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Exxon to buy Denbury for $4.9bn

In acquiring Denbury, the oil major is advancing its strategy for carbon capture and transportation.

Exxon Mobil Corporation has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Denbury Inc., an experienced developer of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCS) solutions and enhanced oil recovery, according to a news release.

The acquisition is an all-stock transaction valued at $4.9bn, or $89.45 per share based on ExxonMobil’s closing price on July 12, 2023. Under the terms of the agreement, Denbury shareholders will receive 0.84 shares of ExxonMobil for each Denbury share.

“Acquiring Denbury reflects our determination to profitably grow our Low Carbon Solutions business by serving a range of hard-to-decarbonize industries with a comprehensive carbon capture and sequestration offering,” said Darren Woods, Chairman and CEO. “The breadth of Denbury’s network, when added to ExxonMobil’s decades of experience and capabilities in CCS, gives us the opportunity to play an even greater role in a thoughtful energy transition, as we continue to deliver on our commitment to provide the world with the vital energy and products it needs.”

The transaction synergies are expected to drive strong growth and returns for ExxonMobil. The acquisition of Denbury provides ExxonMobil with the largest owned and operated CO2 pipeline network in the U.S. at 1,300 miles, including nearly 925 miles of CO2 pipelines in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi – located within one of the largest U.S. markets for CO2 emissions, as well as 10 strategically located onshore sequestration sites. A cost-efficient transportation and storage system accelerates CCS deployment for ExxonMobil and third-party customers over the next decade and underpins multiple low carbon value chains including CCS, hydrogen, ammonia, biofuels, and direct air capture.

Chris Kendall, Denbury’s President and Chief Executive Officer commented, “This transaction is a compelling opportunity for Denbury to join an admired global energy leader with a low-carbon focus, a robust balance sheet and a leading shareholder return program. Over the last few years, Denbury has made significant progress executing our strategic plan, strengthening our enhanced oil recovery operations and capitalizing on our unrivaled infrastructure to accelerate the growth of our CO2 transportation and storage business. To build even further on this positive momentum, the Denbury Board of Directors and management team undertook a thorough review process and considered a number of alternatives to maximize long-term value. Through this process, it became clear that the transaction with ExxonMobil is in the best interests of our company, our shareholders, and all Denbury stakeholders. Importantly, given the significant capital and years of work required to fully develop our CO2 business, ExxonMobil is the ideal partner with extensive resources and capabilities. The all-equity consideration will allow Denbury shareholders to participate in the upside of ExxonMobil’s stock while benefitting from its strong capital return strategy. We look forward to bringing together our highly complementary cultures and teams to realize the long-term value and benefits of this combination.”

“Denbury’s advantaged CO2 infrastructure provides significant opportunities to expand and accelerate ExxonMobil’s low-carbon leadership across our Gulf Coast value chains,” said Dan Ammann, President, ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. “Once fully developed and optimized, this combination of assets and capabilities has the potential to profitably reduce emissions by more than 100 million metric tons per year in one of the highest-emitting regions of the U.S.”

In addition to Denbury’s carbon capture and storage assets, the acquisition includes Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain oil and natural gas operations. These operations consist of proved reserves totaling over 200 million barrels of oil equivalent, with 47,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day of current production, providing immediate operating cash flow and near-term optionality for CO2 offtake and execution of the CCS business.

The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the transaction, which is subject to customary regulatory reviews and approvals. It is also subject to approval by Denbury shareholders. The transaction is expected to close in the 4th quarter of 2023.

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United Airlines invests in NEXT Renewable Fuels

Houston-based NEXT is permitting a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, which could produce 50,000 barrels per day of renewable fuels.

United Airlines Ventures has made a strategic investment in NEXT Renewable Fuels, according to a press release.

Houston-based NEXT is permitting a flagship biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, with expected production beginning in 2026. At full production, the facility could produce 50,000 barrels per day of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

UAV could invest as much as $37.5m into NEXT contingent on milestone targets.

NEXT has secured an agreement with BP for sourcing 100 percent of its feedstock. Once all the necessary approvals and permits are obtained and the biorefinery is operational, it has the potential to be used as a platform to scale SAF and deploy additional future technologies, the release states.

The announcement marks UAV’s fifth SAF-related technology investment and its first investment directly in a biorefinery.

United is the latest major airline to deploy equity in the hydroge space. Last month, American Airline announced an equity investment in Universal Hydrogen Co.

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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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Carbon removal firm spins out of UCLA contracted with Boeing

Equatic has a pre-purchase agreement with Boeing for its carbon-negative hydrogen and currently operates two carbon removal pilots in Los Angeles and Singapore.

Carbon removal company Equatic recently spun out from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Institute for Carbon Management to deploy the first technology combining CO2 removal and carbon-negative hydrogen generation, according to a news release.

Alongside the launch, Equatic is announcing that it has entered into a pre-purchase option agreement with Boeing, a leading global aerospace company. Under the agreement, Equatic will remove 62,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and will deliver 2,100 metric tons of carbon-negative hydrogen to Boeing.

“The oceans are the world’s largest reservoir of carbon dioxide. One quarter of the world’s daily CO2 emissions are drawn down into the ocean,” the release states. “Equatic’s technology accelerates and amplifies this natural cycle to remove and durably store CO2. The entire removal and sequestration process happens within the boundaries of an industrial carbon removal plant, enabling Equatic to precisely measure CO2.”

Equatic currently operates two carbon removal pilots in Los Angeles and Singapore. One hundred percent of the CO2 removed from these pilots has been pre-sold, including via pre-purchase agreements with global payment solution provider, Stripe.

Equatic expects to reach 100,000 metric tons of carbon removal per year by 2026 and millions of metric tons of carbon removal for less than $100 per metric ton by 2028.

“Furthermore, Equatic will become a dominant producer of carbon-negative hydrogen — hydrogen created from processes that reduce atmospheric CO2,” the release states. “The hydrogen will be sold as a clean energy source to decarbonize industrial processes, produce electricity for the transportation sector, create Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and fuels for trucking, and power the Equatic technology itself.”

Equatic emerges from UCLA with over $30m in initial funding including grants and equity investments from organizations such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, the National Science Foundation, YouWeb Incubator, The Nicholas Endowment, Singapore’s Temasek Foundation, PUB: Singapore’s National Water Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

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Government money still top of mind for early movers in US hydrogen

Gaining access to funding from government and other agency sources is top of mind for many developers seeking to de-risk their projects and reach FID. But only hydrogen, ammonia, and other clean fuels projects exhibiting “the best in the business” are garnering support from government financing agencies and commercial lenders, experts say.

The US Department of Energy came out this week with the news that it was not yet ready to release the long-awaited winners of its $8bn hydrogen hubs funding opportunity, as Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm noted Monday at the Hydrogen Americas Summit in Washington, DC.

The delay disappointed many in the industry, who are also waiting for crucial guidance from the IRS on rules for clean hydrogen tax credits.

Gaining access to funding from government and other agency sources is top of mind for many developers seeking to de-risk their projects and reach FID. But only hydrogen, ammonia, and other clean fuels projects exhibiting “the best in the business” are garnering support from government financing agencies and commercial lenders.

Speakers on a financing panel at the summit yesterday pointed to the successful FID of the Air Products-backed NEOM green hydrogen project in Saudi Arabia as an effective project finance model, where major sponsors working together helped to de-risk the proposal and attract support from export credit agencies and global banks.

In the US, large players like ExxonMobil (Hydrogen Liftoff Hub), NextEra (Southeast Hydrogen Network), and Chevron (ACES Delta) have applied for DOE hydrogen hubs funding, according to the results of a FOIA request, joining major utilities and other oil and gas companies like bp and Linde in the running for funds.

In addition to inadequate regulatory guidance, some developers have already started grumbling that the proposed government assistance will not be enough to meet the scale of decarbonization needs. And the nascent clean fuels project finance market still needs to sift through techno-economic challenges in order to reach its potential, according to comments made yesterday on a panel called Financing Clean Hydrogen.

Leopoldo Gomez, a vice president of global infrastructure finance at Citi, sees a big role for the project finance framework for hydrogen facilities undertaken by independent project developers as well as strategics looking to strike the appropriate risk allocation for new projects.

And Michael Mudd, a director on BofA’s global sustainable finance team, said hydrogen projects are similar in many ways to established facilities like power and LNG, but with additional complexities, like understanding the impact of intermittent power and how to appropriately scale technologies.

Credibility

This year, Pennsylvania-based Air Products along with ACWA Power and NEOM Company finalized and signed an $8.5bn financing agreement for NEOM the project, which will build 4 GW of renewables powering production of up to 600 tons per day of hydrogen. The National Development Fund and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund kicked in a total of $2.75bn for the project, with the balance covered by a consortium of 23 global lenders.

“It is very important from the financing side to make sure the parties that are at the table are the best in the business, and that’s what we’re seeing with the projects that are able to receive either commitments from the DOE Loan Programs office or from commercial lenders and export credit agencies,” Gomez said.

Highly credible engineering firms are also critical to advance projects, and the EPCs themselves might still need to get comfortable integrating new technologies that add more complexity to projects when compared to power generation or LNG projects.

“The bottom line is that having someone that’s very credible to execute a complex project that involves electrolyzers or carbon capture or new renewable power generation within the parameters of the transaction” is critical for providing risk mitigation for the benefit of investors, Gomez added.

Funding sources

Additional funding sources are intended to be made available for clean fuels projects as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the panelists said.

Most notably, tax credit transferability and the credits in section 45Q for carbon capture and sequestration and 45V for clean hydrogen are available on a long-term basis and as a direct-pay option, which would open up cash flows for developers.

“If you can use [tax credit transfers] as a contract, you can essentially monetize the tax credits in the form of debt and equity,” Mudd said. And if a highly rated corporate entity is the counterparty on the tax transfer, he added, the corporate rating of the buyer can be used to leverage the project for developers that don’t have the tax capacity.

Still, section 45V is potentially the most complex tax credit the market has ever seen, requiring a multi-layer analysis, according to Gomez, who advised patience among developers as prospective lenders evaluate the potential revenue streams from the tax credit market.

“First and foremost we’ll be looking at cash flows driven by the offtake contract, but it will be highly likely that lenders can take a view on […] underwriting 10 years of 45V at a given amount,” Gomez added.

Crucial guidance on how to conduct a lifecycle emissions analysis is still outstanding, however, making it difficult to bring all project parties to the table, according to Shannon Angielski, a principal at law and government relations firm Van Ness Feldman.

“It’s going to hinge on how the lifecycle analyses are conducted and how you have some transparency across states and borders” regarding the potential for a green premium on clean hydrogen, she added.

Agency support

In Canada, the Varennes Carbon Recycling plant in Quebec has received CAD 770m of provincial and federal support, primarily from the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the province of Quebec, noted Amendeep Garcha of Natural Resources Canada.

Around CAD 500m of funding from the Canada Infrastructure bank is also going to support hydrogen refueling infrastructure, Garcha said, with the aim of establishing a hydrogen highway that will form the basis of the hydrogen ecosystem in Quebec.

Pierre Audinet, lead energy specialist from World Bank Group, noted how the international development agency was stepping in to provide support for projects that might otherwise not get off the ground.

“In the world where I work, we face a lot of scarcity of capital,” he noted, adding that the World Bank has backed the implementation of clean fuels policies in India with a $1.5bn loan.

Additionally, the World Bank has supported a $150m project in Chile, providing insurance and capital for a financing facility that will reduce the costs of electrolyzers. Chile, while it benefits from sun and wind resources, said Audinet, is less competitive when it comes to transportation given its geographic location.

The agency is also working to help the local government in the Northeastern Brazil port of Pecem. Shared infrastructure at the port will help reduce risks for investors who have taken a stake in the port facilities, Audinet said.

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Exclusive: Mississippi green hydrogen developer assembling banks for debt raise

The developer of a potentially massive network of green hydrogen production, transport and salt cavern storage — estimated to cost billions — is seeking banks to support a project debt raise.

Hy Stor, the developer of hydrogen generation and salt cavern storage, is currently raising “billions” in project finance for the first phase of its home state hub in Mississippi, Chief Commercial Officer Claire Behar said in an interview.

The first phase is expected to enter commercial service in 2026, guided by customers, Behar said.

Connor Clark & Lunn are equity partners in the Mississippi hub and is helping Hy Stor with its debt raise. Hy Stor is working with King & Spalding as legal advisor.

“We are already seeking banks and lining up our needed debt,” Behar said. She declined to say a precise amount the company will raise but said it will be in the billions.

Hy Stor plans to soon announce their renewable development partner to build dedicated off grid renewables, Behar said. The same is true for offtake in non-intermittent 24-hour industries like steel, plastic and fertilizer manufacturing.

“The customers are willing to pay that twenty-to-thirty percent premium that the market would need,” Behar said. “The business case is there.”

When asked if traditionally carbon intensive industrial manufacturing interests were actively seeking to co-locate with Hy Stor in Mississippi, Behar said the company has been advancing those agreements and hopes to have announcements soon. 
There is evidence of this type of activity in the state. Recently American steel manufacturer Steel Dynamics announced Columbus, Mississippi as the location of its upcoming aluminum flat rolled millwith a focus on decarbonization. Job postings for engineering roles at a separate facility detail plans to convert biomass into a direct carbon replacement suitable for steelmaking. 

Hy Stor hopes to have announcements in the coming weeks about a co-location opportunity, she added. Both domestic and international strategics are interested in the geology offering co-located salt cavern storage and geography offering river and deepwater port logistics networks, as well as highway and rail corridors.

Off-grid renewable generation means the company is not at the mercy of transmission interconnection queues. It also offers reliability because the lack of grid adage helps guarantee performance, and affordability because the company doesn’t have to pay utility rates, Behar said. Additionally, the electricity is decoupled from the grid and therefore absolutely decoupled from fossil fuels, which is important to Hy Stor’s prospective offtakers.

“This is what customers are demanding,” Behar said, adding that first movers are highly dedicated to decarbonization, needing quantitative accounting for all scope emissions, driven often by pressure from their customers.

The company has received a permit to take 11,000 gallons per minute of unpotable water from the Leaf River in Mississippi, Behar said, and is also looking at in-house wastewater treatment and water recycling.

Don’t go after gray users

Behar said the concept that users of gray hydrogen are the first targets for green hydrogen developers is misguided.

“The refineries, the petrochemicals, for them hydrogen is an end product already used within their system,” Behar said. “Those are not going to be the first users that are going to pay us a premium for that zero carbon.”

Hy Stor is instead focusing on new greenfield facilities that can co-locate.

“We’ve purposefully outsized our acreage,” she said of the 70,000 acres the company has purchased outside of Jackson, Mississippi, the Mississippi River Corridor, and the state’s southern deepwater ports in Gulfport and Port Bienville. New industrial projects can co-locate and have direct access to the salt cavern storge.

Looking forward the company’s acreage and seven salt domes mean they are not constrained by storage, Behar said. At each location, the company can develop tens and hundreds of caverns.

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Green hydrogen developer raising capital for projects

Fusion Fuel, a green hydrogen developer based in Portugal, has engaged an advisor and is in talks with investors to raise capital for projects in North America.

Fusion Fuel, a green hydrogen developer based in Portugal, has engaged an advisor and is in talks with investors to raise capital for projects in North America.

The company is working with RBC Capital Markets as financial advisor, Fusion Fuel Co-Head Zachary Steele said in an interview, and expects to produce infrastructure-type returns on its projects.

For its first project in the U.S., Fusion Fuel has agreed to a JV with Electus Energy to build a 75 MW solar-to-hydrogen facility in Bakersfield, California.

The project will produce up to 9,300 tons of green hydrogen per annum including nighttime operation and require an estimated $180m in capital investment, with a final investment decision expected in early 2024 and commissioning in the first half of 2025.

The combination of green hydrogen and solar production incentives along with California’s low carbon fuel standard make the economics of the project attractive, Steele said.

“Hydrogen is selling for up to $15-$18 per kilogram in California in the mobility market, and we can produce it at around the low $3 per kilogram area, so that leaves a lot of room for us to make a return and reduce costs for customers,” he said.

The company sells electrolyzer technology for projects but also serves as a turnkey developer. The technology consists of Hevo-Solar, which utilizes concentrated solar power to create hydrogen; and Hevo-Chain, a centralized PEM electrolyzer powered by external electricity.

Fusion Fuel’s proposition is that its smaller-scale technology – of 25 kW per unit –  is ready to use now, and can be dropped into places like a gas station in New York City, Steele said.

“This allows customers to scale into hydrogen and makes it available on site, compared with the massive projects going up in Eastern Canada or the Gulf Coast that require customers to commit significant capital to underwrite large scale projects,” he added.

Along with Electus, Fusion Fuel has already entered into a land-lease agreement for 320 acres in Kern County, California for the Bakersfield development. Black & Veatch will perform a concept study while Cornerstone Engineering and Headwaters Solutions are also engaged.

Iberian pipeline

The company targets to have EUR 40m of revenues in 2023, with a third of that coming from tech sales and the balance coming from Fusion Fuel-owned development projects.

Its revenue pipeline for next year is focused on the Iberian peninsula, and has been largely de-risked with the company having secured grants, with land and permitting underway.

In addition to the electrolyzer sales, the company, together with its partners, can provide turnkey projects that include engineering, procurement of the balance of plant equipment, construction of the facility, and operations, Steele said on an investor call this week.

“This allows us to not only make returns on the tech sale but also on the overall project and potentially recurring revenue from operations,” he said.

The company plans to use projects it is building in Portugal to expand into other core markets, beginning with a focus on mobility opportunities and targeted industrial decarbonization projects. Starting in 2024 the company plans to extend its reach further into North America and also Italy.

U.S. focus

Similar to other international hydrogen players, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act caused a strategic shift of focus to the U.S. and accelerated Fusion Fuel’s plans to grow its business there, company executives said.

Notably, since Fusion Fuel will use its own technology in the projects it is seeking to develop, a required amount of that technology will need to be manufactured in the U.S. in order to qualify for the full benefits provided in the IRA.

As such, Fusion Fuel is scouting for a location to build one, or possibly two, manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

“The size of the Bakersfield project alone justifies building a new manufacturing facility,” Steele said on the investor call.

Steele was previously CEO of Cedar LNG, a floating LNG development in British Columbia, prior to exiting to Pembina. He works alongside Fusion Fuels Co-Head & CFO, Frederico Figueira de Chaves, who is based in Portugal.

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