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Baker Botts adds energy finance partner

Baker Botts has added Washington, DC-based partner Matthew Gurch, who joins from Stoel Rives.

Baker Botts L.L.P. has added Matthew Gurch to the Energy, Projects & Transactions Section of the Global Projects Department as a partner in the Washington, D.C. office.

Gurch’s practice focuses on advising sponsors and private lenders and multilateral development banks in domestic and international energy and infrastructure project development and financings. His broad-based experience includes tax equity structuring and back leverage debt financings for renewable and energy transition assets, and the development and financing of nuclear and other thermal power generation and oil and gas projects.

“Matt is a highly experienced project development and finance attorney and another key strategic lateral partner hire for the firm,” said Danny David, Managing Partner of Baker Botts. “His experience advising clients with respect to complex domestic and international energy and infrastructure projects will be a great complement to our outstanding offerings in those areas. We are excited to welcome him to the firm.”

He joins the firm from Stoel Rives, where he was a partner in the Corporate practice group and a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Industry Groups.

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HIF, Idemitsu, and MOL to cooperate on e-fuels supply chain

HIF Global will assess demand for CO2 in its eFuels production facilities around the world. Idemitsu will study the capture of CO2 in Japan. MOL will examine the transportation and shipping of CO2 from Japan and eFuels to Japan.

HIF Global, an eFuels company, Idemitsu Kosan, the Japanese petroleum company and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL), the international shipping company, have reached an agreement to develop an eFuels supply chain between HIF facilities and Japan.

The agreement also outlines how the companies will explore the potential for supplying carbon dioxide (CO2) from Japan for use as a feedstock for the eFuels production process in HIF facilities under development in the USAAustralia and Chile, according to a news release.

HIF Global will assess demand for CO2 in its eFuels production facilities around the world. Idemitsu will study the capture of CO2 in Japan. MOL will examine the transportation and shipping of CO2 from Japan and eFuels to Japan.

Cesar Norton, President & CEO of HIF Global, said: “At HIF Global, we are developing a portfolio of eFuels facilities that would recycle approximately 25 million tonnes per year of CO2, equivalent to the emissions from over 5 million cars. Carbon neutral eFuels are an immediate replacement for fossil fuels across the global transport sector. Initiatives like this collaboration will bring us a step closer to fueling our world with renewable energy as we strive towards net zero emissions now.”

Hiroshi Tanaka, General Manager (Carbon Neutral Transformation Department) of Idemitsu Kosan said: “As part of our commitment to sustainability, Idemitsu is actively working towards establishing a robust supply chain for eMethanol and eFuels. We recognize the importance of these low environmental impact alternatives in our business and their versatility. Through strategic collaborations such as this, we are confident in our ability to take a leading role in reducing carbon emissions in both the energy and transportation sectors. Additionally, we see tremendous potential in the development of various business opportunities within the supply chain. We look forward to exploring and capitalizing on these opportunities together.”

Hirofumi Kuwata, Senior Managing Executive Officer of MOL, said: “Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is pleased to be working with HIF Global and Idemitsu Kosan to develop a value chain for CO2, synthetic fuel, and synthetic methanol, contributing to decarbonization throughout the lifecycle. We will establish efficient maritime transport of CO2, synthetic methanol, and synthetic fuel within the supply chain connecting Japanese and overseas projects.”

The parties will also discuss the sale and purchase of eFuels and analyze the resulting greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

eFuels are made using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to separate hydrogen from oxygen in water. The green hydrogen is combined with recycled carbon dioxide to produce carbon neutral eFuels, which are chemically equivalent to fuels used today and can therefore be dropped-in to existing engines without requiring any modifications.

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Exclusive: Natural gas decarbonization firm in capital raise

A Canadian methane pyrolysis firm is working with a pair of financial advisors and is in the market with an equity capital raise.

Ekona Power, the industrial hydrogen solutions firm based in British Columbia, is raising a Series B of between $50m and $80m, two sources familiar with the matter told ReSource.

RBC Capital Markets is conducting the raise, the sources said, while the Vancouver office of Fort Capital is also involved.

The capital raise would fund the second stage of decarbonization efforts at the Gold Creek Natural Gas plant in Alberta.

The company is targeting US investors, particularly large strategics, one of the sources said, and has had discussions with ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions.

Ekona is eyeing expansion in the US Pacific Northwest, Western and central Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and China, the source added.

In early 2022 TransAlta made a CAD 2m equity investment in Ekona. Baker Hughes participated in the company’s Series A.

Ekona and Fort Capital declined to comment. RBC did not respond to requests for comment.

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HydrogenPro hires North American CEO

The change is the latest leadership move at the Norwegian electrolyzer maker.

Jeff Spethmann has been appointed as the CEO of HydrogenPro, Inc., the US-based subsidiary of Norway’s HydrogenPro, according to a press release.

Spethmann will be responsible for overseeing HydrogenPro’s North American operations and growth, the release states.

Little more than one year ago the company appointed Tarjei Johansen as CEO. Johansen was replaced mid-year by Jarle Dragvik, who had been a board member.

Spethmann was most recently the Senior Vice President for Industrial Products at Donaldson Co., a provider of filtration systems and replacement parts with 13,000 employees worldwide. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.

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Exclusive: Glenfarne exploring hydrogen projects on existing asset base

Glenfarne Energy Transition is advancing its flagship liquefied natural gas project, Texas LNG, and evaluating hydrogen projects on or near its existing asset base on the Gulf Coast.

The Biden administration’s pause on permits for new US liquefied natural gas facilities hasn’t hurt all unbuilt projects.

Glenfarne Energy Transition, a subsidiary of Glenfarne Group, is moving ahead with its fully permitted lower-carbon flagship LNG export facility, Texas LNG, as the project is now set up to be the only such US project to reach FID this year.

Texas LNG, a 4 million MTPA facility proposed for Brownsville, Texas, will be the lowest carbon emitting LNG facility approved in the US, largely due to its use of electric motors in refrigerated compression. 

As designed, the plant would emit .15 metric tons of CO2e per ton of LNG produced, placing it slightly lower than the much larger Freeport LNG facility, which also has electric motors and emits around .17 metric tons of CO2 per ton of LNG.

The carbon intensity measurement counts emissions at the Texas LNG plant only, and not related emissions from the electric grid, which is why Glenfarne is seeking to source power for the project from wind and solar generation in south Texas, Adam Prestidge, senior vice president at Glenfarne, said in an interview.

In fact, the lower carbon aspects of Texas LNG helps with every element of the project, Prestidge said, including conversations with European offtakers and potential debt investors.

“Having a focus on sustainability is table stakes for every conversation,” he added. “It’s the finance side, it’s the offtake side, it’s our conversations with regulatory agencies.”

LNG pause

Glenfarne is seeking to raise up to $5bn of equity and debt for the project, according to news reports, a process that could benefit from the Biden administration’s pause on issuing permits for LNG projects that export to countries without free-trade agreements with the US.

“Our confidence and our timetable for that has probably been accelerated and cemented by the fact we are fully permitted, despite the Biden LNG pause impacting the broader market,” Prestidge said.

“The market has pretty quickly recognized that if you want to invest in LNG or buy LNG from a project that’s going to FID in 2024, you really don’t have very many fully permitted options right now.”

Glenfarne’s other US LNG project, called Magnolia LNG, has not yet received the required federal approvals and is therefore on pause along with a handful of other projects.

For Magnolia, Glenfarne is proposing to use a technology for which it owns the patent: optimized single mixed refrigerant, or OSMR, which uses ammonia instead of propane for cooling, resulting in less feed gas needed to run the facility and thus about 30% lower emissions than the average gas-powered LNG facility, Prestidge said.

Hydrogen projects

Glenfarne Energy Transition last year announced the formation of its hydrogen initiative, saying that projects in Chile, Texas, and Louisiana would eventually produce 1,500 kilotons of ammonia. 

“We’ve got existing infrastructure in the US Gulf Coast, and in Chile. A lot of the infrastructure required to produce LNG is similar or can be easily adapted to the infrastructure needed to produce ammonia,” Prestidge said. “And so, we’ve looked at locating hydrogen and ammonia production at sites in or near the ports of Brownsville and Lake Charles,” where Texas LNG and Magnolia LNG are located, respectively.

“The familiarity with the sites and the infrastructure and the local elements, make those pretty good fits for us,” he added.

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Exclusive: Verde Clean Fuels seeking project finance for gas refineries

Publicly listed Verde Clean Fuels plans to seek equity and debt investors for low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US. We spoke to CEO Ernest Miller about the strategy.

Verde Clean Fuels, a publicly listed developer of clean fuels technology and projects, is planning to seek project debt and equity investors to finance a series of low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US.

Houston-based Verde, which employs syngas-to-gasoline refining technology, recently announced an agreement with Diamondback Energy to construct a facility in the Permian Basin that will utilize stranded natural gas to produce 3,000 barrels per day of gasoline.

The company is also pursuing a carbon-negative gasoline project on the premises of California Resources’ Net Zero Industrial Park in Bakersfield, California. The California project will produce approximately 500 barrels of RBOB renewable gasoline per day from agricultural waste, while capturing and sequestering around 125,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Verde is capitalized following a private investment in public equity (PIPE) injection of $54m as part of a reverse merger last year, allowing the company to take the Bakersfield and West Texas projects through the FEED phase, CEO Ernest Miller said in an interview.

Underpinning Verde’s business model is the view that gasoline will persist as a transportation fuel for many years to come, and that very few parties are working to decarbonize the gasoline supply chain.

“Between renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, and sustainable aviation fuel, there is very little awareness that renewable gasoline is even a thing,” Miller said. “The addressable market is enormous, and the impact that can be made by taking even a sliver of that market is enormous.”

Miller says that many market participants believe that electric vehicles will solve the emissions problem from road transport.

“The fact is that gasoline has a very, very long runway ahead of it,” he said. “Regardless of the assumptions you want to make about EV penetration, the volume of gasoline that we continue to use for the foreseeable future is huge.”

Verde Clean Fuels demo plant.

Verde’s projects are sized in the 500 – 3,000 barrels per day range, making them a unique player at the smaller end of the production range. The only other companies with similar methanol-to-gas technology are ExxonMobil and Danish-based Topsoe, which operate at a much larger scale, according to Miller.

Miller recognizes that low-carbon, or negative-carbon, gasoline operates within a complex ecosystem, with the California project potentially playing in that state’s LCFS and D3 RIN markets, in addition to the market for gasoline.

“What I would like to see us do is have an offtaker that plays in all three of those products – so if I can go to Shell Trading, or bp, or Vitol, and get one of them to say, ‘here’s a price,’ and they take all of that exposure and optionality,” Miller said, “that allows me to finance the project without having to manage a whole bunch of different commodity exposures and risk.”

Bakersfield 

The Bakersfield project, estimated to cost $235m to build, will utilize 450 tons per day of agricultural waste to produce gasoline, and sequester CO2 via California Resources’ carbon management company, Carbon TerraVault, a joint venture with Brookfield Renewable.

Because of the carbon sequestration, the project will qualify for incentives under 45Q, but since it is producing, in Miller’s words, “deeply carbon-negative gasoline,” most of the value for the project will come from California’s LCFS program.

In order to qualify for LCFS credits, the Bakersfield facility goes through the full GREET modeling process – including transport of feedstock, processing and refining, and transport away from the facility – returning a negative 125 grams equivalent per MJ carbon intensity score for the project, according to Miller.

As for investors, Verde “would like to see both California Resources and Brookfield Renewable in the project, either individually or through the Carbon TerraVault JV,” Miller said.

Verde is also in discussions with a handful of financial players, including infrastructure and pension funds that are looking for bond-like cash flow that a project finance model can provide. The company has also explored the municipal bond market in California, which would bring to bear a favorable capital structure for the project, Miller said.

Verde is not currently working with a project finance advisor, Miller said, noting that they have in-house project finance experience. In Texas, Verde is working with Vinson & Elkins as its law firm; and in California Verde is working with Orrick as counsel.

Gasoline runway

For the Diamondback facility in West Texas, which requires roughly $325m of capex, both Verde and Diamondback will take equity stakes in the project, and Verde will seek to bring in debt financing to fund the rest of the project costs in a non-recourse project finance deal, Miller said.

The Permian project seeks to provide a pathway to monetize stranded gas in the basin by taking advantage of and alleviating its lack of takeaway capacity, which causes gas prices at the Waha Hub in West Texas to trade at a significant discount to the Henry Hub price.

“Diamondback would take the position that any gas that’s getting consumed in the Permian Basin is gas that’s not getting flared in the Permian Basin,” Miller said, thus making the project a emissions-mitigating option. “There will never be enough natural gas takeaway capacity out of the Permian Basin,” he added, noting that driller profiles are only going to get gassier as time goes on.

Diamondback, for example, produces more in the Permian than it can take out via pipeline, therefore “finding a use, a different exposure, for that gas by turning it into gasoline, is of value for them,” Miller said.

“It’s the same dynamic in the Marcellus and Bakken and Uinta – all the pipeline-constrained basins,” he added, alluding to possible future expansion to those basins.

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