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ExxonMobil supporting Houston-to-LA hydrogen fueling corridor

ExxonMobil is part of a group of companies working to develop a hydrogen corridor between Los Angeles and Houston, as well as the "Texas Triangle" between San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.

ExxonMobil is part of a GTI Energy-led group working to develop a network of hydrogen fueling stations for long-haul trucking along U.S. Interstate 10, from Houston to Los Angeles, as well as what’s known as the “Texas Triangle” along interstates 10, 35 and 45 between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

“The idea is to create a detailed blueprint that will be nationally scalable and investment ready,” said Cate Kehn, Exxon’s global hydrogen mobility market developer.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the group a $1.25 million research grant earlier this year to progress the project over the next two years. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the University of Texas are also partners in the project, along with selected fuel retailers, truck manufacturers and community organizations.

The announcement was made via a blog post on the Exxon website.

Exxon, already one of the largest hydrogen companies in the world, has applied for funding from the US DOE hydrogen hubs program and is developing what it bills as the world’s largest low-carbon hydrogen plant in Baytown, Texas.

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PCC Hydrogen to build ethanol-to-hydrogen pilot

The Indiana plant will convert ethanol into high purity, negative carbon index green hydrogen using a patented reforming process coupled with carbon capture.

PCC Hydrogen Inc, a low carbon/negative carbon hydrogen production company based in Louisville, KY, is pleased to announce plans to construct a pilot hydrogen production plant in Cloverdale, IN, according to a news release.

PCC H2’s plant will showcase the efficient conversion of logistically friendly ethanol into high purity, negative carbon index green hydrogen using a patented reforming process coupled with the capture of the processes pure CO2 byproduct. By providing a readily available, negative carbon index hydrogen close to the point of need, the Company is enabling the decarbonization of the economy in a cost effective and commercially viable way.

The Company has engaged Plant Process Group (PPG), a leading Houston based design, engineering, fabrication, construction, and commissioning services company to support the project with plans to have the pilot plant operational by first quarter 2024. PPG has decades of experience designing and building facilities for the refining industry, chemicals manufacturers, and biofuels producers.

PCC H2 is also working closely with the Town of Cloverdale and Putnam County to support the establishment of the first negative carbon index hydrogen production facility of its kind in the world. The production facility expects to hire local personnel at competitive wages and benefits.

Tim Fogarty, PCC H2 CEO, stated “We are excited to work with the Town of Cloverdale and Putnam County to showcase our groundbreaking technology. The Cloverdale location is ideal for the construction and operation of our first production facility given existing local hydrogen demand and the potential for broad adoption of low cost, negative carbon index hydrogen to help decarbonize the local economy in a financially rational way.”

Hydrogen generated from the PCC H2 process can be used in myriad applications ranging from hydrogen combustion engines to fuel cells (fuel cell powered loaders, trucks, other rolling stock, and for fuel cells in non-grid connected BEV charging stations). Furthermore, PCC H2 is exploring the use of its hydrogen to lower the emissions profile of any heating/calcining process. Finally, the Company is leveraging the logistically friendly nature of ethanol to produce hydrogen at smaller, distributed facilities closer to the point of use, diminishing the adverse added expense of transporting liquid hydrogen over long distances.

Cloverdale Town Manager, Jason Hartman, added “Cloverdale is extremely pleased to support the construction of the first of its kind negative carbon index hydrogen production plant that will decarbonize local industry while offering competitively priced jobs to the local community.”

The PCC H2 core reformer at the pilot plant will be mounted on three skids and operate 24/7. The company expects to break ground at the site this Summer.

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Envusa Energy created by Anglo American and EDF

Anglo American and EDF Renewables have formed Envusa Energy to develop a regional renewable energy ecosystem in South Africa.

Anglo American and EDF Renewables have formed Envusa Energy to develop a regional renewable energy ecosystem (RREE) in South Africa, according to a news release.

The roll-out of the RREE will serve as an energy source for the production of green hydrogen for Anglo American’s nuGen Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS) – a planned fleet of hydrogen-powered ultra-class mine haul trucks to replace diesel, supporting the development of South Africa’s Hydrogen Valley.

In March the two companies signed a MOU to explore the ecosystem’s development. Envusa Energy is launching a  pipeline of more than 600 MW of wind and solar projects in South Africa – a major first step towards the development of an ecosystem that is projected to generate 3-to-5 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

This first phase of Envusa’s renewables projects is expected to be fully funded – including by attracting debt financing that is typical for high quality energy infrastructure projects – and ready for construction to begin in 2023.

Envusa is expected to supply Anglo American with a blend of renewable energy generated on Anglo American’s sites and renewable energy transmitted via the national grid. This energy portfolio approach will aggregate energy from geographically dispersed renewable generating assets and allocate this energy optimally to meet the load demand for Anglo American’s sites.

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Macquarie invests in Dutch SAF developer SkyNRG

By 2030 SkyNRG aims to build its dedicated SAF facilities in Europe and the US under offtake arrangements with strategic partners.

Macquarie Asset Management will support the growth of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with an initial investment of up to €175m in SkyNRG via the Macquarie GIG Energy Transition Solutions (MGETS) Fund.

The investment will support SkyNRG’s next phase of growth and help achieve its goal to become a major SAF producer.

BofA Securities Europe S.A. acted as sole private placement agent to SkyNRG. Clifford Chance LLP acted as legal advisor to SkyNRG. RBC Capital Markets acted as sole financial advisor and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP as legal counsel to Macquarie Asset Management.

Additional terms of the investment were not disclosed.

By 2030 SkyNRG aims to build its dedicated SAF facilities in Europe and the US, in cooperation with strategic offtake partners. To date, SkyNRG has secured partnerships with, amongst others, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Boeing with envisaged long term commitments of up to €4bn in SAF purchases.

SkyNRG has been at the forefront of the development of SAF since it was founded over 14 years ago by, amongst others, Theye Veen and Maarten Van Dijk. They initially focused on creating a market for SAF and supplied the world’s first commercial flight using SAF in 2011. Since then, SkyNRG has expanded and is active in R&D, advisory services and in selling SAF. Today, the company provides SAF to airlines and corporates around the world and is still one of the leading and most active participants on the SAF market.

The SAF industry is benefitting from significant tailwinds, including voluntary corporate offtake commitments aligned to net-zero targets and growing political and regulatory support. This includes the European blending mandate (ReFuelEU) that requires the use of SAF, and the Biden Administration’s SAF Grand Challenge and the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, which is encouraging the use of SAF via strong tax incentives. By 2050, SkyNRG estimates that such incentives will create demand for up to €650bn of investment in the sector and accelerate the aviation industry’s transition away from fossil jet fuels.

Philippe Lacamp, CEO of SkyNRG, commented: “It is critical that SAF production capacity is developed now to enable the aviation industry to meet its net-zero goals. We are very proud that Macquarie has made this strategic investment in our business and are confident that they, with the ongoing support of our existing shareholders, will provide us with the resources and expertise we need to accelerate our growth journey towards becoming a major player in the SAF industry.”

Mark Dooley, Global Head of MAM Green Investments, said: “We have a track record for backing businesses working at the forefront of the energy transition. This is an exciting milestone for us, as our first SAF investment. SkyNRG has been a pioneer in SAF, with an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong commercial focus. We look forward to collaborating with the SkyNRG team as they grow their business and advance solutions to decarbonize the aviation industry.”

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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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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

Quantron kicks off Series B equity raise

The German and American mobility provider is seeking to raise EUR 200m in a Series B equity raise, as the company plans to become a one-stop-shop for hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles, according to a teaser.

Quantron, the Germany and US-based hydrogen trucking manufacturer, is seeking to raise EUR 200m in a Series B capital raise, and has further plans to raise money in a Series C in 2024 or 2025, followed by an anticipated IPO beyond 2025.

The company plans to use proceeds from the Series B accelerate the roll-out of existing production and make additional market entries included expanding its operations in the US, according to a sale teaser seen by The Hydrogen Source. Stifel is leading the capital raise, as previously reported.

By advancing a full-scale zero-emission ecosystem, Quantron is seeking to take part in the sourcing and distribution of green energy and hydrogen, as well as building fuel cell and battery electric vehicles and components and offering customer solutions like aftersales, the teaser notes.

Quantron, which has offices in Augsburg, Germany and Detroit, Michigan, has brought in about EUR 28m in revenues since inception and expects EUR 60m in revenue this year, fueled by a EUR 100m order book and pipeline. The company has put 150 vehicles on the road to date and has 130 employees.

Its Series A capital raise of EUR 45m, completed in September, 2022, implied a EUR 250m pre-money valuation. The ongoing EUR 200m capital raise will come in the form of the Series B financing as well as working capital facilities.

The company recently announced commitments with FirstElement Fuel and Goldstone Technologies Limited. Quantron debuted its Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell truck in the US at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Anaheim, California in April.

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