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EPA approves 20% green gasoline blends

One company, Vertimass, makes a renewable gasoline product from ethanol.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved registration for blending up to 20% of Vertimass green gasoline with conventional gasoline, according to a news release from the company.

This new renewable gasoline product, VertiGas20, is made from renewable ethanol by novel Vertimass Consolidated Alcohol Deoxygenation and Oligomerization (CADO) technology and can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing cars and other gasoline powered engines.

“VertiGas20 represents a significant step toward producing more renewable fuels, compatible with the existing infrastructure, which will help mitigate climate change,” said Vertimass Chief Operating Officer Dr. John Hannon. “By producing green gasoline at current and new ethanol production facilities and stand-alone plants, Vertimass will be able to provide significant volumes of sustainable gasoline that help meet the climate change goals of the EU and U.S. The Vertimass CADO technology together with electric vehicles can help move us toward a sustainable future.”

VertiGas20 is a new generation of fuel which can be used in current gasoline vehicles (approximately 340 million in the U.S. alone) without any engine modifications.

The renewable component in VertiGas20 comes from biomass derived ethanol, potentially increasing ethanol demand five-fold from the current 14 billion gallons to 70 billion gallons in U.S. alone. This greater demand will create hundreds of new jobs in the ethanol production industry. Since every gallon reduction in fossil fuel use reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emission by about 20 pounds, a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases is possible through eliminating approximately 560 billion pounds of new CO2 from accumulating in the atmosphere every year.

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8 Rivers opening tech portfolio to Chart Industries

Chart Industries has executed a memorandum of understanding with 8 Rivers Capital evaluate the latter’s portfolio of technologies, according to a news release.

The collaboration includes developing equipment for 8 Rivers’ technologies backed up by Chart’s design and manufacturing capabilities.

”The companies will work together to identify and develop commercial opportunities to integrate Chart offerings into 8 Rivers projects,” the release states.

In March The Hydrogen Source reported that North Carolina-based 8 Rivers was scouting for a location in the US Gulf Coast for its first clean hydrogen production facility and would need to raise capital.

The firm has developed new technologies such as 8RH2, a process to generate hydrogen with full carbon capture, and the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, a process which helps to generate power from carbon-based fuels without air emissions.

Chart would become one of the suppliers of choice for various liquefaction, refrigeration processes, or liquefaction and refrigeration equipment technologies, cold boxes, heat exchangers, compressors, fans, liquid hydrogen storage tanks and trailers, and other associated equipment needed to implement 8 Rivers’ technologies.

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LSB Industries pushing blue over green

LSB executives said they have paused a green ammonia project due to expected capital costs and a lack of clarity on tax credit incentives. But they detailed plans for a blue ammonia facility, including spending some $150m of cash over three years to fund their equity portion of the project, which was recently proposed for the Houston Ship Channel.

US ammonia producer LSB Industries sees market forces working in favor of blue ammonia projects versus green ammonia, and is prioritizing its blue projects while pausing a green ammonia facility planned for Pryor, Oklahoma.

Executives yesterday pointed to lower natural gas prices and an uptick in power prices along with missing guidance from the US Treasury for green molecules as the reason for pausing the green ammonia project.

Oklahoma-based LSB will use a project financing structure to fund its proposed blue ammonia plant in the Houston Ship Channel and likely find initial offtakers among Japanese and Korean power companies, CEO Mark Behrman said.

The facility, which would produce approximately 1.1 million metric tons of ammonia and capture and sequester 1.6 million metric tons of CO2 annually, is currently in the pre-FEED phase and planned for construction on the Vopak Moda Houston Ship Shuttle Ammonia Terminal.

“We selected the supplier of the technology license basic, engineering design, proprietary equipment, and catalyst, and we are in negotiations to finalize the related agreements,” Behrman said in prepared remarks. “In addition to engineering and design activities, we are working to secure offtake customers for the anticipated ammonia production. We expect initial offtakers to be Japanese and South Korean power companies.”

LSB is developing the facility in partnership with INPEX, Japan’s largest E&P company, and plans to build and operate an ammonia synthesis loop using low-carbon hydrogen produced by Air Liquide, who will also handle the carbon capture and sequestration as well as the nitrogen supply.

Based on LSB’s feasibility study, the cost of the project would come in between $500m and $750m, Behrman said, which could conservatively be financed with 60% debt, and, when taking the $750m figure, would amount to $450m of debt and $300m of equity to fund the facility.

“And for simplicity purposes, we haven’t worked out the ownership structure quite yet,” Behrman said, “but assuming that LSB and INPEX [have] 50/50 ownership of the loop that would be $150m of cash from LSB over a three-year period.”

The pre-FEED phase will last until 2Q24 followed by a one-year FEED period that would finish in 2Q25, he said.

“Within the time of us executing on a FEED study, we would expect that we would have negotiated take-or-pay contracts with the federal government, Japanese and Korean and potentially European and U.S. off-takers for the ammonia that we would produce,” Behrman said. “At the end of FEED, we would have to make a decision on whether we’re moving forward, so FID, and we would not move forward without take-or-pay contracts.”

Green ammonia pause

Meanwhile LSB has paused its green ammonia project, “given the uncertainty around the 45 tax credits, combined with the project’s current capital costs,” Behrman said.

He added: “We remain excited about this project and our opportunity to be an early entrant into the production of green ammonia and we continue to have discussions with potential offtakers for green ammonia supply, but we need clarity and finalization of the 45V tax credits before we can make a decision to move forward.”

Natural gas prices have decreased in the US while electricity prices have increased, working in favor of natural gas products.

“That then is a considerable headwind for the build-out of industry based on sourcing power from the grid, which includes green ammonia production,” he said.

“This development is also why we believe the path to blue ammonia is much easier than the path of green ammonia today, especially considering the lack of a green premium favoring production economics,” the executive said. “Therefore, our current focus is on making sure we execute effectively on our El Dorado blue ammonia project and our Houston Ship Channel blue ammonia project as they both set us up well for the future.”

At El Dorado, LSB is in discussions with the EPA for a Class V carbon capture and sequestration permit, and expects to commence production at the plant in 2H25.

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JAPEX to develop carbon capture and blue ammonia projects

JAPEX has partnered with Invest Alberta to explore CCS, BECCS, and blue ammonia projects in the province.

Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd. (JAPEX) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Invest Alberta Corporation (IAC), an investment attraction agency established by the government of Alberta, Canada, to partner together to support JAPEX’s development of projects in the province, according to a news release.

The MOU signifies the intent of both parties to work jointly on potential projects of JAPEX in Alberta, leveraging JAPEX’s extensive experience in petroleum exploration, production and CCS (Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage) / CCUS (Carbon dioxide Capture, Utilization, and Storage), while Invest Alberta will support JAPEX with its in-depth knowledge of the local market and investment landscape.

JAPEX is a global hydrocarbon E&P and transportation company.

On this partnership, JAPEX is seeking to develop the projects in several areas:

  • CCS/CCUS
  • BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage) (*)
  • Blue Hydrogen/Ammonia Business

“We are very excited to start working together with Invest Alberta,” said Tomomi Yamada, executive management officer, president of overseas business division II, JAPEX. “JAPEX had a very long-standing history of business in Alberta in the areas of oil sands (as an operator) and natural gas. We are now aiming to come back to Alberta and contribute to its decarbonization, using our expertise and experiences gained through the participation in CCS demonstration project in Japan by investing in the project company and extensive E&P businesses in Japan as well as overseas.”

Established by the Province of Alberta, Invest Alberta provides high-end tailored support to companies, investors, and major new projects. As one of North America’s leading investment attraction organizations with teams strategically placed around the world, including in Tokyo, Invest Alberta breaks down barriers so businesses can start up, scale up, and succeed without limits.

“Invest Alberta is honoured to partner with JAPEX to help the company seize the opportunities that Alberta offers to investors,” said Rick Christiaanse, Invest Alberta CEO. “As Canada’s energy capital, Alberta has a skilled workforce and renowned researchers capable of advancing major projects forward in a welcoming business environment. JAPEX is a strong and valuable partner for Alberta, bringing extensive experience in the energy sector and a shared dedication to achieving net-zero through environmentally sustainable projects.”

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Midwestern SAF developer in capital raise

A municipal solid waste solutions firm based in the midwestern US is undergoing a $30m capital raise ahead of its first SAF project with plans to launch another raise late this year or early next.

Illinois Clean Fuels, the municipal solid waste solutions firm in Deerfield, Illinois, has mandated two advisors to run a capital raise, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Chabina Energy Partners and Weild & Co. are assisting on the process, which the company plans to have finished by October, the sources said.

The equity will be put toward six recovery facilities to supply feedstock for an unannounced project located in the Chicagoland region, one of the sources said. Following two years or so of engineering and permitting, that project should enter construction.

In December or early 1Q24 ICF plans to launch another equity raise for development capital.

ICF, Chabina and Weild & Co. declined to comment.

Illinois Clean Fuels has a synthetic fuel plant under development that will convert municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel in combination with carbon capture and storage, according to its website.

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Exclusive: Geologic hydrogen startup raising Series A

A US geologic hydrogen startup that employs electric fracking with a pilot presence on the Arabian Peninsula is raising a $40m Series A and has identified a region in the midwestern US for its first de-risked project.

Eden GeoPower, a Boston-based geologic hydrogen technology provider, is engaged in raising a Series A and has a timeline on developing a project in Minnesota, CEO and co-founder Paris Smalls told ReSource.

The Series A target is $40m, with $10m being supplied by existing investors, Smalls said. This round, the company is looking for stronger financial investors to join its strategic backers.

The company has two subsidiaries wholly owned by the parent: one oil and gas-focused and one climate-focused. The Series A is topco equity at the parent level.

Eden was one of 16 US Department of Energy-selected projects to receive funding to explore geologic hydrogen; the majority of the others are academic lab projects. Eden has raised some $13m in equity and $12m in grant funding to date.

Beyond geothermal

Eden started as a geothermal resource developer, using abandoned oil and gas wells for production via electric fracking.

“We started seeing there were applications way beyond geothermal,” Smalls said. Early grant providers recommended using the electric fracking technology to go after geologic hydrogen reservoirs, replacing the less environmentally friendly hydraulic fracking process typically used.

A test site in Oman, where exposed iron-rich rock makes the country a potential future geologic hydrogen superpower, will de-risk Eden’s technology, Smalls said. Last year the US DOE convened the first Bilateral Engagement on Geologic Hydrogen in Oman.

Early developments are underway on a demonstration project in Tamarack, Minnesota, Smalls said. That location has the hollow-vein rocks that can produce geologic hydrogen.

“We likely won’t do anything there until after we have sufficiently de-risked the technology in Oman, and that should be happening in the next 8 months,” Smalls said. “There’s a good chance we’ll be the first people in the world to demonstrate this.”

Eden is not going after natural geologic hydrogen, but rather stimulating reactions to change the reservoir properties to make hydrogen underground, Small said.

The University of Minnesota is working with Eden on a carbon mineralization project, Smalls said. The company is also engaged with Minnesota-based mining company Talon Metals.

Revenue from mining, oil and gas

Eden has existing revenue streams from oil and gas customers in Texas and abroad, Smalls said, and has an office in Houston with an expanding team.

“People are paying us to go and stimulate a reservoir,” he said. “We’re using those opportunities to help us de-rick the technology.”

The technology has applications in geothermal development and mining, Smalls said. Those contracts have been paying for equipment.

Mining operations often include or are adjacent to rock that can be used to produce geologic hydrogen, thereby decarbonizing mining operations using both geothermal energy and geologic hydrogen, Smalls said.

“On our cap table right now we have one of the largest mining companies in the world, Anglo American,” Smalls said. “We do projects with BHP and other big mining companies as well; we see a lot of potential overlap with the mining industry because they are right on top of these rocks.

Anti-fracking

Eden is currently going through the process of permitting for a mining project in Idaho, in collaboration with Idaho National Labs, Smalls said.

In doing so the company had to submit a public letter explaining the project and addressing environmental concerns.

“We’re employing a new technology that can mitigate all the issues [typically associated with fracking],” Small said.

With electric fracturing of rocks, there is no groundwater contamination or high-pressure water injection that cause the kind of seismic and water quality issues that anger people.

“This isn’t fracking, this is anti-fracking,” Smalls said.
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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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