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Cemvita appoints CFO

Houston-based Cemvita has appointed Lisa Bromiley as its new CFO.

Cemvita, a carbon utilization company, has appointed Lisa Bromiley as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

In her new role, Bromiley will spearhead capital markets, strategic positioning, and financial management of the company, bringing with her over two decades of invaluable experience in energy and commodity-related finance.

Prior to joining Cemvita, Bromiley played pivotal roles as CFO and Public Company Director. Particularly, she played a key role in the development of Flotek Industries, Inc. Mrs. Bromiley also steered Northern Oil and Gas, Inc., achieving a market capitalization of $4bn.

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Biomass-to-hydrogen developer to receive California grant

The first grant, of $500,000, will support Yosemite Clean Energy’s flagship project in Oroville, CA, and will help bring Yosemite to a final investment decision.

Yosemite Clean Energy was selected to receive two $500,000 Forest Biomass to Carbon-Negative Biofuels grants from the California Department of Conservation (DOC), according to a recent news release.

The first grant will support Yosemite’s flagship project in Oroville, CA, and will help bring Yosemite to a final investment decision; the plant will produce 24 tons of renewable hydrogen per day. The second grant will support preliminary engineering for Yosemite’s Tuolumne County hydrogen project.

The DOC grant program is a vote of confidence for forest biomass to biofuels projects in the state and will increase the pace and scale of biofuels development.

The projects funded under the program will support sustainable forest stewardship within California that will help reduce the risk of wildfires and provide zero emission, carbon-negative fuels for the transportation industry.

Yosemite’s applications were scored #1 and #2 out of the 8 projects selected to receive funding, the release says.

This grant is the first round in a two-phase grant program, with the second phase giving 2 to 4 awards of between $10m and $20m to construct projects. As stated on the Program website, the DOC received a $50m budget allocation in FY21-22 focused specifically on creating carbon-negative hydrogen and/or liquid fuel from forest biomass within the Sierra Nevada. The DOC has worked closely with both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the Natural Resources Agency, CalFire, IBank, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to develop the grant program.

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Carbon transformation firm closes equity round

A start-up that aims to turn greenhouse gas emissions into carbon materials for sustainable and inexpensive everyday essentials has raised $6m.

Carbonova Corp., a start-up that aims to turn greenhouse gas emissions into carbon materials for sustainable and inexpensive everyday essentials, announced today that it has successfully closed its SAFE equity financing in an oversubscribed round with $6m raised, according to a news release.

The company intends to use the net proceeds from the financing to advance its strategy towards building the first commercial demonstration carbon nanofibers unit in Canada.

The financing round was led by Kolon Industries, a multi-billion-dollar Korean conglomerate. Kolon has a keen interest in Carbonova’s technology applications in Asia, including batteries, plastics, and other materials.  Another major participant in this round was the Natural Gas Innovation Fund NGIF Capital, a venture capital firm focused on innovative technologies for improving the environmental performance of existing or renewable natural gas and hydrogen production. This round also saw strong participation from the company’s directors, management, and staff team. This funding adds to the previously announced $2.5 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada “SDTC” and the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program “NRC-IRAP” secured in February of 2023.

“Carbonova’s vision is to create everyday essentials from everyday emissions for everyone on earth, and with this financing, we are on track to complete the design of our first-of-a-kind commercial demo unit to put our vision into action,” said Mina Zarabian, Carbonova’s CEO and Co-Founder. “We have investors and customers from the wide spectrum of the carbon value chain validating the strong pull from the market for transitioning to this recycling of carbon to enhance the building blocks of virtually everything in modern society”.

Carbonova currently produces carbon nanomaterials for customers at a pilot facility at the company’s headquarters in northeast Calgary, Alberta. The commercial demonstration expansion will result in unit production cost efficiencies and is forecast to reduce the CO2 footprint of the carbon nanomaterials to below net-zero.

“Carbonova is on track to complete the front-end-engineering design (FEED) of its first commercial demo unit; the new design will represent a significant scale-up from Carbonova’s existing pilot facility,” said Zarabian. “The new plant will generate multiple hundreds of kilograms of carbon nanomaterials per day. This amount is sufficient to generate thousands of tons of sustainable end products and serve dozens of customers to bring their own innovative sustainable products in different sectors to the market.”

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HTEC to receive B.C. funding for hydrogen trucking pilot

HTEC will buy, test and demonstrate hydrogen-powered trucks for fleet operators throughout B.C.

HTEC is set to receive $16.5m in funding from British Columbia for a pilot program that uses hydrogen to power commercial trucking.

Under the pilot, B.C.-based hydrogen-energy company HTEC will procure six different heavy-duty fuel-cell trucks and complete upgrades to a hydrogen-fuelling station in Tsawwassen and a maintenance facility in Abbotsford.

The B.C. Pilot Hydrogen Truck Project aims to start the use of hydrogen in the commercial transportation sector, according to a news release.

Colin Armstrong, president and CEO of HTEC, said: “Through the Province’s significant investment in zero-emission trucks in B.C., and the simultaneous development of robust infrastructure to enhance their operations, this pilot project symbolizes a remarkable leap toward a sustainable future. It marks the first-ever deployment of heavy-duty hydrogen fuel-cell electric trucks for a diverse range of fleet operators in the province, a historic moment for the trucking industry. We applaud the provincial government for their vision and support, and we are delighted to be the wheels on the ground and driving force behind this groundbreaking project.”

HTEC designs, builds and operates hydrogen production facilities, infrastructure and supply.

HTEC will buy, test and demonstrate the hydrogen-powered trucks for fleet operators throughout B.C. The project also brings together Canada’s world-leading hydrogen and vehicle-technology companies. The Province’s funding for the pilot is being administered by the Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund.

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3Q deals in focus: Macquarie’s investment in Atlas Agro

In one of the largest and most compelling clean fuels deals of 3Q23, Macquarie made a $325m investment into Americas-focused Atlas Agro, a developer of industrial-scale green nitrogen fertilizer plants that utilize green hydrogen as a feedstock. William Demas, head of Macquarie Asset Management Green Investments in the Americas, provides a closer look.

Macquarie Asset Management’s investment into green nitrogen developer Atlas Agro gives the manager a stake in the company along with the ability to invest in the developer’s projects.

The $325m investment, made via the Macquarie GIG Energy Transition Solutions fund, will benefit Atlas Agro’s previously announced fertilizer plant project in Richland, WA, and will also support the company’s global pipeline of green fertilizer facilities, according to William Demas, head of Macquarie Asset Management Green Investments in the Americas.

In addition to the 700,000 tons-per-year Richland project, Atlas Agro is pursuing a project in Minas Gerais, Brazil that will produce 500,000 tons per year. Both projects would make nitrate fertilizer and are estimated to cost $1bn. An additional facility is planned for the US Midwest.

In the production process, the plants utilize air, water, and renewable electricity as the only raw materials.

“There are a number of things that attracted us to Atlas Agro,” Demas said in response to written questions. “They have a strong management team with an established track record managing established companies and delivering projects in the fertilizer space.”

The GIG Energy Transition Solutions fund has a target size of approximately $1.9bn, which to date is just over 50% committed, according to a source familiar with the fund.

Next phase

Equally important for the Atlas investment, Demas added, is that the company is aligned with Macquarie’s next phase energy transition thesis in the US – in this case hydrogen. 

“In this application, green hydrogen will be used as a feedstock rather than as an energy carrier, and the end-product of green fertilizer will attract customers looking to enter into long-term offtake contracts,” he said.

Through the development of plants in Washington state and the US Midwest, Atlas Agro is seeking to take advantage of favorable logistics to displace the need for imported fossil-fuel based fertilizer. Brazil also imports around 95% of its nitrogen fertilizers, according to Atlas.

“An important benefit of Atlas Agro’s model is the availability of locally produced, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating many of the issues associated with international supply chains,” Demas said, noting that offtakers are local to Atlas Agro’s operations.

Further, Macquarie and Atlas plan to pursue a project finance model for funding the projects under development.

“As an infrastructure investor, we focus on opportunities that are bankable, which means, ultimately project financeable,” Demas said. “We backed Atlas Agro because we believe their approach to project development, commercialization, construction and operations aligns with our views on how to underwrite infrastructure investments.”

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Houston ammonia and hydrogen terminal on the block

The owners of a recently developed Houston terminal with proximity to ammonia, hydrogen, and nitrogen pipelines are working with an advisor on a sale process.

The owners of Vopak Moda Houston, a Gulf Coast hydrogen and ammonia terminaling asset, have hired an investment bank to run a sale process, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Intrepid Investment Bankers has been retained to run the process, the sources said.

Vopak Moda and Intrepid did not respond to requests for comment.

Formed in 2016, Vopak Moda Houston is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal Vopak and Moda Midstream. Moda Midstream is a portfolio company of EnCap Flatrock Midstream, which did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2021 the JV commissioned its deepwater dock at the Port of Houston. It has constructed storage and terminal infrastructure for industrial gas product lines, with the stated intention of becoming a premier hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia terminaling hub in the Gulf Coast.

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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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