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Comstock completes RenFuel investment

Comstock is investing up to $3m to support applications for RenFuel and Comstock complementary renewable fuel technologies, and the continued development of the 100,000 metric ton per year biorefinery joint venture project in Sweden.

Comstock Inc. has executed agreements with RenFuel K2B AB under which Comstock is investing up to $3m over three years to support commercialization of joint development applications for RenFuel and Comstock complementary renewable fuel technologies, and the continued development of the 100,000 metric ton per year (TPY) biorefinery joint venture project in Sweden.

The applicable investment agreements require the purchase of up to $3m in 7% senior secured convertible notes funded in quarterly installments of $250,000 for three years. The notes are convertible at pre-money per share valuation equal to the lower of $30m or the post-money valuation used for RenFuel’s then most recent offering at the time of conversion. Comstock has already invested the first $350,000 of this investment.

“RenFuel’s team, technologies, and our now collaborative production joint venture project are highly strategic to our Bioleum commercialization plans,” said Corrado De Gasperis, Comstock’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, in a news release. “RenFuel’s highly specialized chemical and process development expertise strongly adds to the breadth and depth of our own technical team and their patent portfolio complements our own extensive portfolio.”

Comstock’s proprietary technologies are proven to convert lignocellulosic biomass into Cellulosic Ethanol and proprietary Bioleum biointermediate blends at extraordinary yields exceeding 100 gallons per dry tonne of biomass on a gasoline gallon equivalent basis (GGE), and market-leading, extremely low carbon intensity (CI) scores of 15. Comstock is already using RenFuel’s patented catalytic esterification technology to refine its proprietary Bioleum derivatives into Hydrodeoxygenated Bioleum Oil (HBO), for use by advanced biofuel refineries in blending with, diversifying, and extending conventional hydroprocessed fat, oil, and grease feedstocks that can simultaneously produce SAF and Renewable Diesel Fuel. Comstock holds the exclusive license to RenFuel’s refining technologies in North America, Central America, and South America and available for global distribution.

RenFuel previously completed extensive preliminary engineering for a new biorefinery to convert about 75,000 TPY of lignin into a biointermediate for refining into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel in Europe. Comstock and RenFuel are evaluating the requirements for inclusion of an additional 25,000 TPY of biorefining capacity based on Comstock’s commercially available Cellulosic Ethanol and Bioleum derived fuels technologies, and several compelling opportunities for deploying our integrated solution.

Sven Löchen, RenFuel’s chief executive officer added, “We are thrilled with this expanding strategic partnership. Comstock’s technologies and proprietary Bioleum products create a vastly expanded market opportunity for our technologies worldwide, where Comstock is rapidly advancing across the Americas. Comstock’s direct investment in RenFuel supports our continued growth and development as we build value for all of our stakeholders.”

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Blue methanol project developer brings on Macquarie for offtake

The developer of a 550,000 metric ton blue and bio-methanol facility in Shreveport, Louisiana has brought on Macquarie to commercialize production. It has also signed EPC and CO2 capture and transport agreements, with expected financial close this year.

Bia Energy Operating Company is advancing its low carbon methanol production facility at the 4,000-acre Port of Caddo-Bossier industrial multimodal facility in northwest Louisiana.

The facility is designed to be able to reduce carbon emissions by over 92% compared to traditional methanol production by capturing CO2 and utilizing hydrogen as both fuel and feedstock. The Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) study and major permits are complete for the 74-acre, $1.2bn facility designed to produce 550,000 metric tons of blue and bio-methanol per year, according to a news release.

The company is expected to reach financial close in 2024, after which construction will begin. Commercial Operations Date is expected in late 2026.

To support the marketing of the facility’s production, Bia Energy has entered into a 20-year Commercialization and Marketing Services Agreement with Macquarie Commodities Trading, an affiliate of Macquarie Group’s Commodities and Global Markets business. Through Macquarie, the project is currently seeking fixed-price offtake agreements with organizations in the chemical, maritime, manufacturing and industrial sectors looking to switch to low carbon methanol.

Bia Energy is collaborating with CapturePoint LLC to capture and transport the CO2 to a class VI well site in central Louisiana. Bia Energy will utilize the J. Bennett Johnston/Red River Waterway for its barge shipments of finished product.

“We are thrilled to have reached this milestone and update the market on our plans for this low carbon methanol project,” said Dr. Ana Rodriguez, CEO and Cofounder of Bia Energy. “The advancement of this shovel-ready project and its positive environmental impact, coupled with the jobs creation and development at the Port and in Caddo and Bossier Parishes, underscores our commitment to the region and our ability to deliver low carbon solutions to our prospective customers across a wide range of industries.”

The methanol production and processing facility will include state-of-the-art docks, tank farms and piping at the Port Complex. It is anticipated that nearly 350 construction jobs will be created at peak construction for the project. Bia Energy expects the facility to create 75 direct new jobs once operational. Louisiana Economic Development (LED), which provided an incentives
package for the project, estimates the project would result in 390 indirect jobs, for a total of 465 new jobs in Louisiana’s Northwest region.

“Bia Energy’s investment has the potential to create a large number of well-paying permanent jobs and stimulate economic activity all across North Louisiana, and that would be a win for the entire state,” said Susan Bonnett-Bourgeois, Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development.

“From the very beginning this project has been a testament to the power of collaborative economic development, and I want to thank and congratulate Dr. Rodriguez and our partners at the Port of Caddo-Bossier, BRF and NLEP for moving it closer to the finish line.”

“For over 40 years, Macquarie’s CGM business has worked with clients to understand their needs and provide tailored marketing and commercialization solutions,” said Aarnoud van Weelderen, Senior Managing Director in Macquarie’s CGM business. “Macquarie is pleased to work with Bia Energy to provide physical offtake, marketing and logistics of low carbon methanol
to end consumers and customers in the US and globally who are focusing on their decarbonization initiatives.”

“Macquarie’s physical commodity business continues to grow to meet the current and future energy needs of our clients,” added Justin Brymer, Head of US Physical Structuring and Origination at Macquarie. “We are excited to work with Bia Energy to extend our terminal and vessel capabilities.”

Tracy Evans, CEO of CapturePoint LLC, commented, “The team at CapturePoint is excited to provide leading-edge carbon management solutions for Bia Energy’s planned low-carbon methanol facility in the Port of Caddo-Bossier. When this project is fully operational, we expect to transport up to 250,000 metric tons of CO2 annually for safe and permanent storage in CapturePoint’s deep underground CENLA Hub carbon storage sites. Capturing that volume of carbon dioxide is a significant demonstration of Bia Energy’s environmental commitments.”

Bia Energy has engaged Houston-based S&B Engineers and Constructors as its Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor.

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Exclusive: Micro ammonia tech firm raising pre-IPO Series A

A micro ammonia technology firm is raising a small amount of Series A capital and plans to pursue an IPO as soon as next year.

Hydrofuel Canada, a developer of micro ammonia technology, is seeking strategic partners for a CAD 5m Series A capital raise in anticipation of an initial public offering as early as next year.

The Mississauga, Ontario-based firm recently received U.S. patents for its micro ammonia production system (MAPS), which represents a breakthrough in smaller scale on-site, low-cost ammonia production possibilities, CEO Greg Vezina said in an interview.

“Our cost to make hydrogen at end use all-in including capex, opex, and 8% financing is $1.30 per kg” before tax credits, Vezina said. “We’re pretty confident that over the next couple of months, we’re going to put together a group of investors, strategic partners, and quite frankly, a board of directors that’s going to choke a horse.”

The $1.30 per kg price for hydrogen – in ammonia – depends on an electricity price of 2 cents per kWh, Vezina said, and correlates to a price of around $456 / ton of ammonia. Cracking the ammonia at end use takes between 10% – 15% of the hydrogen, resulting in a final price of hydrogen of around $1.50 per kg.

For comparison, with electricity at 3 cents per kWh, the price of hydrogen in ammonia climbs to $1.57 per kg.

Hydrofuel is looking for five strategic partners that will each put in CAD 1m, which would advance its micro ammonia offering to commercialization. It already has orders in the book and expects to have $1bn of orders by the time it goes public via a planned initial public offering next year, Vezina said.

“We’ll go public in 2025, essentially to raise the money to deliver our products,” he said.

The company is also looking to partner with renewables developers with planned wind energy resources near ammonia demand centers in the U.S., so that the resulting ammonia production can qualify for 45V tax credits for clean hydrogen.

Vezina has been a proponent of ammonia solutions for decades, and reportedly drove an ammonia-fueled Chevy Impala across Canada in 1981. He believes that the MAPS technology will be a disruptive force in the emerging market for green hydrogen and ammonia. While Hydrofuel claims to produce ammonia on site at $1.50 per kg, the cost to transport ammonia alone — other than via a long-distance pipeline — is not currently less than $3 per kg, Vezina said, citing a recent study from the World Bank.

“I’m going to bankrupt everybody in the electrolyzer business worldwide,” he said, adding his view that the economics of large-scale electrolyzer projects make them unviable where they rely on expensive transportation networks.

MAPS

To date, Hydrofuel has raised CAD 5m, with management and employees still owning 40% of the business. In the current capital raise, Hydrofuel is selling 25% of the company, amounting to a $20m valuation, Vezina said.

The U.S. patent was issued for Hydrofuel’s MAPS 1.0 product, which utilizes externally produced hydrogen to synthesize with nitrogen from air to make ammonia. Vezina says the patent also covers the MAPS 2.0 product, which combines hydrogen and ammonia production in the same unit, but Hydrofuel has filed for an additional patent for MAPS 2.0.

Hydrofuel signed a licensing agreement for the MAPS technology with Georgia Tech University in April 2022, and later began collaborating on research and development with Colorado State University.

Farmers are a main target market for the technology, Vezina said, noting that farms can cut their anhydrous ammonia bill significantly. Industrial users of ammonia, including medical-grade ammonia, are also targeted customers.

The cost of the MAPS 2.0 unit, which has a capacity of 381 tonnes per year, is USD 850,000, and customers can secure a unit by making a $10,000 deposit with financing for 20 years, Vezina said. The company earns a profit of USD 425,000 for every MAPS 2.0 unit sold.

Vezinz said that accounting for US tax credits for clean hydrogen production as well as renewables could cover almost the entire cost of the micro ammonia installations and renewables, given the cost of $1.50 per kg and the $3 per kg tax credit.

“So a lot of smart farmers could be getting a lot of free fertilizer,” he said.

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American Airlines invests in Universal Hydrogen

American joins Airbus Ventures, GE Aviation and Toyota Ventures, as well as several major hydrogen producers and aircraft lessors, as strategic investors.

American Airlines has made a strategic equity investment in Universal Hydrogen Co., a company building a green hydrogen distribution and logistics network for aviation.

The investment supports American’s science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2035, and ultimately its commitment to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050, and makes American the first U.S. airline to make two direct investments focused on the development of both hydrogen-electric propulsion technology and the future of hydrogen distribution logistics, according to a news release.

American joins Airbus Ventures, GE Aviation and Toyota Ventures, as well as several major hydrogen producers and aircraft lessors, as strategic investors in Universal Hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen’s fuel distribution network uses modular hydrogen capsules that are handled like cargo, eliminating the need for new fueling infrastructure at airports and speeding up fuel loading operations. Universal Hydrogen anticipates starting hydrogen deliveries for regional aircraft in 2025, with plans to expand its services to larger, single aisle aircraft — first for auxiliary power in the late-2020s and then as a primary fuel by the mid-2030s. Because these segments represent two-thirds of aviation emissions — and with green hydrogen being a true zero-carbon fuel — these advances put aviation on a path to meet Paris Agreement emissions targets.

“This technology has the potential to be a game-changer on the industry’s path to zero-emission flight,” said American’s Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr. “As the world’s largest airline, American has a responsibility to exercise leadership in making aviation sustainable. Our investment in Universal Hydrogen represents a vote of confidence for green hydrogen as a key element of a sustainable future for our industry.”

“Together with our investors, we are putting together the end-to-end value chain to make hydrogen aviation a near-term commercial reality,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “This move by American is a strong signal that customers want a true zero-emissions solution for passenger aviation and are willing to back tangible, pragmatic steps to get there quickly.”

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Feature: Is the U.S. Midwest still navigable terrain for CO2 pipelines?

Strained efforts to build thousands of miles of carbon dioxide pipelines in the U.S. Midwest could carry major implications for future projects – and for the region’s nascent clean fuels industry. According to one industry CEO, “Ethanol plants are sitting on a gold mine.”

“We’re just not interested.” 

That’s the sentiment that echoes through the testimonies of many landowners at an Iowa Utilities Board public hearing on November 7. The hearing is about Summit Carbon Solutions’ project to build a CO2 pipeline across five states, and the view is summarized in the words of Sue Carter, who owns a farm in the pipeline’s proposed path.

“We feel that it’s not a good idea to sequester the CO2, we feel that it would be detrimental to our farmland, to Iowa, and that we’re just not interested.” 

Summit Carbon Solutions, a private company backed by investors such as TPG Rise Climate, Tiger Infrastructure Partners, and John Deere, is planning to build around 2,000 miles of pipeline to transport CO2 captured at 34 ethanol and sustainable aviation fuel plants to geologic sequestration sites in North Dakota. The proposed network spans across Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. 

The project, which would build one of the largest CO2 pipelines in the world, promises to capture and store up to 18 million tons of CO2 per year, offering the Midwest’s ethanol industry a path to net zero. 

But building is far from easy. 

In September, public service commissions in both North and South Dakota denied key permits to build the pipeline across those states. In Iowa, Summit is encountering staunch opposition from some landowners, who are worried about issues like safety and land preservation, and it is requesting the right of eminent domain over approximately 900 parcels of land. 

Commercial operations, which were initially expected for 2024, have been pushed back to 2026, and the project cost has risen from $4.5bn to around $5.5bn. 

In a country that, according to some estimates, needs to expand its carbon pipeline network more than ten times in 30 years to reach the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050, Summit’s struggle to advance its Midwest project is emblematic of what might soon happen elsewhere. Navigator CO2 Ventures, for instance, has recently canceled a pipeline project in the area after encountering similar problems. 

And the uncertainty around pipeline development might hinder the region’s nascent clean fuels industry, which relies heavily on ethanol production and carbon capture technologies. 

*

Courtesy of Summit Carbon Solutions.

A potential cost increase was something that Summit took into consideration from the start, “whether that was because of factors related to inflation, supply chain shortages, or a longer-than-expected regulatory process,” according to Sabrina Ahmed Zenor, director of stakeholder engagement and corporate communications at Summit. He pointed out that Summit also increased the project’s expected capacity from 12 million to 18 million tons of CO2 since it was first announced. 

Regardless, the way Summit goes about securing success for its project and the extra costs and delays it faces are bound to set an example for developers across the country. 

“We need to see one or many of these projects be successful to develop a model as to how to deploy them,” said Matt Fry, senior policy manager at the Great Plains Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting carbon management technologies to achieve climate objectives. “We already have some infrastructure to transport CO2, but we just haven’t seen 1,000 to 2,000 miles transporting 10 plus million tons of CO2 a year yet.”

Already, Navigator has canceled its 1,300-mile Heartland Greenway pipeline, which was supposed to carry CO2 across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The company announced the decision on October 20, citing “the unpredictable nature of the regulatory and government processes involved, particularly in South Dakota and Iowa.”

Permitting regulations regarding carbon pipelines change from state to state. 

“Some states have deadlines or timelines associated with when an application is submitted to when a decision must be granted, which provides certainty. Some places not so much,” said Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, vice president of government and public affairs at Navigator. “Ultimately, the board did not see a pathway forward that was commercially viable.” 

According to Burns-Thompson, Summit’s challenges contributed to the decision as well. Navigator will now focus on a sequestration site in Illinois.  

Asked about Navigator’s cancellation, Summit said it “welcomes and is well positioned to add additional plants and communities to our project footprint.”

On a smaller scale, Wolf Carbon Solutions is also planning a 280-mile CO2 pipeline in Iowa and Illinois, where it filed permit applications in February and June respectively. And in May 2022 Tallgrass Energy announced its intention to convert 392 miles of natural gas pipeline into a CO2 pipeline connecting Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming.

*

Pipelines have been carrying CO2 in the U.S. for over 50 years, with the first large-scale carrier built in the 1970s. At the moment, there are around 5,000 miles of active CO2 pipelines in the U.S., mostly carrying the gas to oilfields, where it’s used for enhanced oil recovery. For comparison, the country has around two million miles of natural gas distribution mains and pipelines. 

“There’s a very high likelihood, almost a certainty, that if the US is to reach net zero by 2050, it’s going to need many hundreds of millions of tons of CCS, maybe a billion,” said Chris Greig a senior research scientist at Princeton University, and one of the lead authors of Net Zero America, a study that presents various pathways for the U.S. to achieve the net-zero emissions goal. 

If we capture carbon, we also need to transport it. According to the Net Zero America report, the U.S. would need to develop over 60,000 miles of new CO2 pipelines over the next 30 years, which would come at a capital cost ranging from $170 billion to $230 billion, depending on the overall reliance on carbon capture. 

*

The United States is the largest producer of ethanol in the world, and it mostly produces it in the Midwest, with Iowa leading the charge. 

Ethanol can be used to make sustainable aviation fuel, and its fermentation process emits a CO2 that is almost pure, making it a very good candidate for carbon capture. The CO2 captured at ethanol plants, in turn, can be used to produce clean fuels such as e-fuels, sustainable aviation fuel, or green methanol. 

That means the Midwest is well situated to become a major clean fuel hub, but some say that depends on the successful development of pipelines that can move CO2 at scale.  

Pipelines are not the only way to move CO2, which can be trucked or shipped. But Summit’s project is expected to transport around 18 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, and that would require an army of railcars and trucks, and cost much more. 

Navigator, whose canceled project was supposed to have the capacity to transport 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year, expandable to 15 million tonnes in the future, estimated that it would have had to employ nearly half a million trucks to move the same amount. 

Biofuel maker Gevo has recently vented the possibility of relocating its $1bn Lake Preston Net-Zero-1 sustainable aviation fuel plant if the Summit pipeline doesn’t go through. The Lake Preston project is anticipated to start operations in South Dakota in 2025 

“Failure for the Summit pipeline to be built in South Dakota puts our Lake Preston project at severe risk of being relocated to a more advantageous location that has the availability of CCS,” said Kent Hartwig, Gevo’s director of state and local affairs, at a Brown County, South Dakota, commission meeting on October 3. 

Because of the cancellation of Navigator’s pipeline, a memorandum of understanding between Infinium and Navigator to produce e-fuels was scrapped. Navigator was supposed to provide Infinium with 600,000 tons of CO2 per year for use as feedstock for e-fuels, an amount of CO2 that would require multiple ethanol emission sources tied together to be delivered. Infinium did not respond to a request for comment. 

An alternative could be to produce the fuels in the same place where the CO2 is captured. That’s the business model of CapCO2 Solutions, a company that develops green methanol-producing technology that fits in a shipping crate. 

“Ethanol plants are sitting on a gold mine,” said Jeffrey Bonar, CapCO2’s CEO. And that’s regardless of whether large CO2 pipelines get built. 

CapCO2 is currently raising money to place its first shipping crate at an ethanol plant in Illinois. Eight to ten shipping crates would be able to process all the carbon captured at an average ethanol plant, making green methanol as a result.

According to experts, though, the scale of carbon capture that pipelines can provide is still needed. 

“While it is possible to produce synthetic fuels with CO2, the current scale of these production activities and the markets are not yet able to utilize millions of tons of CO2 per year, so associated CO2 storage would be necessary,” said Fry at the Great Plains Institute. “If we are, as a nation, serious about meeting climate objectives, we’re going to have to figure out how to make this work.”

*

Summit says it has secured voluntary easements for 75%, or around 1,300 miles of the pipeline’s route, and it’s still working to secure rights over all the land it needs. More landowners “are signing every day,” according to Ahmed Zenor, of Summit.

In 2020, a pipeline carrying both CO2 and hydrogen sulfide ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, sending 45 people to the hospital. The episode was the first major accident involving a CO2 pipeline in at least 20 years — according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s data, there have been 105 incidents since 2003, and no fatalities — and it spurred an ongoing update of PHMSA safety regulations. 

Among the landowners who don’t want to give Summit access to their land, the incident exemplifies their safety concerns. 

“Pipelines such as the one Summit Carbon Solutions has proposed are highly regulated to ensure public safety,” said Ahmed Zenor in an emailed statement. “In addition to being regulated by the PHMSA, the project is also subject to federal environmental regulations and state oversight.” 

Transporting materials via pipeline, she added, is safer than transporting them via truck or rail. 

The safety concerns mix with a list of worries, including construction spoiling the land, potential leaks contaminating water sources, misuse of public money, and what some landowners describe as generally aggressive behavior from Summit’s agents trying to convince them to sign voluntary easements.  

“They went to nursing homes with donuts to try to convince vulnerable senior landowners,” said Jess Mazour, program coordinator of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization that’s been active in fighting the pipeline.

Overall, Summit is facing the opposition any linear infrastructure always faces — a Maine transmission line linking hydroelectric dams in Canada to the Northeast, for example, has been slowed down by permitting delays — complicated by a lack of uniform regulations. 

“Siting and construction are dealt with on a state-by-state basis for CO2 pipelines,” said Danny Broberg, associate director for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s energy program. “This is not the case for gas pipelines, for which interstate siting and construction authorities exist through FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. One challenge at play for CO2 pipelines is that there is no federal jurisdiction for interstate siting and construction.” 

Stakeholders and legislators have started discussing how to overcome the challenge — if, for example, siting and construction for CO2 pipelines should be through FERC or not — and in May, the Biden Administration urged Congress to consider providing federal siting authority for CO2 pipelines as a priority for facilitating clean energy development. No official proposal is on the table yet. 

Despite the permitting setbacks, Summit says it believes “the regulatory process around pipeline projects works well.” 

*

Eminent domain is, to use the Great Plains Institute’s Fry words, “one of the most contentious things on the planet,” and as activists and opposing landowners have pointed out during the Iowa Utilities Board public hearing, it’s not clear it would apply to CO2 pipelines, at least in Iowa. 

“In Iowa, you can only use eminent domain if it’s a public use and convenience,” said Mazour of the Sierra Club. “And that’s one of our biggest arguments. This is not a public benefit.”

Carbon capture, according to Mazour, is extending the life of a harmful industry. “We don’t believe that ethanol is the best solution to take care of our soils and our water and our rural communities and our farmers,” she said. “And then if we have healthy soils and if we treat the land differently and farm differently, we can actually sequester a lot of carbon in our ground.” 

A better solution, according to Mazour and the Sierra Club, would be to expand deployment of wind and solar. 

Whether Summit is entitled to use eminent domain in Iowa or not is something that will be settled once the Iowa Utilities Board issues its final decision — the public hearing wrapped up on November 8, and there is no deadline they have to meet. 

Additionally, Summit has to refile a permit application in South Dakota, and still gain all the necessary permits in North Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota. 

The debate over eminent domain ties to a more general discussion over the benefits and effectiveness of carbon capture technology. Recently, a Bloomberg investigation found that last year Occidental sold its Century carbon capture facility for way less than it spent building it, after the plant never reached its full capacity in over ten years. The Petra Nova carbon capture facility in Texas has also struggled to meet capacity and financial objectives, and it just recently came back online after suspending operations for over two years. 

“Innovation includes risks and some tolerance for failure,” said Broberg at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It’s going to take the entire toolkit of resources to meet net zero, both from the government and the private sector.” 

*

As the Midwest becomes an incubator for plans and strategies to build CO2 pipelines, and conversations are starting over how to make regulations more uniform, developers are probably going to take a few lessons from Summit and Navigator. 

The most important of these, according to experts, is how to better engage with communities and spearhead education about carbon capture technologies. 

“Everyone’s in a rush to take advantage of subsidies through the IRA,” said  Greig at Princeton University. “But you can’t rush communities, right? I’m not convinced that all the developers have the level of sensitive, forward-looking stakeholder engagement and community engagement and discussion that is going to be necessary.” 

If government entities are serious about developing carbon capture technologies, however, it can’t just be private companies explaining why we need them, according to Navigator’s Burns-Thompson. “It needs to come from the trusted voice of the regulators themselves. And that’s not just state entities. That’s our federal entities as well.”

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California Resources pursuing pipeline of blue molecule projects

Through a subsidiary called Carbon TerraVault, the upstream oil and gas producer will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals.

Through its subsidiary Carbon TerraVault, California Resources Corporation will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals, Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Gould said in an interview.

Carbon TerraVault is differentiated by its nature as a CCS-as-a-service company, Gould said, as most CCS projects are owned by emitters themselves.

“We are bringing to market a solution to decarbonize other parts of the California economy,” Gould said, noting that hydrogen producers, power plants and steel and cement makers are among potential clients. “We are out across the state, working with emitters.”

Carbon TerraVault is self-mandated to return one billion tons of carbon back into the ground, first as a gas and then pressurized into liquid. Revenue comes from the federal 45Q incentive and the California LCFS and related tradeable market.

The company has a JV with Brookfield Renewable for the first 200 million tons. That JV recently formed a separate JV with Lone Cypress Energy Services for a planned blue hydrogen plant at the Elk Hills Field in Kern County.

Carbon TerraVault will provide permanent sequestration for 100,000 MTPA at the facility, and will receive an injection fee on a per ton basis, according to a December 7 presentation.

In hiring Carbon TerraVault to provide CCS as a service, LoneCypress also invited the company to invest in the production, Gould said. The JV has the right to participate in the blue hydrogen facility up to and including a majority equity stake, the presentation shows.

“You should expect to see over time as we do more and more of these that we’re going to have multiple models,” Gould said of these partnerships and financial structures. A typical model may emerge as the industry matures.

The company could repeat that effort for “many more” blue hydrogen projects in the state, Gould said. “Green [hydrogen] is a longer-term proposition that is going to be based on renewable buildout,” he said. “Blue is kind of here now.”

Target market

Carbon TerraVault estimates that California’s total CCS market opportunity is between 150 MMTPA – 210 MMTPA, and is in discussions for 8 MMTPA of CCS, of which 1 MMTPA is in advanced discussions, the presentation shows.

Through California Resources’ Elk Hills land position of 47,000 acres and CO2 sequestration reservoirs, the company could attract additional greenfield infrastructure projects like the Lone Cypress Hydrogen Project and create a Net Zero Industrial Park, according to the presentation.

In that vein, Gould noted the huge need for decarbonized ammonia in California’s central valley agriculture, which today is imported from abroad.

“There is a need for clean hydrogen in California and it is best if it is created in California,” Gould said.

The JV with Brookfield funds Carbon TerraVault’s storage needs, Gould said. Investments in the production processes, such as the deal with Lone Cypress, will likely require additional capital.

Project level financing is a “default assumption,” Gould said, though that’s not set in stone. The company is working with a financial advisor but Gould declined to name the firm.

The scale of California’s hydrogen ambitions is far beyond what any one company can do, Gould said.

“If you’re an advisor that is working with a developer likeLone Cypress that is considering locating in California, then I would say give us a ring,” Gould said. “We’re the ones who are going to be able to do the sequestration there.”

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Siemens Energy NA executive priming for scale in hydrogen

The North American wing of the global technology company is in the earliest stages of engaging EPC providers and economic development officials for its next US electrolyzer manufacturing site, Richard Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America, said in an interview.

To say the demand for electrolyzer capacity has grown exponentially in 2022 comes across as an understatement, as customers in industry and energy have increased their orders multiple times over.

Siemens Energy North America’s electrolyzer – which is 18 MW and among the largest in the market – was too large for many customers just a year ago, Richard Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America, said in an interview. But following passage of the IRA, the question became how many the customer could get – and how fast.

“How quickly can I get 100 of your electrolyzers?” Voorberg said he hears now, whereas before that same customer might have asked for half an electrolyzer.

The decision to make an electrolyzer as large as 18 MW was part of the company’s strategy to have bigger capacity as the market for hydrogen expanded, Voorberg said.

HIF Global recently said it has tapped Siemens Energy to engineer and design their proprietary “Silyzer 300” electrolyzers to produce approximately 300,000 tons per year of green hydrogen at an eFuels facility in Texas.

Siemens Energy NA is now in the earliest stages of developing a new electrolyzer manufacturing plant in the United States, as previously reported by ReSource.

The US plant will be similar to the plant Siemens Energy is building in Berlin, and won’t be built until after Berlin is completed, Voorberg said.

The company is actively engaging with state economic development committees to scout locations, incentives and labor supplies. It is also in the early stages of engaging engineers, EPC providers and other development partners, Voorberg said.

“We also need to decide in the next few months what we want to do in-house, with our own shops, versus what we want to outsource,” Voorberg said.

North Carolina, Houston, Alabama and upstate New York are all in Siemens Energy’s existing footprint and are as such strong contenders for the new facility, Voorberg said, though nothing is set in stone as far as location. The company would finance the facility within its normal capex expenses within a year.

In electrolyzer manufacturing there is some “test hydrogen” that is produced, so there will be a need to find some small offtaker for that, Voorberg said. The company could also use it to supply its own fork-trucks in the future.

Open to acquisitions

Diving into an acquisition of another electrolyzer manufacturer probably would not make sense for Siemens Energy, Voorberg said. But the company is open to M&A.

He cited the acquisition of Airfoil Components in Florida as the type of deal that the company could move on again. In that case, the target company had expertise in casting that was easier to acquire than build from scratch.

“Does that make more sense that we buy it, that we outsource it, or should we be doing something like that ourselves?” Voorberg said are questions he often asks.

“When it comes to less complicated things, like a commodity market, that’s not something we play well in or need to play well in,” Voorberg said. “When it comes to a specialty design-type product, that’s where we at Siemens Energy shine.”

Right now, the Siemens Energy parent company has a bid out to acquire the third of Siemens Gamesa, the Spanish-listed wind engineering company, that it does not own, Voorberg noted.

Start-up opportunity

Siemens Energy, through its in-house venture capital group and partnerships with US universities, is interested in helping technology startups scale, Voorberg said.

“We can play in between them and the customers and do the introductions and potentially even partner in with some of our technology,” he said.

The company keeps close relationships with incubators at Georgia Tech and the University of Central Florida, among others, Voorberg said.

Equity investments will be made through the VC group, Voorberg said, noting that effort as one that is strategic in growing the energy transition, rather than financial.

Additional non-equity partnerships, similar to the fellowship with the Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy, are on the table as well.

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