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Developer raises $16m for Wyoming RNG project

A developer has raised $16m from public and private sources in support of project making RNG from coal bed methane in the Powder River Basin.

Cowboy Clean Fuels has been awarded approximately $7.8m from the Wyoming Energy Authority through the Energy Matching Funds program, according to a news release.

In addition, CCF’s lead investor, Machan Investments, committed an additional $7.8m in equity capital to match and enable the WEA funding.

The WEA funds and the investor funds from Machan, totaling approximately $15.6m, will support the commercialization of CCF’s technology and the build-out of its first commercial project in Wyoming, the Triangle Unit Renewable Energy and Carbon Capture and Storage (TRECCS) project. After receiving a Class V Underground Injection Control permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality in late 2023, the first-of-its-kind TRECCS project is permitted and ready to sequester CO2 and produce RNG at commercial volumes.

CCF’s technology and the TRECCS project are highly consistent with the “Decarbonizing the West” initiative that Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is championing through his leadership of the Western Governors Association. The TRECCS project is one of eight innovative projects awarded EMF by the WEA through two rounds of awards.

CCF’s field-tested process utilizes non-producing Coal Bed Methane wells and the existing infrastructure in the Powder River Basin to permanently sequester carbon dioxide and produce renewable methane through a naturally occurring biogenic process, akin to anaerobic digestion, that occurs in deep, geologic coal formations.

The CBM industry was historically a significant economic contributor to Wyoming but has entered an irreversible decline that has rendered much of the $10bn of existing energy infrastructure and the remaining CBM hydrocarbon resource uneconomic due to historically low natural gas prices.

CCF’s technology and process for the sequestration of carbon dioxide and production of renewable natural gas have the potential to restore economic viability to the area’s energy infrastructure, restore jobs, and continue to support GilletteJohnson, and Campbell Counties, ranchers, and other landowners through payment of mineral royalties, taxes, and surface rents.

The TRECCS project represents innovative technology developed in Wyoming, that helps the state leverage existing assets and lead the way in renewable natural gas and CCUS. If fully scaled throughout the Powder River Basin, CCF’s technology could enable Wyoming to be the largest producing state for both RNG and sequestered CO2, directly benefiting Wyoming’s energy and agricultural industries, the state’s economy, and its citizens.

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Ares SPAC in merger with modular reactor developer X-energy

X-energy is cultivating advanced small modular reactor technology and proprietary fuel that can be used in applications that currently rely on fossil fuels to produce steam and heat for processes like manufacturing, petroleum refining and hydrogen production.

X Energy Reactor Company, LLC, a developer of small modular nuclear reactors and fuel technology for clean energy generation, and Ares Acquisition Corporation, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, have entered into a definitive business combination agreement, according to a news release.

The combination will establish X-energy as a publicly-traded, developer of a more advanced small modular reactor (SMR) and proprietary fuel that supports the transition to clean, affordable energy through enhanced safety, lower cost, scalability and broader industrial applications. X-energy’s entry into the public markets is expected to accelerate its growth strategy through additional investment opportunities and financial flexibility as well as differentiated sponsorship by Ares, a leading global alternative investment manager.

The business combination ascribes a pre-money equity value of approximately $2bn to X-energy. Existing X-energy equity holders will roll 100% of their existing equity interests into the combined company. In addition, the combined company will receive approximately $1bn of cash held in AAC’s trust account, assuming no redemptions by AAC shareholders.

Institutional and strategic investors have also invested or committed $120m in financing. This includes an invested private round of financing, which comprises $30m from Ares and $45m from OPG and Segra Capital Management, a leading nuclear energy-focused hedge fund, as well as an additional commitment of $45m from Ares to be invested concurrent with the closing of the transaction. X-energy also received approximately $58m of interim financing throughout 2022 from existing strategic investors, including Dow and Curtiss-Wright Corporation.

X-energy is advancing nuclear energy generation through its latest-generation high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, the Xe-100, and its proprietary tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) encapsulated particle fuel, TRISO-X. Representing the next stage in the evolution of nuclear energy technology, the pioneering design of the Xe-100 couples its scalability, innovative modularity, enhanced safety and higher temperature capabilities with decades of HTGR research and operating experience. The Xe-100 can also uniquely address a broader range of uses and applications compared with conventional nuclear reactors. This specifically includes applications that currently rely on fossil fuels to produce steam and heat for processes like manufacturing, petroleum refining and hydrogen production.

The Xe-100 is engineered to operate as a single 80-megawatt (MWe) unit and is optimized as a four-unit plant delivering 320 MWe. With load-following capabilities, the Xe-100 can support intermittent renewable (solar and wind) and other clean energy options with reliable baseload generation.

Guggenheim Securities, LLC is acting as financial advisor and Latham & Watkins LLP is acting as legal advisor to X-energy.

Moelis & Company LLC is acting as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP is acting as legal advisor to AAC.

Ocean Tomo, a part of J.S. Held, acted as financial advisor to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of AAC.

UBS Securities LLC and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. are serving as capital markets advisors to AAC and Ropes & Gray LLP is acting as legal advisor to the capital markets advisors.

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Chevron to study ammonia carriers with Greek shipper

The initial study will evaluate the ammonia transportation market, existing infrastructure, safety aspects, potential next generation vessel requirements and a preliminary system to transport ammonia between the U.S. Gulf Coast and Europe.

Chevron Corporation, through its subsidiary Chevron Shipping Company LLC, and the Angelicoussis Group, through its Energy Transition division, Green Ships, announced a Joint Study Agreement (JSA) to explore how tankers can be used to transport ammonia, a potential lower carbon marine fuel, according to a news release.

The initial study will evaluate the ammonia transportation market, existing infrastructure, the safety aspects of ammonia, potential next generation vessel requirements and a preliminary system to transport ammonia between the U.S. Gulf Coast and Europe. Future opportunities will focus on additional global markets.

Ammonia is a carrier of hydrogen and is believed to have potential to lower the carbon intensity of the marine industry. Through the JSA, the Angelicoussis Group and Chevron aim to advance ammonia’s technical and commercial feasibility at scale, particularly as an export for petrochemicals, power, and mobility markets.

“We are pleased to collaborate with the Angelicoussis Group on this study, help advance lower carbon energy at scale and progress marine transportation of ammonia,” said Mark Ross, president of Chevron Shipping Company. “I’m proud of the collaboration between Chevron Shipping, Chevron New Energies and the Angelicoussis Group and look forward to driving progress toward our energy transition goals.”

“Global value chain solutions are critical for growing the hydrogen market, and we believe shipping will play a crucial role. Chevron is leveraging its international functional marine expertise and collaborating with the Angelicoussis Group to pursue the delivery of lower carbon proof points to the market,” said Austin Knight, Vice President, Hydrogen, Chevron New Energies.

“Through collaborating with Chevron Shipping Company on this study, we aim to make a meaningful contribution to prepare our industries for the transition towards lower carbon operations,” said Maria Angelicoussis, CEO of the Angelicoussis Group. “Combining our many years of experience in seaborne transport of liquid and gaseous energy sources with Chevron’s vast experience in the energy business provides a solid basis for this endeavor.”

“Ammonia has potential as a hydrogen vector and is considered one of the alternative fuel options to decarbonize shipping. We believe this study will contribute towards identifying the technical, operational and commercial challenges of carrying ammonia at scale and using it as a fuel in a safe and sustainable way,” said Stelios Troulis, green Ships and energy transition director for the Angelicoussis Group.

Chevron and the Angelicoussis Group have a long-standing relationship dating back to 2000. Since then, the partnership has grown from conventional vessels to include multiple LNG carriers, as well as joint work on energy transition initiatives. The teaming of Chevron Shipping, Chevron New Energies and the Angelicoussis Group on this study supports and accelerates both organizations’ ambitions to become leading, global clean energy providers by focusing on all aspects of the hydrogen supply chain.

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Direct air capture company to provide credits to Microsoft

The company is developing a project in Wyoming that will capture and store 5 million tons of CO2 per year by 2030.

CarbonCapture Inc, a climate tech company that develops direct air capture (DAC) systems based on modular open systems architecture, has reached an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to provide engineered carbon removal credits, according to a news release.

“We’re thrilled to help Microsoft move toward its commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 and to remove all of its historic CO2 emissions by 2050,” said Adrian Corless, CEO and CTO, CarbonCapture, Inc. “Validation of CarbonCapture’s scalable approach to DAC from a forward-thinking company like Microsoft is an important signal to the entire market, demonstrating the value of high-quality carbon removal credits.”

CarbonCapture designs and manufactures modular DAC systems that can be deployed in large arrays. Currently, the company is developing Project Bison, a large DAC facility in Wyoming, that will follow a phased rollout plan to capture and store five million tons of atmospheric CO2 per year by 2030. This project is expected to be the first commercial-scale project to utilize Class VI injection wells to permanently store CO2 captured from ambient air using DAC technology and the first massively scalable DAC project in the United States.

“Purchasing DAC carbon removal credits is an important part of Microsoft’s pursuit of permanent, durable carbon removal,” said Phillip Goodman, director, Carbon Removal Portfolio, Microsoft. “This agreement with CarbonCapture helps us move toward our carbon negative goal, while also helping to catalyze the growth of the direct air capture industry as a whole.”

In addition to dramatically reducing current emissions, the global community needs to collectively remove 6-10 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 in order to remain on a path to limiting global warming to 1.5°C. As DAC facilities begin to come online over the next several years, corporations like Microsoft are playing a critical role in helping to scale capacity by committing to advanced purchase agreements.

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Pennsylvania RNG firm outlines strategic outlook

A growing RNG developer, owner and operator based in Pennsylvania is anticipating a liquidity event on the part of its private equity owner — once it has locked down a “critical mass” of projects.

Vision RNG, a developer of US RNG projects, could see its next project reach commercial operations in Tennessee in a line of projects in southeastern and mid-western states, CEO Bill Johnson said in an interview.

Vision Ridge Partners, a private equity firm, is the majority owner of the company. Management owns the remaining minority stake.

The company is still in early stages and would likely need to get something like six projects to COD before a liquidity event.

“Locking down projects creates a lot of value,” Johnson said, noting that Vision Ridge will likely follow a typical private equity monetization pattern.

The company’s project at Meridian Waste’s Eagle Ridge Landfill in Bowling Green, Missouri is fully operational. It uses 1,500 scfm of landfill gas (LFG) and produces 375,000 MMBtu of RNG annually.

That mid-sized project is similar in scale to what is being developed in Tennessee, which will likely be the next project to reach COD, Johnson said, declining to provide details on exact location.

“We’re working on developing other opportunities with some of the largest publicly owned landfill companies in the country,” Johnson said.

Projects require between $20m and $60m in capex, ranging from small to large, Johnson said. Vision Ridge takes care of the company’s equity requirements.

Debt options are being considered on a project-by-project basis, he said. Debt tends to range from 50% to 70% of total spend.
“We’ll look to put reasonable project debt on these,” he said.

Vision has not to date retained the services of an investment bank, Johnson said.

Vision is pursuing opportunities in Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma, and will evaluate suppliers of services and equipment for each. The location-agnostic company is also open to new relationships with potential future financial and strategic acquirers.

“If you are a private equity group, you’re a potential buyer of the company at some point, so we would be happy to know them and keep their interest in us up,” Johnson said. An acquirer would not necessarily need to have expertise in RNG.

M&A potential

M&A of projects is an option on the table, Johnson said. But returns are better if Vision develops its own projects; and a more challenging macroeconomic environment makes acquisitions somewhat unlikely.

“With the market premiums being paid, I see us continuing to keep our head down and focusing on organic growth,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he expects to see continued consolidation in the greater market. Many large strategic and midstream companies have yet to make significant buys in RNG.

He pointed to bp’s acquisition of Archaea Energy as a significant milestone in the RNG market.

“There’s quite a number of potential acquirers,” Johnson said. “The market is kind of fundamentally and always will be under-supplied and over-demanded.”

Vision would potentially be open to a merger with a portfolio company of a strategic or PE investor, Johnson said.

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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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Waste-to-hydrogen developer to close $100m capital raise this month

Raven SR’s C-round of financing is being run by two bulge-bracket banks, and the firm has received widespread interest from private equity and corporate strategics.

Raven SR, a US waste-to-hydrogen developer, is working on a $100m capital raise that’s expected to wrap up this month, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

Raven’s C-round of financing is being run by Barclays and Bank of America. The firm has received widespread interest from private equity and corporate strategics.

Raven CEO Matt Murdock said on the sidelines of the Hydrogen Americas event in Washington D.C. that he was hoping to have the raise done by Thanksgiving.

Headquartered in Wyoming with projects in California and Spain, the company uses a steam/CO2 reforming process that transforms municipal solid waste, organic waste and methane into clean fuels.

In August, 2021, Raven closed on a $20m strategic investment from Chevron U.S.A., ITOCHU Corporation, Hyzon Motors Inc. and Ascent Hydrogen Fund. Samsung Ventures made a strategic investment earlier this year, allowing the company to expand into the Asia-Pacific market.

The company has partnered with INNIO to use its Jenbacher engines to provide renewable power and heat to Raven SR’s first waste-to-hydrogen production facility at the Republic Services West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill in Richmond, California.

Raven SR plans to bring the plant online in the first quarter of 2023, initially processing up to 99.9 tons of organic waste per day and producing up to 2,000 metric tons per year of hydrogen.

In Aragón, Spain, Raven SR is aiming to bring a second project online in 2023 that will produce 1,600 metric tons per year of renewable hydrogen from approximately 75 tons of organic solid waste per day.

Raven SR recently announced the election of Mark Gordon of Ascent Fund and Michael Hoban of Chevron New Energies to its Board of Directors.

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