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Drilling completed for cavern storage at ACES Delta

WSP USA completed drilling operation and mechanical integrity tests for two new cavern wells for the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) I project in Utah.

WSP USA, an engineering, environment, and professional services consultancy, has successfully completed drilling operation and mechanical integrity tests for two new cavern wells for the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) I project in Utah — part of the first phase for the ACES Delta hydrogen hub, according to a news release.

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage I project will convert renewable energy into green hydrogen that can be stored in utility-scale solution mined domal salt caverns. The ACES Delta hydrogen hub controls the only known “Gulf Coast”-style domal-quality salt formation in the western U.S., which contains five existing salt caverns already being used for storing liquid fuels.

Advanced Clean Energy Storage I is a wholly owned subsidiary of ACES Delta, LLC. ACES Delta is a joint venture between Magnum Development and Mitsubishi Power Americas.

WSP was contracted for the designing, drilling and completion of both cavern wells. Beside the drilling operation, WSP was responsible for designing procuring and managing the construction process of the project’s solution mining surface facility to provide water and power to the well sites and will manage the solution mining process until final completion of both caverns.

“Hydrogen underground storage is a key component of the hydrogen economy, which is critical in the effort to decarbonize U.S. power generation,” said Scyller Borglum, underground storage leader for WSP USA. “These underground salt dome caverns will provide a huge reservoir of renewable fuel for power generation, supporting levels of utility scale renewable energy storage that have not been previously possible.”

The drilling operation for each cavern well was completed ahead of schedule, and both cavern wells have successfully passed the mechanical integrity test designated to ensure well integrity prior to the start of the solution mining process.

Upon completion of the solution mining process, the total cavern volume of 9MM barrels-equivalent will be able to store around 300 gigawatt hours of clean and reliable energy in the form of hydrogen.

These will be the fourth and fifth hydrogen-compatible caverns in the U.S., and the salt cavern storage capacity will make it possible to store excess renewable energy produced in the spring when energy demand is low and use it to generate energy in the summer when demand is high.

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Aemetis approved for $200m USCIS financing

The financing will be made available through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 program.

Aemetis, Inc., a renewable natural gas and renewable fuels company focused on low and negative carbon intensity products, today announced approval by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of $200 million of EB-5 program investment for the Riverbank sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production plant, the dairy renewable natural gas (RNG) project, the carbon sequestration project, and energy efficiency upgrades to the Keyes ethanol plant.

The Riverbank plant was recently granted Authority to Construct (ATC) air permits and is designed to produce 78 million gallons per year of SAF for the aviation market. Aemetis has already secured more than $3 billion of contracts to supply airlines with SAF.

“This $200 million of funding provides attractive terms at a low interest rate to fund our projects, including the dairy renewable natural gas project and the sustainable aviation fuel plant to meet rapidly increasing global demand for SAF from airlines,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis. “This EB-5 funding, the 20-year USDA guaranteed loans, and other financings support the continued growth of the company as set forth in the Aemetis Five Year Plan,” McAfee added.

According to the determinations made by the USCIS, the Regional Center presented evidence asserting that 245 qualified investors will invest $200 million in EB-5 capital into Advanced Bioenergy II, the new commercial enterprise (NCE). The NCE will invest in Aemetis Advanced Products Keyes, the job creating entity (JCE).

The JCE intends to expand the existing 65 million gallon per year Aemetis ethanol plant in Keyes, California by the engineering, permitting, construction and operation of: 1) upgrades to the ethanol plant for improved energy efficiency and increased production, including the installation of solar panels,mechanical vapor recompression, and the use of sugars from waste forest and orchard wood to replace corn sugars for biofuels production; 2) the dairy Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) system that includes dairy digesters, a gas pipeline, a central facility to convert biogas to renewable natural gas, RNG fueling stations, and an interconnection facility to the utility gas pipeline; 3) a biofuels production facility that uses the distillers oil product of the ethanol plant and other renewable oils to produce SAF and RD; and 4) a well that sequesters carbon in the form of CO2 emitted by the production processes and other CO2 emissions collected in the area.

The Project’s two primary locations are the Aemetis Advanced Fuels Keyes 65 million gallon per year ethanol plant and the Riverbank Industrial Complex.  The USCIS found that the Aemetis projects are both located within high unemployment areas.

Eight investors have already invested $500,000 per investor (a total of $4.0 million) and 245 additional future investors have now been approved at $800,000 per investor (for an additional $196.0 million) for a total of $200 million under the EB-5 program.

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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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HSB joining Green Hydrogen and Technology Alliance

The engineering and technical risk insurer will focus on inspection test plans and storage and transportation solutions.

HSB has joined the Clean Energy Holdings Renewable Energy and Technology Alliance Platform, according to a press release.

The engineering and technical risk insurer, based in Hartford, Connecticut, has been a member of Munich Re’s Risk Solutions family since 2009. Its role in the group will be to focus on inspection test plans and storage and transportation solutions.

The Alliance comprises Clean Energy Holdings (with ING Americas as financial advisor), Bair Energy, Chart Industries, Equix, RockeTruck, Coast 2 Coast Logistics, and The Eastman Group.

“As the largest Authorized Inspection Agency (AIA) accredited by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), HSB’s contribution to the Renewable Energy and Technology Alliance will focus on defining safe plans for this clean energy emerging industry,” the release states.

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Siemens Energy planning new US electrolyzer capacity

The company is targeting expansion in the U.S. given the favorable policy environment following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Siemens Energy North America is laying the groundwork for new electrolyzer manufacturing capacity in the United States, President Richard Voorberg said during a panel discussion recently.

Siemens Energy, a global energy technology company, makes an 18 MW PEM electrolyzer, one of the largest in the world, and is targeting expansion in the U.S. given the favorable policy environment following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Voorberg said.

The company is building its first gigawatt factory in Berlin, Germany via a joint venture with France’s Air Liquide. The Berlin factory is expected to produce 1 GW of PEM electrolyzers per year starting in mid-2023.

“As soon as we get that first one up and running… I’ve got a plan already to put a 1,000 MW line in the US,” Voorberg said, speaking during an event at the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Washington D.C. last month.

Siemens’ existing manufacturing capacity in the US could expand to accommodate that new line, or the company could look to build an entirely new facility, Voorberg said. He added that the recently passed IRA helps makes the business case to do so.

Following the IRA, customers went from asking for fractions of a megawatt to seeking 2 GW in a single order, Voorberg said. His 18 MW line is now insufficient.

“We’ve got to scale up,” he said. “Scale is everything.”

Voorberg said his company sees hydrogen being used in electricity production around 2035, but mobility can use it now.

The planned move by Siemens underscores the extent to which the IRA legislation has trained the hydrogen industry’s focus on the U.S. Norway-based electrolyzer producer Nel is speeding efforts to expand electrolyzer capacity in the U.S. And Cummins announced last month that it would add electrolyzer production space at its existing facility in Fridley, Minnesota.

Siemens Energy is independent of Siemens AG, having spun off in 2020. The company has about 10,000 employees in the US and roughly 2,000 in Canada.

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Exclusive: Midwest renewables developer launches capital raise

A Midwest renewables developer has launched a $340m capital raise for a wind-to-hydrogen operation in the US heartland.

Zero6, the Minneapolis-based renewables developer, owner and operator, recently launched a process to raise $340m in project capital for its portion of the Lake Preston Biofuels Project in South Dakota, senior managing director Howard Stern said in an interview. The company, previously known as Juhl Energy, is partnered with Colorado-based Gevo, which plans to produce SAF on 240 acres at Lake Preston in a project dubbed Net-Zero 1. Zero6 will develop 20 MW of green hydrogen production adjacent to Net-Zero 1 powered by a 99 MW wind farm located 10 miles from the SAF site, Stern said. Plans call for FID late this year, he said. Zero6 met with several financial advisors for the raise, but decided to try and conduct it in-house, Stern said. The company has not ruled out help from an advisor for this raise and could need those services in the future. The goal is to have an anchor investor in place by May, Stern said. The company is open to strategic or financial investors. Zero6’s strategy is akin to a traditional private equity play, holding a project for five to ten years of operation, Stern said. That could change depending on new investors’ outlook. According to the ReSource database, Gevo has additional projects in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Stern said Zero6 sees opportunities to replicate the Lake Preston strategy in other parts of the country. The Lake Preston project has been tied to the development of carbon capture pipelines through South Dakota, namely the Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline. Gevo officials have made public comments noting that if the Summit pipeline does not get built, it would disadvantage the Lake Preston project on the basis of its carbon intensity score, and the company may seek options elsewhere.
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Biomass technology company launching US projects

Comstock Inc, a biomass technology company, is gearing up to build a fleet of plants that will use yield-enhancing technology to convert woody biomass into clean fuels.

Comstock Inc, a biomass technology company, is gearing up to build a fleet of plants that will use yield-enhancing new technology to process woody biomass into an intermediate product that can be further refined into clean fuels.

The company, traditionally a miner focused on gold and silver mining in Nevada, has been transformed into a technology innovator seeking to build, own, and operate a portfolio of carbon neutral extraction and refining facilities in the US, CEO Corrado De Gasperis said in an interview.

“We’re finalizing all of our documentation on readiness and engineering, and then we’ll be working to select an EPC, and then we’ll be ready to bond and finance,” he said.

Comstock, which trades on the NYSE, is currently engaged in the process of securing access to feedstock, and has mapped out nine regions in the U.S. which, combined, produce between 85 – 100 million tons of woody biomass residuals per year.

In parallel, the company is seeking to incentivize growth of trees like hybrid poplar that can be used as feedstock in the future, De Gasperis said. “We’re going to be building the backend of the supply chain with a feedstock strategy, accessing existing residuals, and then building these facilities,” he added.

In Minnesota, for example, there are around 300 sawmills with no place to send their sawdust and excess woodchips following the closure of several wood-to-energy plants, said David Winsness, a president at Comstock.

“Those are the materials that shouldn’t be sitting there – we should be converting them into fuel,” Winsness said.

Building plants

The company has set an objective to generate “billions” in revenue by 2030 – something it would achieve largely through building and operating the woody biomass plants near where the feedstock is located. Comstock also sells related services and licenses selected technologies to strategic partners.

Using simple math, Comstock could achieve its revenue goal by building and operating 10 facilities that produce approximately 1 million tons of clean fuels per year.

A plant producing 1 million tons per year would require capex of between $600m – $750m to build, and would likely be constructed using a project finance funding model, De Gasperis said. The company has not yet selected a financial advisor.

De Gasperis believes large refiners will want to co-build the facilities along with Comstock – which could also entail a strategic equity investment from the selected refiner and lead to a faster construction process.

“Speed and throughput is the goal,” he said, noting that the company has been engaged with roughly 12 of the large clean fuels refiners on a potential partnership. “The faster we’re producing these carbon-neutral gallons, the faster we’re decarbonizing, and the faster we’re making money.”

The company has private equity funds and infrastructure funds on their radar as potential investors but has not engaged with them yet.

The other half

Comstock’s technological breakthrough comes in its ability to produce a biointermediary – called bioleum – from a part of the woody biomass that is not cellulose, and which can be used to produce drop-in fuels. (Importantly, under new EPA rules implemented in June 2022, biointermediaries such as bioleum can be sold on to refiners, whereas previous rules required co-location with the refineries.)

“Cellulose only counts for 50% of a tree,” said Winsness. “For every gallon of fuel generated from cellulose, we’re getting another gallon from the byproduct. It’s a huge change for the industry to be able to get that much more throughput from the same amount of biomass.”

The Department of Energy recently issued a funding opportunity for projects that can produce more than 60 gallons of ethanol from 1 ton of wood feedstock, De Gasperis said.

“We saw that and we said, ‘We’re already there. We can do much more,’” he added.

Comstock can currently produce about 70 gallons of ethanol from 1 ton of wood, using cellulose. Meanwhile, with the non-cellulose half of the wood in 1 ton of feedstock, the technology can produce an additional 30 – 40 gallons of renewable diesel or aviation fuel.

The company has partnered on a process to convert ethanol to drop-in fuel, with the ultimate goal of producing 100 gallons of drop-in fuels from 1 ton of wood feedstock, according to De Gasperis. “All of our development is to stabilize the breakthrough we had on the bioleum – the heavy cellulose components of the wood is where our technology breaks through and shatters this.”

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