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Exclusive: Biomethane firm planning funding round

A biomethane solutions provider with projects in Europe and the US is planning a fifth round of funding to launch early next year, with a need to raise additional project debt.

Electrochaea, the US- and Europe-based biomethane developer, will go to market in 1Q24 for a new round of equity funding, with a near term need for project debt as well, two executives told ReSource.

The company, which was spun out from an incubator at The University of Chicago with offices in Denmark, has projects in Denmark, Colorado, New York and Switzerland. It is backed by Baker Hughes and, from early fundraising efforts, Munich Venture Partners, senior director Aafko Scheringa said. The former investor participated in its most recent (fourth) $40m funding round.

Electrochaea uses a patented biocatalyst that converts green hydrogen and carbon dioxide into BioCat Methane, a pipeline-grade renewable gas.

The average size of a project is roughly $25m, Scheringa said.

Funds from the next round will provide three years of working capital, CEO Mitch Hein added.

Electrochaea has not worked with a financial advisor to date, Hein said, adding that he may have need for one for new processes but has not engaged with anyone.

Scheringa said he is working to achieve commercialization on a pipeline of projects, with a 10 MWe bio-methanation plant in Denmark being farthest along with a mandatory start date before 2026.

Electrochaea has a bio-methanation reactor system in partnership with SoCalGas at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy System Integration Facility in Golden, Colorado, though Hein said a project in New York is as advanced in its development.

Bio-methane can be burned in place of natural gas with no systems degradation issues, so gas offtakers are a natural fit for Electrochaea, Scheringa said. Cheap clean electricity paired with available CO2 is critical, so the company will look to places like Texas, Spain, Scandinavia, Quebec and the “corn states” of the US Midwest, for new projects.

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Los Angeles moves forward with $800m green hydrogen conversion

The Los Angeles City Council has authorized the Department of Water and Power to begin contracting processes for converting a gas-fired generating station to hydrogen.

The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the the conversion of the gas-fired Scattergood Generating Station near El Segundo to hydrogen, according to a vote record posted on the city’s website.

Subsequent coverage in the Los Angeles Times states that the city has plans to converting additional regional gas facilities — Harbor and Haynes and Valley Generating Station – into hydrogen-fueled peaking power stations.

Environmentalists have grouped to oppose the plan based on expressed climate and safety concerns.

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Data: Japanese Companies in North American Clean Fuels Projects

A look at the Japanese firms that are making investments and forging project partnerships as that island nation seeks a North American footing for low-carbon fuels.

Japan is one of the largest importers of hydrogen worldwide, and it’s betting big on clean hydrogen for its decarbonization, planning to spend over $20 billion over the next 15 years to subsidize its production and supply chain.

In addition to investing to increase local capacity, Japanese firms are also focusing on importing clean fuels, with an eye on North America and the United States specifically, where project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers.

Many Japanese companies are actively participating in clean fuels projects across North America, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and biofuel projects.

Around 4% of all clean fuels projects in North America have one or more Japanese firms involved as co-developers, equity investors, or off-takers. The investments are mostly in the United States, and companies like Mitsubishi and Mitsui, which have a long history of US investments, are the most active.

Without committing to specific projects yet, developers like Sempra Infrastructure and 8 Rivers have signed MoUs with Japanese counterparts to promote the development of a clean energy supply chain, while others, like Intersect Power or Hydrogen Canada, are explicitly targeting Japan as an end market for their hydrogen products.

See a full list of North American projects with Japanese involvement.

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Chemours nets approvals for fuel cell membrane manufacturing

A Chemours JV will supply fuel cell and humidifier membranes globally, enabling downstream customers to accelerate conversion to green, hydrogen-powered heavy-duty transportation.

The Chemours Company has obtained the required approvals from the European Commission and the People’s Republic of China State Administration for Market Regulations to launch operations at its joint venture with BWT FUMATECH Mobility GmbH, under the name of THE Mobility F.C. Membranes Company GmbH – A BWT Chemours Company.

FUMATECH BWT GmbH is an established player in multiple hydrogen markets focused on membrane manufacturing in the field of fuel cell technology.

The 50-50 joint venture focuses on integrating the unique capabilities, resources, and technological expertise of each company to elevate and accelerate the capacity to manufacture fuel cell and humidifier membranes for mobility applications for long-term customers. By leveraging the best of each partner’s complementary assets, THE Mobility F.C. Membranes Company GmbH – A BWT Chemours Company will expedite the supply of HDFC membranes to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), helping to meet the demand for these membranes that are critical to fully scaling the global hydrogen economy.

“Our Nafion ion exchange membranes are playing a critical role in driving the hydrogen economy and helping to create a more sustainable future, ” said Gerardo Familiar, president of Advanced Performance Materials at Chemours. “The technologies and solutions powered by our chemistry enable modern life and support economies across the world. Our joint venture with FUMATECH BWT GmbH and the BWT Group will enable solutions to support the future of clean energy and the transition to

THE Mobility F.C. Membranes Company will supply fuel cell and humidifier membranes globally, enabling downstream customers to accelerate conversion to green, hydrogen-powered heavy-duty transportation, driving green goals and sustainable policy frameworks in the E.U., the U.S. and elsewhere. With regulatory approvals in place the joint venture can now officially begin operation producing fuel cells and humidifier membranes for the mobility market.

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Exclusive: Northeastern offshore wind sale kicks off

A major European energy firm has retained a banker and launched a process to sell a large portfolio of offshore wind developments in the northeastern US.

Ocean Wind I & II, Orsted’s offshore wind developments in New Jersey amounting to 2.5 GW of capacity, are for sale via an auction, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Jefferies is the exclusive financial advisor on the sale, which is codenamed Project Hummer, the sources said. The process launched this month.

Denmark-based Orsted had previously halted development of Ocean Wind I and II as impairments on the projects climbed above $5bn. And the sale process comes amid the firm’s broader pullback from the offshore wind sector.

In an earnings call this month, Orsted CEO Mads Nipper said the company had plans to sell up to DKK 115bn (USD 16.6bn) in assets by 2030 as it accelerates divestments to boost its balance sheet.

Orsted also said it would withdraw from offshore wind markets in Norway, Spain and Portugal and cut its target for 2030 installed renewable capacity from 50 GW to 35 – 38 GW.

The company has a preference for a new owner acquiring 100% of both Ocean Wind leases and all associated development assets, the sources said.

Targeted COD for the two developments is 2029 and 2031, while estimated capex for each is USD 7.1bn (98 turbines) and USD 7.7bn (82 turbines), respectively.

New Jersey has accelerated offshore wind solicitation schedules and has recently awarded two contracts for 2.4 GW at $112.50/MWh and 1.3 GW at $131.00/MWh compared to the $98.10/MWh for Ocean Wind I and $84.03/MWh for Ocean Wind II awarded back in 2019 and 2021.

Orsted and Jefferies did not respond to requests for comment.

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Exclusive: TransGas CEO talks mega ammonia project

The owners of a proposed colossal ammonia production facility in Appalachian coal country are in the beginning stages of seeking liquidity, EPC contracting, and advisory services for a project they say will ultimately be financed akin to an LNG export terminal.

It’s an appeal often made in modern US politics – doing right by those left behind.

Perhaps no place is more emblematic of that appeal than West Virginia, and perhaps no region in that state more so than the southern coal fields. It’s there a fossil developer is proposing the architecture of the ruling coal industry be used to build a $10bn decarbonized ammonia facility and is gathering the resources to do so.

“It’s world class, and it makes southern West Virginia, Mingo County, the catalyst for the 21st century’s energy revival,” said Adam Victor, the CEO of TransGas Development Systems, the developer of the project. “The people [here] are the heirs and descendants of the people that mined the coal that built the steel that built the Panama Canal.”

The Adams Fork Energy project in Mingo County, jointly developed by TransGas and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, is slated to reach commercial operations in 2027. Six identical 6,000 mtpd ammonia manufacturing plants are being planned on the site of a previously permitted (but not constructed) coal-to-gasoline facility.

ReSource exclusively reported this week that the state has issued a permit to construct the facility. TransGas owns 100% of the project now, though if the Tribe comes through with federal funding then it will become the majority owner.

TransGas itself could take on a liquidity partner to raise up to $20m in development capital for the project, Victor said. The company is not using a financial advisor now but will hire one in the future.

White & Case is TransGas’ legal advisor. The company is in discussions with Ansaldo Energia, of Italy, about construction.

“The project is not averse to talking to private equity or investment bankers, because nothing has been decided right now,” Victor said, noting that the company is just beginning talks with infra funds and is eager to do so. “The project will be looking for an EPC.”

The first of the six plants will cost about $2bn, but each one will get successively less expensive, Victor said. Total capex is about $10bn, though there is discussion of acquiring adjacent land to double the size of the project – or 12 plants in all producing 6,000 mtpd each.

TransGas has the support of West Virginia politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Jim Justice, Victor said. Financing the project will be a function of the offtake.

Electricity for data centers, or ammonia for export?

The company is conducting a market analysis to determine avenues for offtake, Victor said. They could do partial electricity generation onsite to power a data center, with the remainder of the hydrogen being used to make ammonia for shipment overseas.

Depending on the needs of offtakers, the facility could also do one or the other entirely, he said.

The project, if configured at current size, could support about 6,000 MW of non-interruptible power generation, 2,000 MW of that for cooling.

“This could basically become a 6,000 MW campus to become the center of data centers in the United States,” Victor said, noting that the region is much less prone to natural disasters than some others and is high enough in elevation to escape any flooding. “I think we could rival Loudoun County [Virginia] as where data centers should be located.”

Adams Fork sits on the largest mine pool reservoir in the eastern US, Victor noted. Data centers need constant cooling, particularly new chip technology that requires liquid cooling.

TransGas will know in a matter of weeks if it’s going to go the electrical route, Victor said. There are only five companies in the world with data centers large enough to efficiently offtake from it: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Meta and Apple.

If not, the facility will continue down the path of selling the decarbonized ammonia, likely to an oil company or international ammonia buyer like JERA in Japan.

Partnering with a tech company will make it easier to finance the project because of high credit ratings, Victor said. International pressure on oil companies could affect those credit ratings.

“We think the investor world could be split,” he said, noting tech and fuels investors could both be interested in the project. “You’re doubling the universe of investors and offtakers.”

He added: “Once we have the offtake, we think we could have a groundbreaking this year.”

Two ways of shipping

For ammonia production the facility could use the same shipping channels the coal industry uses – either to the Big Sandy River to be sent by barge on the Ohio to New Orleans, or rail to ports in Baltimore; Norfolk, Virginia; and Savanna, Georgia.

By rail, two 40-car trains per day would take ammonia to port. Norfolk Southern and CSX both operate in the region.

Another option is to have a fleet of 50 EV or hydrogen-powered trucks to transport ammonia to the Big Sandy where electric-powered barges can take it to the Gulf, Victor said. That latter option could mean a lower CI score because it will eliminate rail’s diesel power.

Mercedes-Benz and Volvo both make the kind of trucks used for this work in Europe and Asia, he said. Coal mines in the region use diesel trucks in fleets as numerous as 500, and the original TransGas coal plant was permitted for 250 trucks per day.

“This is something that our offtake partner is going to determine,” he said. Japan would likely want the ammonia in the Gulf of Mexico, whereas European shipping companies would want it on an Atlantic port.

The LNG financial model

The offtakers themselves could fund the facility, Victor said.

“The financial model for this is the financial model for funding LNG terminals,” he said. “The same teams that put those large facilities together, financial teams, would be the same teams that we’re talking to now.”

The offtakers may also dictate who they want to be the financial advisor, he said.

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exclusive

Advisor Profile: Cameron Lynch of Energy & Industrial Advisory Partners

The veteran engineer and financial advisor sees widespread opportunity for capital deployment into early-stage renewable fuel companies.

Cameron Lynch, co-founder and managing partner at Energy & Industrial Advisory Partners, sees prodigious opportunity to pick up mandates in the hydrogen sector as young companies and early movers attract well-capitalized investors looking for auspicious valuations.

The firm, a three-year-old boutique investment banking outfit with offices in New York and Houston, is broadly committed to the energy transition, but is recruiting for new personnel with hydrogen expertise, Lynch said, adding that he is preparing for a new level of dealmaking in the new year.

“I think we can all expect 2023 will be even more of a record year, just given the appetite for hydrogen,” Lynch said. “Hydrogen is one of our core focuses for next year.”

Cameron Lynch

Lynch started his career as a civil & structural engineer and moved into capital equipment manufacturing and leasing for oil & gas, and also industrial gasses –things like cryoge

nic handling equipment for liquid nitrogen. He started the London office of an Aberdeen, U.K.-based M&A firm, before repeating that effort in New York.

Founding EIAP, Lynch and his business partner Sean Shafer have turned toward the energy transition and away from conventional energy. The firm works on the whole of decarbonization but has found the most success in the hydrogen space.

Earlier lifecycle, better valuations

Hydrogen intersects with oil& gas, nuclear, chemicals, midstream companies, and major manufacturing.

Large private equity funds that want to get into the space are realizing that if they don’t want to pay “ridiculous valuations for hydrogen companies” they must take on earlier-stage risk, Lynch said.

Interest from big private equity is therefore comparatively high for early-stage capital raising in the hydrogen sector, Lynch said, particularly where funds have the option to deploy more capital in the future, Lynch said.

“They’re willing to take that step down to what would normally be below their investment threshold.”

Lynch, who expects to launch several transactions in the coming months with EIAP, has a strong background in oil & gas, and views hydrogen valuations as a compelling opportunity now.

“It’s very refreshing to be working on stuff that’s attracting these superb valuations,” Lynch said.

There’s a lot of non-dilutive money in the market and the Inflation Reduction Act has been a major boon to investors, Lynch said. For small companies, getting a slice of the pie is potentially life changing.

Sean Shafer

The hydrogen space is not immune to the macroeconomic challenges that renewables have faced in recent months and years, Lynch said. But as those same challenges have accelerated the move toward energy security, hydrogen stands to benefit.

Supply chain issues post-COVID pose a potential long-term concern in the industry, and equity and debt providers question the availability of compressors and lead times.

“I would say that’s one of the key issues out there,” Lynch said. There’s also the question of available infrastructure and the extent to which new infrastructure will be built out for hydrogen.

EIAP sees the most convincing uses for hydrogen near term in light-weight mobility and aerospace, Lynch said. The molecule also has a strong use case in back-up generation.

Hydrogen additionally presents companies in traditional fossil fuel verticals the opportunity to modernize, Lynch said, citing a secondary trade EIAP completed earlier this year

California’s Suburban Propane Partners acquired a roughly 25% equity stake in Ashburn, Virginia-based Independence Hydrogen, Inc. The deal involved the creation of a new subsidiary, Suburban Renewable Energy, as part of its long-term strategic goal of building out a renewable energy platform.

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