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Cleantech investor launches third fund with $150m

TDK Corporation subsidiary TDK Ventures Inc. will launch its third fund, totaling $150 million in new capital.

TDK Corporation subsidiary TDK Ventures Inc. will launch its third fund, totaling $150 million in new capital.

The new fund will target early-stage investments in energy transition, electrification, and decarbonization within the U.S. and Europe.

Amperex Technology Limited (ATL), TDK’s Hong Kong-based lithium-ion rechargeable batteries specialist, will be a limited partner to Fund EX1, according to a news release.

TDK Ventures’ total assets under management is now $350m.

“As the world strives to build a sustainable future for all, we must recognize the pivotal role that energy transformation needs play in our collective efforts,” stated Noboru Saito, president and CEO of TDK Corporation. “With this new funding, we are doubling down on our efforts to contribute toward innovations in electrification and decarbonization, as these two areas are helping to solve society’s toughest problems. By nurturing the innovative spirit of startups around the world and by providing TDK Goodness to the ecosystem, we hope to contribute to a world where energy transformation drives humanity toward a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow in harmony with our environment.”

“Fund EX1 bolsters our conviction in supporting entrepreneurs who are creating pioneering technologies in the energy transformation and decarbonization sectors,” said Nicolas Sauvage, president, TDK Ventures. “Foundational improvements in materials science, advanced manufacturing, and scale-up are the key to translate innovations developed in academic laboratories towards commercial reality. Our commitment to early-stage innovative startups in climate tech is poised to help accelerate our world toward carbon neutrality.”

“We strive to be a premier global innovative technology company, making exceptional contributions to the green energy resolution for mankind,” said Joe Kit Chu Lam, executive vice president, Amperex Technology Limited. “ATL is pleased to join Fund EX1 in its mission to support a greener energy transformation and contribute our part to decarbonization by supporting innovative ecosystems and startups around energy generation and energy storage.”

Since its inception, the company has made ten investments in the sector, backing companies such as Wheels, acquired by Helbiz, Inc.; electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) company Autoflight; battery-upcycling company Ascend Elements; smart electrical-panel company Span.io; off-grid back-up power-solutions company GenCell, which IPO’d on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange; water-sensing analytics company Divirod; green-hydrogen company Verdagy; lithium-ion dry-electrode company AM Batteries; designer and implementer of methodologies for sustainable extraction and refining of strategic metals company pH7 Technologies Inc.; and developer of an optimized stellarator fusion-energy system, Type One Energy.

“The expertise of our anchor LPs in electrochemical technologies, advanced manufacturing, and scale-up will allow us to bring to these startups strong technical expertise and access to global markets where TDK operates,” added Sauvage.

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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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Data: Japanese Companies in North American Clean Fuels Projects

A look at the Japanese firms that are making investments and forging project partnerships as that island nation seeks a North American footing for low-carbon fuels.

Japan is one of the largest importers of hydrogen worldwide, and it’s betting big on clean hydrogen for its decarbonization, planning to spend over $20 billion over the next 15 years to subsidize its production and supply chain.

In addition to investing to increase local capacity, Japanese firms are also focusing on importing clean fuels, with an eye on North America and the United States specifically, where project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers.

Many Japanese companies are actively participating in clean fuels projects across North America, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and biofuel projects.

Around 4% of all clean fuels projects in North America have one or more Japanese firms involved as co-developers, equity investors, or off-takers. The investments are mostly in the United States, and companies like Mitsubishi and Mitsui, which have a long history of US investments, are the most active.

Without committing to specific projects yet, developers like Sempra Infrastructure and 8 Rivers have signed MoUs with Japanese counterparts to promote the development of a clean energy supply chain, while others, like Intersect Power or Hydrogen Canada, are explicitly targeting Japan as an end market for their hydrogen products.

See a full list of North American projects with Japanese involvement.

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Biofuels startup raises seed capital

Terragia Biofuel will use the capital to commercialize its biology-based approach to converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other products.

Terragia Biofuel, a technology startup aiming to drive the next generation of biofuels, has raised a $6m seed round led by Engine Ventures and Energy Impact Partners (EIP).

The company will use the capital to commercialize its novel biology-based approach to converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol and other products, expand its employee headcount and initiate partnerships with major biofuel producers, according to a news release.

Terragia uses engineered thermophilic bacteria to break down cellulosic biomass and convert it into ethanol and other chemical products. The company’s technology avoids key features responsible for the high cost of conventional cellulosic biofuel production by one-step “consolidated” bioprocessing without added enzymes, and leveraging mechanical disruption during fermentation (i.e., “cotreatment”) in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment.

Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Martin Keller comments, “Cellulosic biofuels are a route to low-carbon fuels for aviation and other difficult-to-electrify transport modes as well as CO2 removal from the atmosphere, both of which are critical for climate stabilization. One-step biological conversion of cellulosic biomass without added enzymes or thermochemical pretreatment has clear cost reduction potential relative to other process concepts.” Adds Terragia CTO and Co-Founder Lee Lynd, a Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Director of the Advanced Second Generation Biofuel Lab at the University of Campinas, Brazil, “Conversion of ethanol to fuels for planes, ships, and trucks is a leading option for approximately half of future global transportation energy demand, for which electrification is likely impractical, corresponding to a trillion dollar market. With full penetration of this market, Terragia’s technology is projected to displace 3 gigatons of CO2 emissions annually and enable capture of a yet larger amount of CO2.”

In partnership with Dartmouth College and the University of Campinas, the ongoing development of Terragia’s technology is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Center for Bioenergy Innovation and the São Paulo Research Foundation, by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation, as well as private capital.

“Terragia has an exciting opportunity to succeed where others in the cellulosic biofuel industry have not. The company’s technology provides a radically different approach that uses biology to reduce the high costs and scale of conventional cellulosic biofuel production,” said Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner of Engine Ventures. “With an experienced management team, deep industry experience and a joint development agreement with a major U.S. biofuel producer already underway, Terragia’s go-to-market approach has the potential not only to meet future global transport demand but to create low carbon biofuel products at a price point competitive with fossil fuels.”

“We are proud to support Terragia on their path to revolutionizing cellulosic ethanol and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production,” said Ashwin Shashindranath, Partner at Energy Impact Partners. “Low-carbon fuels are a cornerstone of the energy transition, and we think Terragia has the right team and technology to become a leader in the field.”

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Exclusive: Residential microgrid developer to seek electrolysis partner, raise capital

A developer of planned microgrid communities will look for an electrolysis partner to provide green hydrogen for use in agricultural applications and is planning to go to market for platform equity and project debt.

Embark Fund and NOVA Constructors, a group of real estate development interests focused on developing three planned residential communities, will look for an electrolysis partner for its community microgrid development efforts, managing partner Craig McBurney said in an interview.

McBurney, who is also solar development manager for the South Carolina-based renewables developer Alder Energy, said the partners are in the process of acquiring land – between 1,500 and 2,000 acres per parcel – in Virginia, Maryland and Illinois. The latter project is the most advanced.

Each is for a planned residential community including microgrid development, he said. The communities will include renewables, which could be used to power electrolysis during times of low demand. He gave the example of a 30 MW solar ground array.  

“We are preparing to announce a [$60m to $80m] equity raise,” McBurney said, adding that between $240m and $300m of debt will also be required. The money will be used for site acquisition, development and EPC. “The whole capital stack is an opportunity.”  

The group has not formally engaged with an investment bank or financial advisor, he said. They will be targeting private equity, sovereign wealth funds, and family offices.

McBurney pointed to communities like Whisper Valley in Texas and Babcock Ranch in Florida as examples of his group’s efforts to develop sustainable off-grid communities.

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Exclusive: Verde Clean Fuels seeking project finance for gas refineries

Publicly listed Verde Clean Fuels plans to seek equity and debt investors for low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US. We spoke to CEO Ernest Miller about the strategy.

Verde Clean Fuels, a publicly listed developer of clean fuels technology and projects, is planning to seek project debt and equity investors to finance a series of low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US.

Houston-based Verde, which employs syngas-to-gasoline refining technology, recently announced an agreement with Diamondback Energy to construct a facility in the Permian Basin that will utilize stranded natural gas to produce 3,000 barrels per day of gasoline.

The company is also pursuing a carbon-negative gasoline project on the premises of California Resources’ Net Zero Industrial Park in Bakersfield, California. The California project will produce approximately 500 barrels of RBOB renewable gasoline per day from agricultural waste, while capturing and sequestering around 125,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Verde is capitalized following a private investment in public equity (PIPE) injection of $54m as part of a reverse merger last year, allowing the company to take the Bakersfield and West Texas projects through the FEED phase, CEO Ernest Miller said in an interview.

Underpinning Verde’s business model is the view that gasoline will persist as a transportation fuel for many years to come, and that very few parties are working to decarbonize the gasoline supply chain.

“Between renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, and sustainable aviation fuel, there is very little awareness that renewable gasoline is even a thing,” Miller said. “The addressable market is enormous, and the impact that can be made by taking even a sliver of that market is enormous.”

Miller says that many market participants believe that electric vehicles will solve the emissions problem from road transport.

“The fact is that gasoline has a very, very long runway ahead of it,” he said. “Regardless of the assumptions you want to make about EV penetration, the volume of gasoline that we continue to use for the foreseeable future is huge.”

Verde Clean Fuels demo plant.

Verde’s projects are sized in the 500 – 3,000 barrels per day range, making them a unique player at the smaller end of the production range. The only other companies with similar methanol-to-gas technology are ExxonMobil and Danish-based Topsoe, which operate at a much larger scale, according to Miller.

Miller recognizes that low-carbon, or negative-carbon, gasoline operates within a complex ecosystem, with the California project potentially playing in that state’s LCFS and D3 RIN markets, in addition to the market for gasoline.

“What I would like to see us do is have an offtaker that plays in all three of those products – so if I can go to Shell Trading, or bp, or Vitol, and get one of them to say, ‘here’s a price,’ and they take all of that exposure and optionality,” Miller said, “that allows me to finance the project without having to manage a whole bunch of different commodity exposures and risk.”

Bakersfield 

The Bakersfield project, estimated to cost $235m to build, will utilize 450 tons per day of agricultural waste to produce gasoline, and sequester CO2 via California Resources’ carbon management company, Carbon TerraVault, a joint venture with Brookfield Renewable.

Because of the carbon sequestration, the project will qualify for incentives under 45Q, but since it is producing, in Miller’s words, “deeply carbon-negative gasoline,” most of the value for the project will come from California’s LCFS program.

In order to qualify for LCFS credits, the Bakersfield facility goes through the full GREET modeling process – including transport of feedstock, processing and refining, and transport away from the facility – returning a negative 125 grams equivalent per MJ carbon intensity score for the project, according to Miller.

As for investors, Verde “would like to see both California Resources and Brookfield Renewable in the project, either individually or through the Carbon TerraVault JV,” Miller said.

Verde is also in discussions with a handful of financial players, including infrastructure and pension funds that are looking for bond-like cash flow that a project finance model can provide. The company has also explored the municipal bond market in California, which would bring to bear a favorable capital structure for the project, Miller said.

Verde is not currently working with a project finance advisor, Miller said, noting that they have in-house project finance experience. In Texas, Verde is working with Vinson & Elkins as its law firm; and in California Verde is working with Orrick as counsel.

Gasoline runway

For the Diamondback facility in West Texas, which requires roughly $325m of capex, both Verde and Diamondback will take equity stakes in the project, and Verde will seek to bring in debt financing to fund the rest of the project costs in a non-recourse project finance deal, Miller said.

The Permian project seeks to provide a pathway to monetize stranded gas in the basin by taking advantage of and alleviating its lack of takeaway capacity, which causes gas prices at the Waha Hub in West Texas to trade at a significant discount to the Henry Hub price.

“Diamondback would take the position that any gas that’s getting consumed in the Permian Basin is gas that’s not getting flared in the Permian Basin,” Miller said, thus making the project a emissions-mitigating option. “There will never be enough natural gas takeaway capacity out of the Permian Basin,” he added, noting that driller profiles are only going to get gassier as time goes on.

Diamondback, for example, produces more in the Permian than it can take out via pipeline, therefore “finding a use, a different exposure, for that gas by turning it into gasoline, is of value for them,” Miller said.

“It’s the same dynamic in the Marcellus and Bakken and Uinta – all the pipeline-constrained basins,” he added, alluding to possible future expansion to those basins.

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Exclusive: National RNG developer in equity sale process

A large US developer and operator of renewable natural gas projects has tapped an advisor and is in the early stages of a sale process.

DTE Vantage, a developer of renewable energy projects with a national footprint in the US, is in the first round of a process to sell its RNG business, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Lazard is running the process, the sources said. First round bids were recently received.

The company’s RNG portfolio includes 13 projects, four of which are landfill-to-gas while the remainder are on dairy farms, with more under construction, according to company materials. One of the largest RNG producers in the Midwest, the company also has projects in North Carolina, California, New York, and Wisconsin.

Of note, the Riverview Energy landfill gas asset in Riverview, Michigan produces 8.6 mmcfd of pipeline natural gas and includes 6.6 MW of solar. Pinnacle Gas in Moraine, Ohio, produces 4.5 mmcfd, while Seabreeze Energy in Angleton, Texas produces 5.8 mmcfd.

DTE Vantage is a non-utility subsidiary of DTE Energy. Founded in the 1990s, it has about 600 employees and operates 64 projects in 16 US states, with one asset in Canada. The company serves industrial, agricultural, and institutional clients across three core groups: Renewable Energy, Custom Energy Solutions, and Emerging Ventures.

DTE declined to comment. Lazard did not respond to a request for comment.

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