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California biomass-to-hydrogen developer agrees LOI for offtake

The letter of intent covers three plants, each slated to produce 7 million kilograms per year of green hydrogen.

Gunvor USA, part of the Gunvor Group, has entered into a green hydrogen letter of intent with Fresno, California-based Yosemite Clean Energy, a developer of biomass to green hydrogen in the state of California, according to a news release.

The LOI covers the purchase and marketing of all production of green hydrogen from Yosemite’s first three facilities located in Oroville, Tuolumne and Visalia, California. Each facility is projected to produce 7 million kilograms per year of negative carbon intensity green hydrogen from 90,000 bone dry tons of biomass that are sustainably sourced from forest fuel hazard reduction projects, which reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires in California.

ReSource interviewed Yosemite CEO Tom Hobby last month about the company’s plans to raise development capital and a series A.

This week’s release notes that Yosemite will also use biomass generated post-wildfires as part of current salvage and restoration operations. Yosemite biofuels plants will help farmers by using end-of-life orchard biomass to eliminate open burning and the associated CO2 and air quality impacts within the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. The first facility, located in Oroville, is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2025, while the remaining two facilities are projected to start over the two following years.

“Green hydrogen is a clear area of opportunity to be explored for its role in the new energy landscape, and as a global commodities trader, Gunvor is pleased to support an innovative business such as Yosemite Clean Energy. Gunvor aims to be a long-term player in the maturation of global hydrogen markets, driven by expansion in transportation, aviation and industrial markets. Yosemite will be a key part of that growth,” said Fredrik Törnqivst, Gunvor’s energy transition director and managing director for Nyera, an investment vehicle dedicated to identifying sustainable commodities trading and business opportunities.

“For decades, the convergence of technologies, biomass producers, and end uses for biomass have been lacking, causing millions of tons of waste biomass to be underutilized across North America,” Yosemite CEO Hobby said in the release. “Today we have the biomass conversion technologies, and in our case the downstream syngas processing, by which to economically create carbon negative H2 and advanced biofuels. Yosemite Clean is championing the best practices of sustainable management on our forest and farms. We are using biomass that has been burning, dying, and rotting, to produce zero-emission, carbon-negative green biofuels. We are very pleased to have Gunvor as our marketing and off-take partner for hydrogen fuels and the development of our ‘stump-to-pump’ marketing plan.”

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Waste-to-methanol developer adds global projects director

Los Angeles-based WasteFuel has hired a former engineering and project director from Johnson Matthey.

WasteFuel, a next-generation waste-to-fuels company, announced today that Johan Fritz, former Johnson Matthey Project and Engineering Director, will serve as the company’s Global Projects Director, effective May 1, 2024, according to a news release.

Fritz will oversee WasteFuel’s project development team and work alongside key partners to advance the company’s projects and accelerate WasteFuel’s efforts to produce green methanol at scale.

He brings over 25 years of experience leading multi-disciplinary teams across all project stages including concept design, FEED, detail design and execution in many places around the world including in the US, UK, China, India, EU, Africa and South America.

As the Project and Engineering Director at global chemical and sustainable technology company, Johnson Matthey, Johan was responsible for projects enabling net zero targets, managed the capex delivery of global projects, played a hands-on role in execution, and built and oversaw cross-stakeholder teams. His previous roles include Project Management Lead at leading oilfield services provider SLB Asset Consulting Services, where he provided Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) support for global clients; and Senior Manager at international integrated energy and chemicals company, Sasol E&P.

Johan holds a postgraduate degree from the University of Pretoria and studied chemical engineering at the Vaal University of Technology. He is a Member of the Association of Project Managers (MAPM), and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMI).

“I am looking forward to working alongside the WasteFuel team to build projects that will decarbonize shipping and reduce waste at this significant time for the company and the environment,” said Johan Fritz, Global Projects Director of WasteFuel. “The opportunity to be a part of the company’s growth and to bring their green methanol production to scale is extremely exciting.”

“Johan’s experience executing global energy projects adds critical expertise to WasteFuel’s existing project management and leadership teams as we work to accelerate the development of our projects around the world,” said Trevor Neilson, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of WasteFuel.

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Hexagon Composites seeking CEO

The Norway-based provider of composite cylinder technology for the clean energy industry is seeking a new CEO.

Norway-based Hexagon Composites CEO Jon Erik Engeset will step down as group president and chief executive officer.

The company will shortly commence a search process. Engeset will continue as CEO until the position is filled, following which he will continue to support the company in an advisory role, the company said in a news release.

Hexagon Group is a global manufacturer of Type 4 composite cylinders used for storing gas under high-and low-pressure.

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Carbon removal firm raises $100m

Carbon removal firm Charm Industrial has raised $100m in a Series B capital raise.

Charm Industrial has raised $100m in Series B funding in a raise led by General Catalyst.

General Catalyst’s CEO and Managing Director Hemant Taneja will join the company’s board alongside Ryan Panchadsaram from John Doerr’s office.

Lowercarbon, Exor Ventures, Kinnevik, Thrive Capital and Elad Gil also invested as part of the round, according to a blog post.

The company will use the new funding to accelerate its carbon removal deliveries. After deploying increasingly advanced pilot processes in 2021 and 2022, the company began ramping up in 2023. Its primary focus is expanding bio-oil production and transport capacity, and since the beginning of the year it has increased tons of carbon removal delivered per week 5x.

Continued acceleration requires ramping up our operations in Colorado and the broader corn belt, and expanding our lone pyrolyzer into a continent-wide fleet of tens of thousands of pyrolyzers. The future of carbon removal will be a massive investment in the heartland of America. Each Charm pyrolyzer will produce bio-oil for sequestration and improve the soil with biochar.

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Ammonia-to-power company planning up to $500m Series C

Ammonia-to-power start-up Amogy will launch a final equity raise once it establishes revenue milestones in 2023 and 2024

Amogy, an ammonia-to-power technology start-up, will likely launch a $400m to $500m Series C late next year, CEO Seonghoon Woo said in an interview.

The company should achieve its first revenues this year and grow those revenues in 2024 to reach a target valuation, Woo said. The company to date has not used a financial advisor.

Amogy is planning to use proceeds from a recent Series B-1 capital raise to expand into a Houston manufacturing facility as it seeks to bring its product to the market.

After demonstrating its technology on a drone, a tractor, and a semi truck, the company is currently working to install its ammonia-cracking technology on a tugboat, and plans to advance a commercialization strategy starting in 2024, Woo said.

The proceeds of the $139m capital raise announced last week will allow Amogy to expand into an already-built facility in Houston, Woo said. The company also plans to roughly double its workforce from 110 employees currently as it boosts capacity in R&D, manufacturing, and commercialization.

CEO Seonghoon Woo

Amogy was founded in 2020 by four MIT PhD alumni, including Woo, and is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Ammonia vs hydrogen

Woo believes using ammonia as a fuel and cracking it into hydrogen solves the transportation issues facing hydrogen, as ammonia is already a widely traded global commodity.

Similarly, at room temperature, ammonia can be stored as a liquid with only mild pressure (~8 bar), compared to the cryogenic requirements for liquid hydrogen.

And, according to a white paper commissioned by Amogy, the volumetric energy density of liquid ammonia is 12.7 megajoules per liter, which is higher than for liquid hydrogen at 8.5 MJ/L and compressed hydrogen at 4.7 MJ/L (at a pressure of 69 MPa in ambient temperature conditions), but lower than for diesel or gasoline.

“Over an equivalent distance, fueling a vehicle solely using ammonia would require approximately three times the internal tank volume needed for conventional diesel fuel but three times less than the volume required for compressed hydrogen,” the paper reads.

While Amogy’s technology is compatible with any color ammonia, Woo said regulations in Scandinavia and Europe give confidence that the global market for clean ammonia will become competitive with fossil-based fuels.

Scaling up

The recent capital raise gives Amogy roughly two years of runway before additional fundraising might be needed, at which point the company will have more visibility into revenue growth, Woo added.

The latest funding round was led by SK Innovation, joined by other global investors including Temasek, Korea Zinc, Aramco Ventures, AP Ventures, MOL PLUS, Yanmar Ventures, Zeon Ventures and DCVC.

The company previously raised roughly $70m in three separate funding rounds, with proceeds allowing it to demonstrate the drone, heavy-duty tractor, and semi truck. Woo said the tractor project drew interest from John Deere, which sent representatives to observe and offer some assistance on the retrofit.

In previous capital raises, Woo said Amogy has encountered investor reluctance to enter what is considered an early market with regulatory and economic risk, with some investors wanting to wait as much as another two years before gaining exposure to the market. The strongest interest has come from upstream producers.

Amogy plans to continue scaling up its technology in the maritime industry to cargo and container ships as well as offshore supply vessels, Woo said.

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Exclusive: Australian fuels producer looking for US development partners

An Australian fuels producer and concentrated solar power developer partnered with German and US fossil interests is developing its first US clean fuels project in Texas, and is looking for development partners with eyes on the greater southwest.

Vast Energy, the Australia-based and NASDAQ-listed concentrated solar power (CSP) developer and fuels producer, is in the early stages of developing a project near El Paso, Texas – the company’s first in the US – and is seeking US development partners to generate a pipeline of projects throughout the country, CEO Craig Wood said in an interview.

Vast is in process with two projects in Port Augusta, South Australia: VS1, a 30 MW solar/8 MWh storage plant, and SM1, a demonstration solar-to-methanol plant co-located with VS1, producing up to 7,500 mtpa of green methanol from VS1 electricity and heat with extra power available on the grid.

VS1 is scheduled for FID in 3Q24 with FID on SM1 coming the following quarter, Wood said.

Vast recently announced funding agreements with German partner Mabanaft for up to AUD $40m for SM1, after the SM1 project was selected last year as a part of the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator (HyGATE).

Methanol from the $80m SM1 will in part be exported to Germany. Vast is also working with EDF to provide additional financing, Wood said.

“Essentially it’s going to be debt free and on balance sheet,” Wood said.

German container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd recently signed an MOU with Mabanaft to explore options for the supply of ammonia as bunker fuel to Hapag-Lloyd in the Port of Houston.

US opportunity

In the US, where Vast listed to be primed for opportunistic growth, the company has a shortlist of locations around El Paso, has engaged with regional economic development leaders, and held early talks with EPC providers, Wood said.

The El Paso project is being developed in conjunction with Houston-based oil and gas drilling business Nabors Industries, Wood said. Nabors backed the SPAC that took Vast public at a valuation of up to $586m in early 2023. Its current market cap is $64m.

There are ongoing discussions on whether to produce eSAF or methanol in El Paso, Wood said.

To produce eSAF, Vast would use a solid-oxide electrolyzer coupled with the Fischer-Tropsch process, Wood said. Meanwhile, the methanol distillation process lends itself well to Vast’s ability to produce low-cost heat.

CSP has a lower level of embedded carbon than any renewables technology other than wind, Wood said.

“The work that we have done to date indicated that you would most likely power an eFuels project with a CSP plant that was configured to operate in the day and night,” Wood said.

As for project costs, envisioning a project producing some 200 million liters per annum, roughly $3bn would be needed for the power station, and then half that for the infrastructure to make the fuels.

Preliminary offtake for the El Paso project is going to be critical for attracting investment, Wood said. Offtake will depend on the type of fuel produced, though conversations are ongoing with shipping companies (methanol) and airlines (eSAF).

“We’re not expecting to have any problem placing the product,” Wood said. Offtake would likely be targeted for the Port of Los Angeles, LAX airport, the ports of the Gulf Coast, or Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Development of CSP makes sense anywhere climate is sunny and hot, Wood said. The company could logically expand into more of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California.

The region around Farmington, New Mexico is particularly attractive for CSP development, Wood said. As a huge amount of coal-fired capacity in that area is retired, those interconnections, workforces and resources are ripe for repowering.

The turbines that one of those coal fired power stations would have is the same turbine at the core of Vast’s technology, Wood said. One difference is that Vast’s can be turned on and off quickly.

Development partnerships 

There is an opportunity for Vast to find a development partner, or partners, to stand up a pipeline of projects in two to three years’ time, Wood said.

“Almost everyone wants to wait until our project in Port Augusta reaches COD,” Wood said. “But we don’t want to wait that long to be developing projects in the US.”

Vast is capable of building CSP plants, which can be configured to operate in the day and night, co-located with existing larger-scale solar pv to provide additional generation and, critically, storage, Wood said. By directing sunlight to receivers and heating molten salt, CSP can store energy for 12-to-20 hours overnight to alleviate solar pv’s intermittency issues.

“Coming along and essentially retrofitting complementary CSP next to those [pv plants], we think is a very sensible way to go, both in terms of shared cost but also in terms of managing incremental transmission build,” Wood said. “We’re looking for people we can have conversations with.”

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Exclusive: Zero-emission locomotive start-up in Series B capital raise

A locomotive start-up focused on the US market for zero-emission freight trains is undergoing a Series B capital raise, with sights on a much larger Series C raise next year.

OptiFuel Systems, a provider of zero-emission line haul locomotives and generation solutions, is conducting a $30m Series B capital raise.

The South Carolina-based firm is seeking to finalize the Series B by the end of this year, and plans to use proceeds to advance production of its zero-emission technologies for the rail industry, which represents a massive decarbonization opportunity, CEO Scott Myers said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the firm will seek to tap the market for around $150m for a Series C next year, Myers added. The company is not working with a financial adviser. 

While the Series B will focus on bringing to production some of OptiFuel’s smaller rail offerings, such as the switcher locomotives, the Series C will be mostly dedicated to progressing testing, manufacturing, and commercialization of its larger line haul locomotive.

The company is also considering making its own investments into digesters for RNG facilities, from which it would source the gas to run its RNG-fueled locomotives. As part of its offering, OptiFuel also provides refueling infrastructure, and envisions this aspect of its business to be just as profitable as selling trains.

“We anticipate that we would be the offtaker” of RNG, “and quite potentially, the producer,” Cynthia Heinz, an OptiFuel board member, said in the interview.

A systems integrator, OptiFuel offers modular locomotives for the freight industry that can run on zero-emission technology such as renewable natural gas, batteries, and hydrogen. The company recently announced that it will begin testing of its RNG line haul locomotive, which is a 1-million-mile test program that will take two years and require 10 RNG line haul locomotives.

Image: OptiFuel

The company’s target market is the 38,000 operating freight trains in the U.S., 25,000 of which are line haul locomotives run by operators like BASF, Union Pacific, and CSX. Fleet owners will be required to phase out diesel-powered trains starting next decade following passage of in-use locomotive requirements in California, which includes financial penalties for pollution and eventual restrictions on polluting locomotives. Other states are evaluating similar measures.

“The question is not will the railroads change over: they have to,” Myers said. “The question is, how fast?”

Following completion of testing, OptiFuel aims to begin full production of the line haul locomotive – which has a price tag of $5.5m per unit – in 2028, and is aiming to produce 2,000 per year as a starting point. The smaller switcher units are priced between $1.5m and $2.5m depending on horsepower.

OptiFuel has held discussions with Cummins, one of its equipment providers, to source at least 2,000 engines per year from Cummins to support its production goal. 

“That’s a $10bn-a-year market for us,” Myers added.

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