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CIB invests in Canadian SAF developer

Azure Sustainable Fuels is advancing three SAF projects in tandem, and has raised $40m in funding to date following an investment from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and Azure Sustainable Fuels Corp. (Azure) are partnering on a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production in Canada.

Azure’s study is now fully funded and on track to be completed in 2024, according to a news release.

The CIB’s $8.4m funding helps support Azure’s critical path of producing SAF by 2027, which could contribute materially to helping Canada on the path towards meeting its climate goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

The CIB investment provides support for Azure to leverage Canadian skillsets and maximize options by developing three potential Canadian sites in parallel. The company has been working closely with provincial, municipal, and Indigenous governments to adhere to all environmental regulations.

In a separate press release, Azure said that it has sought to maximize optionality by pursuing a multi-site strategy through developing three Canadian SAF-focused renewable fuels production facility sites in parallel. These potential sites are located in British ColumbiaManitoba and Ontario. The Company expects that all FEED work for each of the three sites will be complete by the end of 2024, positioning Azure to reach a Final Investment Decision in the first half of 2025 as to enable an in-service date in 2027.

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Sustainable glass container producer raises $230m

A sustainable glass container producer has raised capital from Orion Infrastructure Capital and other institutional investors for a new facility that would use green hydrogen.

Glass container manufacturer Arglass has secured over $230m in capital to build a second furnace on its campus in Valdosta, Georgia. Arglass raised a combination of structured equity and debt to finance the construction, according to a news release.

Projected to be completed in Q2 2025, the new facility is expected to be capable of producing over 350 million sustainable glass containers annually. This state-of-the-art manufacturing plant will embody the future of glass with a fully integrated production network, driven by AI-integrated real-time data monitoring, predictive modeling and fully automated closed-loop production and quality assurance systems. These advances will allow the new facility to produce up to eight different glass container types simultaneously for maximum flexibility, enabling smaller production runs, faster reaction to market demands, lower inventory levels and reduced investment in molds.

These cutting-edge capabilities are planned to be backed by some of the most extensive sustainability infrastructure of any glass manufacturing plant in the world. The plant is expected to be powered by a hybrid gas, electric and hydrogen oxy-fuel furnace capable of melting 490 metric tons of glass per day. An additional five megawatts of power will be provided by a solar power installation.

“Our new furnace will aim to further establish Arglass as the most innovative, flexible and sustainable glass manufacturer in North America,” said Arglass Chairman and CEO José de Diego Arozamena. “Glass is already the most sustainable, recyclable and healthy packaging material, and the only packaging material classified as ‘generally recognized as safe’ by the FDA. I am incredibly proud to be leading the industry to new heights in sustainability.”

Other sustainability measures include the use of green hydrogen to reduce CO2 emissions, a closed-loop water system to minimize industrial waste and an on-site post-consumer glass recycling plant. The recycling plant will provide post-consumer glass cullet for use in the production of new containers. Arglass also produces glass using its proprietary Arglass Biogenic® glass composition, which replaces traditionally mined material with a naturally renewing, carbon-negative biogenic component gently harvested from the ocean.

“In addition to the industry advancements this new facility will create, we also Intend to bring 150 new jobs to the Valdosta area,” said Tony Krznâr, Arglass vice president of operations. “I look forward to working with the community at large to keep integrating with the beautiful tapestry of Georgia.”

The construction, which is expected to begin as soon as possible, will be supported by the Valdosta Lowndes Development Authority and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Arglass plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new plant on the company’s campus in Valdosta.

Investment bank Jefferies acted as financial advisor for Arglass. Orion Infrastructure Capital and several other major institutional investors provided funding.

“Our newly formed capital partnership will accelerate Arglass’s innovative growth and transformation of the glass industry in North America while also representing OIC’s continued investment conviction in sustainable domestic packaging infrastructure,” said Chris Leary, investment partner and head of infra equity at OIC.

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Nel to build electrolyzer gigafactory in Michigan

Norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer Nel will construct an electrolyzer plant in Michigan, building on its existing relationship with Detroit-based General Motors.

Norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer Nel will construct an electrolyzer plant in Michigan, building on its existing relationship with Detroit-based General Motors, according to a news release.

CEO Håkon Volldal said the company will make electrolyzers in the Detroit area to supply up to 4 GW worth of electrolyzers each year, making it among the largest such factories in the world.

“We’re thrilled to bring home up to $400 million in investment from Nel Hydrogen creating more than 500 good-paying, clean energy jobs right here in Michigan,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Volldal said earlier this year that the company had narrowed its search to three sites that could support a 2 GW manufacturing plant producing both PEM and alkaline electrolyzers.

Nel executives also said they would spend $25m to expand PEM electrolyzer production capacity at its Wallingford, Connecticut plant to 500 MW, from 50 MW currently. The company has received a $5.6m grant from the US Department of Defense for advanced PEM electrolyzer development. The Connecticut facility is estimated to be at full capacity by 2025.

“The choice of Michigan is based on an overall assessment of what the state can offer in terms of financial incentives, access to a highly skilled workforce, and cooperation with universities, research institutions, and strategic partners. I will also highlight the personal engagement from Governor Whitmer and her competent and service-minded team,” Volldal said.

Volldal emphasized that the short distance to General Motors, headquartered in Detroit, has played a decisive role in the choice of state. The two companies collaborate to develop further and improve Nel’s PEM electrolyser technology.

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Hydrogen investment fund launches pure-play platform

The recently established outfit, called Avina Clean Hydrogen, has an advanced portfolio of green ammonia and hydrogen plants that are expected to become operational in 2024.

Principals of Hydrogen Technology Ventures, a firm established in 2019 to invest across the clean hydrogen value chain, have launched Avina Clean Hydrogen Inc, a pure-play clean hydrogen platform, according to a press release.

The recently established outfit has an advanced portfolio of green ammonia and hydrogen plants that are expected to become operational in 2024.

Avina has recently concluded multiple strategic partnerships, customer off-takes and investment agreements with leading industry players and is well capitalized to advance development of 250 MW of green ammonia and hydrogen plants in multiple locations within the United States.

The platform plans to invest $1 billion in green ammonia and hydrogen plants by 2025 and has a pipeline of an additional 1.5 GW of renewable energy assets that can be converted into green hydrogen projects under various stages of development.

The platform is developing proprietary, modularized solutions to deploy low-cost distributed green hydrogen at scale and is well equipped with industry experts that have decades of experience in green hydrogen, industrial gas and renewable energy sectors, according to the release.

“Today, even though gray hydrogen production costs in the United States are about $1.50/kg, delivered gray hydrogen costs to the end customer in many instances are still a multiple of production costs and this problem is likely to become much larger as new applications for hydrogen get developed in locations where supply is not easily accessible,” said Vishal Shah, Avina’s Founder and CEO.

“Moreover, intermittency of renewable power and increasing transmission and distribution costs will continue to remain a challenge for the hydrogen industry even as electrolyzer costs continue to decline. Our platform is uniquely positioned to offer proprietary system level solutions to multiple stakeholders – renewable developers that are dealing with the grid congestion problem, hydrogen customers that are dealing with unsustainable distribution costs as well as customers that want to bring production costs down by solving the renewable power intermittency problem.”

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NOx mitigation firm looking to scale

A publicly listed company with a hydrogen burner project backed by one of the largest US utilities could accelerate growth with a capital infusion in pursuit of first-adopter clients. It offers technology that aims to mitigate an underappreciated aspect of the embryonic clean hydrogen ecosystem: blending hydrogen with natural gas can greatly increase NOx emissions when combusted.

ClearSign Technologies, the publicly listed burner solutions provider, is at an inflection point in the development of its products to serve players in the emerging hydrogen landscape, CEO Jim Deller said in an interview.

“We’re new,” Deller said of the company’s emergence on the hydrogen scene. The company is aggressively seeking a place in the hydrogen mainstream as it pursues first-adopter clients. “We need to get our install base up.”

ClearSign recently received a collaboration commitment and pledged funding for its 100% Hydrogen Ultra Low NOx burner project from Southern California Gas Co. This comes on top of the SBIR program Phase 2 Award for $1.6m from the DOE. The company has one year’s cash on hand, according to Deller.

Hydrogen blending increases the output of NOx emissions, which are heavily regulated, Deller explained. A 20% hydrogen blend with fuel gas, for example, causes a 40% increase in NOx emissions.

The goal of the project with SoCalGas is to develop NOx hydrogen burner technology, which the company believes will enable the adoption of hydrogen fuel for industrial heating.

“Your NOx permit is not going to change,” he said. “In order to use even a small amount of hydrogen in your fuel gas, you need a technology that’s going to allow you to maintain NOx emissions for an efficient price.”

Deller said he sees ClearSign as an enabler of the hydrogen transition, pointing to SoCalGas’ need to keep their clients compliant with their operating permits.

“They’re going to have to modify their technology to enable the combustion of hydrogen without exceeding their NOx permits, and that’s where we come in.”

A ‘pivotal point’

ClearSign is open to discussing partnerships and financial options to scale deployment of its technology, Deller said, pointing to potential markets in Texas and the Pacific Northwest.

“We’re certainly open to any company that has a compatible technology,” Deller said.

ClearSign is not engaged for M&A now, but it does have discussions with prospective financial advisors, company spokesperson Matthew Selinger said. “Like any small company, if we had more money we could potentially accelerate faster.”

The company is not considering a spin off now, Deller said, focusing instead on getting traction commercially. ClearSign has not historically taken on debt. Those types of business opportunities are not off the table, but technical synergy and strategic partnerships are first pursued for value creation.

“We’re at a pivotal point, I believe, in the development of our technology,” Deller said. “I’m open to talk about any ideas.”

A technology in development

The burner technology is also applicable to systems that use only hydrogen, Deller said. The Phase 2 DOE grant funding is meant to develop a full range of commercial burners that will operate through a range of fuel gasses up to and including 100% hydrogen.

ClearSign does not have additional partnerships pending announcement, Deller said. But what’s applicable in Southern California is relevant to discussions happening in proposed hydrogen hubs around the country.

The company is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, along with process burner manufacturing partner Zeeco. It uses third-party manufacturing and will continue to do so, Deller said.

ClearSign also has offices in Seattle and Beijing. The company’s US and Chinese businesses to not have a materials shipping relationship, Deller said. The model followed has manufacturing separated between countries.

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Exclusive: Glenfarne exploring hydrogen projects on existing asset base

Glenfarne Energy Transition is advancing its flagship liquefied natural gas project, Texas LNG, and evaluating hydrogen projects on or near its existing asset base on the Gulf Coast.

The Biden administration’s pause on permits for new US liquefied natural gas facilities hasn’t hurt all unbuilt projects.

Glenfarne Energy Transition, a subsidiary of Glenfarne Group, is moving ahead with its fully permitted lower-carbon flagship LNG export facility, Texas LNG, as the project is now set up to be the only such US project to reach FID this year.

Texas LNG, a 4 million MTPA facility proposed for Brownsville, Texas, will be the lowest carbon emitting LNG facility approved in the US, largely due to its use of electric motors in refrigerated compression. 

As designed, the plant would emit .15 metric tons of CO2e per ton of LNG produced, placing it slightly lower than the much larger Freeport LNG facility, which also has electric motors and emits around .17 metric tons of CO2 per ton of LNG.

The carbon intensity measurement counts emissions at the Texas LNG plant only, and not related emissions from the electric grid, which is why Glenfarne is seeking to source power for the project from wind and solar generation in south Texas, Adam Prestidge, senior vice president at Glenfarne, said in an interview.

In fact, the lower carbon aspects of Texas LNG helps with every element of the project, Prestidge said, including conversations with European offtakers and potential debt investors.

“Having a focus on sustainability is table stakes for every conversation,” he added. “It’s the finance side, it’s the offtake side, it’s our conversations with regulatory agencies.”

LNG pause

Glenfarne is seeking to raise up to $5bn of equity and debt for the project, according to news reports, a process that could benefit from the Biden administration’s pause on issuing permits for LNG projects that export to countries without free-trade agreements with the US.

“Our confidence and our timetable for that has probably been accelerated and cemented by the fact we are fully permitted, despite the Biden LNG pause impacting the broader market,” Prestidge said.

“The market has pretty quickly recognized that if you want to invest in LNG or buy LNG from a project that’s going to FID in 2024, you really don’t have very many fully permitted options right now.”

Glenfarne’s other US LNG project, called Magnolia LNG, has not yet received the required federal approvals and is therefore on pause along with a handful of other projects.

For Magnolia, Glenfarne is proposing to use a technology for which it owns the patent: optimized single mixed refrigerant, or OSMR, which uses ammonia instead of propane for cooling, resulting in less feed gas needed to run the facility and thus about 30% lower emissions than the average gas-powered LNG facility, Prestidge said.

Hydrogen projects

Glenfarne Energy Transition last year announced the formation of its hydrogen initiative, saying that projects in Chile, Texas, and Louisiana would eventually produce 1,500 kilotons of ammonia. 

“We’ve got existing infrastructure in the US Gulf Coast, and in Chile. A lot of the infrastructure required to produce LNG is similar or can be easily adapted to the infrastructure needed to produce ammonia,” Prestidge said. “And so, we’ve looked at locating hydrogen and ammonia production at sites in or near the ports of Brownsville and Lake Charles,” where Texas LNG and Magnolia LNG are located, respectively.

“The familiarity with the sites and the infrastructure and the local elements, make those pretty good fits for us,” he added.

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exclusive

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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