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CIP and Tenaska to develop green hydrogen projects in the US

The partners will develop gigawatt-scale green hydrogen projects for green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and SAF markets.

Tenaska and CIP will develop greenfield gigawatt-scale green hydrogen projects, with the intent of serving local and global demand for green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, sustainable aviation fuel and other clean fuels in key U.S. hydrogen markets.

According to a news release, the agreement will support the targets of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap of reaching a production of 10 million metric tonnes (MMT) of clean hydrogen annually by 2030, 20 MMT annually by 2040, and 50 MMT annually by 2050.

Partner at CIP, Søren Toftgaard, said: “Green hydrogen and Power-to-X will be key to take the next big leap within decarbonization, and CI ETF I, as managed by CIP, is uniquely positioned to invest in this segment. Working with Tenaska, a strong counterparty with significant experience within energy management and project development, will significantly ramp up CI ETF I’s green hydrogen and renewable development capabilities in the U.S and will add to our strong global portfolio of Power-to-X projects.”

Joel Link, president of Tenaska Development, said: “Green hydrogen presents exciting opportunities for the energy, transportation and agricultural sectors, among others, to meet climate and decarbonization goals. Tenaska looks forward to working with local and international consumers of hydrogen to create the right solutions for their clean energy needs and collaborating with CIP to deliver such hydrogen solutions and advance significant infrastructure projects throughout the U.S.”

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Blue Biofuels receives DOE grant

The DOE grant will enable Blue Biofuels to advance its efforts to scale and optimize its patented cellulose-to-sugar process.

Blue Biofuels, Inc. has received a Department of Energy (DOE) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grant.

The grant, valued at $206,500, will further propel Blue Biofuels’ mission to revolutionize the biofuels sector and create sustainable transportation and aviation fuel.

The DOE SBIR Phase 1 grant will enable Blue Biofuels to advance its efforts to scale and optimize its patented cellulose-to-sugar (CTS) process. This funding will support the company’s team of scientists and engineers as they continue to refine cutting-edge fuel technology aimed at reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

“We are honored to be awarded the DOE SBIR grant, which recognizes our commitment to developing clean and sustainable fuels,” CEO Benjamin Slager said in the release. “This grant not only validates our ongoing efforts but also provides us with the resources needed to accelerate our research and move closer to commercialization.”

With this grant, Blue Biofuels aims to successfully complete its Phase 1 scaling objectives, paving the way for future opportunities to secure larger-scale grants. The Company is poised to leverage the findings and data generated from this project to pursue subsequent DOE SBIR Phase 2 & 3 grants, potentially worth millions of dollars. Blue Biofuels remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing the biofuels industry and ushering in a cleaner and greener energy landscape.

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Exclusive: CarbonFree raising capital for U.S. Steel carbon utilization project

CarbonFree, an established carbon capture utilization firm, is raising capital for its $150m plant at U.S. Steel’s Gary, Indiana steelmaking facilities.

CarbonFree, an established carbon capture and utilization firm, is raising capital to build a $150m capture and utilization plant at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works Blast Furnaces.

The San Antonio-based firm already generates revenues from existing projects, and will use cash on hand as well as additional private investments to fund construction of the project, a spokesperson for the company said via email.

We are pursuing additional equity investments in CarbonFree, rather than project-specific financing,” the spokesperson said. “The process is ongoing.”

The company is working with a financial advisor on the capital raise, but the spokesperson declined to name the firm.

CarbonFree and U.S. Steel announced this week that they have finalized a definitive agreement to use CarbonFree’s SkyCycle technology to capture and mineralize up to 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Construction is expected to begin as soon as this summer with operations expected by 2026.

The technology captures carbon emissions and converts them into a carbon-neutral calcium carbonate, used to make paper, plastics, and other products.

CarbonFree CEO Martin Keighley said in previous interviews that the objective of the CCU operation is that “it can be zero capital and zero OpEx for the emitter, because, in its own right, it is a profitable operation.”

The spokesperson estimated the addressable market for the calcium carbonate it produces to be $40bn, and added that CarbonFree was actively seeking new partners in that market.

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California Resources considering splitting off carbon management business

Oil and gas producer California Resources is considering splitting off its carbon management business, Carbon Terravault, which is a JV with Brookfield Renewable.

Oil and gas producer California Resources is considering splitting off its carbon management business, Carbon Terravault, in an effort to accelerate growth at the unit.

The carbon business, which is a joint venture with Brookfield Renewable, will be managed on a standalone basis over time, which would provide the flexibility to eventually separate the unit from its oil exploration and production business, the company stated in a press release.

ReSource previously interviewed the company’s chief sustainability officer about its approach to investments in carbon capture and blue molecule production in California.

“We have a vision that these two businesses over time need to be run and potentially separated. And that will mature over time,” said CEO Mark “Mac” McFarland on the company’s earnings call Friday. “This is just the first step of many.”

McFarland in May will transition from CEO to his former role as a non-executive director and will also serve as non-executive chair of the newly formed board of the Carbon TerraVault subsidiary. Replacing him as CEO is Francisco Leon, who is currently the CFO.

The Carbon Terravault joint venture was formed to create a partnership focused on carbon capture and sequestration development, along with carbon management service agreements with parties such as Lone Cypress Energy and Grannus, LLC, to provide permanent carbon storage.

In 2023, CRC is focused on signing up additional emitter projects, advancing CalCapture and the California Direct Air Capture Hub, and submitting additional Class VI permit applications.

“If you look at the PDP value of the company, and then I look at what we think is the value of carbon management, we don’t think it’s reflected in the stock price,” Leon said on the call. “We’re going to take the steps to unlock that.”

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DG Fuels charting path to be SAF powerhouse

The company has retained advisors and is mapping out a plan to build as many as 50 production facilities in North America for a “gigantic” sustainable aviation fuel market.

DG Fuels is charting a plan to build a proprietary network of 30 to 50 sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facilities in North America, CEO Michael Darcy said in an interview.

The Washington, D.C.-based company will pursue a combination of debt and equity on a case-by-case basis to fund the projects, Darcy explained, with financings underway now for the firm’s initial project in Louisiana and a second facility in Maine. The Louisiana facility recently inked a USD 4bn offtake agreement with an undisclosed investment grade industrial buyer.

The company is working with Guggenheim and Stephens as financial advisors, Darcy said. About 60 people hold equity in the company; Darcy and the founding team hold a majority stake.

In the coming months DG Fuels will likely make announcements about more SAF plants in the US and British Columbia, Darcy said. Site negotiations are underway and each project is its own subsidiary of the parent company.

“There’s clearly a good return of what we refer to as the ‘project level,’ and then we have the parent company,” Darcy said. “We have strategic investment at the parent and now we’re looking at strategic investment at the project level.”

Huge demand, low supply

DG Fuels produces SAF from cellulosic biomass feedstock, a technology that does not need sequestration of CO2 because natural gas is not used.

“We like to say it’s the corn cob, not the corn,” Darcy said. The company can also use timber waste, waxes, and renewable power as an important source of energy.

The company gets about 4.5 barrels of SAF for every ton of biomass feedstock, which is roughly three to four times the industry average, Darcy said.

“Practical scale” for a facility is 12,000 to 15,000 barrels a day, Darcy said. That’s big enough to be commercialized without stressing the electrical grid with power demand.

Despite the company’s advantages, there is “plenty of room” for other producers to come into the SAF space, Darcy said.

“Right now, the market for SAF is gigantic and the supply is minimal,” Darcy said. “Companies like us are able to pick and choose high-quality offtakers.”

DG Fuels includes Delta Airlines, Air France and General Electric as committed offtakers.

Multi-tasking

DG Fuels is “always engaged in some level of capital raise for construction of facilities and detailed engineering,” Darcy said. “There’s always more engineering to be done.”

Some of the financing has already been completed, but Darcy declined to go into additional detail. After Louisiana, the company will quickly follow up with Maine.

HydrogenPro AS recently announced that it would join Black & Veatch and Energy Vault in financing the remaining capital requirements of DG Fuels’ project in Louisiana, which is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

Most of the engineering work in Louisiana is transferable to the company’s project in Maine. Darcy likened the facilities’ build-out to a class of ships: once the first is completed, the second and third can be built almost concurrently.

“There will be a point where we won’t be building one at a time,” Darcy said.

The opportunity for funders to participate is broad in the SAF space, Darcy said. There is a crossover of good economics and ESG, so strategics, industrials, private equity and other pure financial players can all be involved.

The broad base of capital eager to participate in companies that are innovative — but not too innovative as to scare investors — is indicative of the industry’s ability to secure offtakers and feedstock.

Storing power

It’s one thing to acknowledge the need for reduction of carbon, but hard work is required ahead, Darcy said.

“The low-hanging fruit has been done,” he said of the renewables industry. “Now it’s not really about the power, it’s about the storage of power.”

DG Fuels is an offtaker of non-peak renewable power to displace fossil fuel energy. But baseload renewable power is becoming available almost anywhere.

The Maine project will use stranded hydroelectric power, Louisiana will use solar, and projects in the Midwest will use wind, Darcy said. Additionally, geothermal power is “starting to become a very real opportunity,” he added.

Deploying broadly with renewable power gets past the issues of variability of renewable power at a reasonable cost, he said.

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Developer Profile: Green hydrogen developer finds strength in numbers

Clean Energy Holdings is assembling a coalition of specialized companies as it seeks to break into the novel green hydrogen market.

Nicholas Bair draws a direct line from his childhood on an Oregon dairy farm to the coalition of specialized companies that, as the CEO of Clean Energy Holdings, he is now assembling in pursuit of key-player status in the green hydrogen industry.

“We created our own milk from our own hay,” he says, of his family’s organic dairy farm in Klamath Falls, near the California border. He adds, using an expression he often repeats: “Everything was inside the battery limits.”

This phrase – “inside the battery limits” – represents what Bair, who is forty-one and a chemist by trade, is trying to achieve with The Alliance: a broad, self-contained battery of partners with specialized competencies working in coordination on the challenges of developing and operating groundbreaking green hydrogen projects.

“We’re doing everything from soup to nuts,” he says.

CEH and The Alliance are planning to build roughly $1bn worth of projects per year over the next ten years, Bair says. As a launching point, the parties are advancing a green hydrogen facility – called Clear Fork – near Sylvester, Texas that would churn out 30,000 kg per day in phase 1 starting in 4Q24. The hydrogen would be produced using electrolyzers powered by a 325 MW solar farm, while ancillary facilities at the site would be powered by a gas turbine capable of blending up to 70% hydrogen.

As members of The Alliance, Equix Inc. is acting as the EPC for the solar and gas turbine portion of the project, while Chart Industries is providing tankers, trailers, and liquefaction to transport hydrogen from the site in northwest Texas. Meanwhile, Hartford Steam Boiler – an original contributor to standards written by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – will provide quality assurance and control; Coast 2 Coast Logistics is responsible for trucking; and The Eastman Group provides permitting and facilities management.

‘First-of-kind’

Although a renewable project, the green hydrogen concept is similar to most refinery EPC contracts, since many of them are first-of-kind with significant liquidated damages, Bair says. Additionally, the green hydrogen projects are “married to renewables, and you need the cryogenics and the distribution in between.”

Before starting Clean Energy Holdings, Bair was the founder and CEO of Bair Energy, a program and construction manager for infrastructure and energy projects – a service that Bair Energy is providing as a member of the Alliance. A period of low natural gas prices made Bair Energy’s specialty – geothermal power – less competitive, and Bair, seeking to develop his own projects instead of managing projects for others, sought to branch out into new types of energies.

Bair Energy itself consists of professionals that have been cherry-picked from the industry, Bair says. Candice McGuire, a veteran of Shell and Technip, is Bair’s chairman; chief operations officer John Strawn recently joined from Technip; and wind-industry veteran Peder Hansen has joined as VP and chief engineering manager.

“Our experience on the team is taking first-of-kind, developing it, and getting it to market,” he says. With The Alliance, “We went out and found the best at what they do, put them on lump-sum order, and brought them to the table early to figure out how to make their product talk to the other person’s product, so we can have a guarantee,” he says.

What distinguishes Clean Energy Holdings from other green hydrogen developers is, in fact, the coalition it is building, says Elizabeth Sluder, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright who is CEH’s legal advisor.

“It’s intended to be one-stop shopping in a vertically integrated structure such that as and when needed for future CEH projects or third party projects that are identified, you have all the various players you need to take it from point A to point B,” she adds.

Because the parties are on standby with a common goal, CEH and its partners can provide lump-sum turnkey services, with some element of bulk pricing potentially factored in, because savings are generated through not having to issue RFPs for partners in future projects.

“The savings in time and money is, I would expect, very valuable,” Sluder says. “And when you apply those principles to long-term strategy and equity investment-type opportunities, the lower capex spend should theoretically benefit the project at large.”

Keeping the pieces moving

Bair runs CEH alongside Co-Founder and President Cornelius Fitzgerald. The two met as children – Fitzgerald was raised on a nearby cattle farm in southern Oregon – and enjoy the uncommon chemistry of childhood friends.

In something of classic pairing, “I’m much more the trumpet, paving the path,” Bair says, while Fitzgerald “usually keeps the pieces moving.”

“Sometimes Cornelius has had the best cup of coffee and takes the lead in meetings. And sometimes I do,” he says. “It’s that ability to rely on each other that set the basis of design in my mind for what a good partner looks like.”

Fitzgerald says they approach the challenge of breaking new ground in green hydrogen with “quiet confidence and humility.” By having a big picture vision as well as “credible and tangible fundamentals for the project” – like land, resource, and water control – the project moved from an idea to a reality, he adds.

“And really we’ve been driving at how to get the best experience and expertise at the table as early as possible,” Fitzgerald says.

Equix, Inc, a civil engineering firm, joined the grouping to build the solar and gas generation portion of the facility, representing the company’s first-ever foray into a hydrogen project, says Tim LeVrier, a vice president of business development at the firm.

“There are many challenges integrating all these types of power sources and energy into creating hydrogen,” Levrier says. “From an electrical engineering standpoint it is extremely challenging to coordinate power switching from one source to another. Another consideration we are having to work through is what to do in regards to producing hydrogen at night. Will there be a battery portion to the project or do we just not produce hydrogen when it is dark? These are all things we are considering and will have to find creative solutions for.”

‘Pathological believer’

CEH recently added Chart Industries to The Alliance, which in addition to furnishing liquefaction, tanks and trailers to move hydrogen, will provide fin fans for cooling and a reverse osmosis system for cleaning water. “We don’t want to give away all our secrets,” Bair says, “but it’s a very efficient process.”

The unique perspective and expertise of partners in The Alliance makes for a fulsome ecosystem around any CEH project, says Jill Evanko, CEO of Chart Industries. With respect to CEH’s projects, Evanko says they are “very targeted, which, with focus, will continue to help evolve the hydrogen economy.”

“Chart’s hydrogen liquefaction process as well as associated hydrogen equipment including storage tanks and trailers” – which the company has been manufacturing for over 57 years – “will be sole-source provided into the project. This will allow for efficient engineering and manufacturing to the CEH Clear Fork project schedule,” she says.

In any molecule value chain, hydrogen included, Chart serves customers that are the producers of the molecule, those who store and transport it as well as those who are the end users, Evanko adds. “This allows us to connect those who are selling the molecule with those who need it.”

Looking ahead, CEH is preparing to meet with investors in the lead-up to an April, 2023 final investment decision deadline for the Texas project. And it is being advised by RockeTruck for another RFP seeking fuel cell vehicles to transport hydrogen from the site as the trucks become available – a design that will likely include hydrogen fueling stations at the production facility as well as at the Port of Corpus Christi, Bair says.

CEH also has plans to develop its own geothermal plants and explore the role that nuclear energy can play in green hydrogen. Bair Energy recently hired Eric Young as its VP of engineering and technology from NuScale, where he worked on the research team that received approvals from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a small modular nuclear reactor.

“We’re a technology-driven owner-operator,” Bair says. “We’re all technologists, which means we’re pathological believers in technology. We’re all looking for transformational energy.”

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Aemetis capitalized for hydrogen and biofuel development plans

Aemetis CEO Eric McAfee said in an interview that the company has lined up financing to complete the $1.2bn in biogas and sustainable aviation fuel projects it has in development.

Aemetis is well capitalized to complete the $1.2bn in biogas and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) projects it has in development, CEO Eric McAfee said in an interview.

Founded by McAfee in 2006 and listed on the NASDAQ in 2014, Aemetis plans to produce more than 60 million gallons per year of SAF and capture and sequester 125,000 mtpy of carbon in 2025. This is a diversification from existing ethanol, RNG and biodiesel operations in the US and India.

The company recently released an updated five-year plan including plans to generate $2bn of revenues, $496m of net income, and $682m of adjusted EBITDA by 2027.

McAfee, noting that Aemetis is well capitalized and has locked in financing for much of its plans, said, “The only thing we really need to do is just execute.”

For example, the company closed $25m of USDA loan guarantees in October at a 6.2% interest rate, McAfee said. The company has also signed a $125m USDA commitment letter for its Riverbank Biofuels Project in California, also called CarbonZero 1, which will produce SAF.

“We’ll be expanding that relationship with [the USDA],” McAfee said. “Everything else is financed.”

The Riverbank Biofuels Project has signed offtake agreements with major airlines, and the SAF segment is expected to be the biggest contributor to Aemetis’ revenues once the project is online in 2025, according to a presentation. Renewable diesel and SAF will add $348m of revenues in 2025 and $693.3m of revenues in 2026.

For its carbon sequestration projects, referring to upgrades at the existing Keyes ethanol plant in California and other operational assets, the company has an existing $100m line of credit provided by Third Eye Capital, $50m of which remains unused, McAfee said.

Projected revenues will allow the company to self-fund without new credit facilities, McAfee said. Revenues from Aemetis’ debt-free operations in India will also be available to fund new developments.

The Riverbank SAF plant will be fully engineered and permitted this year, McAfee said. Baker Hughes and ATSI are the company’s EPC partners on the new developments.

Aemetis has no plans to divest existing operational assets but could acquire California biogas assets, McAfee said. The company regularly talks to investment bankers.

McAfee is the largest single shareholder in Aemetis. JackBlock, the former US Secretary of Agriculture, sits on the company’s board. The largest institutional shareholder is BlackRock.

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