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Data: Japanese Companies in North American Clean Fuels Projects

An updated look -- following JERA Co.'s framework with ExxonMobil, announced last week -- 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.

Here is an updated view of the Japanese firms with involvement in North American clean fuels projects, following the announcement last week that JERA Co. established a framework to potentially offtake and invest in a low carbon hydrogen and ammonia project at Exxon’s Baytown Complex.

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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Tailwater Capital partners with renewable diesel and SAF developer

The company, Ash Creek Renewables, serves North American renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel producers through its feedstock marketing, distribution, pretreatment and logistics operations.

Tailwater Capital LLC, an energy and growth infrastructure private equity firm, has agreed to a partnership with Ash Creek Renewables, a platform dedicated to developing renewable fuel feedstock solutions to meet the demands of the growing renewable fuels market, according to a news release.

Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

The company serves North American renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel producers through its feedstock marketing, distribution, pretreatment and logistics operations.

Dallas-based Tailwater Capital is an energy and growth infrastructure private equity firm with $4.4bn in commited capital.

Ash Creek is led by chief executive officer John Cusick, who has over 20 years of experience in the low carbon fuels sector. Previously, Cusick was an owner of The Jacobsen, the leading consultancy for the renewable fuels industry. Prior to The Jacobsen, Cusick held senior positions at Renewable Biofuels, Inc., Glencore and Morgan Stanley.

“We are thrilled to partner with Tailwater as we embark on this exciting new chapter,” Cusick said. “Pairing Ash Creek’s deep industry knowledge, capabilities and multi-decade relationships in the renewable fuels industry with Tailwater’s experience in downstream-adjacent infrastructure creates an ideal partnership to execute our strategy.”

“Ash Creek will make an incredible addition to our portfolio and aligns well with our growth infrastructure expertise that has been developed through over a decade of investing in the downstream-adjacent infrastructure, renewable fuels, and logistics sectors,” said Edward Herring, co-founder and managing partner of Tailwater. “We are excited to partner with Ash Creek as they continue to develop meaningful solutions for renewable fuel producers.”

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Decarbonization start-up raises $125m

The company provides technology using natural microorganisms to convert greenhouse gas into moldable carbon.

Newlight Technologies, Inc., a provider of decarbonization technology using natural microorganisms to convert greenhouse gas into high-performance AirCarbon®-based materials, has completed an equity investment round led by GenZero totaling $125m, according to a news release.

The funding round includes participation by GenZero, a Temasek-owned decarbonization-focused investment platform company, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures (OLCV), a subsidiary of Occidental (Oxy) focused on advancing low-carbon technologies and business solutions, Charter Next Generation (CNG), North America’s leading producer of specialty films, and a global luxury goods manufacturer, as well as other new and existing shareholders.

In addition to financial participation, Newlight has completed development agreements with CNG to commercialize specialty films decarbonized with AirCarbon and with OLCV to use direct air capture (DAC) systems to develop carbon dioxide feedstock for AirCarbon production plants.

Newlight is currently delivering AirCarbon-based products and materials to over 5,000 locations across the world, including to customers and partners in the fashion, entertainment, foodservice, hotel, and automotive industries. This investment will enable Newlight to expand its AirCarbon manufacturing platform towards the company’s goal of using greenhouse gas as a resource to manufacture decarbonized materials at global scale.

“This capital round represents an inflection point for Newlight, where we have the opportunity to build on 20 years of research, development, and commercialization, and expand biological decarbonization at large scale,” said Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight. “It is an important milestone for Newlight, and we are tremendously excited about the path ahead.”

Newlight uses microorganisms found in California that eat greenhouse gas as their food source to grow a molecule inside of their cells, like muscle, called PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate). PHB is a molecule found in most life on Earth and is used by living organisms as a biological energy and carbon storage vehicle. When purified, PHB becomes meltable and moldable, able to deliver broad-based functionality within the materials market. By weight, AirCarbon is approximately 40% oxygen derived from air and 60% carbon derived from greenhouse gas.

Frederick Teo, CEO of GenZero, said, “Newlight’s work is transformational in leveraging the power of both technology and nature to produce biomaterials. By using captured greenhouse gases such as methane to produce a high-quality material (AirCarbon) and replace fossil-based plastics, we can achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions. We are excited to support Newlight in their next phase of growth as they expand their commercial production to meet the increasing demand for zero-carbon materials and deliver decarbonization impact at scale.”

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures is leveraging its parent company’s carbon management expertise to deliver solutions that reduce emissions to help Oxy and others achieve net zero. OLCV is making investments in technology, projects and development platforms across the carbon capture value chain. It is currently leading the construction of Stratos, the world’s largest Direct Air Capture plant in Texas, and building sequestration hubs throughout the U.S. Gulf coast region to provide large-scale and rapid carbon removal solutions to help the climate.

“We are excited to work with innovative companies like Newlight who share our vision in decarbonizing a multitude of industries that can help accelerate the path to net zero,” said Derek Willis, Vice President, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures. “Direct Air Capture provides a unique opportunity to supply CO2 as a raw material to create low carbon products. We look forward to supporting Newlight as they work to unlock new value from CO2 while addressing climate change.”

Today, AirCarbon is being used to develop and manufacture products across a range of industries, with a goal of turning everyday products into a consumer-driven force for carbon reduction. The capital investment in this round will enable Newlight to significantly expand the production of AirCarbon at both its existing California facility as well as a new AirCarbon production facility being built in Ohio.

“Our vision is a world where greenhouse gas is used the way nature uses it–as a resource–and by turning it into high-performance consumer products, we can provide companies with a measurable and scalable path to help them decarbonize their products and move closer to a net-zero world,” said Herrema.

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Gulf Coast ammonia plant transacts

CF Industries purchased the Waggaman ammonia plant in Louisiana from Incitec Pivot for $1.675bn.

CF Industries Holdings, Inc., a global manufacturer of hydrogen and nitrogen products, has signed a definitive purchase agreement with Incitec Pivot Limited for IPL’s ammonia production complex located in Waggaman, Louisiana, according to a news release.

The facility has a nameplate capacity of 880,000 tons of ammonia annually.

Under the terms of the agreement, CF Industries will purchase the Waggaman ammonia plant and related assets for $1.675bn. The companies will allocate approximately $425m of the purchase price to a long-term ammonia offtake agreement under which CF Industries will supply up to 200,000 tons of ammonia per year to IPL’s Dyno Nobel subsidiary. CF Industries expects to fund the remaining $1.25bn of the purchase price with cash on hand.

“We are pleased to reach this agreement with Incitec Pivot Limited that benefits from our industry-leading ammonia production capabilities, deploys our capital efficiently and provides long-term value for both companies’ shareholders,” said Tony Will, president and chief executive officer, CF Industries Holdings, Inc. “We believe the Waggaman facility will fit seamlessly into our network, as well as our strategic focus on ammonia as a clean energy source, given its proximity and pipeline connection to our Donaldsonville, Louisiana, Complex, its distribution and logistics flexibility, and its favorable characteristics for the addition of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies to enable low-carbon ammonia production.”

Ammonia produced at the Waggaman facility today is distributed ratably to three customers, including Dyno Nobel, with approximately 75% used in industrial applications. Based on the nature of the medium- to long-term offtake agreements in place with these customers, CF Industries estimates that the plant will generate gross margin per ton commensurate with its existing ammonia segment prior to synergies, which the company expects to capture through greater capacity utilization and operational and logistics optimization. Over the last five years, CF Industries’ operational capabilities have resulted in ammonia asset utilization that is approximately 10% higher than the average utilization rate of the company’s North American peers.

Additionally, CF Industries anticipates implementing CCS at the site on an accelerated timeline, increasing its network’s low-carbon ammonia production capability, supporting Louisiana’s and the country’s climate goals, and earning 45Q tax credits for sequestered carbon dioxide.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is subject to receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC is serving as the financial advisor to CF Industries on the transaction. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as its legal advisor. Latham & Watkins served as legal advisor to the seller while JP Morgan was financial advisor.

About the Waggaman Ammonia Production Complex

The Waggaman, Louisiana, ammonia production complex is situated on an integrated chemicals complex owned by Cornerstone Chemical Company.

  • Commissioned October 2016
  • Nameplate capacity: 880,000 tons of ammonia per year
  • Approximately 90 employees
  • 38,500-ton ammonia storage tank onsite
  • Ability to load and transport ammonia by NuStar Pipeline, barge, truck and rail
  • Located in Jefferson Parish on the Mississippi River with potential for vessel loading capabilities for low-carbon ammonia exports
  • Site is 60 miles southeast of CF Industries’ Donaldsonville Complex, facilitating resource and best practice sharing between the complexes

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US clean fuels producer prepping equity and debt raises

A Texas-based clean fuels producer is close to mandating an advisor for a platform equity raise. It has already tapped Goldman Sachs to help arrange a cap stack in the billions for a project in Oregon.

NXTClean Fuels, a Houston-based developer of clean fuels projects, is preparing a $50m to $100m platform equity raise in the near term and has large debt and equity needs for a pair of projects in Oregon, CEO Chris Efird said in an interview.

The company is close to engaging a new financial advisor for the raise, which will launch late this year or early next, Efird said.

Port Westward

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs’ post-carbon group is retained for the capital stack on NXTClean’s flagship project at Port Westward, at the Port of Columbia County, Efird said. The $3bn CapEx (including EPC) project is fully permitted by the State of Oregon and is awaiting one federal Clean Water Act permit. An Environmental Impact Statement is expected this fall.

The project is dedicated to producing a split of renewable diesel and SAF, amounting to roughly 50,000 barrels per day total permitted capacity when fully operational.

FID is expected for roughly August 2024, he said. About 30 months from FID the plant will reach COD.

“What we’re most focused on right now is the true senior debt,” Efird said. On the equity side the company is engaged with strategic partners that have indicated interest in post-FID equity.

NXTClean has conversations ongoing with the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, along with commercial project finance lenders.

Red Rock

In April NXTClean acquired what was the Red Rock Biofuel facility in Lakeview, Oregon. That woody biomass-to-SAF facility foreclosed after $425m in investment, following technical and financial issues brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. NXTClean purchased the facility for $75m in preferred stock at auction on the courthouse steps.

GLC advisors was retained by lead bondholder Foundation Credit to advise on that process, Efird said.

Red Rock is being repurposed to produce carbon-negative RNG for the adjacent Tallgrass Ruby Pipeline, Efird said. The fully-permitted project has a significant amount of equipment already installed or on skids.

A first phase will require a spend of $100m to $150m. Some $50m of equity will augment a balance of debt, raised in part through USDA programming, Efird said. Cash flow from the first phase will help with the second phase, which will bring the capital needs of the facility up to as much as $400m.

Looking forward

Geographically, NXTClean will expand in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Efird said.

Each of NXTClean’s two projects are held by a separate subsidiary. The company has a third subsidiary called GoLo Biomass that focuses on feedstock aggregation, Efird said. It engages with fish processors in Vietnam and used cooking oil suppliers in South Korea to augment supply from large companies.

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EverWind in capital raise for Nova Scotia wind-to-hydrogen complex

EverWind Fuels is soliciting investor bids for a $1bn initial phase of its Point Tupper renewables and hydrogen/ammonia production facility in Atlantic Canada.

EverWind Fuels, the Canada-based renewable fuels developer, is preparing to launch a process to raise an estimated $800m in debt for its Point Tupper ammonia production and export facility near Halifax, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Citi and CIBC are mandated on the raise.

The company is seeking capital from a variety of investors, one of the sources said. The raise will likely conclude around the middle of the year with Citi stepping up for part of the debt quantum.

EverWind is also in talks with Canadian Infrastructure Bank, one of the sources said.

EverWind, Citi, CIBC and CIB did not respond to requests for comment.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change recently approved the Point Tupper Green Hydrogen/Ammonia Project – Phase 1. Construction should begin this year on phase 1 of the project, consisting of a 300 MW electrolysis plant along with a 600 tonnes-per-day ammonia production facility. The project also involves construction of a liquid ammonia pipeline to a jetty for international shipping and a 230 kW substation that will bring in electricity.

Government support for the project is leading to offtake agreements needed to build out a hydrogen supply chain at scale, a third source said. The project is nearing a $200m offtake agreement for green hydrogen with a large global manufacturer, this source added.

The German groups E.ON and Uniper said in August that they aim to buy up to 500,000 tonnes per year of ammonia each from EverWind, starting in 2025, when the project is set to begin production.

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Midwestern SAF developer in capital raise

A municipal solid waste solutions firm based in the midwestern US is undergoing a $30m capital raise ahead of its first SAF project with plans to launch another raise late this year or early next.

Illinois Clean Fuels, the municipal solid waste solutions firm in Deerfield, Illinois, has mandated two advisors to run a capital raise, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Chabina Energy Partners and Weild & Co. are assisting on the process, which the company plans to have finished by October, the sources said.

The equity will be put toward six recovery facilities to supply feedstock for an unannounced project located in the Chicagoland region, one of the sources said. Following two years or so of engineering and permitting, that project should enter construction.

In December or early 1Q24 ICF plans to launch another equity raise for development capital.

ICF, Chabina and Weild & Co. declined to comment.

Illinois Clean Fuels has a synthetic fuel plant under development that will convert municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel in combination with carbon capture and storage, according to its website.

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