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Exclusive: Micro ammonia tech firm raising pre-IPO Series A

A micro ammonia technology firm is raising a small amount of Series A capital and plans to pursue an IPO as soon as next year.

Hydrofuel Canada, a developer of micro ammonia technology, is seeking strategic partners for a CAD 5m Series A capital raise in anticipation of an initial public offering as early as next year.

The Mississauga, Ontario-based firm recently received U.S. patents for its micro ammonia production system (MAPS), which represents a breakthrough in smaller scale on-site, low-cost ammonia production possibilities, CEO Greg Vezina said in an interview.

“Our cost to make hydrogen at end use all-in including capex, opex, and 8% financing is $1.30 per kg” before tax credits, Vezina said. “We’re pretty confident that over the next couple of months, we’re going to put together a group of investors, strategic partners, and quite frankly, a board of directors that’s going to choke a horse.”

The $1.30 per kg price for hydrogen – in ammonia – depends on an electricity price of 2 cents per kWh, Vezina said, and correlates to a price of around $456 / ton of ammonia. Cracking the ammonia at end use takes between 10% – 15% of the hydrogen, resulting in a final price of hydrogen of around $1.50 per kg.

For comparison, with electricity at 3 cents per kWh, the price of hydrogen in ammonia climbs to $1.57 per kg.

Hydrofuel is looking for five strategic partners that will each put in CAD 1m, which would advance its micro ammonia offering to commercialization. It already has orders in the book and expects to have $1bn of orders by the time it goes public via a planned initial public offering next year, Vezina said.

“We’ll go public in 2025, essentially to raise the money to deliver our products,” he said.

The company is also looking to partner with renewables developers with planned wind energy resources near ammonia demand centers in the U.S., so that the resulting ammonia production can qualify for 45V tax credits for clean hydrogen.

Vezina has been a proponent of ammonia solutions for decades, and reportedly drove an ammonia-fueled Chevy Impala across Canada in 1981. He believes that the MAPS technology will be a disruptive force in the emerging market for green hydrogen and ammonia. While Hydrofuel claims to produce ammonia on site at $1.50 per kg, the cost to transport ammonia alone — other than via a long-distance pipeline — is not currently less than $3 per kg, Vezina said, citing a recent study from the World Bank.

“I’m going to bankrupt everybody in the electrolyzer business worldwide,” he said, adding his view that the economics of large-scale electrolyzer projects make them unviable where they rely on expensive transportation networks.

MAPS

To date, Hydrofuel has raised CAD 5m, with management and employees still owning 40% of the business. In the current capital raise, Hydrofuel is selling 25% of the company, amounting to a $20m valuation, Vezina said.

The U.S. patent was issued for Hydrofuel’s MAPS 1.0 product, which utilizes externally produced hydrogen to synthesize with nitrogen from air to make ammonia. Vezina says the patent also covers the MAPS 2.0 product, which combines hydrogen and ammonia production in the same unit, but Hydrofuel has filed for an additional patent for MAPS 2.0.

Hydrofuel signed a licensing agreement for the MAPS technology with Georgia Tech University in April 2022, and later began collaborating on research and development with Colorado State University.

Farmers are a main target market for the technology, Vezina said, noting that farms can cut their anhydrous ammonia bill significantly. Industrial users of ammonia, including medical-grade ammonia, are also targeted customers.

The cost of the MAPS 2.0 unit, which has a capacity of 381 tonnes per year, is USD 850,000, and customers can secure a unit by making a $10,000 deposit with financing for 20 years, Vezina said. The company earns a profit of USD 425,000 for every MAPS 2.0 unit sold.

Vezinz said that accounting for US tax credits for clean hydrogen production as well as renewables could cover almost the entire cost of the micro ammonia installations and renewables, given the cost of $1.50 per kg and the $3 per kg tax credit.

“So a lot of smart farmers could be getting a lot of free fertilizer,” he said.

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Baker Botts adds energy finance partner

Baker Botts has added Washington, DC-based partner Matthew Gurch, who joins from Stoel Rives.

Baker Botts L.L.P. has added Matthew Gurch to the Energy, Projects & Transactions Section of the Global Projects Department as a partner in the Washington, D.C. office.

Gurch’s practice focuses on advising sponsors and private lenders and multilateral development banks in domestic and international energy and infrastructure project development and financings. His broad-based experience includes tax equity structuring and back leverage debt financings for renewable and energy transition assets, and the development and financing of nuclear and other thermal power generation and oil and gas projects.

“Matt is a highly experienced project development and finance attorney and another key strategic lateral partner hire for the firm,” said Danny David, Managing Partner of Baker Botts. “His experience advising clients with respect to complex domestic and international energy and infrastructure projects will be a great complement to our outstanding offerings in those areas. We are excited to welcome him to the firm.”

He joins the firm from Stoel Rives, where he was a partner in the Corporate practice group and a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Industry Groups.

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Italy’s Eni to invest $835m in Louisiana biorefinery

Eni Sustainable Mobility will invest in a biorefinery being built by PBF Energy in Louisiana.

Eni Sustainable Mobility and PBF Energy Inc. have entered into definitive agreements to partner in a 50-50 joint venture, St. Bernard Renewables LLC (SBR), for the biorefinery currently under construction co-located with PBF’s Chalmette Refinery in Louisiana (US).

Upon consummation of the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, Eni Sustainable Mobility will contribute capital totaling $835m plus up to additional $50m that is subject to the achievement of eventual project milestones and will provide expertise in biorefining operations, supply and marketing.

Citi is serving as financial advisor to PBF Energy.

PBF brings its strong industrial know-how in the United States and, as the contributor of the biorefinery, will continue to manage project execution and serve as the operator once construction is complete. The St. Bernard Renewables biorefinery startup is scheduled in the first half of 2023 and the facility is currently targeted to have processing capacity of about 1.1 million tonnes/year of raw materials, with full pretreatment capabilities. It will produce mainly HVO Diesel (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, commonly known as ‘renewable diesel’ in North America), with a production capacity of 306 million gallons per year. The biorefinery will use the Ecofining™ process developed by Eni in cooperation with Honeywell UOP.

This strategic partnership will leverage the experience and expertise of Eni Sustainable Mobility and PBF. Together with Ecofining™ technology, Eni brings its experience in biorefining that led to the world’s first conversion of a refinery into a biorefinery in Porto Marghera (Venice) in 2014, and to the second converted biorefinery that has been working in Gela (Sicily) since 2019. The company also provides its worldwide knowledge in supplying sustainable feedstock sourcing for HVO, mainly based on oily waste and residues, and raw materials that do not compete with the food chain, coupled with access to international markets beyond PBF’s footprint in the United States.

PBF brings experience in large capital project execution and fuels manufacturing as well as access to the California renewables market through its existing logistics assets. The joint venture reflects both partners’ commitment to deliver more sustainable transportation fuels using low carbon intensity feedstocks.

“Joining St. Bernard Renewables biorefinery project enables Eni to enter into US biofuels growing market together with a strong partner such as PBF. This is a further step for Eni Sustainable Mobility to expand its biorefining capacity, that today is over 1 million tonnes/year and it is planned to grow in the upcoming years. Following results achieved in Venice and Gela, Eni Sustainable Mobility is a pioneer in the biorefining industry, and it is also studying possible construction of two new biorefineries in Italy and in Malaysia. We do believe the role of HVO will strongly contribute to decarbonization of road transports, including hard to abate heavy duty sector, as it leverages existing infrastructure and can immediately fuel existing vehicle fleets. Biofuels are part of Eni strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through the reduction of the emissions generated during the entire products life cycle”, Stefano Ballista, CEO of Eni Sustainable Mobility, said.

“We’re excited to enter this strategic partnership with Eni Sustainable Mobility, a global leader in biorefining. The SBR biorefinery will benefit greatly from PBF and Eni’s complementary strengths and expertise. The project will utilize existing processing infrastructure and diverse inbound and outbound logistics and is ideally situated to support growing demand for low-carbon fuels,” said PBF President Matthew Lucey. “Our partnership with Eni signals a major milestone for PBF and demonstrates our commitment to contributing diversified sources of energy to the global mix while lowering the carbon intensity of our operations and the products we manufacture.”

SBR will operate as an independent entity with feed procurement and product distribution managed by a dedicated team working on behalf of the St. Bernard Renewables joint venture. While the partnership is set to benefit from its co-location with PBF’s Chalmette refinery through a variety of shared services, the operations and ownership of the Chalmette refinery will not be affected by the formation of the partnership.

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EnCap and Mercuria invest in Arbor Renewable Gas

The Houston-based renewable gas developer has also entered into development and licensing agreements with SunGas Renewables and Haldor Topsoe, respectively.

Arbor Renewable Gas, the Houston, Texas-based sustainable gas developer, has taken an underlying capital commitment from EnCap Investments L.P. and Mercuria Energy Company, according to a news release.

SunGas Renewables, a subsidiary of GTI International, has entered into an exclusive Joint Development Agreement with Arbor Gas to provide its gasification systems to Arbor Gas projects and Haldor Topsoe has licensed its process and technology for methanol and gasoline synthesis.

Arbor Gas is developing industrial scale renewable gasoline and green hydrogen projects in the US. The strategy is to design, build, own, and operate facilities that efficiently convert woody biomass into renewable gasoline and green hydrogen.

Arbor Gas is led by Co-Founders, Chief Executive Officer Timothy E. Vail and John G. Kennedy III.

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exclusive

Siemens Energy planning new US electrolyzer capacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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exclusive

Biomass technology company launching US projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other half

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Exclusive: Middle market flagship fund to target e-fuels, renewables

A new $1.5bn US-focused flagship fund focused on middle market companies is in discussions with new and existing LPs now and will consider e-fuels and other sustainable molecules in its deployment.

Energy Impact Partners, the New York-based investment firm, is in discussions with new and existing LPs to raise a $1.5bn flagship fund focused on the middle market, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The raise is being done without a financial advisor, the sources said. Once complete, it will target platforms and assets in the $40m to $50m range.

While the fund will be broadly focused on renewables, e-fuels and other sustainable fuels companies will be considered, one of the sources said.

The investment manager has invested in clean fuels via equity positions in Electric Hydrogen, Terragia and Metafuels, among others.

EIP did not respond to requests for comment.

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