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Developer inks supply agreement for Kansas CO2 utilization facility

The facility will produce green syngas from CO2 to be used for making products such as hydrogen, synthetic base oils, low-carbon jet fuels, green methanol, and others.

HYCO1, Inc.  announces that it has entered into a 20-year carbon dioxide supply agreement with Kansas Ethanol, located in Lyons, Kansas for the planned construction of the world’s largest biogenic carbon dioxide utilization facility, Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC.

HYCO1 is a Houston, Texas (USA) based technology company that has created a disruptive CO2 conversion catalyst and related low-cost CO2 process technology. HYCO1 CUBE™ Technology (Carbon Utilization, Best Efficiency) cost-effectively utilizes carbon dioxide and various methane source feedstocks to create low-cost, low-carbon chemical grade syngas in a single pass.

The syngas produced is used to produce low carbon intensity (CI) downstream products.   HYCO1 technology not only lowers the resultant carbon score of the downstream products by 50% to 100% but does so at a competitive cost compared to fossil feedstock derived products and without the requirement of incentives like many other technologies.  HYCO1 technology enables green syngas to be used for making products such as hydrogen, synthetic base oils, low-carbon jet fuels, green methanol, and many others.

The new HYCO1 project to be co-located with Kansas Ethanol will utilize all of their 800 tons per day of CO2 to produce approximately 60 million gallons per year of low-carbon and zero-carbon products.

Kurt Dieker, chief development officer and co-founder of HYCO1, stated, “While there are many paths that an ethanol facility can take to improve sustainability and margins, ranging from additional energy efficiencies to protein separation, in my opinion CO2 utilization represents the leading value-added step for an ethanol production facility.”

The Lyons HYCO1 project is in the engineering stage with plans to complete the pre-construction engineering in 2024. The facility will produce approximately 4,000 barrels per day of first-of-a-kind synthetic Base Lubricating Oils and Low-Carbon Jet Fuel made from CO2. High-performance products include four centistoke base oil for use in the highest grade synthetic motor oils; and a two centistoke base oil currently being tested by EV manufacturers for its ideal battery and drive-train heat transfer and lubrication properties.

The projects’ products are produced with more than 80% reductions in carbon footprints versus traditional fossil-derived products.   Approximately half of the weight of these new sustainable products will consist of biogenic CO2 that would have previously been emitted into the atmosphere.

Mike Chisam, CEO of Kansas Ethanol, said of the project, “Although most ethanol producers are considering or pursuing underground carbon sequestration in our industry to decarbonize, we believe that carbon utilization, which supports a circular carbon economy, represents the best use of our CO2, and positions us more competitively in the market. Value added products made from CO2 that displace fossil derived products represents a win for us at Kansas Ethanol, a win for the U.S. Ethanol Sector, and a win for the global environment. We are looking forward to the construction of the HYCO1-based Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC facility next to ours. The co-location benefits: carbon dioxide utilization, natural gas offset through waste heat steam production, and additional electricity offsets will position our facility as a world leader of low-carbon ethanol resulting in significant shared savings.” Chisam also noted “HYCO1’s carbon utilization technology enables us to sustainably produce all products, even if, or when, government support incentives are no longer available. That is incredibly important to us.”

HYCO1 is currently evaluating additional project sites and partners to mirror the Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC project, while also collaborating with downstream technology providers to produce other low-carbon products.

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UK aluminum recycling plant testing hydrogen burning

An award from the UK government will help establish hydrogen burning demonstration in sustainable aluminum production.

Novelis, a sustainable aluminium solutions provider, has been awarded EUR 4.6m to establish hydrogen burning trials at its Latchford plant in the UK, according to a news release.

As part of the UK Government’s EUR 55m Industrial Fuel Switching Competition, the EUR 1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, and the wider regional HyNet project.

Novelis joined HyNet in 2017 and has been supporting the development of the regional infrastructure project as well as conducting its own technical feasibility studies on the use of hydrogen as a direct replacement for natural gas.

The Latchford plant will test the use of hydrogen on one of its recycling furnaces in a demonstration phase in 2024.

The trial has been set up in collaboration with Progressive Energy, an independent UK energy company, and requires the installation of new burners and regenerators – both capable of operating with hydrogen or a blended hydrogen/gas input – and replacing the furnace lining material with one suitable for hydrogen.

Depending on the final configuration, replacing natural gas with hydrogen to feed the remelting furnace could reduce CO2eq emissions by up to 90% compared to using the same amount of natural gas.

In addition to its contribution to HyNet, Novelis’ research & development teams worldwide are also investigating the ability to use plasma, electricity, and biomass to power its manufacturing operations.

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DOE opens $47m funding round for hydrogen

The funding opportunity focuses on RD&D of key hydrogen delivery and storage technologies as well as affordable and durable fuel cell technologies.

The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), today announced up to $47m in funding to accelerate the research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of affordable clean hydrogen technologies.

Projects funded under this opportunity will reduce costs, enhance hydrogen infrastructure, and improve the performance of hydrogen fuel cells—advancing the Department’s Hydrogen Shot goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 per kilogram within a decade, according to a release.

This funding opportunity, which is administered by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO), focuses on RD&D of key hydrogen delivery and storage technologies as well as affordable and durable fuel cell technologies. Fuel cell RD&D projects will focus particularly on applications for heavy-duty trucks, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and eliminate tailpipe emissions that are harmful to local air quality. These efforts will work in concert with hydrogen-related activities funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs and an upcoming funding opportunity for RD&D to advance electrolysis technologies and improve the manufacturing and recycling of critical components and materials.

For all topic areas, DOE envisions awarding financial assistance awards in the form of cooperative agreements. The estimated period of performance for each award will be approximately two to four years. DOE encourages applicant teams that include stakeholders within academia, industry, and national laboratories across multiple technical disciplines. Teams are also encouraged to include representation from diverse entities such as minority-serving institutions, labor unions, community colleges, and other entities connected through Opportunity Zones.

The application process will include two phases: a Concept Paper phase and a Full Application phase. Concept papers are due on February 24, 2023, and full applications are due on April 28, 2023.

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Swiss firm reaches financial close on $1.5bn ammonia plant in Mexico

KfW IPEX was lead arranger of project financing, putting together a banking consortium of seven lenders and ECA coverage with Euler Hermes.

Proman, a global leader in natural gas derived products, has reached financial close on a $1.5bn investment for the financing of its 2,220 MT/day anhydrous ammonia plant in Topolobampo, Mexico, the company said earlier this month.

KfW IPEX was lead arranger of project financing, putting together a banking consortium of seven lenders and ECA coverage with Euler Hermes.

A 2020 announcement from KfW noted a total investment volume of $1.25bn, with the bank consortium contributing a total of $860m in debt capital. A considerable portion of the financing was secured by an export credit guarantee from the German government (Hermes cover).

Speaking on the announcement, David Cassidy, Chief Executive of Proman, said of the company’s presence in Mexico, “We are already a significant producer of ammonia, and this new plant will increase our annual production capacity to 2.8 million tonnes at a time when fertilizers have a critical role to play in the agricultural sector in Mexico and for global food security. We have built strong relationships with local stakeholders and communities and look forward to a long-term future in Mexico.”

Construction of the petrochemical complex will begin immediately.

Local news reports note that the project, which was initiated in 2018, faced several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the revocation of its environmental authorization due to a failure by the federal Environment Ministry to consult with local indigenous communities.

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EnCap’s Shawn Cumberland on the fund’s approach to clean fuels

Cumberland, a managing partner with EnCap Energy Transition, discusses how the clean fuels sector compares to the emergence of other new energy technologies, and outlines the firm’s wait-and-see approach to investment in hydrogen and other clean fuels.

EnCap Energy Transition, the energy transition-focused arm of EnCap Investments, is evaluating scores of opportunities in the hydrogen and clean fuels space but doesn’t feel the need to be an early mover if the risk economics don’t work, Managing Partner Shawn Cumberland said in an interview.

Houston-based EnCap prefers to invest in early stages and grow companies deploying proven technologies to the point that they’re ready to be passed onto another investor with much deeper pockets. There are hundreds of early-stage clean fuels companies looking for growth equity in the space, he said, but the firm believes it’s not necessary to deploy before the technology or market is ready.

Given the fund’s strategy of investing in the growth-equity stage, EnCap gains exposure to a niche set of businesses that are not yet subjected to the broader financial markets.

For example, when EnCap stood up Energy Transition Fund I, a $1.2bn growth capital vehicle, the manager piled heavily into storage, dedicating some $600m, more than half of the fund, to the sector.

“That was at a time when all we saw were some people putting some really dinky 10 MW and 20 MW projects online,” he said. “We absolutely wanted to be a first and fast mover and saw a compelling opportunity.”

The reasons for that were two converging macro factors. One was that the battery costs had come down 90% because of EV development. Meanwhile, the demand for batteries required storage to be built out rapidly at scale. So, that inflection point – in addition to the apparent dearth of investor interest in the space at the time – called for early action.

“We were sanctioning the build of these things with no IRA,” Cumberland said.

‘If it works’

To be sure, EnCap is not a technology venture capital firm and waits for technologies to be proven.

As such, the clean fuels sector could end up being a longer play for EnCap, Cumberland noted, but the fund continues to weigh whether there will be a penalty for waiting. In the meantime, regulatory issues like IRS guidance on “additionality” for green hydrogen and the impact of the EU’s rules for renewable fuels of non-biological origin should get resolved.

Still, market timing plays a role, and the EnCap portfolio includes a 2021 investment into Arbor Renewable Gas, which develops and owns facilities that convert woody biomass into low-carbon renewable gasoline and green hydrogen.

Cumberland also pointed to EnCap’s investment in wind developer Triple Oak Power, which is currently for sale via Marathon Capital. That investment was made when many industry players were moving toward solar and dropping attention to wind.

Now, clean fuels are trading at a premium because of investor interest and generous government incentives for the sector, he noted.

“Hydrogen, if it works, may be more like solar,” Cumberland said, describing the hockey-stick growth trajectory of the solar industry over 15 years. If the industry is cost-competitive without subsidies, there will be a flood of project development that requires massive funding and talented management teams

“We won’t be late to the party,” he said.

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Exclusive: Biomethane firm planning funding round

A biomethane solutions provider with projects in Europe and the US is planning a fifth round of funding to launch early next year, with a need to raise additional project debt.

Electrochaea, the US- and Europe-based biomethane developer, will go to market in 1Q24 for a new round of equity funding, with a near term need for project debt as well, two executives told ReSource.

The company, which was spun out from an incubator at The University of Chicago with offices in Denmark, has projects in Denmark, Colorado, New York and Switzerland. It is backed by Baker Hughes and, from early fundraising efforts, Munich Venture Partners, senior director Aafko Scheringa said. The former investor participated in its most recent (fourth) $40m funding round.

Electrochaea uses a patented biocatalyst that converts green hydrogen and carbon dioxide into BioCat Methane, a pipeline-grade renewable gas.

The average size of a project is roughly $25m, Scheringa said.

Funds from the next round will provide three years of working capital, CEO Mitch Hein added.

Electrochaea has not worked with a financial advisor to date, Hein said, adding that he may have need for one for new processes but has not engaged with anyone.

Scheringa said he is working to achieve commercialization on a pipeline of projects, with a 10 MWe bio-methanation plant in Denmark being farthest along with a mandatory start date before 2026.

Electrochaea has a bio-methanation reactor system in partnership with SoCalGas at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy System Integration Facility in Golden, Colorado, though Hein said a project in New York is as advanced in its development.

Bio-methane can be burned in place of natural gas with no systems degradation issues, so gas offtakers are a natural fit for Electrochaea, Scheringa said. Cheap clean electricity paired with available CO2 is critical, so the company will look to places like Texas, Spain, Scandinavia, Quebec and the “corn states” of the US Midwest, for new projects.

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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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