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Developer eyeing green hydrogen at Rio Tinto borate mine in California

Element Resources will evaluate the commercial viability of a hydrogen production facility at Rio Tinto's borate mine in Boron, California.

lement Resources, a leader in green hydrogen production, announces the signing of a surface lease agreement with Rio Tinto at the Rio Tinto U.S. Borax mine site in Boron, California, which will be used for the development of a green hydrogen production facility powered by a dedicated, co-located off-grid solar electric generation facility, according to a news release.

Element Resources will have an initial study period to evaluate the commercial viability of a hydrogen production facility.

“We are proud to partner with Element Resources to study this incredibly exciting technology and its potential for our net zero journey,” said Renny Dillinger, General Manager, U.S. Borax. “This is just another example of our dedication to decarbonization, and we look forward to working in collaboration with Element Resources in their next steps.”

“We are delighted to enter into this agreement with Rio Tinto U.S. Borax,” said Steve Meheen, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Element Resources. “We believe that we will ultimately develop an industrial-scale green hydrogen product plant powered by solar energy at the site. The very large acreage footprint combined with excellent solar conditions will enable large scale hydrogen production to help accelerate decarbonization efforts in California and the surrounding region.”

Element Resources has separately developing a green hydrogen project in Lancaster, California.

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KBR awarded tech contract for Texas blue ammonia plant

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas.

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for Holland-based OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas, according to a news release.

Under the terms of the contract, KBR will supply the technology license, basic engineering design, proprietary equipment and catalyst for the 1.1 million ton per annum blue ammonia plant. Targeting completion by 2025, the project will be designed to transition from blue to green ammonia production as green hydrogen becomes available at larger scale in the future.

KBR, based in Houston, has licensed and designed 252 grassroots ammonia plants since 1944. Around half of global licensed ammonia capacity uses KBR-designed plants.

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Plastics recycling tech provider strikes insurance partnership

New Energy Risk will provide technology performance insurance to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

New Energy Risk, a wholly owned division of Paragon Insurance Group, and Green Circle, a wholly-owned division of Lummus Technology, have forged a strategic partnership in which NER will serve as the preferred insurance supplier for Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

Upon completing a thorough due diligence process, NER is prepared to provide technology performance insurance solutions to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology. Since 2013, NER’s performance insurance has enabled the financing of over $3bn for development of new and renewable clean energy technologies and other circular economy projects.

“NER provides an extremely valuable service to project owners looking to deploy early-stage technologies at scale through project finance,” said Greg Shumake, managing director of Green Circle. “They thoroughly evaluated our advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology and are confident in its commercial viability. And as a result, it will be easier for our clients to develop bankable projects to drive a more circular economy.”

The waste plastic pyrolysis technology uses a thermochemical process for turning end-of-life plastics into a high-quality product that can be used to reduce the carbon intensity in the production of both transportation fuels and circular plastics. Green Circle is working across the sector, from Fortune 500 companies to independent project developers, to deploy technologies that close the loop of the plastic product lifecycle.

“Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology has been developed with a level of expertise and discipline that is rare,” said Brad Price, managing director of Technical Due Diligence at New Energy Risk. “We are proud to help accelerate the adoption of this technology by providing assurance to owners and investors that this technology will perform.”

Green Circle concentrates and expands Lummus Technology’s capabilities to capture new opportunities in the energy transition and circular economy. Green Circle is a leader in providing economically and technically sound solutions to: process solid wastes containing plastics; process various renewable bio-based feedstocks to value-added chemicals, polymers and fuels; decarbonize refinery and petrochemicals assets; and expand production of blue hydrogen and biofuels.

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Bloom Energy hires VP of business development

Razvan Panati held various technology roles at Siemens and later served as global head of R&D power electronics at Italian multinational Marelli.

Bloom Energy has hired Razvan Panati as VP of business development, strategic microgrids and EV, according to a post on LinkedIn.

In the new role Panati will lead the company in developing efforts to enable Bloom’s solid oxide Energy Servers to integrate with microgrid and electrical vehicle charging infrastructure.

Panati held various technology roles at Siemens and later served as global head of R&D power electronics at Italian multinational Marelli.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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Ambient Fuels evaluating hydrogen project acquisitions

The company is well capitalized following a $250m equity investment from Generate Capital and is now opportunistically reviewing an initial slate of project M&A offerings.

Following an equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient Fuels has begun to evaluate potential acquisitions of hydrogen projects that are under development, CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview.

“We’ve seen our first project M&A opportunities come through in the last 10 days or so,” Susman said.

Three projects for sale involve land positions, he said. Those that appear most attractive have a clear line of site to offtake or a strong approach to renewable power supply. Two out of three are not on the Gulf Coast.

“In no instance are these brokered deals,” Susman said.

Following the $250m equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient is capitalized for several years and has no immediate plans to seek debt or tax equity, Susman said. The transaction was done without the help of a financial advisor.

Moving forward Ambient is open to JV formation with a partner that can help access offtake and renewable power, Susman said. Those points will drive future capital investment in the company and were resources that Generate brought to the table besides money.

According to ReSource‘s project tracker, Ambient is involved in at least two of the hubs that were encouraged by the DOE to submit a final application: California’s Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), and the Port of Corpus Christi Green Hydrogen Hub.

In 2021 Ambient completed a funding round led by SJF Ventures. Several other VC funds and angel investors also participated.

In January The Hydrogen Source reported that Ambient was in exclusivity with an equity provider.

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Mobility solutions provider to raise up to EUR 200m

Quantron, the German and US-based mobility solutions provider, is set to launch a capital raise that could entail the sale of up to 20% equity.

Quantron, the German and US-based mobility solutions provider, is set to launch a capital raise that could entail the sale of up to 20% equity, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The company is seeking between EUR 150m and EUR 200m in the process, the sources said, implying a valuation of up to EUR 1bn.

Quantron, which recently expanded into North America with the opening of an office in Detroit, will also consider debt as a part of the raise, one of the sources said.

At a ceremony at the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (DGIC) in Washington D.C. on 12 October, Quantron signed a deal to supply TMP Logistics with 500 Class 8 trucks. The trucks will be operated by Quantron’s as-a-service (QaaS) vertical; they are scheduled for delivery in 2024.

Quantron AG CEO Michael Perschke told ReSource at that event that the company is in discussions with US investors about the capital raise, which has not formally launched but is tentatively scheduled to wrap up in 2Q23. Quantron is also in pre-closure discussions with several US law firms.

A fourth source said Quantron has worked with Danish consulting firm Ramboll Group on past deals.

Perschke said his company has relationships with PwC and EY, the latter especially on IPO readiness.

Quantron in September closed on a EUR 50m Series A with NASDAQ-listed Ballard Power Systems and German machinery manufacturer Neuman & Esser as investors.

Looking forward the company would like to work with a US strategic or private equity interest committed to hydrogen.

Utilities or corporates investing in hydrogen production but still building out the offtake structure would be of interest to Quantron, Perschke said. He noted that private equity interest like Ardian’s HY24 and Beam Capital are also active in the space.

Quantron is in the final stages of a deal with an oil company that Perschke declined to name, but said the company has 2,000 fueling stations across Europe that they are considering for conversion to hydrogen.

Perschke said his company plans to build out its presence in California and then could look for expansion in the northeast, Gulf Coast or Canada. The company aims to be an early mover in US hydrogen-fueled long-haul trucking along with peer Nikola Motor.

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