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EverWind Fuels signs LOI for liquid oxygen and green hydrogen supply

EverWind agreed to the LOI to supply liquid oxygen, an output from its green hydrogen facility, to a planned Nova Scotia-based spaceport.

EverWind Fuels’ green hydrogen project in Point Tupper and Maritime Launch Services Inc.’s Spaceport Nova Scotia near Canso, are working on a green liquid oxygen supply agreement, according to a press release.

EverWind and Maritime Launch announced today they have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to explore the potential of a customer-supplier relationship for EverWind to supply liquid oxygen, and other products, such as green hydrogen, to Maritime Launch. Green liquid oxygen is an output from EverWind’s planned green hydrogen facility in nearby Point Tupper and is required for the operation of launch vehicles from Spaceport Nova Scotia.

Spaceport Nova Scotia, North America’s first commercial spaceport, is currently under construction and will provide satellite delivery services to clients in support of the rapidly growing space transportation industry over a wide range of inclinations.

EverWind Fuels is developing the first independent green hydrogen and green ammonia project in North America to receive an Environmental Approval and amongst the first in the world. EverWind is expected to begin construction in the first half of 2023.

Maritime Launch expects to be operational in 2024, and EverWind Fuels in 2025.

“Securing a local, green source of liquid oxygen to supply our launch vehicles and support our launch operations will complement Spaceport Nova Scotia’s location-based competitive advantage in the global space sector,” said Stephen Matier, President and CEO of Maritime Launch Services. “By working together, we will reduce the carbon footprint of our spaceport with a local source of green liquid oxygen as opposed to transporting it from out-of-province. We are excited at the prospect of bringing two Nova Scotian global sector first movers together in a supply agreement that is good for business, good for Nova Scotia, and good for our planet.”

EverWind already has signed offtake Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) with German energy giants Eon and Uniper for over one million tonnes per annum of green ammonia. The company however is always looking to support local, emerging green energy transition opportunities.

“EverWind is establishing Nova Scotia as a clean energy hub to supply the huge demand for green fuels in the global energy transition, with a commitment to supply 10% of the green hydrogen volume for domestic use, primarily in Nova Scotia, potential supply agreements like this is proof that building a new industry in Canada and Nova Scotia also unlocks our ability to speed up our own domestic energy transition and provide green fuels” said Trent Vichie, CEO of EverWind Fuels. “Local decarbonization through use of locally produced green hydrogen and liquid oxygen makes sense, especially with EverWind and Maritime Launch being virtual neighbours in the Strait of Canso.”

Through the LOI, both companies have committed to collaborating to reach mutually acceptable terms and conditions that will result in a definitive supplier services agreement.

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California Resources appoints CFO from Sempra Energy

CRC has appointed Nelly Molina as its new CFO. She most recently held senior finance positions at Sempra Energy.

California Resources Corporation, an independent energy and carbon management company committed to energy transition, today announced that Manuela (Nelly) Molina has been appointed as executive vice president and chief financial officer, effective May 8, according to a news release.

As previously announced, CRC’s prior CFO Francisco Leon was named President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Company’s Board of Directors as of April 28, 2023.

Molina is an energy executive with more than 25 years of corporate finance, capital markets and project financing experience and brings an extensive background in the development of energy infrastructure projects in the natural gas and power sectors. She joins CRC from Sempra Energy, where she held various senior finance leadership roles, including most recently as vice president of audit services and vice president of investor relations.

Earlier in her tenure at Sempra Energy, she served as CFO of Infraestructura Energética Nova, S.A.P.I. de C.V. (IEnova), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, which was listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange until October 2021. During her time at IEnova, she completed over $10bn of financing initiatives, including the company’s initial public offering. Previously, Molina served in leadership roles with Kinder Morgan and the former El Paso Corporation in Mexico.

“I am thrilled to welcome Nelly to the CRC team,” said Francisco Leon, president and CEO of CRC. “She has a strong track record of driving growth and expertise in navigating today’s evolving energy industry. With her financial acumen and prior experience in disciplined planning, execution and compliance, I look forward to working together as we continue to advance on our strategic realignment of our business operations and structure and focus on driving cash flow generation, enhancing our financial flexibility and delivering value for our shareholders.”

Molina said, “I am honored to join CRC as its next CFO and build upon the Company’s strong financial foundation. This is a great organization with significant opportunities for sustainable future growth and value creation. As the Company carries on with its energy transition initiatives, I’m excited to work with Francisco and the rest of the team to expand on the carbon management business, safely produce and deliver low carbon intensity energy to the local communities where CRC operates and help California achieve its climate goals.”

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Ballard Power Systems makes senior leadership changes

The Canadian fuel cell developer has appointed Mark Biznek as chief operating officer.

Ballard Power Systems has appointed Mark Biznek as chief operating officer (COO), effective immediately, according to a press release.

During the past 10 years, Mark served in various leadership roles for Kohler Power Systems, including as general manager of Marine & Power Solutions, as vice president of Global Operations & Supply Chain, and as vice president of Operations & Engine Development.

He previously held manufacturing and strategy leadership roles at Mercury Marine (marine engines). In his earlier career, Mark served in various operations and engineering roles at Delphi (lithium batteries) and GE Aviation (aircraft engines). Mark has significant experience developing global manufacturing strategies, having had accountability for manufacturing facilities in the United States, France, China, India and Singapore.

Randy MacEwen, Ballard’s president & CEO, commented, “We are excited to welcome Mark to the Ballard team. Mark brings over 30 years of manufacturing and operations experience in the engine industry. His leadership experience across the business including supply chain, marketing, business development, and global operations will be a huge asset to Ballard’s operations as we prepare for commercial scale manufacturing.”

“With Mark’s appointment, Jyoti Sidhu, previously serving in the joint leadership role of senior vice president, chief people officer and senior vice president, Operations, will fully transition to the role of SVP, chief people officer. We are excited to have Jyoti fully leverage her operational insight into her CPO responsibilities and to support an orderly transition of Operations to Mark,” MacEwen added.

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OCI Global hires advisors for strategic review

Dutch chemicals producer OCI Global has hired advisors to explore potential asset monetizations. It is also in talks with offtakers that could take an equity stake in its Texas blue ammonia project, with strong demand spurring the company to evaluate an expansion at the site.

OCI Global has retained advisors as part of its strategic review to explore potential asset monetizations, CEO Ahmed El-Hoshy said today.

The aim of the asset sale exploration is to bridge the gap between the combined value of the individual assets in the company’s portfolio and the discount on holding company shares, El-Hoshy said.

The decision to pursue the asset sales came after “constructive dialog” with Inclusive Capital, he said, an activist shareholder that has been pushing for the dispositions.

OCI CFO Hassan Badrawi added that he expected to provide an additional update before the end of the year, and that there was “strong interest in the active discussions.”

In the meantime, OCI is exploring adding a second line at its Texas blue ammonia project, a 1.1 mtpa facility under construction in Beaumont, Texas. 

“We’re currently in advanced discussions regarding long-term offtake and potential equity participation, reflecting strong commercial interest and an increasing appetite from strategics to pay a premium to secure long-term low-carbon ammonia, given regulatory scores,” El-Hoshy said.

Any further expansion at the site will benefit from enhanced project economics, with cost benefits deriving from an early-mover advantage, as well as the ability to leverage existing infrastructure and utilities, El-Hoshy added.

“With this in mind – and against the backdrop of a positively evolving regulatory environment – we are prudently evaluating a second line at the site to capitalize upon anticipated demand,” he said, noting that the expansion would bring its clean fuels capacity in total to 2.8 million tons.

“With the incentives that are being provided for the utility space and the power space in Japan and Korea, there is, for many of the offtakers, a requirement to have an equity participation in the low-carbon ammonia,” El-Hoshy said.

The strategic investors could come with lower return requirements, allowing for a higher premium for the transfer of equity in the project, he said.

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Feature: Why blue hydrogen developers are on the hunt for livestock-based RNG

The negative carbon intensity ascribed to livestock-derived renewable natural gas could allow blue hydrogen production to meet the threshold to qualify for the full $3 per kg of hydrogen tax credit under section 45V. The viability of this pathway, however, will depend on how hydrogen from biogas is treated under the IRS’s final rules.

Lake Charles Methanol, a proposed $3.24bn blue methanol plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will use natural gas-based autothermal reforming technology to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which will then be used to produce 3.6 million tons per year of methanol while capturing and sequestering 1 million tons per year of carbon dioxide.

And if certain conditions are met in final rules for 45V tax credits, the developer could apply for the full benefit of $3 per kg of hydrogen produced. How? It plans to blend carbon-negative renewable natural gas into its feedstock.

“Lake Charles Methanol will be a large consumer of RNG to mitigate the carbon intensity of its hydrogen production,” the firm’s CEO, Donald Maley, said in written comments in response to the IRS’s rulemaking process for 45V.

The issue of blending fractional amounts of RNG into the blue hydrogen production process has emerged as another touchstone issue before the IRS as it contemplates how to regulate and incentivize clean hydrogen production.

The IRS’s proposed regulations do not provide guidance on the use of RNG from dairy farms in hydrogen production pathways such as SMR and ATR, gasification, or chemical looping, but instead only define clean hydrogen by the amount of carbon emissions.

In theory, a blue hydrogen producer using CCUS could blend in a small amount – around 5% – of carbon-negative RNG and achieve a carbon intensity under the required .45 kg CO2e / kg of hydrogen to qualify for the full $3 per kg incentive under 45V. 

This pathway, however, will depend on final rules for biogas within 45V, such as which biogas sources are allowed, potential rules on RNG additionality, incentive stacking, and the appropriate carbon intensity counterfactuals. 

Furthermore, a potentially separate rulemaking and comment period for the treatment of biogas may be required, since no rules were actually proposed for RNG in 45V on which the industry can comment.

Like the treatment of electricity within 45V, there appears to be some disagreement within Treasury about the role of RNG in the hydrogen production process, with some in the Democratic administration perhaps responding to the view of some progressives that RNG is a greenwash-enabling “sop” to the oil and gas industry, said Ben Nelson, chief operating officer at Cresta Fund Management, a Dallas-based private equity firm.

Cresta has investments in two renewable natural gas portfolio companies, LF Bioenergy and San Joaquin Renewables, and expects RNG used in hydrogen to be a major demand pull if the 45V rules are crafted correctly.

A major issue for the current administration, according to Nelson, is the potentially highly negative carbon intensity score of RNG produced from otherwise vented methane at dairy farms. The methane venting counterfactual, as opposed to a landfill gas counterfactual, where methane emissions are combusted as flared natural gas (therefore producing fewer GHG emissions than vented methane), leads to a negative CI score in existing LCFS programs, which, if translated to 45V, could provide a huge incentive for hydrogen production from RNG. 

“Treasury may be struggling with the ramifications of making vented methane the counterfactual,” Nelson said.

Divided views

The potential for this blending pathway has divided commenters in the 45V rulemaking process, with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and similar companies calling for additional pathways for RNG to hydrogen, the promulgation of the existing mass balance and verification systems – as used in LCFS programs – for clean fuels, and the allowance of RNG credit stacking across federal, state, and local incentive programs.

Meanwhile, opponents of RNG blending noted that it would give an unfair economic advantage to blue hydrogen projects and potentially increase methane emissions by creating perverse incentives for dairy farmers to change practices to take advantage of the tax credits.

For example, in its comments, Fidelis New Energy speaks out forcefully against the practice, calling it “splash blending” and claiming it could cost Americans $65bn annually in federal incentives “with negligible real methane emission reductions while potentially driving an increase in emissions overall without proper safeguards.”

Fidelis goes on to state that allowing RNG to qualify under 45V results in a “staggering” $510 / MMBtu for RNG, a “market distorting value and windfall for a select few sizable industry participants.”

Renewables developer Intersect Power similarly notes the potential windfall for this type of project, since the $3 credit would be higher than input costs for blue hydrogen. “Said another way, hydrogen producers using natural gas and blending RNG with negative CI will be extremely profitable, such that it would encourage the creation of more sources of RNG to capture more credits,” according to the comments, which is signed by Michael Wheeler, vice president, government affairs at Intersect.

Stacking incentives

In its initial suggestions from December, Treasury introduced the possibility of limiting RNG that qualifies under 45V from receiving environmental benefits from other federal, state, or local programs, such as the EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) and various state low carbon fuel standards (LCFS).

In response, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas said that it does not “believe it is the intent of the Section 45V program to limit or preclude RNG from participation in” these programs. 

“In particular, a hydrogen facility utilizing RNG to produce clean hydrogen as defined in Section 45V program should be eligible to claim the resulting Section 45V tax credit, and not be barred or limited from participating in the federal RFS or a state LCFS program, if the RNG-derived hydrogen is being used as a transportation fuel or to make a transportation fuel (e.g. SAF, marine fuel, or other fuel) used in the contiguous U.S. and/or the applicable state (e.g., California), respectively,” the organization wrote.

Various commenters along with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas stated that the incentives should work together, and that the EPA has “long recognized that other federal and state programs support the RFS program by promoting production and use,” as Clean Energy Fuels wrote.

Cresta, in its comments, noted that the 45V credit would result in a tax credit of $19.87 per MMBtu of RNG, while almost all potential dairy RNG build-out has a breakeven cost above $20 per MMBtu — in other words, not enough to incentivize the required buildout on its own.

Including this incentive plus environmental credits such as LCFS and RINs could get RNG producers to higher ranges “where you’re going to get a lot of buildout” of new RNG facilities, Nelson said.

In contrast, Fidelis argues that the ongoing RNG buildout utilizing just the existing state LCFS and RFS credits is proof enough that the incentives are working, and that 45V would add an exorbitant and perverse incentive for RNG production.

“To demonstrate the billions in annual cost to the American taxpayer that unconstrained blended RNG/natural gas hydrogen pathways could generate in 45V credits, it is important to consider the current incentive structure and RNG value today with CA LCFS and the EPA’s RFS program, as well as with the upcoming 45Z credit,” Fidelis writes. “Today, manure-RNG sold as CNG with a CI of -271.6 g CO2e / MJ would generate approximately $70 / MMBtu considering the value of the natural gas, CA LCFS, and RFS. The environmental incentives (LCFS and RFS) are 23x times as valuable as the underlying natural gas product.”

In its model, Fidelis claims that the 45V credit would balloon to $510 / MMBtu of value generation for animal waste-derived RNG, but does precisely explain how it arrives at this number. Representatives of Fidelis did not respond to requests for comment.

RNG pathways

As it stands, the 45VH2-GREET 2023 model only includes the landfill gas pathway for RNG, thus the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and other RNG firms propose to add biogas from anaerobic digestion of animal waste, wastewater sludge, and municipal solid waste, as well as RNG-to-hydrogen via electrolysis.

According to the USDA, “only 7% of dairy farms with more than one thousand cows are currently capturing RNG, representing enormous potential for additional methane capture,” the coalition said in its comments.

Even the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, supports allowing biomethane from livestock farms to be an eligible pathway under 45V, “subject to strong climate protections” such as monitoring of net methane leakage to be factored into CI scores and the reduction of ammonia losses, among other practices.

However, the EDF argues against allowing carbon-negative offsets of biomethane, saying that “doing so could inappropriately permit hydrogen producers to earn generous tax credits through 45V for producing hydrogen with heavily polluting fossil natural gas.”

First productive use

In issuing the 45V draft guidance in December, the Treasury Department and the IRS said they anticipated that in order for RNG to qualify for the incentive, “the RNG used during the hydrogen production process must originate from the first productive use of the relevant methane,” which the RNG industry has equated with additionality for renewables under 45V.

The agencies said that they would propose to define “first productive use” of the relevant methane “as the time when a producer of that gas first begins using or selling it for productive use in the same taxable year as (or after) the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service,” with the implication being that  “biogas from any source that had been productively used in a taxable year prior to taxable year in which the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service would not receive an emission value consistent with biogas-based RNG but would instead receive a value consistent with natural gas.”

This proposal is opposed by the RNG industry and others planning to use it as a feedstock.

“Instituting a requirement that the use of RNG for hydrogen production be the ‘first productive use’ of the relevant methane would severely limit the pool of eligible projects for the Section 45V PTC,” NextEra Energy Resources said in its comments.

Nelson, of Cresta, called the “first productive use” concept for RNG “a solution in search of a problem,” noting that it’s more onerous than the three-year lookback period for additionality in renewables.

“Induced emissions are a real risk in electricity – they are a purely hypothetical risk in RNG,” Nelson said, “and will remain a hypothetical risk indefinitely in virtually any scenario you can envision for RNG buildout, because there’s just not that many waste sites and sources out there.”

The issue, Nelson added, is that if RNG facilities are required to align their startup date with hydrogen production, the farms where RNG is produced would just continue to vent methane until they can coincide their first productive use with hydrogen.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas argues that the provision “would cause a significant value discrepancy for new RNG projects creating a market distortion, greater risk of stranded RNG for existing projects, added complexity, and higher prices for end-consumers.”

The Coalition proposes, instead, that Treasury could accept projects built prior to 2030 as meeting incrementality requirements “with a check in 2029 on the market impacts of increased hydrogen production to determine, using real world data, if any such ‘resource shifting’ patterns can be discerned.”

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Exclusive: OCI Global exploring ammonia and methanol asset sales

Global ammonia and methanol producer OCI Global is working with an investment bank to explore a sale of ammonia and methanol assets as part of the re-opening of its strategic business review.

OCI Global is evaluating a sale of several ammonia and methanol assets as part of the re-opening of its strategic business review.

The global producer and distributor of methanol and ammonia is working with Morgan Stanley to explore a sale of its ammonia production facility in Beaumont, Texas, as well as the co-located blue ammonia project under development, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The evaluation also includes OCI’s methanol business, one of the sources said.

Representatives of OCI and Morgan Stanley did not respond to requests for comment.

As part of the earlier strategic review announced last year, OCI in December announced the divestiture of its 50% stake in Fertiglobe to ADNOC, and the sale of its Iowa Fertilizer Company to Koch Industries, bringing in $6.2bn in total net proceeds.

However, OCI has received additional inbound inquiries from potential acquirers for the remaining business, leading it to re-open the review, CEO Ahmed El-Hoshy said last month on OCI’s 4Q23 earnings call.

“As such, OCI is exploring further value creative strategic actions across the portfolio, including the previously announced equity participation in its Texas blue clean ammonia project,” he said, adding: “All options are on the table.”

The comments echoed the remarks of Nassef Sawiris, a 40% shareholder of OCI, who recently told the Financial Times that OCI could sell off most of its assets and become a shell for acquisitions.

In the earnings presentation, El-Hoshy took time to lay out the remaining pieces of the business: in particular, OCI’s 350 ktpa ammonia facility in Beaumont; OCI Methanol Group, encompassing 2 million tons of production capacity in the US and a shuttered Dutch methanol plant; and its European ammonia/nitrogen assets.

Texas blue

The Texas blue ammonia project is a 1.1 million-tons-per-year facility that OCI touts as the only greenfield blue ammonia project to reach FID to date. The company has invested $500m in the project as of February 24, out of a total $1bn expected investment, according to a presentation.

“Commercial discussions for long-term product offtake and equity investments in the project are at advanced stages with multiple parties,” El-Hoshy said. “This reflects the very strong commercial interest and increasing appetite from the strategics to pay a price premium to secure long-term low-carbon ammonia.”

El-Hoshy’s comments highlight the fact that, unlike most projects in development, OCI took FID on the Texas blue facility without an offtake agreement in place. The executive did, however, highlight the first-mover cost advantages from breaking ground on the project early and avoiding construction cost inflation.

Additionally, the project was designed to accommodate a second 1.1 mtpa blue ammonia production line, which would be easier to build given existing utilities and infrastructure, El-Hoshy said, allowing for an opportunity to capitalize on additional clean ammonia demand at low development costs.

“Line 2 probably has the biggest advantage, we think, in North America in terms of building a plant where a lot of the existing outside the battery limits items and utilities are already in place,” he said, emphasizing that by moving early on the first phase, they avoided some of the inflationary EPC pressures of recent years. 

At the facility OCI will buy clean hydrogen and nitrogen over the fence from Linde, and Linde, in turn, will capture and sequester CO2 via an agreement with ExxonMobil.

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Exclusive: Inside Strata’s P2X strategy

Strata Clean Energy is seeking to engage with global chemical, energy, and shipping companies as a potential partner for a pipeline of green hydrogen projects that will have FIDs in 2025 and CODs later this decade.

Strata Clean Energy is developing a pipeline of green hydrogen projects that will produce large amounts of green ammonia and other hydrogen derivatives later this decade.

Mike Grunow, executive vice president and general manager of Strata’s Power-to-X platform, said in an interview that the company is investing in the development of proprietary modeling and optimization software that forms part of its strategy to de-risk Power-to-X projects for compliance with strict 45V tax credit standards.

“We’re anticipating having the ability to produce substantial amounts of low-carbon ammonia in the back half of this decade from a maturing pipeline of projects that we’ve been developing, and we’re looking to collaborate with global chemical, energy, and shipping companies on the next steps for these projects,” he said.

Strata’s approach to potential strategic offtakers could also include the partner taking an equity stake in projects, “with the right partner,” Grunow said. The projects are expected to reach FID in 2025.

Grunow declined to comment on the specific size or regional focus of the projects.

“We aspire for the projects to be as large as possible,” he said. “All of the projects are in deep discussions with the regional transmission providers to determine the schedule at which more and more transmission capacity can be made available.”

Strata will apply its expertise in renewable energy to the green hydrogen industry, he said, which involves the deployment of unique combinations of renewable energy, energy storage, and energy trading to deliver structured products to large industrial clients, municipal utilities and regulated utilities.

The company “commits to providing 100% hourly matched renewable energy over a guaranteed set of hours over the course of an entire year for 10 – 20 years,” Grunow said.

“It’s our expectation that the European regulations and more of the global regulations, and the guidance from the US Treasury will require that the clean energy supply projects are additional, deliverable within the same ISO/RTO, and that, eventually, the load of the electrolyzer will need to follow the production of the generation,” he said.

Strata’s strategy for de-risking compliance with the Inflation Reduction Act’s 45V revenue stream for green hydrogen will give asset-level lenders certainty on the delivery of a project’s IRA incentives.

“Right now, if I’m looking at a project with an hourly matched 45V revenue stream, I have substantial doubt about that project’s ability to actually staple the hourly matched RECs to the amount of hydrogen produced in an hour, to the ton of hydrogen derivative,” he said.

During the design phase, developers evaluate multiple electrolyzer technologies, hourly matching of variable generation, price uncertainty and carbon intensity of the grid, plant availability and maintenance costs along with evolving 45V compliance requirements.

Meanwhile, during the operational phase, complex revenue streams need to be optimized. In certain markets with massive electrical loads, an operator has the opportunity to earn demand response and ancillary service revenues, Grunow said.

Optimal operations

“The key to maximizing the value of these assets is optimal operations,” he said, noting project optionality between buying and selling energy, making and storing hydrogen, and using hydrogen to make a derivative such as ammonia or methanol.

Using its software, Strata can make a complete digital twin of a proposed plant in the design phase, which accounts for the specifications of the commercially available electrolyzer families.

Strata analyzes an hourly energy supply schedule for every project it evaluates, across 8,760 hours a year and 20 years of expected operating life. It can then cue up that digital project twin – with everything known about the technology options, their ability to ramp and turn down, and the drivers of degradation – and analyze optimization for different electrolyzer operating formats. 

“It’s fascinating right now because the technology development cycle is happening in less than 12 months, so every year you need to check back in with all the vendors,” he said. “This software tool allows us to do that in a hyper-efficient way.”

A major hurdle the green hydrogen industry still needs to overcome, according to Grunow, is aligning the commercial aspects of electrolysis with its advances in technological innovation.

“The lender at the project level needs the technology vendor to take technology and operational risk for 10 years,” he said. “So you need a long-term service agreement, an availability guarantee, key performance metric guarantees on conversion efficiency,” he said, “and those guarantees must have liquidated damages for underperformance, and those liquidated damages must be backstopped by a limitation of liability and a domestic entity with substantial credit. Otherwise these projects won’t get financed.”

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