Resource logo with tagline

Canadian renewables major eyeing hydrogen production at pumped hydro facility

Canadian power generation giant TransAlta could co-locate hydrogen production with select wind and hydroelectric facilities.

TransAlta, the Canadian power generator and wholesale marketing company, is contemplating a buildout of hydrogen production capabilities at its 320 MW Tent Mountain pumped hydro storage project in Alberta, Executive Vice President of Alberta Business Blain van Melle said in an interview.

“Our view on hydrogen is that it’s a technology that’s an option, somewhat further out in the future, particularly when it comes to power generation,” van Melle said. “If we can offer our customers maybe a power and hydrogen solution, and they’re using the hydrogen in another process, that would be something we would look at.”

In early 2022 TransAlta made a CAD 2m equity investment in Ekona Power, a methane pyrolysis company based in Vancouver. The company also committed USD $25m over four years to EIP’s Deep Decarbonization Frontier Fund 1.

That latter investment is a way to continue to learn about hydrogen and have exposure to emerging technologies, van Melle said.

The recent 50% stake acquisition in the Tent Mountain project includes the intellectual property associated with a 100 MW offsite green hydrogen electrolyzer and a 100 MW offsite wind development project.

Having hydrogen production co-located with wind and pumped hydro storage could make sense for the company in a few years, van Melle said. FID on Tent Mountain could be reached sometime in 2025 and will require the company to secure a PPA offtake and determine capital cost. Development work will take three to four years and earliest construction could begin in 2026.

The company has not had discussions with potential offtakers, van Melle said, adding that development on the pumped hydro facility needs to mature before a hydrogen component advances.

Unlock this article

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

You might also like...

Texas natural hydrogen production firm appoints new CEO

The new executive is tasked with advancing from field piloting to commercialization the technology that makes natural hydrogen from uneconomical oil in spent wells.

Gold H2, the Houston-based clean-hydrogen producing company, has hired Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as Chief Executive Officer, according to a news release.

Sekhon was most recently with NextEra Energy Resources’ Strategy and New Business Development team. At Gold H2 his focus will be to advance the technology from field piloting to commercialization.

“This strategic hire marks a significant milestone in Gold H2’s mission to transform uneconomical, non-productive oil wells into mass hydrogen-producing assets, a business model that will reshape the traditional oil and gas industry landscape,” the release states.

Cemvita Factory had previously operated its Gold Hydrogen technology as a business unit focused on a field pilot program. Following successful field trial results in 2022, Cemvita spun out Gold H2 as a separate business.

The company raised and closed funding into the entity, led by founding investors Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, in 2022.

Read More »

Canada to fund CAD 800m for clean fuel projects

60 projects have been selected to receive funding through Canada’s CAD 1.5bn Clean Fuels Fund.

Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson announced that approximately 60 projects have been selected to receive funding under the Government of Canada’s CAD 1.5bn Clean Fuels Fund (CFF).

These projects represent a first tranche of the highest-ranking applications from last year’s call for proposals and have a total combined value of more than CAD 3.8bn. They include production facilities, as well as feasibility and front-end engineering and design studies, spanning seven jurisdictions and covering five different fuel types.

The federal government is undertaking negotiations to finalize the terms of funding for each project, and the total federal investment in these projects will be up to CAD 800m. This funding will help project proponents address critical barriers to growth in the domestic clean fuels market and lays the groundwork for the low-carbon fuels of the future.

A second tranche of projects, from last year’s call for proposal, is currently being reviewed, with funding decisions expected to be finalized in December. Once successful applicants have been informed, Natural Resources Canada will start contribution agreement negotiations.

Canada’s clean fuels industry is rapidly growing, owing to the global demand to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bolster energy security. The importance of continued investment into the production, development and distribution of clean fuels together with their infrastructure and technology is clear, as Canada strives to position itself as a global leader with investments such as the CFF.

At today’s announcement, Minister Wilkinson also highlighted a combined investment of more than $8.8m to six organizations for 10 hydrogen and natural gas refuelling stations to help accelerate the decarbonization of road transportation. Federal funding for these projects was provided through Natural Resources Canada’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP) and the Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment (EVAFIDI).

The funding under ZEVIP and EVAFIDI includes:

Read More »

Toyota powering California port facility with fuel cell technology

Toyota and FuelCell Energy have completed installation of a fuel cell system at the Long Beach vehicle processing center.

FuelCell Energy, Inc. and Toyota Motor North America, Inc. (Toyota) have announced the completion of the first-of-its-kind “Tri-gen system” at Toyota’s Port of Long Beach operations, according to a news release.

The Tri-gen system, owned and operated by FuelCell Energy, produces renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, and water from directed biogas. FuelCell Energy has contracted with Toyota to supply the products of Tri-gen under a 20-year purchase agreement.

Tri-gen is an example of FuelCell Energy’s ability to scale hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology, an increasingly important energy solution in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. Tri-gen will enable Toyota Logistic Services (TLS) Long Beach to be the company’s first port vehicle processing facility in the world powered by onsite-generated, 100 percent renewable energy and represents the types of innovative and bold investments the company is making as part of its environmental sustainability strategy.

“By utilizing only renewable hydrogen and electricity production, TLS Long Beach will blaze a trail for our company,” said Chris Reynolds, Chief Administrative Officer, Toyota. “Working with FuelCell Energy, together we now have a world-class facility that will help Toyota achieve its carbon reduction efforts, and the great news is this real-world example can be duplicated in many parts of the globe.”

FuelCell Energy CEO Jason Few said, “FuelCell Energy is committed to helping our customers surpass their clean energy objectives. By working with FuelCell Energy, Toyota is making a powerful statement that hydrogen-based energy is good for business, local communities, and the environment. We are extremely pleased to showcase the versatility and sophistication of our fuel cell technology and to play a role in supporting Toyota’s environmental commitments.”

Read More »
exclusive

Advisor Profile: Cameron Lynch of Energy & Industrial Advisory Partners

The veteran engineer and financial advisor sees widespread opportunity for capital deployment into early-stage renewable fuel companies.

Cameron Lynch, co-founder and managing partner at Energy & Industrial Advisory Partners, sees prodigious opportunity to pick up mandates in the hydrogen sector as young companies and early movers attract well-capitalized investors looking for auspicious valuations.

The firm, a three-year-old boutique investment banking outfit with offices in New York and Houston, is broadly committed to the energy transition, but is recruiting for new personnel with hydrogen expertise, Lynch said, adding that he is preparing for a new level of dealmaking in the new year.

“I think we can all expect 2023 will be even more of a record year, just given the appetite for hydrogen,” Lynch said. “Hydrogen is one of our core focuses for next year.”

Cameron Lynch

Lynch started his career as a civil & structural engineer and moved into capital equipment manufacturing and leasing for oil & gas, and also industrial gasses –things like cryoge

nic handling equipment for liquid nitrogen. He started the London office of an Aberdeen, U.K.-based M&A firm, before repeating that effort in New York.

Founding EIAP, Lynch and his business partner Sean Shafer have turned toward the energy transition and away from conventional energy. The firm works on the whole of decarbonization but has found the most success in the hydrogen space.

Earlier lifecycle, better valuations

Hydrogen intersects with oil& gas, nuclear, chemicals, midstream companies, and major manufacturing.

Large private equity funds that want to get into the space are realizing that if they don’t want to pay “ridiculous valuations for hydrogen companies” they must take on earlier-stage risk, Lynch said.

Interest from big private equity is therefore comparatively high for early-stage capital raising in the hydrogen sector, Lynch said, particularly where funds have the option to deploy more capital in the future, Lynch said.

“They’re willing to take that step down to what would normally be below their investment threshold.”

Lynch, who expects to launch several transactions in the coming months with EIAP, has a strong background in oil & gas, and views hydrogen valuations as a compelling opportunity now.

“It’s very refreshing to be working on stuff that’s attracting these superb valuations,” Lynch said.

There’s a lot of non-dilutive money in the market and the Inflation Reduction Act has been a major boon to investors, Lynch said. For small companies, getting a slice of the pie is potentially life changing.

Sean Shafer

The hydrogen space is not immune to the macroeconomic challenges that renewables have faced in recent months and years, Lynch said. But as those same challenges have accelerated the move toward energy security, hydrogen stands to benefit.

Supply chain issues post-COVID pose a potential long-term concern in the industry, and equity and debt providers question the availability of compressors and lead times.

“I would say that’s one of the key issues out there,” Lynch said. There’s also the question of available infrastructure and the extent to which new infrastructure will be built out for hydrogen.

EIAP sees the most convincing uses for hydrogen near term in light-weight mobility and aerospace, Lynch said. The molecule also has a strong use case in back-up generation.

Hydrogen additionally presents companies in traditional fossil fuel verticals the opportunity to modernize, Lynch said, citing a secondary trade EIAP completed earlier this year

California’s Suburban Propane Partners acquired a roughly 25% equity stake in Ashburn, Virginia-based Independence Hydrogen, Inc. The deal involved the creation of a new subsidiary, Suburban Renewable Energy, as part of its long-term strategic goal of building out a renewable energy platform.

Read More »
exclusive

Inside Intersect Power’s green hydrogen plans

California-based renewable energy developer Intersect Power anticipates huge capital needs for a quartet of regional energy complexes co-locating wind and solar with green hydrogen production in the Texas Gulf Coast, California and the American West.

Intersect Power, a solar developer that completed a $750m capital raise last year, is developing four large-scale green hydrogen projects that could eventually be spun off into a separate company, CEO Sheldon Kimber said in an interview.

Four regional complexes of 1 GW or more, co-located with renewables, are in development, he said. The first phases of those, totaling several hundred megawatts, will come online between 2026 and 2028.

Initial offtake markets include transportation, sustainable aviation fuel, and hydrogen for industrial use, Kimber said. Ultimately Intersect is aiming to serve ammonia exporters in the US Gulf Coast, particularly those exporting to Japan, Kimber said, adding that the company could contract with ammonia producers. He recently wrapped up a nine-day, fact-finding trip to Japan to better understand what he believes will be the end market for Intersect’s green ammonia.

“If you don’t know who your customer’s customer is, you’re going to get a bad deal,” Kimber said.

Intersects projects under development involve behind-the-meter electrolysis, co-located with Intersect’s wind and solar generation plants. In 2021 the company signed an MOU with electrolyzer manufacturer Electric Hydrogen. The contract is for 3 GW.

Intersect controls the land and is in the process of permitting the four projects, located in Texas, California and another western US location that Kimber declined to name. The primary focus now is commercial development of the offtake and transportation, he said.

‘Boatload of equity’

Kimber said the company will be ready to announced details of the projects when they are ready to seek financing. He estimates that upwards of $12bn will need to be raised for the package of complexes.

“There’s going to be an enormous need for capital,” Kimber said. Debt will make up between 60% and 90% of the raising, along with “a boatload of equity,” he said. Existing investors will likely participate, but as the numbers get bigger new investors will be brought on board.

Intersect has worked with BofA Securities and Morgan Stanley on past capital raise processes, and also has strong relationships with MUFG and Santander.

Moving forward the company could have a broader need for advisory services and could lend knowledge of the sector in an advisory capacity itself, Kimber said.

“The scope and scale of what we’re doing is big enough and the innovative aspect of what we’re doing is advanced enough that I think we have a lot we can bring to these early-stage financings,” Kimber said. “I think we’re going to be a good partner for advisory shops.”

In the short term Intersect has sufficient equity from its investors and is capitalized for the next 18-to-24 months, Kimber said. Last summer the company announced a $750m raise from TPG Rise Climate, CAI Investments and Trilantic Energy Partners North America.

“People don’t want to pay ahead for the growth in fuels,” Kimber said, adding that reaching commercial milestones will build a compelling valuation.

Intersect could spin off its hydrogen developments to capitalize them apart from renewables, Kimber said.

“Every single company in this space is looking at that,” he said. “Do you independently finance your fuels business?”

Avoiding the hype

Right now the opportunity to participate in hydrogen is blurry because there is so much hype following passage of the IRA, Kimber said. Prospective investors should be focused on picking the right partners.

“What you’re seeing right now is everybody believing the best thing for them,” Kimber said, noting that his company has decided to keep relatively quiet about its activities in the clean fuels space to avoid getting caught up in hype. “The IRA happened, and every electrolyzer company raised their prices by fifty percent.”

Of those companies that have announced hydrogen projects in North America, Kimber said he believes only a handful will be successful. Those companies that have successfully developed renewables projects of more than 500 MW are good candidates, as are companies that have managed to keep a fluid supply chain with equipment secured for the next five years.

“That is a very short list,” he said.

Lenders on the debt side will want to start determining how projects will get financed, and which projects to finance, in the next 18 months, Kimber said.

Finding those who have been innovating on the front-end for years and not just jumped in recently is a good start, Kimber said.

“Hydrogen will happen, make no mistake,” Kimber said. He pointed to the recent European directive that 45% of hydrogen on the continent be green by 2030 and Japan’s upcoming directive to potential similar effect. Once good projects reach critical points in their development they will start to trade, probably in late 2024, he said.

Read More »

Feature: Why blue hydrogen developers are on the hunt for livestock-based RNG

The negative carbon intensity ascribed to livestock-derived renewable natural gas could allow blue hydrogen production to meet the threshold to qualify for the full $3 per kg of hydrogen tax credit under section 45V. The viability of this pathway, however, will depend on how hydrogen from biogas is treated under the IRS’s final rules.

Lake Charles Methanol, a proposed $3.24bn blue methanol plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will use natural gas-based autothermal reforming technology to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which will then be used to produce 3.6 million tons per year of methanol while capturing and sequestering 1 million tons per year of carbon dioxide.

And if certain conditions are met in final rules for 45V tax credits, the developer could apply for the full benefit of $3 per kg of hydrogen produced. How? It plans to blend carbon-negative renewable natural gas into its feedstock.

“Lake Charles Methanol will be a large consumer of RNG to mitigate the carbon intensity of its hydrogen production,” the firm’s CEO, Donald Maley, said in written comments in response to the IRS’s rulemaking process for 45V.

The issue of blending fractional amounts of RNG into the blue hydrogen production process has emerged as another touchstone issue before the IRS as it contemplates how to regulate and incentivize clean hydrogen production.

The IRS’s proposed regulations do not provide guidance on the use of RNG from dairy farms in hydrogen production pathways such as SMR and ATR, gasification, or chemical looping, but instead only define clean hydrogen by the amount of carbon emissions.

In theory, a blue hydrogen producer using CCUS could blend in a small amount – around 5% – of carbon-negative RNG and achieve a carbon intensity under the required .45 kg CO2e / kg of hydrogen to qualify for the full $3 per kg incentive under 45V. 

This pathway, however, will depend on final rules for biogas within 45V, such as which biogas sources are allowed, potential rules on RNG additionality, incentive stacking, and the appropriate carbon intensity counterfactuals. 

Furthermore, a potentially separate rulemaking and comment period for the treatment of biogas may be required, since no rules were actually proposed for RNG in 45V on which the industry can comment.

Like the treatment of electricity within 45V, there appears to be some disagreement within Treasury about the role of RNG in the hydrogen production process, with some in the Democratic administration perhaps responding to the view of some progressives that RNG is a greenwash-enabling “sop” to the oil and gas industry, said Ben Nelson, chief operating officer at Cresta Fund Management, a Dallas-based private equity firm.

Cresta has investments in two renewable natural gas portfolio companies, LF Bioenergy and San Joaquin Renewables, and expects RNG used in hydrogen to be a major demand pull if the 45V rules are crafted correctly.

A major issue for the current administration, according to Nelson, is the potentially highly negative carbon intensity score of RNG produced from otherwise vented methane at dairy farms. The methane venting counterfactual, as opposed to a landfill gas counterfactual, where methane emissions are combusted as flared natural gas (therefore producing fewer GHG emissions than vented methane), leads to a negative CI score in existing LCFS programs, which, if translated to 45V, could provide a huge incentive for hydrogen production from RNG. 

“Treasury may be struggling with the ramifications of making vented methane the counterfactual,” Nelson said.

Divided views

The potential for this blending pathway has divided commenters in the 45V rulemaking process, with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and similar companies calling for additional pathways for RNG to hydrogen, the promulgation of the existing mass balance and verification systems – as used in LCFS programs – for clean fuels, and the allowance of RNG credit stacking across federal, state, and local incentive programs.

Meanwhile, opponents of RNG blending noted that it would give an unfair economic advantage to blue hydrogen projects and potentially increase methane emissions by creating perverse incentives for dairy farmers to change practices to take advantage of the tax credits.

For example, in its comments, Fidelis New Energy speaks out forcefully against the practice, calling it “splash blending” and claiming it could cost Americans $65bn annually in federal incentives “with negligible real methane emission reductions while potentially driving an increase in emissions overall without proper safeguards.”

Fidelis goes on to state that allowing RNG to qualify under 45V results in a “staggering” $510 / MMBtu for RNG, a “market distorting value and windfall for a select few sizable industry participants.”

Renewables developer Intersect Power similarly notes the potential windfall for this type of project, since the $3 credit would be higher than input costs for blue hydrogen. “Said another way, hydrogen producers using natural gas and blending RNG with negative CI will be extremely profitable, such that it would encourage the creation of more sources of RNG to capture more credits,” according to the comments, which is signed by Michael Wheeler, vice president, government affairs at Intersect.

Stacking incentives

In its initial suggestions from December, Treasury introduced the possibility of limiting RNG that qualifies under 45V from receiving environmental benefits from other federal, state, or local programs, such as the EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) and various state low carbon fuel standards (LCFS).

In response, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas said that it does not “believe it is the intent of the Section 45V program to limit or preclude RNG from participation in” these programs. 

“In particular, a hydrogen facility utilizing RNG to produce clean hydrogen as defined in Section 45V program should be eligible to claim the resulting Section 45V tax credit, and not be barred or limited from participating in the federal RFS or a state LCFS program, if the RNG-derived hydrogen is being used as a transportation fuel or to make a transportation fuel (e.g. SAF, marine fuel, or other fuel) used in the contiguous U.S. and/or the applicable state (e.g., California), respectively,” the organization wrote.

Various commenters along with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas stated that the incentives should work together, and that the EPA has “long recognized that other federal and state programs support the RFS program by promoting production and use,” as Clean Energy Fuels wrote.

Cresta, in its comments, noted that the 45V credit would result in a tax credit of $19.87 per MMBtu of RNG, while almost all potential dairy RNG build-out has a breakeven cost above $20 per MMBtu — in other words, not enough to incentivize the required buildout on its own.

Including this incentive plus environmental credits such as LCFS and RINs could get RNG producers to higher ranges “where you’re going to get a lot of buildout” of new RNG facilities, Nelson said.

In contrast, Fidelis argues that the ongoing RNG buildout utilizing just the existing state LCFS and RFS credits is proof enough that the incentives are working, and that 45V would add an exorbitant and perverse incentive for RNG production.

“To demonstrate the billions in annual cost to the American taxpayer that unconstrained blended RNG/natural gas hydrogen pathways could generate in 45V credits, it is important to consider the current incentive structure and RNG value today with CA LCFS and the EPA’s RFS program, as well as with the upcoming 45Z credit,” Fidelis writes. “Today, manure-RNG sold as CNG with a CI of -271.6 g CO2e / MJ would generate approximately $70 / MMBtu considering the value of the natural gas, CA LCFS, and RFS. The environmental incentives (LCFS and RFS) are 23x times as valuable as the underlying natural gas product.”

In its model, Fidelis claims that the 45V credit would balloon to $510 / MMBtu of value generation for animal waste-derived RNG, but does precisely explain how it arrives at this number. Representatives of Fidelis did not respond to requests for comment.

RNG pathways

As it stands, the 45VH2-GREET 2023 model only includes the landfill gas pathway for RNG, thus the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and other RNG firms propose to add biogas from anaerobic digestion of animal waste, wastewater sludge, and municipal solid waste, as well as RNG-to-hydrogen via electrolysis.

According to the USDA, “only 7% of dairy farms with more than one thousand cows are currently capturing RNG, representing enormous potential for additional methane capture,” the coalition said in its comments.

Even the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, supports allowing biomethane from livestock farms to be an eligible pathway under 45V, “subject to strong climate protections” such as monitoring of net methane leakage to be factored into CI scores and the reduction of ammonia losses, among other practices.

However, the EDF argues against allowing carbon-negative offsets of biomethane, saying that “doing so could inappropriately permit hydrogen producers to earn generous tax credits through 45V for producing hydrogen with heavily polluting fossil natural gas.”

First productive use

In issuing the 45V draft guidance in December, the Treasury Department and the IRS said they anticipated that in order for RNG to qualify for the incentive, “the RNG used during the hydrogen production process must originate from the first productive use of the relevant methane,” which the RNG industry has equated with additionality for renewables under 45V.

The agencies said that they would propose to define “first productive use” of the relevant methane “as the time when a producer of that gas first begins using or selling it for productive use in the same taxable year as (or after) the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service,” with the implication being that  “biogas from any source that had been productively used in a taxable year prior to taxable year in which the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service would not receive an emission value consistent with biogas-based RNG but would instead receive a value consistent with natural gas.”

This proposal is opposed by the RNG industry and others planning to use it as a feedstock.

“Instituting a requirement that the use of RNG for hydrogen production be the ‘first productive use’ of the relevant methane would severely limit the pool of eligible projects for the Section 45V PTC,” NextEra Energy Resources said in its comments.

Nelson, of Cresta, called the “first productive use” concept for RNG “a solution in search of a problem,” noting that it’s more onerous than the three-year lookback period for additionality in renewables.

“Induced emissions are a real risk in electricity – they are a purely hypothetical risk in RNG,” Nelson said, “and will remain a hypothetical risk indefinitely in virtually any scenario you can envision for RNG buildout, because there’s just not that many waste sites and sources out there.”

The issue, Nelson added, is that if RNG facilities are required to align their startup date with hydrogen production, the farms where RNG is produced would just continue to vent methane until they can coincide their first productive use with hydrogen.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas argues that the provision “would cause a significant value discrepancy for new RNG projects creating a market distortion, greater risk of stranded RNG for existing projects, added complexity, and higher prices for end-consumers.”

The Coalition proposes, instead, that Treasury could accept projects built prior to 2030 as meeting incrementality requirements “with a check in 2029 on the market impacts of increased hydrogen production to determine, using real world data, if any such ‘resource shifting’ patterns can be discerned.”

Read More »

Welcome Back

Get Started

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