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Exclusive: Riverstone Credit spinout preparing $500m fundraise

Breakwall Capital, a new fund put together by former Riverstone Credit fund managers, is preparing to raise $500m to make project loans in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector. We spoke to founders Christopher Abbate and Daniel Flannery.

Breakwall Capital is preparing to launch a $500m fundraising effort for a new fund – called Breakwall Energy Credit I – that will focus on investments in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector.

The founders of the new fund, Christopher Abbate, Daniel Flannery, and Jamie Brodsky, have spent the last 10 years making oil and gas credit investments at Riverstone Credit, while pivoting in recent years to investments in sustainability and decarbonization.

In addition to bringing in fresh capital, Breakwall will manage funds raised from Dutch trading firm Vitol, for a fund called Valor Upstream Credit Partners; and the partners will help wind down the remaining roughly $1bn of investments held in two Riverstone funds.

Drawing on their experience at Riverstone, Breakwall will continue to make investments through sustainability-linked loans across the energy value chain, but will also invest in the upstream oil and gas sector through Valor and the new Breakwall fund.

“We’re not abandoning the conventional hydrocarbon economy,” Flannery said in an interview. “We’re embracing the energy transition economy and we’re doing it all with the same sort of mindset that everything we do is encouraging our borrowers to be more sustainable.”

In splitting from Riverstone Credit, where they made nearly $6bn of investments, the founders of Breakwall said they have maintained cordial relations, such that Breakwall will seek to tap some of the same LPs that invested in Riverstone. The partners have also lined up a revenue sharing arrangement with Riverstone so that interests are aligned on fund management.

The primary reason for the spinout, according to Abbate, “was really to give both sides more resources to work with: on their side, less headcount relative to AUM, and on our side, more equity capital to reward people with and incent people with and recruit people with, because Riverstone was not a firm that broadly distributed equity to the team.”

Investment thesis

A typical Breakwall loan deal will involve a small or mid-sized energy company that either can’t get a bank loan or can’t get enough of a bank loan to finance a capital-intensive project. Usually, a considerable amount of equity has already been invested to get the project to a certain maturity level, and it needs a bridge to completion.

“We designed our entire investment philosophy around being a transitional credit capital provider to these companies who only needed our cost of capital for a very specific period of time,” Flannery said.

Breakwall provides repayable short-duration bridge-like solutions to these growing energy companies that will eventually take out the loan with a lower cost of capital or an asset sale, or in the case of an upstream business, pay them off with cash flow.

“We’re solving a need that exists because there’s been a flock of capital away from the upstream universe,” he added.

Often, Breakwall loan deals, which come at pricing in the SOFR+ 850bps range, will be taken out by the leveraged loan or high yield market at lower pricing in the SOFR+ 350bps range, once a project comes online, Abbate said. 

Breakwall’s underwriting strategy, as such, evaluates a project’s chances of success and the obstacles to getting built. 

The partners point to a recent loan to publicly listed renewable natural gas producer Clean Energy – a four-year $150m sustainability-linked senior secured term loan – as one of their most successful, where most of the proceeds were used to build RNG facilities. Sustainability-linked loans tie loan economics to key performance indicators (KPIs) aimed at incentivizing cleaner practices.

In fact, in clean fuels, their investment thesis centers on the potential of RNG as a viable solution for sectors like long-haul trucking, where electrification may present challenges. 

“We are big believers in RNG,” Flannery said. “We believe that the combination of the demand and the credit regimes in certain jurisdictions make that a very compelling investment thesis.”

EPIC loan

In another loan deal, the Breakwall partners previously financed the construction of EPIC Midstream’s propane pipeline from Corpus Christi east to Sweeny, Texas.

Originally a $150m project, Riverstone provided $75m of debt, while EPIC committed the remaining capital, with COVID-induced cost overruns leading to a total of $95m of equity provided by the midstream company. 

The only contract the propane project had was a minimum volume commitment with EPIC’s Y-Grade pipeline, because the Y-Grade pipeline, which ran to the Robstown fractionator near Corpus Christi, needed an outlet to the Houston petrochemical market, as there wasn’t enough export demand out of Corpus Christi.

“So critical infrastructure: perfect example of what we do, because if your only credit is Y-Grade, you’re just a derivative to the Y-Grade cost of capital,” Abbate said.

Asked if Breakwall would look at financing the construction of a 500-mile hydrogen pipeline that EPIC is evaluating, Abbate answered affirmatively.

“If those guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we want to build this 500-mile pipeline,’ I’d look at it,” he said. “I have to see what the contracts look like, but that’s exactly what type of project we would like to look at.”

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DG Fuels selects Johnson Matthey-bp Fischer Tropsch technology

DG Fuels has selected the technology for its first SAF plant in Louisiana, and is planning 10 more facilities across the United States modeled after the Louisiana project.

DG Fuels has chosen Johnson Matthey and bp’s co-developed Fischer Tropsch (FT) CANS™ technology for its first sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant, according to a news release.

Located in Louisiana, USA, it would be the largest announced FT SAF production facility in the world, with a planned capacity of 13,000 barrels per day – capable, after blending to 50%, of producing enough SAF for more than 30,000 transatlantic flights annually.

The project previously planned to produce 120 million gallons at the facility, but today’s press release notes that the proposed $4 billion plant is planned to produce 600,000 metric tons (MT) of SAF per year when fully operational — or 159 million gallons — and would be the largest announced SAF production plant using a non-HEFA route.

DG Fuels has already secured offtake agreements with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM, and has a strategic partnership with Airbus to scale up the use of SAF globally.

DG Fuels is planning 10 more SAF production plants across the United States. These would be modelled on the Louisiana plant with JM and bp as the partners of choice for these facilities.

The fuel at the Louisiana plant is expected to be produced from waste biomass. DG Fuels is projected to purchase around $120 million of sugar cane waste annually, a third of which is planned to be purchased from St. James Parish farmers. JM and bp’s FT CANS technology converts the synthesis gas derived from this biomass to synthetic crude, which is then further processed to produce the synthetic kerosene that is then blended with conventional jet fuel to produce SAF.

In July 2023, DG Fuels announced the closing of investment transactions with aviner & co., inc, Chishima Real Estate Co, and an undisclosed investor. DG Fuels expects the $30m capital raise to fund the project until FID, which is expected in early 2024.

In September 2023, DG Fuels announced a partnership with Airbus in support of DG Fuels’ goal of launching the equity process and reaching FID.  Airbus and DG Fuels have agreed for a portion of the production of the first plant to benefit Airbus’ customers.

In November 2023, DG Fuels announced Air France-KLM has made an investment in the facility. Air France-KLM acquired an option to purchase up to 25 million gallons / 75 000 tons of SAF annually over a multi-year period beginning in 2029, in addition to the long-term offtake contract announced by Air France-KLM and DG Fuels in 2022.

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Minnesota SAF production coalition formed

A collection of private and public entities intend to make Minnesota, and in particular the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, an important SAF hub.

Bank of America, Delta Air Lines, Ecolab and Xcel Energy have established the Minnesota SAF Hub, the first large-scale SAF Hub in the US committed to scaling sustainable aviation fuel production, according to a news release.

Anchor members are joined by other institutions, including the State of Minnesota, to implement a shared strategy for decarbonizing the airline industry. It’s organized through the GREATER MSP Partnership.

The aim is to produce low-carbon SAF by developing an integrated value chain from production to use at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

“After eight months of behind-the-scenes collaboration, the coalition will share its ambitious objectives today at the North American SAF Conference and Expo in Minneapolis,” the release states. “Progress to date includes establishing a shared, multi-phase strategy, securing nation-leading financial incentives from the State of Minnesota, and building a growing coalition of Minnesota-based organizations including the anchor companies, State of Minnesota, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the University of Minnesota, and knowledge partner McKinsey & Company.”

As early as 2025, the coalition aims to bring commercial-scale volumes of SAF to the airport. Minnesota’s SAF tax credit makes the state attractive for production. It is working with existing and prospective SAF producers to increase production in Minnesota.

“The coalition will welcome additional SAF producers, investors, corporate partners, and broader value chain players,” the release states.

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Woodside’s H2OK green hydrogen project on hold for final 45V rules

Australia-based Woodside’s Oklahoma green hydrogen project has been unable to secure offtake and is on hold until final rules are issued on 45V tax credits.

Woodside is engaging with the US federal government in an effort to make 45V tax credit rules for green hydrogen more accessible.

The Australian energy company’s green hydrogen project in Oklahoma, known as H2OK, is fully permitted and technically ready for a final investment decision, amounting to Woodside’s most advanced project currently in its development pipeline.

“H2OK is the most advanced project, and we’re technically ready to take an investment decision, but because we were unable to secure sufficient customer offtake, we paused that decision,” CEO Meg O’Neill said in a presentation this week.

H2OK is a liquid hydrogen production facility proposed for the Westport Industrial Park in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Phase 1 involves the construction of a 290 MW facility, producing up to 60 tonnes per day of liquid hydrogen through electrolysis, targeting the heavy transport sector.

“The reason we weren’t able to secure offtake was because of some complexities around how the IRA is being implemented and we’re engaged in conversations with the US government on levers they can pull to make those tax credits more accessible, which will bring prices down, which will bring customers to the table,” said O’Neill.

Woodside has already made financial commitments for critical path activities and electrolyzers are being manufactured for the project, she added.

In early 2024, Woodside reached a water deal with the city of Ardmore, Oklahoma. Subject to Woodside taking a final investment decision on the project, Ardmore would construct a transmission line to Woodside’s delivery location by January 1, 2026.

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Siemens Energy NA executive priming for scale in hydrogen

The North American wing of the global technology company is in the earliest stages of engaging EPC providers and economic development officials for its next US electrolyzer manufacturing site, Richard Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America, said in an interview.

To say the demand for electrolyzer capacity has grown exponentially in 2022 comes across as an understatement, as customers in industry and energy have increased their orders multiple times over.

Siemens Energy North America’s electrolyzer – which is 18 MW and among the largest in the market – was too large for many customers just a year ago, Richard Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America, said in an interview. But following passage of the IRA, the question became how many the customer could get – and how fast.

“How quickly can I get 100 of your electrolyzers?” Voorberg said he hears now, whereas before that same customer might have asked for half an electrolyzer.

The decision to make an electrolyzer as large as 18 MW was part of the company’s strategy to have bigger capacity as the market for hydrogen expanded, Voorberg said.

HIF Global recently said it has tapped Siemens Energy to engineer and design their proprietary “Silyzer 300” electrolyzers to produce approximately 300,000 tons per year of green hydrogen at an eFuels facility in Texas.

Siemens Energy NA is now in the earliest stages of developing a new electrolyzer manufacturing plant in the United States, as previously reported by ReSource.

The US plant will be similar to the plant Siemens Energy is building in Berlin, and won’t be built until after Berlin is completed, Voorberg said.

The company is actively engaging with state economic development committees to scout locations, incentives and labor supplies. It is also in the early stages of engaging engineers, EPC providers and other development partners, Voorberg said.

“We also need to decide in the next few months what we want to do in-house, with our own shops, versus what we want to outsource,” Voorberg said.

North Carolina, Houston, Alabama and upstate New York are all in Siemens Energy’s existing footprint and are as such strong contenders for the new facility, Voorberg said, though nothing is set in stone as far as location. The company would finance the facility within its normal capex expenses within a year.

In electrolyzer manufacturing there is some “test hydrogen” that is produced, so there will be a need to find some small offtaker for that, Voorberg said. The company could also use it to supply its own fork-trucks in the future.

Open to acquisitions

Diving into an acquisition of another electrolyzer manufacturer probably would not make sense for Siemens Energy, Voorberg said. But the company is open to M&A.

He cited the acquisition of Airfoil Components in Florida as the type of deal that the company could move on again. In that case, the target company had expertise in casting that was easier to acquire than build from scratch.

“Does that make more sense that we buy it, that we outsource it, or should we be doing something like that ourselves?” Voorberg said are questions he often asks.

“When it comes to less complicated things, like a commodity market, that’s not something we play well in or need to play well in,” Voorberg said. “When it comes to a specialty design-type product, that’s where we at Siemens Energy shine.”

Right now, the Siemens Energy parent company has a bid out to acquire the third of Siemens Gamesa, the Spanish-listed wind engineering company, that it does not own, Voorberg noted.

Start-up opportunity

Siemens Energy, through its in-house venture capital group and partnerships with US universities, is interested in helping technology startups scale, Voorberg said.

“We can play in between them and the customers and do the introductions and potentially even partner in with some of our technology,” he said.

The company keeps close relationships with incubators at Georgia Tech and the University of Central Florida, among others, Voorberg said.

Equity investments will be made through the VC group, Voorberg said, noting that effort as one that is strategic in growing the energy transition, rather than financial.

Additional non-equity partnerships, similar to the fellowship with the Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy, are on the table as well.

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Exclusive: Midwest renewables developer launches capital raise

A Midwest renewables developer has launched a $340m capital raise for a wind-to-hydrogen operation in the US heartland.

Zero6, the Minneapolis-based renewables developer, owner and operator, recently launched a process to raise $340m in project capital for its portion of the Lake Preston Biofuels Project in South Dakota, senior managing director Howard Stern said in an interview.The company, previously known as Juhl Energy, is partnered with Colorado-based Gevo, which plans to produce SAF on 240 acres at Lake Preston in a project dubbed Net-Zero 1.Zero6 will develop 20 MW of green hydrogen production adjacent to Net-Zero 1 powered by a 99 MW wind farm located 10 miles from the SAF site, Stern said.Plans call for FID late this year, he said.Zero6 met with several financial advisors for the raise, but decided to try and conduct it in-house, Stern said. The company has not ruled out help from an advisor for this raise and could need those services in the future.The goal is to have an anchor investor in place by May, Stern said. The company is open to strategic or financial investors.Zero6’s strategy is akin to a traditional private equity play, holding a project for five to ten years of operation, Stern said. That could change depending on new investors’ outlook.According to the ReSource database, Gevo has additional projects in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.Stern said Zero6 sees opportunities to replicate the Lake Preston strategy in other parts of the country.The Lake Preston project has been tied to the development of carbon capture pipelines through South Dakota, namely the Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline. Gevo officials have made public comments noting that if the Summit pipeline does not get built, it would disadvantage the Lake Preston project on the basis of its carbon intensity score, and the company may seek options elsewhere.
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Hydrogen liquefaction provider looking for growth equity

An emerging liquid hydrogen and liquefaction management company is seeking equity to support manufacturing expansion in Europe and the US.

Absolut Hydrogen, a French liquid hydrogen and liquefaction company based in Grenoble, is looking for equity to scale up production following operations of their demonstration project in France, CEO Jerome Lacapere said in an interview.

Absolut has a partnership with SAF firm ZeroAvia to develop refueling infrastructure for aircraft, and is primarily focused on serving the mobility sector.

A subsidiary of Groupe Absolut, the company offers a full LH2 product range with an entry small-scale hydrogen liquefaction system (< 50 kg/day), a 100 kg/day Turbo-Brayton based H2 liquefier and a 1T/day liquefier based on the same technology.The company's liquefaction demonstration plant in France should produce 100 kg per day, Lacapere said. After that Absolut will need new investment to scale production.Longer term the company has its sites on the US transport market, Lacapere said.“We need to grow in the United States,” Lacapere said. The company will need US-based advisory services and offices in the country to do that, he said.

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