louisiana fuels project delayed 2 years

Commercial operations for the project are now expected in 2027 compared to 2025 previously, an executive told a local newspaper.

Fidelis New Energy’s plans to build a massive renewable fuels complex at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge have been delayed by two years.

The project, known as Grön Fuels, is a $9.2bn, 65,000 barrel per day renewable fuels facility producing sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable propane as low carbon transportation fuels, according to the firm’s website.

The developer had said in a 2021 press release that Fidelis expected to achieve final investment decision in 2021. However an executive from Fidelis told local Louisiana newspaper that the firm is still working toward a final investment decision as it waits for final rules regarding the IRA.

“We now have a build-out path that enables the start of the construction and independent operations of the [sustainable aviation fuel] production portion of Grön Fuels while enabling the additional values of the FidelisH2 technologies to be added after the IRA rules that impact them are finalized,” Fidelis COO Bengt Jarlsjo wrote to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

Commercial operations for the project are now expected in 2027 compared to 2025 previously, the executive told the newspaper.

Jarlsjo did not respond to a request for an interview from ReSource.

Read More »

Exclusive: California IPP considering hydrogen options for gas generation portfolio

A California-based IPP is considering burning hydrogen in the thermal plants it acquires, as well as in a portfolio of gas peaking assets it is developing in Texas and the western US.

Nightpeak Energy, the Oakland-based IPP backed by Energy Spectrum Capital, is planning to have wide optionality to burn hydrogen in the gas plants it acquires, as well as in quick-start peaking natural gas assets it is developing in Texas and the western US, CEO Paris Hays said in an interview.

“There’s just not a lot of places in this country where you can procure enough hydrogen at a reasonable price to actually serve wholesale electricity customers,” Hays said of the existing hydrogen landscape.

Still, OEMs are figuring out in real time which of their deployed fleet can burn hydrogen, he said. Studies on blending seem to be yielding positive results.

“That’s great news for a business like ours, because we can have optionality,” Hays said. When interacting with equipment providers, conversion to hydrogen is an important, if expensive, discussion point.

“We want to be in a position to be able to do that for our customers,” Hays said. “We can offer a premium product, which is kind of rare in our business.”

Nightpeak recently purchased Saguaro Power Co., which owns a 90 MW combined cycle power plant in Nevada. That facility is a candidate for hydrogen repowering, Hays said, though that’s just one option for an asset that is currently cash-flowing well.

The Nevada facility is close to California, which notably is a market with a demonstrated appetite for paying green premiums, Hays said.

“We wouldn’t manufacture hydrogen ourselves, we would be a buyer,” he said. “This is one path that any plants we own or develop could take in the future.”

Nightpeak has yet to announce any greenfield projects. But Hays said the company is developing a portfolio of “quick-start” natural gas generation projects in ERCOT and WECC. Those assets, 100 MW or more, are to be developed with the concept of hydrogen conversion or blending in mind.

Proposition 7, which recently passed in Texas, could present an opportunity for Nightpeak as the legislation’s significant provisions for natural gas development has pundits and some lawmakers calling for the assets to be hydrogen-ready.

Investor interest in being able to convert gas assets to burn hydrogen reflect an important decision-making process for Nightpeak, Hays said.

“Does it makes sense to just buy a turbine that only burns natural gas and may be a stranded asset at some point, or would we rather pay and select a turbine that already has the optionality?” Hays said. “Putting price aside, you’re always going to go for optionality.”

Read More »

Exclusive: World Energy GH2 targeting early 2025 FID

World Energy GH2 is aiming to reach FID early next year – and advancing project financing discussions with a pair of advisors – on the $5bn phase 1 green ammonia development in Newfoundland and Labrador known as Project Nujio’qonik. We spoke to Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet in detail about the project.

World Energy GH2, the developer of a green ammonia export project in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is aiming to reach FID in early 2025 on phase 1 of Project Nujio’qonik, Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet said in an interview.

Phase 1 of the project entails the construction of a 1 GW wind facility and 600 MW of electrolysis for an estimated cost of $5bn, Leet said. Once complete, the first phase of Project Nujio’qonik is expected to produce approximately 400,000 tonnes of green ammonia for export.

The developer is working with Green Giraffe and RBC Capital Markets to advance a project financing deal, the same advisors that assisted World Energy GH2 on a $95m loan from Export Development Canada, announced last week.

The debt-to-equity split for the $5bn capital raise is still being iterated as the company looks at financing options with the available government subsidies and potential support from export agencies, Leet said. The company has not yet lined up an arranger for debt financing and expects to make a decision on that role at a later date, he added.

A schedule update is in progress as part of the project’s FEED readiness assessment. This update, considering factors such as long lead item availability and offtaker delivery requirements, is a required step before the start of FEED and is expected to be released around April 15. 

The FEED readiness assessment, Leet said, “is a process that we’ve undertaken with some value engineering due to some learnings from the pre-FEED deliverables and some other aspects of just making sure we’re well prepared for FEED so we can execute flawlessly on that.”

Leet expects the FEED process will take between nine and 12 months, setting the developer up for an FID in early 2025. As part of a competitive bidding process, World Energy GH2 was awarded four different Crown land sites, each capable of producing 1 GW of wind power, allowing for additional phases up to 4 GW of renewables.

Newfoundland, the distant Canadian island where Project Nujio’qonik is located, has become a hotbed of green ammonia project activity due to its exceptional wind resource, with as many eight major projects springing up (see, and zoom, on map).

Investment outlook

The Canadian government has promulgated a clean hydrogen investment tax credit of up to 40% on certain expenses, available until 2035. And in its most recent budget, the government floated the idea of providing contracts for difference to help de-risk emission-reducing projects. 

Leet believes that the CfD arrangement, which will be administered by the Canada Growth Fund, will be tied to the Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance, an agreement that promotes clean hydrogen trade ties between the two nations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed the accord at World Energy GH2’s site in Stephenville, with the aim of shipping hydrogen or ammonia by 2025 – a timeline that looks increasingly stretched. And World Energy GH2 earlier this year became the first North American member of Germany’s Port of Wilhelmshaven's energy hub.

“Those details haven’t been announced yet but we’re hopeful that the CfD mechanism is there to work alongside the ITC,” Leet said.

Additional financing could come from more export credit agencies “in the countries you would expect” that would support local companies providing equipment to Project Nujio’qonik. “That will be a very likely piece of our financing arrangement.”

World Energy GH2 is in discussions with various offtakers, but will be able to engage in greater detail once the ITC and CfD subsidies are clarified, and once the project receives its environmental permit, Leets said. 

World Energy GH2 was set up as a standalone Canadian company with the sole purpose of executing on Project Nujio’qonik. It is owned by its founders along with SK ecoplant, the environment and energy arm of Korea’s SK Group, which took a 20% stake in the company – and also the project – for $50m.

Gene Gebolys, the founder and CEO of World Energy LLC, a provider of low-carbon fuels, is also a founder of Project Nujio’qonik. And John Risley, another partner of the Canadian project, is a co-owner of World Energy LLC.

Support from existing investors along with the Export Development Canada facility announced last week make the project entity well capitalized to move “expeditiously” through FEED to FID, Leet said.

Canada to Europe

World Energy GH2 is talking to the major ammonia players about a scale-up of import capacity on European shores.

Leet noted specifically that the Antwerp-Bruges port has plans to scale up to handle the increased amounts of ammonia imports, for use in the various industries located in Belgium and potentially on to Germany from there.

Three companies – Fluxys, Advario Stolthaven Antwerp, and Advario Gas Terminal – have said they are considering constructing an open-access ammonia import terminal at the port of Antwerp-Bruges. Air Liquide also said it will build an ammonia cracking facility there.

The Port of Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where World Energy GH2 is a member of the energy hub, has similar plans to scale up, with various companies evaluating ammonia import terminals and cracking facilities.

Meanwhile, Leet said the ammonia product that it ships to Europe, in addition to benefiting from Canadian subsidies and tax credits, will also comply with the EU’s RFNBO standards.

The project has existing grid and water connections already at the Port of Stephenville, since the hydrogen plant will be built on top of a former paper mill which consumed both water and electricity. 

“So we're fortunate to have that grid connection available to us and the power in the Newfoundland grid is well over 90% existing hydro,” Leet said. “So between that and our wind power, we will have no issue meeting the standard set by the EU for green hydrogen and it will be 100% RFNBO compliant.”

The company is working on regulatory certification with multiple bodies but has not finalized a provider.

Read More »
exclusive

Green hydrogen developer in active discussions for California FID this year

A green hydrogen developer is in active discussions with counterparties as it pursues a final investment decision for its first project.

Houston-based green hydrogen developer Element Resources is in active discussions to reach FID this year on its first green hydrogen project slated for Lancaster, California.

The company had engaged Houlihan Lokey in recent months to lead a capital raise for the project, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The Houlihan mandate had involved raising non-dilutive debt, a process that is believed to have been shelved, said one of the sources.

“We are steadily working our way to an FID this year and are pulling together all parts of the project,” Element CFO Avery Barnebey said via email in response to inquiries. He declined to comment further.

A Houlihan representative did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The Lancaster facility, which is targeted to begin commercial operations in early 2025, will be built on 1,165 acres and consist of 135 MW of solar-powered electrolysis capacity, according to the company’s website. At full capacity, the 18,750 mt per annum of hydrogen produced by the facility will serve the growing demand for clean mobility fuels as well as clean energy for manufacturing.

Element is led by founder and CEO Steve Meheen, an oil & gas industry veteran. Barnebey is a former director of corporate development at California Resources Corporation.

Read More »

Welcome Back

Get Started

Sign up for a free 15-day trial and get the latest clean fuels news in your inbox.