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FirstElement receives grant to expand manufacturing capacity

A $7.7m grant from the California Energy Commission is meant to help increase the output of the Santa Ana components manufacturing facility tenfold.

FirstElement Fuel has received a $7.7m grant from the California Energy Commission to increase the Company’s Santa Ana, CA manufacturing facility output by more than 10 times, according to a news release.

The California-based company is currently operating the world’s largest network of hydrogen refueling stations comprised of 85 dispensers across 40 station locations and serving hydrogen-powered vehicles across California.

The facility in Santa Ana produces components and systems for hydrogen refueling stations, including liquid hydrogen cryopump systems. FistElement will also contribute at least $14m to the project.

The manufacturing expansion project will extend through March 2026. FistElement will also increase its pump testing capability at its hydrogen logistics hub and field-testing facility  in Livermore, California as part of the project.

Quantron US and FirstElement recently announced that Quantron will be one of the first to take advantage of FirstElement’s network of hydrogen stations designed for hydrogen fuel-cell electric trucks.

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Emissions reduction technology firm receives $10m strategic investment

A developer of technologies to reduce carbon and methane emissions in natural gas production and utilization has raised $10m from publicly listed RNG company Clean Energy Fuels. The company’s plasma technology produces hydrogen and graphene from natural gas, without any CO2 emissions.

Rimere, a climate solutions company with proprietary plasma technology, announced the closing of a $10m strategic investment from Clean Energy Fuels Corp, according to a news release.

The funding will accelerate development and field testing of Rimere’s two independent devices, the Reformer and the Mitigator, that reduce climate change emissions and enable the use of natural gas to accelerate the transition to a clean hydrogen future.

The Reformer uses proprietary sequential hybrid plasma technology to transform natural gas into clean hydrogen and high-quality graphene, without creating any CO2 emissions. When renewable natural gas (RNG) is used as the feedstock, hydrogen produced by Rimere’s Reformer can achieve a negative carbon-intensity rating, making it substantially lower-emission than even renewable electrolysis.

The Mitigator is a plasma thermal oxidizer that reduces the greenhouse gas (GHG) potency of fugitive methane emissions. It offers a low-cost solution for abating methane emissions that escape from the natural gas infrastructure, particularly compressors and pneumatic controllers located along natural gas pipelines.

“The world continues to consume more natural gas annually for everything from producing electricity to heating our homes. However, this globally abundant, low-carbon and affordable resource can also pose greenhouse gas emissions challenges from pipeline transmission, storage and other operations. Importantly, Rimere’s technology not only cleans up the infrastructure but also repositions and revalues natural gas reserves as a vital solution for climate change and our clean energy future by producing both zero-emission hydrogen and valuable graphene. This investment by Clean Energy enables us to accelerate development of these proprietary technologies that could have an immediate impact on the world’s effort to address climate change,” said Mitchell Pratt, CEO of Rimere.

Rimere’s patented and patent-pending technologies deconstruct methane (CH4) at a molecular level, first exciting it to an ionized state, and then high voltage and high frequency arcs are used to crack the ionized gas under an induced electromagnetic field. Rimere’s Reformer and Mitigator provide important solutions to change the long-term outlook for natural gas leveraging a cleaner extensive infrastructure to deliver clean hydrogen and graphene to end use customers.

“Clean Energy has always been striving to address environmental issues since it was founded over 26 years ago. First, it was to reduce harmful and unhealthy pollutants caused by large vehicles operating on diesel. More recently, we saw the opportunity of turning fugitive greenhouse gas emissions at agricultural facilities into an ultra-clean transportation fuel. It is a logical next step to make this investment in Rimere which is tackling the challenges facing the natural gas and hydrogen industries to produce cost-effective solutions without emissions,” said Andrew J. Littlefair, president and CEO of Clean Energy.

Rimere is currently an equity method investee of Clean Energy and has raised $18.25m of committed capital to date since its formation in 2020.

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Direct ocean capture firm Captura expands capital raise to $45m

Captura has added National Grid Partners and Japan Airlines Innovation Fund as investors.

Direct ocean capture firm Captura has further expanded its Series A funding round leading to a total of $45.3m.

This expanded round underscores Captura’s momentum in scaling up and commercializing its Direct Ocean Capture (DOC) technology, a high-potential climate solution that harnesses the ocean’s natural role in carbon absorption, the company said in a press release.

Captura added National Grid Partners and Japan Airlines Innovation Fund/Translink Capital as new investors in the round, alongside a number of the company’s existing investors.

This latest increase in funding follows two recent, previously announced raises in January 2024 and January 2023 highlighting the rapid progress of Captura’s commercialization strategy. With two fully operational pilot plants in California and an upcoming pilot plant to be installed in Norway in late 2024 in partnership with Equinor, its first commercial deployments are expected to remove tens of thousands of tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

Captura’s DOC technology offers an approach to carbon removal that extracts CO2 directly from the ocean, thereby enhancing the ocean’s natural ability to absorb atmospheric CO2.

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NextEra leads Series A round for DAC start-up

NextEra has led a $36m Series A funding round for a start-up that’s developing hybrid direct air capture technology.

Avnos, Inc. (Avnos), the Los Angeles-based company developing novel Hybrid Direct Air Capture (HDAC) technology for carbon dioxide removal, has closed $36 million in Series A funding, according to a news release.

Avnos will use the new funds to grow its world-class team, deploy additional HDAC assets across North America and Europe, and open a new, state-of-the-art research and development facility located just outside New York City.

NextEra Energy, one of America’s largest utilities and investors in clean energy infrastructure, led the round. Other investors include Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. The funding supplements Avnos’ previously announced capital raises and strategic commercial agreements with Shell Ventures, ConocoPhilips, JetBlue Ventures and the Grantham Foundation, as well as pilot projects with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Avnos has pioneered HDAC using proprietary materials and processes to capture both carbon dioxide and water simultaneously from the atmosphere, according to a news release. The process eliminates the need for external heat input and produces approximately 5 tons of water for every 1 ton of carbon dioxide captured. Avnos’ resource-intelligent technology means lower impact on and expanded employment opportunities for the communities surrounding HDAC facilities.

“At Avnos, we believe our novel HDAC technology is the world’s best shot at reaching the much-needed gigaton scale of carbon dioxide removal,” said Will Kain, CEO of Avnos. “We feel the urgency to roll out HDAC more broadly so as to deliver on the enormous, positive climate and economic opportunities in front of us. With this substantial funding, Avnos continues to expand its unparalleled roster of partners supporting our rapid acceleration.”

The new, multi-million-dollar research and development facility, equipped with best-in-class equipment and infrastructure, will enable Avnos to accelerate the pace of scaling the company’s HDAC technology while ensuring its systems continue to operate at peak performance. The 20,000 square foot facility will be fully operational in February 2024 and will employ an estimated 20 new employees.

“Our state-of-the-art lab underscores our mission to push the frontiers of innovation and deliver scalable and efficient carbon removal solutions,” said Ben McCool, Senior VP of Technology at Avnos. “As we expand our dynamic technical team, I’m proud to cultivate a collaborative environment that brings together top-notch talent, actively shaping and advancing the cutting-edge technologies driving Avnos towards impactful solutions.”

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exclusive

Illinois ethanol company seeking offtaker for SAF project

Seeking to diversify into new markets, Marquis, a family-owned ethanol producer based in Illinois, is looking for an offtaker for its first sustainable aviation fuel plant.

Marquis, a family-owned ethanol producer based in Illinois, is seeking an offtaker for its first sustainable aviation fuel plant.

The company, which is developing the plant in partnership with LanzaJet, an SAF firm, recently completed a feasibility study for the project, and is looking for airlines or users of renewable diesel as offtakers, Dr. Jennifer Aurandt Pilgrim, the company’s director of innovation, said in an interview.

Marquis owns and operates a 400 million gallon per year ethanol plant – the largest dry-grind ethanol plant in the world – which produces sustainable ethanol for fuel and chemicals as well as a feed for the aquaculture and poultry industries.

The company will divert roughly 200 million of those gallons to make 120 million gallons per year of SAF and renewable diesel, Aurandt said, noting that Marquis is looking to branch into new markets where ethanol is a feedstock.

“As more electric vehicles come on, there will be about a 3 billion gallon demand destruction for ethanol, and SAF is one of the great markets that we can diversify into,” she said.

Aurandt said financing for the SAF facility will ultimately depend on who the offtaker is.

Use cases

United Airlines, Tallgrass, and Green Plains Inc. recently formed a joint venture – Blue Blade Energy – to develop and then commercialize SAF technology that uses ethanol as its feedstock.

SAF using corn as a feedstock does not currently qualify for incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, which uses standards laid out by the International Civil Aviation Organization that effectively exclude corn-based SAF from qualifying.

Marquis and other ethanol producers are pushing for the adoption of a lifecycle greenhouse gas model, known as GREET, developed by the Argonne National Laboratory, that would allow corn-based feedstock to qualify, said Dustin Marquis, the company’s director of government relations.

The company is also looking to attract partners to set up operations in the Marquis Industrial Complex, which is touted as a 3,300-acre industrial site with natural gas lines, access to multiple forms of transportation, and carbon sequestration on-site.

“We’re looking for other businesses where there would be either vertical integration or business synergies between the two organizations,” Marquis said.

Marquis said in a news release it would develop two 600 ton per day blue hydrogen and blue ammonia facilities along with manufacturing for carbon neutral bio-based chemicals and plastics.

CO2 utilization

In its production process, Marquis makes 1.2 million tons of biogenic CO2 per year, and has applied for an EPA Class IV permit for sequestration.

“We like to say it’s direct air capture with the corn plant,” Aurandt said, adding that the CO2 is purified via fermentation to 99.9% pure, and will be injected into a formation that sits beneath the Marquis Industrial Complex.

The company is additionally developing a CO2 utilization project with LanzaTech, which would augment ethanol production using CO2 as a feedstock. The project was recently awarded an $8.54m grant from the US Department of Energy, the largest award in the category of corn ethanol emission reduction.

“We can increase the amount of ethanol that we produce here by 50%,” Aurandt said. “So we could make 200 million gallons of ethanol per year” from CO2, she added, noting that the pilot demonstration will be the largest CO2 utilization project in North America. It is expected to be operational in late 2024.

The SAF plant and the CO2 utilization project will use hydrogen for refining and as an energy source, respectively, Aurandt said.

Gas Liquid Engineering is the EPC for the CO2 unit, and Marquis will use compressors from Swedish multinational Atlas Copco.

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Exclusive: Hydrogen blank-check deal and capital raise on track

A de-SPAC deal and associated capital raise for a hydrogen technology and project development firm are still on track to close this year, despite this year’s busted SPAC deals and sagging hydrogen public market performance.

H2B2 Technologies is still on track to close a de-SPAC deal and related capital raise before the end of this year, CEO Pedro Pajares said in an interview.

Spain-based H2B2 announced the deal to be acquired by RMG Acquisition Corp. III and go public in a $750m SPAC deal in May. In tandem, Natixis Partners and BCW Securities are acting as co-private placement agents to H2B2 for a capital raise that the company must close as part of the acquisition.

The company said recently in filings that the deal as well as the capital raise would close before the end of 2023, a fact that Pajares reiterated in the interview. He declined to comment further.

Many publicly traded hydrogen companies have dropped significantly in value in recent months, and dropped further on Friday following news from Plug Power that it would need to raise additional capital in the next 12 months to avoid a liquidity crisis.

Meanwhile, there have been 55 busted SPAC deals this year, according to Bloomberg, with Ares Management’s deal for nuclear tech firm X-Energy the latest to not close.

Expansion

H2BE recently inaugurated SoHyCal, its first facility in Fresno, California, and wants to get the message out to offtakers in California’s Central Valley that it has hydrogen available to sell.

“What we want to show is that H2B2 is the solution for those who are seeking green hydrogen in the Central Valley,” Pajares said.

Phase 1 (one ton per day) of the plant was funded by a grant from the California Clean Energy Commission. Phase 2 (three tons per day) will involve transitioning to solar PV power, and the company could consider a project finance model to finance the expansion, though Pajares believes the market is not yet ready to finance hydrogen projects.

In addition to project development, the company is also an electrolyzer manufacturer. It is focusing its efforts in the California market on future projects that are larger than SoHyCal, as well as those related to individual offtakers, Pajares said. End users will be in mobility and fertilizer, with offtake occurring via long-term contracts as well as through spot market transactions.

The company is pursuing developments in other regions of the US as well, he added, declining to name specific areas.

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