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DOE issues $50m to DAC project

The winning project is composed of Battelle and clean technology developers Climeworks and Heirloom.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) today announced an award of more than $50m as part of its Regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs program to Project Cypress.

This first tranche of funding is for activities in the initial project phase, which is expected to take two to three years and includes planning, design, and community and labor engagement activities. OCED is working with Battelle to manage the project and with technology providers Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies, according to a news release.

Climeworks employs a solid sorbent capture and thermal regeneration technology, while Heirloom utilizes limestone to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) as it is repeatedly cycled through heating, hydration, and exposure to air. Project Cypress plans to transport the captured CO2 to a sequestration partner who has obtained a permit for permanent geological storage.

Project Cypress has pledged to carry out a set of community benefits commitments to maximize local community benefits and mitigate any potential impacts. These commitments include establishing a Community Engagement Council to solicit ongoing community input at every stage of the project, informing local communities on key project milestones, adhering to safety standards, minimizing impact on air and water quality, and providing good-paying jobs, workforce development opportunities, and training.

Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, the Regional DAC Hubs program will develop four DAC Hubs, each of which will demonstrate a DAC technology or suite of technologies at a commercial scale with the potential for capturing at least 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere. In August 2023, as part of this program, OCED announced two projects selected for award negotiation, Project Cypress and the South Texas DAC Hub.

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The clean energy project of the future looks something like … a refinery?

An optimized clean energy plant of the future might hinge on biofuels upgrading with green hydrogen, in a scenario that provides optionality to the facility operator, similar to a downstream oil refinery that manages its output based on market signals.

A new research note from Longspur Research examines the potential for hydrogen in a decarbonized economy, noting biofuels upgrading with green hydrogen as a promising path forward for clean fuels developers.

The note calls for realism with respect to where hydrogen does and does not make sense, but  acknowledges that long-term demand for justifiable use cases for hydrogen could amount to 447 million tons annually, with the main opportunities related to projects in ammonia, methanol, biomethane, grid balancing and refueling. 

One of the standout use cases? Upgrading biofuels using green hydrogen to enhance output or make derivatives like methanol.

“The clean energy project of the future may be an integrated project with a grid connected solar farm powering an electrolyzer with battery storage and with hydrogen produced sold to the market or upgrading the output from a biomethane or biomethanol plant,” reads the note, which was published yesterday. “This brings the operator lots of optionality with real time optimization into multiple energy markets including baseload power, peak load power, peak power, hydrogen and biofuel, with carbon credits on the side and perhaps pure oxygen as a by-product.”

The note continues, “It will be more like a downstream oil refinery managing its output mix in real time to meet the needs of varying markets.”

At the Varenne Carbon Recycling facility in Quebec, Canada, for instance, the county’s largest electrolyzer deployment so far is co-located with a biomass gasification plant to make green methanol. The project is backed by Proman, Enerkem, Shell, and Suncor.

In the case of methanol, the gasification of carbohydrate typically results in a syngas with equal parts hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Methanol, however, requires twice as much hydrogen as carbon monoxide, so adding hydrogen from an electrolyzer can increase methanol output from the same amount of feedstock.

Similarly, anaerobic digestion production can be combined with green hydrogen to double the amount of biomethane produced from the same amount of feedstock “and we see this growing as a source of demand for hydrogen production,” the note reads.

Anaerobic digestion produces biomethane and CO2, thus putting the excess CO2 through a methanation process with hydrogen produces more methane. 

“Note that in both cases” – methanol and anaerobic digestion – “the amount of resulting fuel is maximized for the biomass input and, unlike pure e-fuels, no carbon capture is required other than the initial biomass photosynthesis.”

In addition to the Varennes project, Norwegian Hydrogen AS is developing biogas projects co-located with wind and electrolysis, with a first project in Denmark. KBR has launched PureM, an advanced green methanol technology that combines green hydrogen with CO2 from biogenic sources or carbon capture.

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Co-developers signing on to Canadian wind-to-hydrogen project

A pair of renewables developers with a track record of completing large wind farms in North America are in late stage talks to join a massive Canadian wind-to-hydrogen project as co-developers.

Northland Power and Pattern Energy are interested in co-developing the Port au Port-Stephenville Wind Power and Hydrogen Generation Project, or Project Nujio’qonik, according to an environmental impact statement submitted by developer World Energy GH2.

“Discussions are at advanced stages with both companies,” the statement reads. “The Project would then benefit from their onshore wind development experience and local knowledge and relationships.”

In order to finance the project, financial advisor Green Giraffe plans to take a wide market approach using its project finance contacts as well as World Energy GH2’s relationship banks, which are mostly local Canadian banks, the document reads. The advisor plans to conduct the capital raise “in due time” and expects “strong interest” from lenders given the scarcity of green hydrogen projects in the market.

“Lenders will highly value the location (politically stable country with ambitious carbon-neutral targets), the experienced consortium, and the innovative aspect of the project that will be de-risked with adequate mitigations solutions,” according to the EIS.

The project involves 1 GW of wind power to produce hydrogen and ammonia on the Port au Port peninsula, Port of Stephenville, in Newfoundland and Labrador. Future expansions plan for up to 3 GW of energy from additional wind farms.

First production is planned for 2Q24 with full production reached by 3Q35.

In May SK ecoplant, the environment and energy arm of Korea’s SK Group, invested $50m in Project Nujio’qonik, acquiring a 20% stake in the first phase.

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IRS releases proposed regulations for 45V

The IRS has proposed strict rules for its approach to clean hydrogen tax credit qualifications.

Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released proposed regulations on the Clean Hydrogen Production Credit established by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

A link to the document that will be published in the Federal Register next week is here.

The agencies have taken the so-called three pillars approach for incrementality, temporal matching, and deliverability. These requirements are crucial, the IRS says, for accounting for both existing and new electricity generation from biomass or fossil feedstock, as they inform the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions impact of these sources.

The notice of public rulemaking will be open for public comment for 60 days once it is published in the Federal Register.

The NPRM is supported by a technical paper from DOE that considers how to assess lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with hydrogen production using electricity.

Incrementality:

  • The incrementality requirement is met if the Electricity Attribute Certificate (EAC) is related to an electricity generating facility with a Commercial Operation Date (COD) no more than 36 months before the related hydrogen production facility was placed in service. This requirement ensures that the energy production contributing to the EAC is relatively recent and relevant to the current energy market conditions​​.
  • Recognizing the difficulty in identifying specific electricity generators and the times and places for incrementality, the IRS is considering alternative approaches, including a proxy approach. This approach would consider five percent of the hourly generation from minimal-emitting electricity generators (like wind, solar, nuclear) to meet the incrementality requirement, still subject to temporal matching and deliverability requirements​​.

Temporal Matching:

  • The temporal matching requirement generally mandates that the EAC represents electricity generated in the same hour as the hydrogen production facility’s consumption of electricity. A transition rule allows, until January 1, 2028, for EACs representing electricity generated in the same calendar year as the hydrogen production to meet this requirement. This approach aims to address significant indirect emissions from electricity use​​.

Deliverability:

  • The deliverability requirement stipulates that the EAC must represent electricity generated by a source in the same region as the hydrogen production facility. This ensures a reasonable assurance of the electricity’s deliverability to the intended location​​.

In addition to these specific requirements, the document discusses how these concepts might be applied differently in the context of renewable natural gas (RNG) or biogas, taking into account the different emission sources, markets, tracking methods, and potential incentives​​.

The IRS and the Treasury Department are actively seeking feedback on these proposed regulations, particularly concerning the practical implementation and verification of these requirements.

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Exclusive: Hydrocarbon recycling firm raising pre-IPO equity

An early-stage company capturing and recycling CO2 from hydrocarbon engines in the northeastern US and Germany has hired an investment bank to help them with a public listing and is raising pre-IPO platform equity.

ESG Clean Energy, a Massachusetts-based carbon capture and recycling firm formed in 2016, plans to go public in 2025 but will first raise pre-IPO platform equity, CEO Nick Scuderi said in an interview.

ESG Clean Energy will change its name in a re-brand and has hired an investment bank to help with the IPO, which does not yet have a targeted quarter, Scuderi said. He declined to name the advisor.

After the name change but prior to the public listing, ESG is seeking to raise between $20m and $40m in platform equity, he said. The company is interested in a traditional IPO, not a SPAC or private debut opportunity.

Angel investors have backed the company to date, with some $40m total raised, Scuderi said. He owns a controlling stake in the company.

Power, water and CO2

ESG Clean Energy, billed as a thermal dynamics and fluid mechanics engineering company, has patented technology for use in fossil combustion engines – both piston-driven engines and bottoming cycles (secondary thermal dynamic waste-to-energy systems). Exhaust is treated to produce CO2 and water.

The technology is commercialized, producing power at a facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts under a 5 MW/20-year PPA with Holyoke Gas & Electric. The 5,000 square-foot plant in the city proper has two Caterpillar G3520 natural gas engines each producing 2 MW of power running on natural gas during peak hours.

The waste-heat from Holyoke One is used to create commodities, including distilled water.

“What we have is a design, a system, where we utilize our technology to separate the water from the exhaust,” Scuderi said. “We can utilize this technology in any power plant in the US that’s running on natural gas.”

In arid regions, the distilled water aspect has obvious potential. The Holyoke One facility makes up to 14,000 gallons of distilled water per day, Scuderi said.

The system is also applicable in ICE engines, Suderi said. The company has been in discussions with auto manufacturers to license ESG’s IP; he declined to name which auto companies.

The CO2 is sold to offtakers who do not re-emit it into the atmosphere, such as cannabis growers and CO2 beverage makers. ESG is also able to sell carbon credits.

Bankable opportunities in the US and Germany

Holyoke One, at a cost of $20m, can be replicated throughout the US and, post-IPO, ESG has eyes on power projects in New England, California and Florida, Scuderi said.

Power plants that produce from 100 MWh to 200 MWh will cost between $400m and $450m, and each of those projects will be set up as a separate LLC, Scuderi said. The demand is particularly large in powering data storage.

“We have different [investment] funds that are very large that are willing to put up the money” to fund the projects, Scuderi said. “It’s bankable because the power sales agreement is tied to a data storage company that’s triple-A rated.”

Data-heavy geographies like Virginia are targets for this kind of development, and ESG plans to sharpen its focus on these projects, as well as project finance efforts, following the IPO.

Now, the company has six large scale projects in development in Germany, including one advanced project serving a cloud computing offtaker in the Berlin area, needing 150 MW to 200 MW of power per hour, Scuderi said.

“In Germany, we’re very far along with getting power sales agreements,” he said. “Once we deploy this technology in one location, the world’s going to want it.”

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Exclusive: New sustainability hedge fund to raise up to $2bn

A new hedge fund founded by a clean fuels industry veteran is gathering partners to raise up to $2bn initially for deployment into ammonia and other climate-transition technologies.

New Waters Capital, an emerging hedge fund based in New York City, is gathering its primary partners for its first fundraise of between $1bn and $2bn, founder Bill Brown said in an interview.

Brown formerly spent 15 years at North Carolina-based 8 Rivers Capital, which recently announced an ammonia project in Texas. Brown, a co-founder, sold his shares to South Korea’s SK, Inc. in that company’s majority takeover of 8 Rivers last year.

Brown recently created New Waters as a multi-strategy fund manager to invest in publicly traded companies in sustainability, AI, and clean fuels.

“The molecule-based economy is really important, and there’s some companies that have been in the molecule-based economy that are not really sure what they’re doing,” Brown said.

This creates an environment ripe for disruption, he said.

The firm is in the process of selecting its prime brokers, which will help determine the size of New Waters’ fundraises, Brown said. The first raise will be conducted in the next six months, and likely not be larger than $2bn to start.

New Waters’ law firm is Seward & Kissel.
The Wild West of molecules

Of all hydrogen produced in the US, about 65% is used for fertilizer production, Brown said. In Japan, where hydrogen is being co-fired with coal, replacing all coal-fired generation with ammonia would require 10 times the current ammonia production of the US.

“The market for molecules is so big, and yet the largest producer in the US of ammonia is CF Industries.” That company has one plant in Louisiana that represents roughly one third of total US ammonia production. “So CF is tiny compared to the opportunities out there.”

Brown said he is looking for the companies that are going to be the Valero and Phillips 66 of ammonia refining. He believes 8 Rivers is on track for something like that.

“We look at companies like that,” he said. “I think that entire market is up for grabs right now; it’s a whole new market.”

 Companies that can seize that market are the companies that are going to be part of the energy system of the future.

“In many respects right now, we’re in the Wild West, if you will, of the molecules of the future,” Brown said.

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exclusive

California carbon transformation firm lands new CFO

The Bay Area company is looking toward a Series C before an IPO in a couple of years.

Jimmy Chuang, the former CFO for Strata Clean Energy, has left that company to take the same role at carbon transformation startup Twelve, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Twelve recently completed a $130m Series B led by DCVC and has raised USD 200m in equity to date, the sources said.

The Bay Area company is looking toward a Series C that would be much larger, before an IPO in a couple of years, one of the sources said. The company is in talks with bulge bracket bankers now but has not hired anyone.

Twelve did not respond to requests for comment. Strata declined to comment.

Twelve creates materials, like chemicals and fuels, from captured carbon. The company recently signed an MoU with Microsoft and Alaska Airlines to collaborate on the production of sustainable aviation fuel.

Read More »

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