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Energy Vault appoints United Airlines executive to board

The appointee, Theresa Fariello, has served as senior vice president of Government Affairs & Global Public Policy for United Airlines since 2017.

Energy Vault Holdings, a provider of sustainable grid-scale energy storage solutions, has appointed Theresa Fariello to the company’s Board of Directors effective February 1.

She replaces Henry Elkus, founder and CEO of Helena, a strategic partner and Series B-1 investor in Energy Vault, upon his concurrent departure from the Board.

Fariello has served as senior vice president of Government Affairs & Global Public Policy for United Airlines since 2017. In this role, she leads United Airlines’s federal, state, local, and international government engagement, including environmental affairs. Prior to her role at United Airlines, Fariello served a 16-year tenure at ExxonMobil, where she advised executive leadership on key governmental and policy matters. Prior to her time at ExxonMobil, Fariello served as deputy assistant secretary for International Energy Policy in the Office of International Affairs at the US Department of Energy and held senior leadership positions at Occidental Petroleum Corporation.

“We are honored to welcome Theresa, who brings extensive and valuable experience in government affairs and public policy at leading public companies to Energy Vault’s Board of Directors,” said Robert Piconi, chairman and chief executive officer, Energy Vault. “The recent passage of the IRA is one example of a significant accelerator for our industry and our customers in the United States. Theresa’s leadership and experience will help us fully leverage the opportunities associated with this landmark legislation while strategically optimizing our global approach to working with government organizations in an increasingly complex regulatory and public sector environment. I look forward to working with her as we execute our global growth plans.”

“It is a distinct privilege to join Energy Vault’s Board of Directors,” said Theresa Fariello. “I am inspired by Energy Vault’s mission and commitment to creating a cleaner, more sustainable future. As the need to address and combat climate change becomes ever more urgent, so too does the need to shape environmental and climate policy to accelerate the deployment of innovative solutions, such as Energy Vault’s energy storage technologies. I welcome the opportunity to work alongside the rest of my fellow board members, and I look forward to lending my voice and experience to the company as it continues to grow.”

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Strata closes $300m revolving loan

The proceeds of the loan will support the development, construction, and operation of Strata’s upcoming renewable energy, energy storage, and Power to X projects.

Strata Clean Energy has closed a $300m new revolving loan and letter of credit facility to expand Strata’s operational fleet and accelerate the commercialization of its diversified 17+ GW development pipeline.

Nomura Securities International, Inc. (Nomura) led the financing, acting as Sole Coordinating Lead Arranger, Bookrunner, and Nomura Corporate Funding Americas, LLC as Administrative Agent, with First Citizens Bank and ING Capital as Joint Lead Arrangers alongside five other participant banks.

The loan adheres to a Green Financing Framework in accordance with the 2023 Loan Syndications and Trading Association (LSTA) Green Loan Principles. Nomura and ING Capital acted as Green Structuring Agents.

The proceeds of the loan will support the development, construction, and operation of Strata’s upcoming renewable energy, energy storage, and Power to X projects. This facility also provides working capital for Strata’s growing EPC and O&M divisions, both of which have played a pivotal role in the Company’s 15-year history of high-quality execution for its own Independent Power Producer (IPP) and third-party customers.

“This facility strengthens Strata’s liquidity position and enables us to drive forward with groundbreaking and economically viable renewable initiatives in markets nationwide,” said Alice Heathcote, CFO of Strata Clean Energy. “The support of our financial partners is instrumental in propelling us forward as a leading fully-integrated cleantech platform, offering a comprehensive one-stop solution for development through construction, with an unwavering commitment to quality.”

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ABB and Export Development Canada form investment partnership

The $2.9bn fund will focus on strategic investments in technologies and solutions with growth potential, such as green hydrogen, sustainable transport solutions or electrification.

ABB and Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada’s export credit agency, have signed a global partnership to promote investments in sustainable technologies and projects in Canada and around the world.

The support provided by EDC, with a total limit of up to $2.9bn, will provide ABB’s customers with financing and insurance solutions to strategic electrification and automation projects in the sectors of clean technologies, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, and resources of the future, according to a news release. Commercial financing will be provided on a project-by-project basis and the partnership will initially run for three years.

ABB CFO Timo Ihamuotila said: “I am very pleased about our partnership with EDC and their trust in ABB as a global technology leader in electrification and automation. This partnership enhances our value proposition to customers and is fully in line with our purpose to enable a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. It will offer our customers and us the opportunity to further invest in sustainable technologies and – in doing so – to contribute actively to reaching decarbonization goals in various industries.”

The partnership aims to foster investments globally and locally in Canada both through ABB’s customer projects and within the company’s own operations. EDC will finance and provide insurance to customer projects across the ABB portfolio, from electrification, motion, process automation to robotics and discrete automation.

“EDC is committed to supporting large multinational companies, like ABB, that have strong anchors in Canada and are focused on building an innovative, equitable and sustainable economy,” said Sven List, Senior Vice President, Corporate and International Group, EDC. “Extensive capital is required to transition to more sustainable practices and develop greener products and services. Together we will play an important role in developing Canada’s contribution to global sustainability and address pressing issues like climate change.”

A specific focus will be on strategic investments in technologies and solutions with growth potential, such as green hydrogen production, sustainable transport solutions or the electrification of today’s fossil-based activities to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Collaboration with innovative Canadian start-ups is also an essential topic under the umbrella of the partnership with EDC.

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Nebraska hydrogen outfit raises $300m

Monolith, a developer of clean hydrogen, carbon black and ammonia, has raised $300m in an investment round led by TPG Rise Climate.

Monolith, a developer of clean hydrogen, carbon black and ammonia, has raised $300m, according to a press release.

The investment was led by TPG Rise Climate, the dedicated climate investing strategy of TPG’s global impact investing platform TPG Rise, and joined by Decarbonization Partners, a partnership between BlackRock and Temasek, as co-lead. Additional investment was also received from NextEra Energy Resources, SK, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America and Azimuth Capital Management.

J.P. Morgan Securities and Goldman Sachs acted as placement agents.

The existing investor group, including Azimuth Capital Management, Cornell Capital and Warburg Pincus will retain their majority ownership stake in the company.

Monolith, based in Nebraska, produces essential materials including hydrogen and carbon black through methane pyrolysis. The company says it was the first U.S. manufacturer to produce clean hydrogen using methane pyrolysis at scale.

South Korea’s SK Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding last October with Monolith to produce hydrogen and carbon black in that country. It also generated a collaboration agreement and letter of intent with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company late in 2021.

This latest round of funding will be applied toward further technological development that will offer next generation product capabilities and other corporate-level expansion. It will also enable Monolith’s continued development of a deep backlog of clean hydrogen, ammonia and carbon projects with industry leading partners.

The company also received conditional approval for a more than USD 1bn loan from the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office to expand its production facilities in Nebraska.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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Exclusive: Zero-emission locomotive start-up in Series B capital raise

A locomotive start-up focused on the US market for zero-emission freight trains is undergoing a Series B capital raise, with sights on a much larger Series C raise next year.

OptiFuel Systems, a provider of zero-emission line haul locomotives and generation solutions, is conducting a $30m Series B capital raise.

The South Carolina-based firm is seeking to finalize the Series B by the end of this year, and plans to use proceeds to advance production of its zero-emission technologies for the rail industry, which represents a massive decarbonization opportunity, CEO Scott Myers said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the firm will seek to tap the market for around $150m for a Series C next year, Myers added. The company is not working with a financial adviser. 

While the Series B will focus on bringing to production some of OptiFuel’s smaller rail offerings, such as the switcher locomotives, the Series C will be mostly dedicated to progressing testing, manufacturing, and commercialization of its larger line haul locomotive.

The company is also considering making its own investments into digesters for RNG facilities, from which it would source the gas to run its RNG-fueled locomotives. As part of its offering, OptiFuel also provides refueling infrastructure, and envisions this aspect of its business to be just as profitable as selling trains.

“We anticipate that we would be the offtaker” of RNG, “and quite potentially, the producer,” Cynthia Heinz, an OptiFuel board member, said in the interview.

A systems integrator, OptiFuel offers modular locomotives for the freight industry that can run on zero-emission technology such as renewable natural gas, batteries, and hydrogen. The company recently announced that it will begin testing of its RNG line haul locomotive, which is a 1-million-mile test program that will take two years and require 10 RNG line haul locomotives.

Image: OptiFuel

The company’s target market is the 38,000 operating freight trains in the U.S., 25,000 of which are line haul locomotives run by operators like BASF, Union Pacific, and CSX. Fleet owners will be required to phase out diesel-powered trains starting next decade following passage of in-use locomotive requirements in California, which includes financial penalties for pollution and eventual restrictions on polluting locomotives. Other states are evaluating similar measures.

“The question is not will the railroads change over: they have to,” Myers said. “The question is, how fast?”

Following completion of testing, OptiFuel aims to begin full production of the line haul locomotive – which has a price tag of $5.5m per unit – in 2028, and is aiming to produce 2,000 per year as a starting point. The smaller switcher units are priced between $1.5m and $2.5m depending on horsepower.

OptiFuel has held discussions with Cummins, one of its equipment providers, to source at least 2,000 engines per year from Cummins to support its production goal. 

“That’s a $10bn-a-year market for us,” Myers added.

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AIMCo-backed midstream infrastructure firm in refi

The company, whose asset footprint includes Gulf Coast hydrogen production, today priced a debt refinancing transaction with an 8.875% coupon.

Howard Energy Partners today priced $550m of senior unsecured notes to refinance amounts outstanding on its revolving credit facility.

The company, which is majority owned by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), will pay 8.875% on the notes, inside of price talk of between 8.75% – 9%, according to sources familiar with the matter.

RBC Capital Markets and TD Securities are joint active bookrunners on the deal, the sources said.

Howard in 2021 closed on the acquisition of the Javelina Facility in Corpus Christi, Texas — a treating and fractionation plant that extracts olefins, hydrogen, and natural gas liquids from the gas streams produced by local refineries.

Starting in Jan of 2023, a strategic technology partner began producing a low-carbon diesel substitute using Javelina’s hydrogen and CO2 as feedstocks, making it one of the first merchant “clean” hydrogen facilities on the US Gulf Coast, according to the company. HEP is also pursuing carbon capture and sequestration opportunities with its Javelina assets through a joint venture with TALOS Energy and the Port of Corpus Christi.

AIMCo acquired an initial 28% stake in HEP in 2017, and brought its ownership stake to 87% last year following the purchase of Astatine Investment Partners’ stake in the company.

Howard operates in two key segments in the US and Mexico: natural gas and liquids. The natural gas segment includes 1,175 miles of pipelines and approximately 4.3 Bcf/d of throughput capacity and 600 MMCf/d of cryogenic processing capacity.

The liquids segment includes terminalling and logistics services for refined products as well as refinery-focused off-gas handling, treating, processing, fractionation and hydrogen supply services.

Spokespersons for the company, RBC, and TD did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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