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Brightmark expands RNG footprint to Michigan

Brightmark, a JV that includes Chevron USA, is launching five new anaerobic digestion dairy farm projects in western Michigan.

Brightmark RNG Holdings LLC is positioned to expand renewable natural gas (RNG) production with five new anaerobic digestion dairy farm projects in western Michigan, designed to convert animal waste to renewable fuels, according to a news release.

Brightmark RNG Holdings LLC is a joint venture between Chevron U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX), and Brightmark Fund Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Brightmark LLC. The Chevron-Brightmark renewable natural gas joint venture operates a nationwide system of RNG joint venture projects.

Chevron-Brightmark Renewable Natural Gas Joint Venture — Michigan Projects Credit: Brightmark
Chevron-Brightmark Renewable Natural Gas Joint Venture — Michigan Projects Credit: Brightmark

The Castor Project, which processes manure from one large digester, is Brightmark and Chevron’s second-largest RNG project. Other Michigan projects in the joint venture include Meadow Rock, Red Arrow, Willow Point, and SunRyz.

“We’re excited to work with our partner Chevron and farmers in Michigan to progress the development of our RNG projects, which are designed to drive both lower carbon intensity outcomes for organic waste and investments in local farmers and their surrounding communities supporting lower carbon solutions,” said Bob Powell, founder and chief executive officer of Brightmark LLC. “We are growing our network of strategic relationships with farmers across the country in order to advance the reduction of the agricultural industry’s carbon intensity by seeking renewable fuels from new sources and considering circularity challenges at increasing scale.”

Anaerobic digestion is a circular technology that captures animal manure from partner sites and converts it into renewable natural gas, fertilizer, and water that can be recycled back into agricultural and energy systems for reuse. Including these Michigan projects, the Chevron-Brightmark RNG joint venture has a total of 20 RNG projects across the country.

“Transitioning to a lower carbon future is dependent, in part, on ambitious innovations and pragmatic solutions,” said Andy Walz, president of Chevron Americas Products. “Launching these anaerobic digestion projects with Brightmark can help us develop new solutions for transportation, industry, and customers who rely on our products.”

The net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the manure processed at the anaerobic digestion dairy farm projects in Michigan is equivalent to planting over 179,000 acres of forest each year. Additionally, these projects are expected to reduce land application of raw manure and improve odor, water quality, and nutrient management practices at farms.

“We have always strived to be stewards to our land, community, and industry. Brightmark is our valued partner in our efforts to advance a lower carbon energy business,” stated Greg Stahl, lead farmer of The Castor Project. “We look forward to working with Brightmark and Chevron on these renewable natural gas projects in our shared pursuit to create value from underutilized resources.”

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Hydrogen and CCUS factor heavily in U.S. DOE heavy-industry decarbonization selections

The projects are expected to reduce the equivalent of more than 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Hydrogen and CCUS factor heavily into the projects that have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of a $6 billion funding program for 33 projects across more than 20 states to decarbonize energy-intensive industries and reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

The full list of winners selected for grant negotiations is here. Below are some of the highlights:

Steelmaker SSAB has been selected to negotiate for a grant of up to $500m for the Hydrogen-Fueled Zero Emissions Steel Making project, which would bring green hydrogen-based steel production to the United States to build the first commercial-scale facility in the world using fossil-free Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) technology with 100% hydrogen in Perry County, Mississippi. The project also plans to expand SSAB’s Montpelier, Iowa steelmaking facility to utilize the resulting hydrogen-reduced DRI. SSAB has signed a letter of intent for Hy Stor Energy to supply green hydrogen and renewable electricity to the DRI facility. 

Cleveland-Cliffs has been selected to receive up to $500m for the Hydrogen-Ready Direct Reduced Iron Plant and Electric Melting Furnace Installation project for iron and steel, including plans to install a hydrogen-ready flex-fuel Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) plant and two electric melting furnaces at Cleveland-Cliffs’ Middletown Works mill in Ohio. 

Orsted would receive up to $100m for its Star e-Methanol project, which plans to use captured carbon dioxide from a local industrial facility to produce e-methanol to reduce the carbon footprint for hard-to-electrify sectors like shipping. Orsted’s facility is estimated to produce up to 300,000 metric tons of e-methanol per year and would reduce the carbon footprint by 80% or more than traditional production methods. 

Constellium has been selected to receive up to $75m for a zero carbon aluminum casting plant at its Ravenswood, West Virginia facility. The project would install low-emissions SmartMelt furnaces that can operate using a range of fuels, including clean hydrogen.

The National Cement Company of California would receive up to $500m for a carbon-neutral cement plant in Lebec, California. Instead of using fossil fuels, the project would use locally sourced biomass from agricultural byproducts such as pistachio shells, replace clinker with a less carbon intensive alternative (calcined clay) to produce limestone calcined clay cement (LC3), and capture and sequester the plant’s remaining approximately 950,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Heidelberg Materials would receive up to $500m for an integrated carbon capture, transport, and storage system at their newly modernized plant located in Mitchell, Indiana. This project would capture at least 95% of the carbon dioxide from one of the largest cement plants in the nation and store it in a geologic formation beneath the plant property.

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New JV to provide H2-blending solutions to gas utilities

Progressus Clean Technologies and Alkaline Fuel Cell Power have entered into a JV for a H2-blending pilot project for natural gas utilities.

Progressus Clean Technologies and Alkaline Fuel Cell Power have entered into a JV for a H2-blending pilot project for natural gas utilities, according to a news release.

The JV is intended to combine Progressus technologies with AFCP fuel cells to serve residential and small building customers across North America. PowerTap Hydrogen owns 49% of Progress.

Gas distribution companies and municipalities are setting-up projects to inject hydrogen into the local gas distribution grid.; generally up to 20% hydrogen.

The project is designed to use the Progressus hydrogen separation technology to efficiently extract hydrogen at high purities from the existing natural gas grid, and then convert the purified hydrogen using either AFCP’s 4 kW Micro-CHP or 4 kW generator to produce electricity, and potentially heat. This project could be put to immediate use in a residential home or commercial building, providing truly zero-emission power. AFCP has already identified interest from natural gas and electric utilities and municipalities to pilot the concept.

The exact location of the JV pilot project remains under consideration but, initially, North America will be the focus with secondary priority given to potential future pilots in Europe.

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C-Zero closes financing round for gas decarbonization pilot

The company has closed a $34m dollar financing round led by SK Gas.

C-Zero Inc., a clean energy company that has developed a technology for natural gas decarbonization, has closed a $34m dollar financing round led by SK Gas, a subsidiary of South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate, the SK Group.

SK Gas was joined by two other new investors – Engie New Ventures and Trafigura, one of the world’s largest physical commodities trading companies – in addition to participation from all existing investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Eni Next, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AP Ventures, according to a news release.

The funding will be used to build C-Zero’s first pilot plant, which is expected to be online in Q1 2023. The plant will be capable of producing up to 400kg of hydrogen per day from natural gas with no CO2 emissions.

“We are excited to be scaling up our innovative technology with experienced investors and partners who recognize the need to decarbonize natural gas and the opportunity that turquoise hydrogen production represents,” said Eric McFarland, CTO of C-Zero. “Natural gas provides a quarter of the world’s energy, so the scale of the opportunity ahead of us is enormous. But we cannot do it alone.”

“We are eager to bring C-Zero’s technology to Korea, where we see great synergies with our plans to build a hydrogen value chain complex in Ulsan,” said Brian (Byung Suk) Yoon, CEO of SK Gas. “SK Gas strongly believes in the potential of methane pyrolysis and its ability to help countries like Korea in their decarbonization efforts by producing low-cost, clean hydrogen.”

“We see significant applications for low-carbon hydrogen production through methane pyrolysis which complement ENGIE’s existing activities and skill sets. Investing early on in C-Zero’s journey brings us familiarity with the technology, and could help ENGIE achieve its goal of Net Zero by 2045” said Johann Boukhors, Managing Director of ENGIE New Ventures.

“Trafigura is backing C-Zero as part of a series of investments in clean energy technologies, including low-carbon fuels needed for the energy transition. C-Zero is reaching a critical stage with the construction of its first pilot plant to successfully demonstrate the production of low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas,” said Julien Rolland, Head of Power and Renewables for Trafigura.

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Mitsubishi laying groundwork for additional equity raise

Mitsubishi Power Americas and its JV partners are preparing to raise additional equity for the ACES Delta project in Utah, as well as for other hydrogen developments in the Americas.

Mitsubishi Power Americas is conferring with its financial partners to raise equity from existing investors in the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) Delta green hydrogen project in Utah, Senior Vice President, Investment and Business Development Ricky Sakai said in an interview.

Haddington Ventures formed Haddington ESP I and raised $650m in June 2022 from institutional investors to fund projects developed by ACES Delta, which is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Power Americas and Haddington portfolio company Magnum Development.

The investors — AIMCo, GIC, Manulife Financial Corporation, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board — have additional rights to increase their collective investment to $1.5bn, according to a press release announcing the deal.

The first phase of the project in Utah will be to produce 100 tons of hydrogen per day. Once that is complete, existing investors can scale up their investment, Sakai said.

ACES Delta rendering

Mitsubishi is involved in several regional hydrogen hubs applying for funding from the US Department of Energy.

Hydrogen capable

Depending on how that $7bn is ultimately allocated, Mitsubishi is interested in replicating the Utah project in other regions, a source familiar with the company said.

MPA and Magnum recently closed on a $504.4m loan guarantee from the DOE for ACES Delta, electrolyzers for which will be supplied by Norway-based HydrogenPro.

ACES Delta will support the Intermountain Power Agency’s IPP Renewed Project — upgrading to an 840 MW hydrogen-capable gas turbine combined cycle power plant using Mitsubishi’s M501JAC gas turbines. The plant will initially run on a blend of 30% green hydrogen and 70% natural gas starting in 2025 and incrementally expand to 100% green hydrogen by 2045.

Mitsubishi is also supplying the hydrogen-capable gas turbines to Entergy’s Orange County Advanced Power Station; to an Alberta coal plant owned by Capital Power; and to J-Power’s Jackson Generation Project in Illinois, which reached commercial operations last year.

Mitsubishi Power

Investing in startups

Mitsubishi is doubling down on a strategy of investing in startup producers and technology in renewable fuels, Sakai said.

Recent investments in the space include: C-Zero, a drop-in decarbonization tech startup in California; Cemvita Factory, a Houston-based synthetic biology firm focused on the decarbonization of heavy industries; Infinium, an electrofuels company innovator in California forming decarbonization solutions for industries in Japan; and Starfire Energy, a modular green ammonia solution provider in Denver.

Series A and Series B valuations for US companies are much higher now than they were a few years ago, Sakai said. Still, the US is the leading climate tech startup ecosystem in the world and provides rich opportunity for capital deployment, Sakai said. Biofuels, SAF and waste-to-energy are leading sectors for MHI investment moving forward.

“We have several hundred of these in the pipeline that we are looking at right now,” he said. “In the next few years, we will increase the number of these portfolio companies.”

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Exclusive: Methanol electrolyzer start-up gearing up for seed capital raise

An early-stage technology company seeking to commercialize an electrolyzer that produces methanol from CO2 at ambient temperature and pressure is preparing its first capital raise.

Oxylus Energy, a methanol technology and project development start-up, is preparing to kick off its first capital raise later this month.

The Yale-based firm is seeking to raise $4m in seed funding, with proceeds funding the advancement of a production-scale CO2-to-methanol electrolyzer cell and its first commercial agreements for offtake, CEO Perry Bakas said in an interview.

Oxylus aims to commercialize an electrolyzer that creates methanol from CO2 at room temperature and pressure, and also plans to develop and operate its own methanol production plants, he said.

The technology, which will scale to larger versions in coming years, recently hit a key milestone with the validation of a 5cm2 platform.

The seed capital raise would provide approximately 26 months of runway, according to Bakas. The company would then raise between $20 – $30m in a follow-on Series A in late 2026.

“What we’re gonna do with the Series A is put that first electrolyzer into the ground,” he said. “It’ll be our first revenue-producing methanol.”

Oxylus is currently owned by Bakas and his fellow co-founders. The company has been entirely grant funded to this point. DLA Piper is advising as the law firm on the seed capital raise.

“I think the most important thing about the technology is it’s the most energy-efficient pathway to making renewable methanol,” he said. “At the right energy prices, you’re below cost parity with fossil-derived methanol. When that happens, I think it’ll become a very interesting development scenario.”

Oxylus is focused on bringing the so-called green premium down to zero, Bakas said, noting that it requires achieving scale in electrolyzer production or partnering with established electrolyzer manufacturers.

Methanol for shipping

Oxylus will seek to introduce its technology into target markets that are already using methanol as a feedstock, like high-value petrochemicals. In the longer term, shipping and aviation are likely to become attractive markets. Taken together, the company believes methanol has the potential to decarbonize 11% of global emissions.

Methanol will compete with ammonia for primacy as a shipping fuel in the future, but Bakas believes methanol is the better option.

“These are massive markets – they need a lot of solutions, and quickly,” he said. “But ammonia is not energy dense, and it doesn’t integrate with existing infrastructure.”

The International Energy Agency recently projected that while ammonia will be cheaper to make, methanol is easier to handle, resulting in roughly similar cost profiles for e-methanol and green ammonia. The added cost for methanol production, the report found, is likely to come from a scarcity of biogenic CO2.

On that topic, Bakas acknowledged that the methanol pathway still requires combustion of carbon, but emphasized his technology’s ability to displace existing fossil fuel-based methanol production.

“The distinction we need to make is: are these virgin hydrocarbons or are they recycled hydrocarbons? If you’re just continuously pumping new CO2 out of the ground into the atmosphere, you’re gonna continue to cause climate change,” he said.

“The technologies that we are building in this suite of technologies that cover direct air capture, point source capture, carbon conversion, that whole CCUS world,” he added, “are really working to monitor and create a homeostasis in the atmospheric balance of CO2.”

Oxylus recently completed a lifecycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, Bakas said, finding that its fuels are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 95% at optimal voltage compared to natural gas steam methane reforming.

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Exclusive: Monarch Energy targeting green hydrogen FID in 2024

Monarch is moving forward with several green hydrogen projects in the Gulf Coast region, most notably a 500 MW project near Beaumont, Texas and a 300 MW project near Geismar, Louisiana.

Green hydrogen developer Monarch Energy aims to take its first final investment decision as soon as next year, CEO Ben Alingh said in an interview.

Monarch is moving forward with several green hydrogen projects in the Gulf Coast region, most notably a 500 MW project near Beaumont, Texas and a 300 MW project near Geismar, Louisiana.

Alingh said the company is seeking to advance the projects to FID by late 2024 and early 2025. Monarch has not engaged a project finance banker yet, he said.

The company recently announced a $25m preferred equity investment and $400m project equity commitment from LS Power.

The proceeds of the preferred equity raise will fund pre-FID aspects of Monarch’s 4.5 GW green hydrogen development platform: overhead, project development, interconnection, land, permitting, and engineering.

The $400m commitment, meanwhile, is earmarked for project equity investments in Monarch’s pipeline of projects. Under the arrangement, the projects will be dropped into a new entity, Clean Hydrogen Fuels, LLC, where LS Power provides the capital and Monarch provides the project, Alingh said.

“On a project-by-project basis the projects will be transferred to Clean Hydrogen Fuels if they are selected,” he said. The Clean Hydrogen Fuels entity is jointly owned by Monarch and LS Power.

Monarch did not use a financial advisor for the capital raise. Clean Energy Counsel served as Monarch’s law firm.

For both the Beaumont and Geismar facilities, Monarch has signed MoUs with Entergy to supply long-term renewable power. Monarch is engaged with industrial users of hydrogen in each location as potential offtakers. It plans to deliver hydrogen via local Monarch-developed hydrogen pipelines that it is developing with EPC partners, he said.

“We endeavor to be as close to our end user as possible with our electrolyzer project, to limit development and execution risk on delivery,” he said. For the volumes of Monarch’s projects, trucking solutions are not on the table, he said, as it would simply require too many trucks.

The company has additional production facilities under development in Freeport, Texas, as well as four other locations in Texas, according to the ReSource project database.

Monarch is also interested in end markets for hydrogen derivatives like methanol and ammonia, but Alingh notes that every project “starts with one core focus, and that is making the cheapest green hydrogen possible.”

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