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Carbon-negative materials firm in $40m equity raise

A Texas-based manufacturer of renewable plastics is developing its first plant in the Midwest, with a commercialization date set for 2026.

Citroniq Chemicals, a maker of renewable and carbon-negative plastics, is undergoing a $40m equity raise, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The process has launched and is being led by Young America Capital, the sources said. The company’s projects account for about $1bn in CapEx.

Based in Houston, Citroniq uses bio-based feedstocks to produce plastics at scale. The company recently signed a Letter of Intent with Lummus Technology for the development of Citroniq’s green polypropylene projects in North America.

“With a projected investment of over $5bn and a combined polypropylene annual capacity of over 3.5 billion pounds, Citroniq is prepared to execute a rapid expansion plan of its E2O process, to meet the market’s growing need for sustainable, carbon negative polypropylene at a competitive price,” Mel Badheka, Principal and Co-Founder of Citroniq Chemicals, said in a press release announcing the LOI. “Located in the Midwest, Citroniq’s first plant is scheduled to start production in 2026 and provide identical, drop-in products that can be directly certified as biogenic through physical testing.”

In January Citroniq announced a separate LOI with Mitsui Plastics for a large-scale supply agreement for sustainable polypropylene.

Citronia and Young America Capital did not respond to requests for comment.

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EverWind Nova Scotia green hydrogen/ammonia project nets environmental approval

The Point Tupper project, spearheaded by former Stonepeak founder Trent Vichie, today received approval from the Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change released a decision (PDF) today approving the Point Tupper Green Hydrogen/Ammonia Project – Phase 1.

The Minister has approved the undertaking in accordance with Section 13(1)b of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, pursuant to Part IV of the Environment Act, according the the ministry, subject to a number of conditions (PDF).

EverWind will begin construction in early 2023 of the $1bn phase 1 of the project, consisting of a 300 MW electrolysis plant along with a 600 tonnes-per-day ammonia production facility. The project also involves construction of a liquid ammonia pipeline to a jetty for international shipping and a 230 kW substation that will bring in electricity.

The developer approached multiple vendors for electrolysis production technology but only two companies were considered for the final project design: Nel ASA and Siemens, environmental filings show.

The German groups E.ON and Uniper said in August that they aim to buy up to 500,000 tonnes per year of ammonia each from EverWind, starting in 2025, when the project is set to begin production.

In April, EverWind acquired the NuStar storage terminal in Point Tupper to advance the project.

CIBC Capital Markets and Citi are acting as EverWind’s joint financial advisors. International law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP and Canadian firm McInnes Cooper are acting as EverWind’s legal counsels.

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Drax Group reaches carbon removal deal for US projects

The deal, which will occur over a five-year period starting in 2030, is linked to Drax’s planned deployment of bioenergy with carbon capture facilities in the US.

Carbon removals and renewable energy company Drax Group today announced a new carbon removals deal with Karbon-X, a leading environmental company.

Karbon-X will purchase carbon dioxide removals (CDR) credits from Drax representing 25,000 metric tons of permanently stored carbon at $350 per tonne under the terms of the agreement.

The deal, which will occur over a five-year period starting in 2030, is linked to Drax’s planned deployment of carbon negative BECCS in the United States, according to a news release.

“We’re excited to work with organizations like Karbon-X that understand the importance of investing in high-value carbon removals today,” said Laurie Fitzmaurice, President, Carbon Removals at Drax. “The CDR market, which is already maturing at a rapid pace, is expected to experience a supply crunch within the next decade as companies and countries approach their deadlines for carbon reduction targets.”

The agreement with Karbon-X is the latest in a string of previously announced carbon removals memorandums of understanding that have included Respira and C-Zero. Drax also launched a new independent business unit earlier this year that is focused on becoming the global leader in large-scale carbon removals. This business unit will oversee the development and construction of Drax’s new-build BECCS plants in the US and internationally, and it will work with a coalition of strategic partners to focus on an ambitious goal of removing at least 6 Mt of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.

BECCS is a carbon removal technology that uses sustainably sourced biomass to generate renewable energy while permanently sequestering the carbon underground. Measuring the impact of these high-quality carbon removals is more straightforward when compared with other solutions like nature-based removals, resulting in high demand, according to the company.

“This agreement with Karbon-X represents another major step forward in delivering BECCS by Drax in the United States to help meet this growing demand to decarbonize our planet,” said Fitzmaurice.

Karbon-X intends to sell the credits it purchases from Drax on the voluntary carbon market, enabling individuals and organizations to achieve their own emissions reduction targets. It follows a stringent set of guidelines to ensure it selects only high-quality projects and providers, like BECCS by Drax.

As companies, industries, and countries increasingly look to engineered carbon removals to ensure they can meet their climate commitments, CDRs from carbon negative BECCS are becoming an integral piece of this market. Through BECCS, carbon removals are quantifiable and auditable, resulting in a higher quality credit. This separates BECCS-derived CDRs from carbon offsets, allowing organizations to have greater trust in the impact of their investments, according to the release.

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New renewable diesel plant transacts at $499m

Camber Energy, a NYSE-traded energy company, has reached a deal to acquire 100% of the interests in New Rise Renewables, the owner of a newly developed renewable diesel plant in Reno, Nevada.

Camber Energy, a NYSE-traded energy company, has reached a deal to acquire 100% of the interests in New Rise Renewables, the owner of a newly developed renewable diesel plant in Reno, Nevada.

The plant, which will produce 43,000,000 gallons per year (5,971,585 MMBTUs) of renewable diesel from triglyceride oils such as corn, was purchased for $499m, representing a purchase price of $750m less $251m of existing company liabilities, according to a securities filing. The seller is RESC Renewables Holdings, a predecessor company to Ryze Renewables, which developed the project.

The renewable diesel produced by New Rise Renewables Reno is completely interchangeable with diesel derived from petroleum and can efficiently power diesel engines, such as semi-trucks and large-scale emergency generators. Phillips 66 is under contract to supply all of the feedstock for New Rise Renewables Reno and will purchase 100% of the renewable diesel product for use and sale nearby in California.

The parties had reached a framework for the deal in late 2021, subject to purchase price adjustments and other closing conditions.

Reno-based Greater Commercial Lending (GCL) facilitated $112.6m in government-guaranteed credit for the development of New Rise Renewables Reno. Eighty percent of the GCL-arranged financing for New Rise Renewables Reno is guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) via its 9003 Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biodiesel Production Manufacturing Assistance Program. The financing structure includes participation by GCL parent Greater Nevada Credit Union, other credit unions, insurance companies and secondary market groups.

Renewable diesel is made by causing chemical reactions through the addition of hydrogen to the natural fats and oils. New Rise has deployed proven state-of-the-art efficient and cost-effective technology methods, which involves hydrogenating the triglycerides, according to an August news release. The process uses hydrogen, pressure, catalyst and heat in an efficient manner, allowing reactions to be uniform and controlled – increasing yield, lowering operating costs and allowing for feedstock flexibility.

The fuel plant is located in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the largest industrial park in the world. Other occupants include Tesla, Walmart, Google, FedEx, Switch and Panasonic.

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IPP retains banker for California plant sale

An independent power producer has retained a banker for a sale of a decades-old gas plant in California. Aging gas plants have been in the sights of clean fuels developers looking to retrofit or use facilities for clean fuel production and combustion.

GenOn, an independent power producer, has hired Solomon Partners to sell a 54 MW gas plant in California, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The plant, Ellwood, is located in Goleta, in Santa Barbara County, and was shuttered and retired by GenOn as of 2019. It reached COD in 1973 and ran two Pratt & Whitney FT4C-1 gas turbine engines.

Ellwood previously interconnected via Southern California Edison, a utility that is pursuing multiple natural gas decarbonization projects, including a hydrogen-blending initiative with Bloom Energy.

A teaser for the sale of Ellwood, which was issued last week, notes there is an opportunity to install a battery energy storage system at the site, one of the sources added.

Elsewhere in California, investment firm Climate Adaptive Infrastructure and developer Meridian Clean Energy are seeking to demonstrate decarbonization in peaker plants at the much newer gas-fired Sentinel Energy Center. Their plans include hydrogen blending.

GenOn declined to comment. Solomon Partners did not respond to requests for comment.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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EnCap’s Shawn Cumberland on the fund’s approach to clean fuels

Cumberland, a managing partner with EnCap Energy Transition, discusses how the clean fuels sector compares to the emergence of other new energy technologies, and outlines the firm’s wait-and-see approach to investment in hydrogen and other clean fuels.

EnCap Energy Transition, the energy transition-focused arm of EnCap Investments, is evaluating scores of opportunities in the hydrogen and clean fuels space but doesn’t feel the need to be an early mover if the risk economics don’t work, Managing Partner Shawn Cumberland said in an interview.

Houston-based EnCap prefers to invest in early stages and grow companies deploying proven technologies to the point that they’re ready to be passed onto another investor with much deeper pockets. There are hundreds of early-stage clean fuels companies looking for growth equity in the space, he said, but the firm believes it’s not necessary to deploy before the technology or market is ready.

Given the fund’s strategy of investing in the growth-equity stage, EnCap gains exposure to a niche set of businesses that are not yet subjected to the broader financial markets.

For example, when EnCap stood up Energy Transition Fund I, a $1.2bn growth capital vehicle, the manager piled heavily into storage, dedicating some $600m, more than half of the fund, to the sector.

“That was at a time when all we saw were some people putting some really dinky 10 MW and 20 MW projects online,” he said. “We absolutely wanted to be a first and fast mover and saw a compelling opportunity.”

The reasons for that were two converging macro factors. One was that the battery costs had come down 90% because of EV development. Meanwhile, the demand for batteries required storage to be built out rapidly at scale. So, that inflection point – in addition to the apparent dearth of investor interest in the space at the time – called for early action.

“We were sanctioning the build of these things with no IRA,” Cumberland said.

‘If it works’

To be sure, EnCap is not a technology venture capital firm and waits for technologies to be proven.

As such, the clean fuels sector could end up being a longer play for EnCap, Cumberland noted, but the fund continues to weigh whether there will be a penalty for waiting. In the meantime, regulatory issues like IRS guidance on “additionality” for green hydrogen and the impact of the EU’s rules for renewable fuels of non-biological origin should get resolved.

Still, market timing plays a role, and the EnCap portfolio includes a 2021 investment into Arbor Renewable Gas, which develops and owns facilities that convert woody biomass into low-carbon renewable gasoline and green hydrogen.

Cumberland also pointed to EnCap’s investment in wind developer Triple Oak Power, which is currently for sale via Marathon Capital. That investment was made when many industry players were moving toward solar and dropping attention to wind.

Now, clean fuels are trading at a premium because of investor interest and generous government incentives for the sector, he noted.

“Hydrogen, if it works, may be more like solar,” Cumberland said, describing the hockey-stick growth trajectory of the solar industry over 15 years. If the industry is cost-competitive without subsidies, there will be a flood of project development that requires massive funding and talented management teams

“We won’t be late to the party,” he said.

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