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Development capital provider makes investment in biochar start-up

The funding will enable Standard Biocarbon to scale operations at its facility in Enfield, Maine to meet the growing demand for carbon capture and biochar.

Nexus Development Capital, a provider of catalytic capital for sustainable infrastructure project developers, has made a $5m investment in biochar producer Standard Biocarbon, according to a news release.

The funding will enable Standard Biocarbon to scale operations at its facility in Enfield, Maine to meet the growing demand for carbon capture and biochar. The company will commence production of its high-quality biochar in Q1 2024 and is estimated to produce 16,000 cubic yards of biochar and capture 3,000 tons of carbon a year.

Standard Biocarbon was founded by veteran sustainability entrepreneurs Fred Horton and Tom Horton in 2020 to develop a scalable commercial biochar manufacturing capacity in North America. Biochar, a charcoal-like material, is produced by heating organic matter to an extremely high temperature in a low-oxygen environment. The biochar can then store carbon for up to thousands of years. By putting biochar back into the earth, the carbon is permanently removed, making biochar one of the most immediate commercially scalable pathways for carbon removal. In addition to the multiple established agricultural applications, biochar can be used in hazardous waste remediation, stormwater management and in low-carbon cement, pavement and polymers.

Recently, biochar has emerged as a leading carbon removal (CDR) solution, limited only by the pace of scaled production and the growth of biochar adoption. According to new research by the International Biochar Institute, biochar has the potential to capture up to 3 billion metric tons of CO2 annually, reducing global emissions by up to 6 percent.

Standard Biocarbon’s plant utilizes state-of-the-art technology to efficiently produce biochar of consistently high quality and to create the highest value CDR. This negative emission technology (NET) has high value applications with environmental benefits including:

  • Remediating heavy metals and forever chemicals (PFAS) from water and soils
  • Reduction of methane emissions via new animal feed additive
  • Feedstock to produce graphite or graphene for battery electrodes and composites
  • Improving soil productivity, water and nutrient retention
  • Alternative concrete and pavement
  • Reducing urban tree mortality
  • Improving water filtration capabilities
  • Emerging uses of renewable materials in technology where nonrenewable metals have historically been used

“Biochar is one of the most cost-effective and commercially ready approaches for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Scaling these types of carbon removal facilities is now one of our biggest opportunities,” said Joshua Kaufman, CEO of Nexus Development Capital. “We see Standard Biocarbon as one of the first to bring these in-demand carbon sequestration solutions online to meet the huge appetite across multiple sectors.”

Nexus Development Capital’s unique investment model focuses on providing catalytic capital to accelerate early-stage project teams that are often developing new FOAK low-carbon solutions. By filling a much-needed investment market gap, Nexus Development Capital enables developers to prove their business model, complete development activities, grow their teams and commercialize their technologies. The company’s investment in Standard Biocarbon comes on the heels of its recent investment in SWITCH Maritime, the operator of the US’s first hydrogen ferry.

“This investment by Nexus Development Capital has enabled Standard Biocarbon to complete one of the most advanced and efficient biochar plants in the world,” said Fred Horton, CEO and co-founder of Standard Biocarbon. “We’re seeing incredible interest in a consistent supply of our high-quality purpose-made biochar, which until now has been nearly impossible to find.”

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IRS seeks industry comments on clean hydrogen PTC

The IRS seeks comments related to policy changes in the Inflation Reduction Act for clean vehicles, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen and fuels.

The Internal Revenue Service has issued three notices asking for comments on different aspects of extensions and enhancements of energy tax benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The IRS anticipates that constructive comments from interested parties will aid the agency in drafting the guidance items most reflective of the needs of taxpayers entitled to claim energy credits.

  • Notice 2022-56 requests comments related to the qualified commercial clean vehicles provisions and the alternative fuel vehicle refueling property.
  • Notice 2022-57 requests comments related to the credit for carbon capture.
  • Notice 2022-58 requests comments related to the credit for the production of clean hydrogen and the clean fuel production credit.

The IRS is requesting that those interested in providing feedback to the questions in the notices follow the instructions in the notices to reply by December 3, 2022.

The latest information on energy guidance and other issues related to the Inflation Reduction Act is available on a special page on IRS.gov.

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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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Cleveland-Cliffs CEO: ‘Hydrogen is the future’

The largest producer of flat-rolled steel in North America plans to lean heavily on hydrogen to reduce its carbon footprint.

Cleveland Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves is staking his company’s ability to decarbonize on large-scale use of hydrogen as a reductant in its blast furnaces.

The steelmaker is building a $9m pipeline that will feed hydrogen from the edge of its Indiana Harbor 7 plant into the blast furnace, what Goncalves called the company’s “high water mark” for hydrogen since it is the biggest plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s the biggest blast furnace, the one that we use the most in terms of hydrogen because of its size,” Goncalves said on the company’s earnings call. “And it’s also because it’s our flagship, for instance, our biggest, the biggest in the Western Hemisphere and we are going to use as a demonstration plant for how to use hydrogen” in steelmaking.

Cleveland Cliffs in May completed a hydrogen injection trial at its Middletown Works blast furnace on a smaller scale.

Goncalves said previously that the company committed to offtake 200 tons per day of the 1000-ton-per-day project being developed by bp and Constellation as part of the Midwest Hydrogen Hub located in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.

The hub was recently awarded up to $1bn in funding from the US Department of Energy hydrogen hubs program.

“Cliffs’ commitment to buy a large portion of the output from the Midwest hub helped get this location selected by the Department of Energy,” Goncalves said.

“Hydrogen is the future,” he said. “Effectively, all of the current carbon emissions in our footprint are a result of the use of fossil fuel-based reductants or energy sources, where there is no economically feasible alternative,” he added. “Hydrogen can and ultimately will change that.”

He added that the use of hydrogen is very minimally capital intensive if you already have blast furnaces, with only minor plant additions needed, such as the Indiana Harbor pipeline.

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California renewables developer taps advisor for capital raise

Utility-scale solar and storage developer RAI Energy has tapped an advisor for a capital raise. The company is evaluating co-development conversion for green ammonia production at projects in Arizona and California.

RAI Energy, the utility-scale solar and storage developer, has hired an advisor as it pursues a capital raise.

The company is working with Keybanc Capital Markets in a process to raise up to $25m, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

In an interview, RAI Energy CEO and owner Mohammed S. Alrai said the company “is excited about having [Keybanc] act as our financial advisors on this fundraising round.” He noted that RAI is first a solar-plus-storage developer and is approaching investors as such.

However, RAI is evaluating co-development conversion for green ammonia production at two of its project sites in Arizona and California, he said.

“Hydrogen is a natural next step,” Alrai said of his company, adding that the end-product would be green ammonia for use in fertilizer production and industrial sectors. Pure hydrogen could also be kept for use in transportation.

A variety of partnerships would be required to develop hydrogen at RAI’s solar sites, Alrai said. The company could need advisory services to structure those partnerships.

RAI is working with engineers on the hydrogen question now and is open to additional technology and finance advisory relationships, he said. The company is also evaluating several electrolyzer manufacturers.

“It’s an open book for us right now,” Alrai said of hydrogen production. “We’re always open to talking to people who can help us.”

For hydrogen project development, RAI would seek project level debt and equity similar to its solar developments, Alrai said. Early-stage project sites in Colorado and New Mexico could also be candidates for hydrogen co-development.

Keybanc delined to comment for this story.

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Exclusive: Morgan Stanley mandated for green ammonia facility

Morgan Stanley is the mandated investment banker for a green ammonia developer that’s raising debt and equity for its first facility in Texas.

First Ammonia is working with Morgan Stanley as its investment banker as it seeks to raise debt and equity for a flagship green ammonia project in Texas.

The New York City-based developer is moving toward financial close this year on the first 100 MW train of a 300 MW project at the Port of Victoria, Texas. Morgan Stanley has held the mandate since last year, but it has not been previously reported.

First Ammonia did not respond to requests for comment. Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

In an interview last year, First Ammonia CEO said the 100 MW train of the Port of Victoria project is estimated to cost $300m, while the full 300 MW will cost between $900m – $1bn. Each 100 MW module will produce up to 100,000 MTPA of green ammonia.

The project is expected to be the first in First Ammonia’s global pipeline of green ammonia facilities that will eventually add up to 5 million MTPA of production within 10 years.

The firm has contracted with Haldor Topsoe for 5 GW of solid-oxide electrolysis for its project portfolio. It is seeking a partner to provide 45V-compliant renewable energy to power electrolysis at Port of Victoria, as reported exclusively by ReSource.

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Mitsubishi laying groundwork for additional equity raise

Mitsubishi Power Americas and its JV partners are preparing to raise additional equity for the ACES Delta project in Utah, as well as for other hydrogen developments in the Americas.

Mitsubishi Power Americas is conferring with its financial partners to raise equity from existing investors in the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) Delta green hydrogen project in Utah, Senior Vice President, Investment and Business Development Ricky Sakai said in an interview.

Haddington Ventures formed Haddington ESP I and raised $650m in June 2022 from institutional investors to fund projects developed by ACES Delta, which is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Power Americas and Haddington portfolio company Magnum Development.

The investors — AIMCo, GIC, Manulife Financial Corporation, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board — have additional rights to increase their collective investment to $1.5bn, according to a press release announcing the deal.

The first phase of the project in Utah will be to produce 100 tons of hydrogen per day. Once that is complete, existing investors can scale up their investment, Sakai said.

ACES Delta rendering

Mitsubishi is involved in several regional hydrogen hubs applying for funding from the US Department of Energy.

Hydrogen capable

Depending on how that $7bn is ultimately allocated, Mitsubishi is interested in replicating the Utah project in other regions, a source familiar with the company said.

MPA and Magnum recently closed on a $504.4m loan guarantee from the DOE for ACES Delta, electrolyzers for which will be supplied by Norway-based HydrogenPro.

ACES Delta will support the Intermountain Power Agency’s IPP Renewed Project — upgrading to an 840 MW hydrogen-capable gas turbine combined cycle power plant using Mitsubishi’s M501JAC gas turbines. The plant will initially run on a blend of 30% green hydrogen and 70% natural gas starting in 2025 and incrementally expand to 100% green hydrogen by 2045.

Mitsubishi is also supplying the hydrogen-capable gas turbines to Entergy’s Orange County Advanced Power Station; to an Alberta coal plant owned by Capital Power; and to J-Power’s Jackson Generation Project in Illinois, which reached commercial operations last year.

Mitsubishi Power

Investing in startups

Mitsubishi is doubling down on a strategy of investing in startup producers and technology in renewable fuels, Sakai said.

Recent investments in the space include: C-Zero, a drop-in decarbonization tech startup in California; Cemvita Factory, a Houston-based synthetic biology firm focused on the decarbonization of heavy industries; Infinium, an electrofuels company innovator in California forming decarbonization solutions for industries in Japan; and Starfire Energy, a modular green ammonia solution provider in Denver.

Series A and Series B valuations for US companies are much higher now than they were a few years ago, Sakai said. Still, the US is the leading climate tech startup ecosystem in the world and provides rich opportunity for capital deployment, Sakai said. Biofuels, SAF and waste-to-energy are leading sectors for MHI investment moving forward.

“We have several hundred of these in the pipeline that we are looking at right now,” he said. “In the next few years, we will increase the number of these portfolio companies.”

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