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Exclusive: Banker enlisted for CO2-to-SAF capital raise

BofA Securities is running a capital raise for a US-based CO2-to-SAF technology provider and project developer with a global pipeline of projects.

eFuels developer Infinium has launched a Series C capital raise along with efforts to advance unannounced projects in its development pipeline, Ayesha Choudhury, head of capital markets, said in an interview.

Bank of America has been engaged to advise on the capital raise.

Infinium recently announced the existence of Project Roadrunner, located in West Texas, which will convert an existing brownfield gas-to-liquids project into an eFuels facility delivering products to both US and international markets. Breakthrough Energy Catalyst has contributed $75m in project equity.

Infinium, which launched in 2020, closed a $69m Series B in 2021, with Amazon, NextEra and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries participating. Its Project Pathfinder in Corpus Christi is fully capitalized.

About a dozen projects, split roughly 50/50 between North America and the rest of the world, are in development now, Choudhury said. The company is always scouting new projects and is looking for partners to provide CO2, develop power generation and offtake end products.

A CO2 feedstock agreement for a US Midwest project with BlackRock-backed Navigator CO2 Ventures was recently scrapped after the latter developer cancelled its CO2 pipeline project.

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Vertex Energy appoints advisor for renewable fuels strategy

NASDAQ-listed Vertex has engaged BofA as strategic financial advisor.

Vertex Energy, Inc., a specialty refiner and marketer of refined products, has named BofA Securities as strategic financial advisor to assist with its renewable fuels and sustainable products growth strategy.

During this engagement, the company expects to review various potential strategic transaction opportunities aimed at strengthening the balance sheet to support growth acceleration and asset development in line with the company’s forward trajectory as an energy transition company, it said in a statement.

Vertex has not set a timetable for the completion of this process and does not intend to comment further unless or until the Board of Directors has approved a definitive course of action, or it is determined that other disclosure is necessary or appropriate.

Benjamin P. Cowart, President and CEO of Vertex, stated, “Scaling our renewable fuels and sustainable products strategy is a top priority for us. As such, we are tightening our focus on strategic initiatives and considering options that optimally support our long-term vision. We believe BofA has the right tools and expertise to help us transition into this next phase of development for the company.”

Vertex Energy commissioned its first renewable diesel facility at the company’s Mobile refinery and the first renewable diesel facility in Alabama in. May.

In 2022, Vertex acquired a conventional fuels refinery from Shell plc, immediately launching a $115m conversion project. The primary aim of the project was to convert a standalone unit within the refinery to facilitate the production of renewable diesel, a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to petroleum diesel fuel.

The project reached mechanical completion on March 31st of this year.

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Steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs completes blast furnace hydrogen trial

Hydrogen was used as a partial substitute for the coke necessary for iron reduction, ultimately replacing the release of CO2 with the release of water vapor with no impact to product quality or operating efficiency.

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. has successfully completed a hydrogen (H2) injection trial at its Middletown Works blast furnace.

This groundbreaking introduction of hydrogen gas as an iron reducing agent in the blast furnace is the first-ever use of this carbon friendly technology in the Americas region, the company said in a news release. The successful use of hydrogen gas represents a significant step toward the future decarbonization of blast furnaces, which are necessary for the continued service of the most quality-intensive steel applications, particularly for the automotive industry.

During the trial completed on May 8, 2023, hydrogen gas was injected into all 20 tuyeres at the Middletown #3 blast furnace, facilitating the production of clean pig iron – the foundation of high-end steelmaking. Hydrogen was used as a partial substitute for the coke necessary for iron reduction, ultimately replacing the release of CO2 with the release of H2O (water vapor) with no impact to product quality or operating efficiency. The hydrogen was delivered to the Middletown facility via the existing pipeline and transportation infrastructure in place for the facility’s other hydrogen uses, including for its annealing furnaces.

Lourenco Goncalves, Cliffs’ chairman, president and chief executive officer, said: “We are proud to be the first company in the Americas to inject hydrogen into a blast furnace – a demonstration of our commitment to develop and implement breakthrough technological advancements toward decarbonization. Cleveland-Cliffs thrives on innovation, so it was fitting that this major step was completed just a short distance from our Cliffs Research and Innovation Center in Middletown, Ohio. This achievement proves our ability to use green hydrogen throughout our footprint when it becomes readily and economically available, including in our seven blast furnaces and our state-of-the-art direct reduction facility. We are already the world leaders in natural gas injection, and this success confirms there is a bright, sustainable and environmentally friendly future for the much needed BF-BOF steelmaking technology.”

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Alaska Airlines reaches SAF deal with Shell Aviation

As part of the agreement, Shell Aviation will supply up to 10 million gallons of neat SAF to Alaska Airlines at their hub in Los Angeles.

Alaska Airlines has reached agreement with Shell Aviation to expand the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) market beyond a standard fuel supply agreement.

The cross-industry collaboration brings together a world-class fuel supply chain and the fifth-largest domestic carrier to procure and use sustainable fuel, while working together to define and tackle what it will take to advance SAF technology, development, infrastructure and investment, according to a news release.

“Alaska Airlines has set our course to net zero by 2040 and sustainable aviation fuels represent the greatest near-term opportunity to make a step-level change on that journey,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, senior vice president for public affairs and sustainability at Alaska. “That’s why we’ve pioneered SAF technologies for more than a decade. But we can’t scale the market alone. We’re excited to take this next step in the journey with Shell, to leverage their deep knowledge of the energy industry, its infrastructure requirements and supply chain to make lower lifecycle carbon SAF more widely available for the future.”

Details of the agreement include commitments to deepen understanding of the technology, infrastructure, carbon accounting systems and public policy support needed to bring SAF to more markets, in greater quantities and at a more sustainable long-term cost. The companies will put particular focus on enabling supply to the West Coast and alleviating fueling infrastructure challenges in the Pacific Northwest. Shell Aviation will also supply up to 10 million gallons of neat SAF to Alaska Airlines at their hub in Los Angeles.

“We’re excited to expand our strong relationship with Alaska and amplify our efforts to help decarbonize aviation through SAF supply on the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jan Toschka, president of Shell Aviation. “We need support from the entire ecosystem to build a sustainable future for aviation. This deep level of collaboration will help us put the technologies and supply chain in place to advance the industry.”

Both Alaska Airlines and Shell Aviation share an ambition to help scale the SAF market by concurrently addressing cost and volume through multiple strategies to grow availability and commercial viability of SAF.

“With Shell’s world-class fuel supply chain and deep technical knowledge, we’re aiming to transform West Coast fuel supply,” said Ann Ardizzone, vice president of strategic sourcing and supply chain management at Alaska Airlines. “By leveraging the fuel infrastructure expertise of a major fuel producer, we can advance SAF access in more markets, accelerating the market scale of SAF to reach our environmental goals.”

SAF is a safe, certified drop-in fuel that meets the jet fuel standards to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80% of lifecycle emissions.

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exclusive

Biomass technology company launching US projects

Comstock Inc, a biomass technology company, is gearing up to build a fleet of plants that will use yield-enhancing technology to convert woody biomass into clean fuels.

Comstock Inc, a biomass technology company, is gearing up to build a fleet of plants that will use yield-enhancing new technology to process woody biomass into an intermediate product that can be further refined into clean fuels.

The company, traditionally a miner focused on gold and silver mining in Nevada, has been transformed into a technology innovator seeking to build, own, and operate a portfolio of carbon neutral extraction and refining facilities in the US, CEO Corrado De Gasperis said in an interview.

“We’re finalizing all of our documentation on readiness and engineering, and then we’ll be working to select an EPC, and then we’ll be ready to bond and finance,” he said.

Comstock, which trades on the NYSE, is currently engaged in the process of securing access to feedstock, and has mapped out nine regions in the U.S. which, combined, produce between 85 – 100 million tons of woody biomass residuals per year.

In parallel, the company is seeking to incentivize growth of trees like hybrid poplar that can be used as feedstock in the future, De Gasperis said. “We’re going to be building the backend of the supply chain with a feedstock strategy, accessing existing residuals, and then building these facilities,” he added.

In Minnesota, for example, there are around 300 sawmills with no place to send their sawdust and excess woodchips following the closure of several wood-to-energy plants, said David Winsness, a president at Comstock.

“Those are the materials that shouldn’t be sitting there – we should be converting them into fuel,” Winsness said.

Building plants

The company has set an objective to generate “billions” in revenue by 2030 – something it would achieve largely through building and operating the woody biomass plants near where the feedstock is located. Comstock also sells related services and licenses selected technologies to strategic partners.

Using simple math, Comstock could achieve its revenue goal by building and operating 10 facilities that produce approximately 1 million tons of clean fuels per year.

A plant producing 1 million tons per year would require capex of between $600m – $750m to build, and would likely be constructed using a project finance funding model, De Gasperis said. The company has not yet selected a financial advisor.

De Gasperis believes large refiners will want to co-build the facilities along with Comstock – which could also entail a strategic equity investment from the selected refiner and lead to a faster construction process.

“Speed and throughput is the goal,” he said, noting that the company has been engaged with roughly 12 of the large clean fuels refiners on a potential partnership. “The faster we’re producing these carbon-neutral gallons, the faster we’re decarbonizing, and the faster we’re making money.”

The company has private equity funds and infrastructure funds on their radar as potential investors but has not engaged with them yet.

The other half

Comstock’s technological breakthrough comes in its ability to produce a biointermediary – called bioleum – from a part of the woody biomass that is not cellulose, and which can be used to produce drop-in fuels. (Importantly, under new EPA rules implemented in June 2022, biointermediaries such as bioleum can be sold on to refiners, whereas previous rules required co-location with the refineries.)

“Cellulose only counts for 50% of a tree,” said Winsness. “For every gallon of fuel generated from cellulose, we’re getting another gallon from the byproduct. It’s a huge change for the industry to be able to get that much more throughput from the same amount of biomass.”

The Department of Energy recently issued a funding opportunity for projects that can produce more than 60 gallons of ethanol from 1 ton of wood feedstock, De Gasperis said.

“We saw that and we said, ‘We’re already there. We can do much more,’” he added.

Comstock can currently produce about 70 gallons of ethanol from 1 ton of wood, using cellulose. Meanwhile, with the non-cellulose half of the wood in 1 ton of feedstock, the technology can produce an additional 30 – 40 gallons of renewable diesel or aviation fuel.

The company has partnered on a process to convert ethanol to drop-in fuel, with the ultimate goal of producing 100 gallons of drop-in fuels from 1 ton of wood feedstock, according to De Gasperis. “All of our development is to stabilize the breakthrough we had on the bioleum – the heavy cellulose components of the wood is where our technology breaks through and shatters this.”

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exclusive

Methanol-to-hydrogen firm planning capital raise

An early-stage provider of distributed methanol-to-hydrogen solutions is planning a capital raise as it scales up.

Kaizen Clean Energy, a Houston-based methanol-to-hydrogen fuel company, is planning to raise additional capital in support of upcoming projects.

The company, which uses methanol and water to produce hydrogen with modular units, recently completed a funding round led by Balcor Companies, in which Balcor took a minority interest in Kaizen.

Additional funding in the capital raise was provided by friends and family, Kaizen co-founder and chief commercial officer Eric Smith said in an interview.

But with its sights on larger project opportunities this year, the company is already targeting an additional capital raise to support continued growth, Smith said. He declined to comment further on the capital raise and potential advisors, but noted that the company’s CFO, Craig Klaasmeyer, is a former Credit Suisse banker.

Kaizen’s methanol model utilizes a generator license from Element 1 and adds in systems to produce power or hydrogen, targeting the diesel generator market, EV charging and microgrids as well as hydrogen fueling and industrial uses.

Compared to trucking in hydrogen, the model using methanol, an abundant chemical, cuts costs by around 50%, Smith said, noting that Kaizen’s containers are at cost parity with diesel.

In addition, the Kaizen container is cleaner than alternatives, producing no nitric or sulfur oxide, according to Smith. Its carbon intensity score is 45, compared to 90 for the California electric grid and 100 for diesel generators.

Smith also touts a streamlined permitting process for Kaizen’s containerized product. The company recently received a letter of exemption for the container from a California air district due to low or no emissions. The product similarly does not require a California state permit and similarly, when off grid, no city permits are required, he added.

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Exclusive: Wisconsin RNG portfolio for sale with large renewables portfolio

A major Canadian utility is auctioning off four Wisconsin RNG assets as part of a larger renewables selldown. The subsidiary at auction has previously indicated that it would take part in Northeastern US hydrogen development.

Algonquin Power & Utilities is selling a package of four renewable natural gas assets, totaling 532 mmbtu, in Wisconsin as part of a larger renewables auction, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

JP Morgan is advising on the process, codenamed Project Power, the sources said.

The process comprises mostly operational onshore wind (2,325 MW) and solar (670 MW), along with an 8 GW development pipeline across 10 power markets, according to a teaser seen by ReSource. The renewable assets are collectively known as Liberty under the Algonquin banner.

The pipeline includes 1,600 mmbtu of RNG. The operational RNG assets reached COD in 2022.

Algonquin did not respond to requests for comment. JP Morgan declined comment.

The Wisconsin assets are apparently the former Sandhill Advanced Biofuels projects, which were acquired by Algonquin in 2022.

When that acquisition was made, it was announced that Liberty had signed on as a “hydrogen ecosystem partner” in the multi-state Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub. That hub ultimately was not selected by the US department of Energy for hub funding.

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