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Former Denbury executive targeting growth through CCS at industrial emitters

Tracy Evans, a former COO of Denbury Resources, has launched a business unit aimed at offering carbon capture and sequestration services for existing industrial emitters.

CapturePoint, a Texas-based carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery specialist, is seeking to grow by offering carbon capture services to existing industrial emitters.

The company, started with an initial focus on enhanced oil recovery operations using CO2, has launched a subsidiary called CapturePoint Solutions to capitalize on growing demand for carbon capture services at industrial plants, CEO Tracy Evans said in an interview.

Evans, a former chief operating officer of Denbury Resources, has years of experience operating CO2 capture units, pipelines, and oil wells. “The only difference between EOR utilization and sequestration is going to the saline aquifers,” he said of the pivot.

The company’s primary focus is on existing emissions, Evans said, emphasizing the immediate opportunity over proposed plants that might take many years to build. He added that the company would target “pure” sources of CO2 versus diluted sources.

Evans brought in a JV equity partner for the CCS business, but declined to name them. He said the company is sufficiently capitalized for now but might need to raise additional equity as it signs up new projects in the next 12 to 16 months.

Tax equity and CCS

CapturePoint recently completed a tax equity deal for a CCS facility that has been operational since 2013, thanks to changes to provisions governing the use of 45Q for carbon capture that allowed existing plants to qualify if they capture over 500,000 tons of CO2.

The deal, at CVR Partners’ Coffeyville fertilizer plant, opened up an initial payment of $18m and includes installment payments, payable quarterly until March 31, 2030, totaling up to approximately $22m.

An ethanol facility where CapturePoint operates will also qualify for 45Q benefits because 80% or more of the carbon capture unit is being rebuilt, Evans said. The company was able to finance the new construction at the ethanol facility from cash flow out of its oil & gas operations.

Going forward, new projects installed at existing emitters will follow a project finance model, with equity, debt, and 45Q investors, Evans said. The company will use a financial advisor when the time is right, the executive noted, but said there’s more work to be done on sizing and costs before an advisor is lined up.

“The capture costs are similar for each site,” he said. “The pipeline distances to a sequestration site is what drives significant variation in total capital costs.”

Evans believes that tax credit increases in the Inflation Reduction Act – from $35 per ton to $60 per ton for CO2 used in EOR, and $50 per ton to $85 for CO2 sequestration – should help the CCS market evolve and lead to additional deals.

“There wasn’t much in it for the emitter at $35 and $50, to be honest,” he said, “whereas at $60 and $85 there’s something in it for the emitter.”

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Nel exploring spin-off of fueling division

Nel is exploring spinning off its fueling division as a dividend-in-kind to all existing Nel ASA shareholders and applying for listing of the shares on the Oslo Stock Exchange this year.

Nel ASA (Nel) (OSE: NEL) has initiated a process to explore and prepare for a potential spin-off and separate listing of its Fueling division with the intention to create two independent pure-play companies aiming to become market leaders in their respective fields, according to a news release.

“We have seen limited synergies between the Fueling and Electrolyser divisions and believe each business will be better positioned to become market leaders in their respective fields by operating independently,” says Nel’s CEO, Håkon Volldal.

One year ago, when Nel presented its fourth quarter 2022 report, the company stated it was considering strategic actions for its Fueling division. Nel is now exploring spinning off the Fueling division as a dividend-in-kind to all existing Nel ASA shareholders and applying for listing of the shares in the separate fueling company on an OSE regulated market during 2024.

This will create two streamlined and focused companies that can pursue their individual strategic agendas. Nel will ensure that the independent fueling company will have a sufficient liquidity runway at the time of listing.

“The underlying market drivers for electrolysers and hydrogen fueling stations remain strong. We believe that two independent and focused companies represent the structure that maximizes the likelihood of success for each business and therefore long-term shareholder value,” Volldal says.

The decision to spin off and separately list the Fueling division has not yet been concluded and no assurances can currently be given that it will be completed. If completed, the shares of Nel (comprising its Electrolyser division) will remain listed on the OSE under the ticker “NEL”.

Carnegie AS has been engaged as financial advisor to assist Nel in this process, and Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma AS is acting as Nel’s legal counsel.

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Technology in focus: Avnos’ hybrid direct air capture uses water instead of heat

By using water captured from the atmosphere to regenerate its CO2-capturing sorbents, Avnos hopes to cut the operating costs of direct air capture plants and lower barriers to deployment.

One of the challenges of direct air capture (DAC), the new technology that promises to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the air all around us, is that it needs a lot of energy, and thus costs a lot of money. Currently, different types of DAC technologies require between 6 and 10 gigajoules per ton of carbon dioxide captured, according to the International Energy Agency.

The key to making a new DAC technology successful therefore is cutting energy needs and costs. Avnos, a Los Angeles-based carbon removal company, is trying to accomplish this by developing what it calls hybrid direct air capture (HDAC), backed by $36m in Series A funding closed in February, and over $80m in strategic and investment partnerships, announced in July

Avnos’ process is described as “hybrid” DAC because it captures both CO2 and water, as humidity, from the atmosphere at the same time. 

“In a generic DAC process, heat is critical to separating the captured CO2 from its ‘sponge,’ or sorbent, and regenerating that sorbent so that a plant may operate cyclically,” Avnos co-founder and CEO Will Kain said in an interview. “By contrast, Avnos uses a reaction enabled by the water it sources from the atmosphere to regenerate its sorbents. The impact of this use of water in the place of heat lowers the operating costs of an Avnos plant and lowers the barriers to deployment.” 

Less heat means less energy, which means companies using Avnos’ technology will have to compete less than regular DAC to access carbon-free energy sources and will have more flexibility in terms of where to put their facilities. 

“Unlike peer DAC companies who build and operate their hardware, our product is designed to be licensed and operated by any company committed to decarbonization and allows them to upgrade, modularly, as the tech advances over the long term,” Kain told ReSource

Avnos has an active pilot plant in Bakersfield, California, funded by the Department Of Energy and SoCal Gas. The plant began operating in November 2023, and it can capture 30 tons of CO2 and produce 150 tons of water annually. 

The company is also in the process of building a second pilot plant with the U.S. Office of Naval Research to pilot CO2 capture and e-fuels production – Avnos does not currently produce e-fuels, but sustainable aviation fuels producers could use its technology to source water and CO2, and it partners with sustainable aviation investors like JetBlue Ventures and Safran. 

Additionally, it is going to use money from its recently announced round of funding to open a research and development facility outside New York City, and it says it’s involved in four of the developing DAC hubs that were selected for funding awards by the DOE: the California Direct Air Capture Hub, the Western Regional DAC Hub, the Pelican-Gulf Coast Carbon Removal, and a fourth undisclosed one.

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Gevo hires chief sustainability officer

Gevo has hired Nancy N. Young from Alder Fuels as its chief sustainability officer.

Gevo, Inc. has hired Nancy N. Young as chief sustainability officer to lead the sustainability, environmental, and scientific affairs for the company.

Nancy is a highly experienced veteran of the aviation industry, with deep expertise in developing environmental and sustainability policy, and regulatory programs, as well as in commercial deployment of low carbon fuels and technologies. Her most recent position was as chief sustainability officer for Alder Fuels.

“As we build the infrastructure for delivery of low carbon fuels and chemicals, Gevo will continue to focus on assembling the best possible team of industry experts and resources to optimize our efforts,” said Dr. Paul Bloom, Gevo’s Chief Carbon and Innovation Officer. “Nancy’s experience in commercialization, combined with her policy expertise will play a key role for Gevo and our ongoing development of Verity Carbon Solutions.”

Nancy is an accomplished strategist in the fields of environmental and sustainability law and policy, with a wealth of expertise in areas such as climate change, aviation sustainability, and sustainable fuels, according to the news release.

Her  experience includes serving as a transportation sustainability advisor on the United Nations High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport and leading environmental advocacy efforts for Airlines for America, the principal trade and service organization of the U.S. airline industry. Notably, Nancy served on the Steering Group and as co-Lead of the Sustainability Team under the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative® for several years, playing a significant role in the development of the policies that underpin the sustainable aviation fuels market. She also played a key role in the development of an array of agreements, standards, and policies under the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization aimed at reducing the aviation industry’s environmental impact.

“I am thrilled to be joining Gevo at such a critical time in the aviation industry,” Young said. “The commercialization of sustainable technology must align with our collective goals and policy governance, and Gevo is at the forefront of this important work. I look forward to contributing to the company’s continued development and success.”

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Pharma and fuels tech provider could be ready for public listing

International biotechnology firm Insilico Medicine is applying the algorithms that produce novel drugs to synthesizing more sustainable petrochemical fuels and materials.

Insilico Medicine, a global biotechnology firm serving the pharmaceutical and carbon-based energy industries, could be ready for a public listing in the next phase of its corporate evolution.

Insilico, founded in Baltimore and now based in Hong Kong, has raised about $400m in private capital to date and is in the position of a company that would be exploring a public listing in the US and Hong Kong, CEO Alex Zhavoronkov said in an interview. He declined to say if he has hired a financial advisor to run such a process but said a similar company in his position would have.

The generative AI platform that the company uses to produce novel drugs can be applied to produce more sustainable carbon-based fuels, Zhavoronkov said. The objective is to maximize btu and minimize CO2, making the fuels burn longer and cleaner.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco is a user of the technology and participated in Insilico’s $95m Series D (oversubscribed and split between two sub-rounds) last year through its investment arm Prosperity7.

Petrochemistry is going to be needed well into the future, Zhavoronkov said. In addition to renewable energy and other ESG efforts, the efficiency of petrochemicals should be a top priority.

“If you burn certain petrochemicals in certain combinations, you can achieve a reasonably clean burn and an energy efficient burn,” he said. For specific tasks like space travel or Formula 1 racing, combined fuels produce the necessary torque, and generative chemistry can achieve those objectives in a more sustainable way. “I think that we can make the world significantly cleaner just by modifying petrochemical products.”

The technology can also be used to make organic matter in petrochemical products degrade more quickly, which is useful in the case of plastics, Zhavoronkov said.

The company’s AI is primarily based in Montreal and in the drug discovery business in China, but fuel research takes place in Abu Dhabi. Zhavoronkov said he has hired a lot of “AI refugees” from Russia and Ukraine to work at the latter location. The company has 40 employees in the UAE and will likely scale to 70.

Insilico is capitalized for the next two years or so, he said. That doesn’t account for revenue, which closed at just under $30m in 2022. The petrochemical and materials business is under the AI research arm of the business, which is covered by funds raised to date.

“Our board would probably not allow me to reinvent myself as an energy play,” Zhavoronkov said. But the board does not object to applying resources to petrochemical products.

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Exclusive: Pan-Atlantic developer planning e-methanol project in West Texas

A clean fuels developer with projects on both sides of the Atlantic is pursuing an e-methanol project in West Texas with an estimated cost of between $800m – $900m.

Green fuels developer ETFuels is planning an e-methanol project in West Texas.

Following the blueprint of projects in development in Finland and Spain, ETFuels has leased land and the Lone Star State is in the early stages of determining the feasibility of the project, which would require between 300 MW – 500 MW of renewables, Director Patrick Woodson said.

Depending on the ultimate size of the project, it would cost between $800m – $900m and produce 80,000 to 120,000 tons per year of e-methanol on site, he said, which would then be trucked to end markets.

“We like the modularity of projects of that size,” he said, noting “more optionality to bring projects to market.”

Woodson, the former CEO and Chairman of E.ON Climate & Renewables, a renewables developer, said ETFuels would develop the renewables portion of the project internally.

The company is still exploring likely target markets for the e-fuels, but Woodson noted that they perceive robust demand for green methanol from the shipping industry.

“We understand the decarbonization challenges faced by the shipping industry are significant, with question marks over pricing and supply availability at scale, and we are addressing these head-on,” ETFuels CEO Lara Naqushbandi said in a news release last year.

ETFuels attracted financial backing last year from France-based SWEN Capital Partners, with Green Giraffe providing financial advisory services.

For its Spain project, the company is developing a 100,000 ton green methanol plant, including 420 MW of solar PV and 120 MW of onshore wind capacity powering 220 MW of electrolyzers.

It expects to take a final investment decision on the Spain project by 2025, with production anticipated for 2028, according to the company website.

ETFuels as a third project in development in Finland, powered by “relentless” Arctic winds.

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Waste-to-hydrogen developer hires advisor for equity raise

A California developer of waste-to-hydrogen projects has mandated a boutique advisor to raise equity for early-stage project development and is planning a larger funding round in early 2024.

Clean Energy Enterprises, the holding company of awaste-to-hydrogen project developer based in Long beach, California, hasmandated a financial advisor to raise equity for early-stage development, CEO Jean-LouisKindler said in an interview.

Costigan Capital Partners, of Vancouver, Canada, has beenretained to raise an early round of $5m, Kindler said. That liquidity, split evenlybetween a demonstration project in California and operations, will last aboutone year.

Clean Energy is the holding company of WaysH2, which is thecompany developing the projects.

Next year Clean Energy will conduct a raise of equity anddebt between $30m and $50m, Kindler said.

Clean Energy, which is owned by five founding partners and earlyfriends-and-family backers, is also narrowing options for the first WaysH2 commercialproject in the US, Kindler said. The company has a client that will use hydrogenfor municipal transportation in the southwest.

The group has a relationship with Spanish EPC firm TechnicasReunidas and plans to pursue another demonstration project in either Spain or Portugal.

The technology play is waste-to-hydrogen at landfillprojects to serve end users in local mobility and waste processing energyrequirements.

He pointed to California’s SB 1383 regulations, which mandatesa reduction of organic waste disposal by 75% by 2025.

“It will be used locally,” Kindler said of the hydrogen. Thecompany is also in discussions with foreign ammonia producers. “We want to beclose to our clients.”

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