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Fortescue hires from Riverstone for investment arm

Fortescue is looking to bring in equity investors for its projects as part of the formation of a New York-based investment arm.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd has formed Fortescue Capital, headquartered in New York City, and named Robert Tichio as CEO and managing partner. 

Fortescue Capital is a new green energy investment accelerator platform, and an integral next step in Fortescue’s commitment to deliver green energy projects and decarbonization investments, according to a news release.

Fortescue Energy CEO, Mark Hutchinson, said “Fortescue is taking its global pipeline of green hydrogen and green ammonia projects to Final Investment Decision, and in doing so has communicated our intention and desire to bring additional equity investors onboard. Further, Fortescue has previously communicated its planned investment to decarbonize its Pilbara operations, and we see Fortescue Capital as an essential tool of engagement as we embark on both missions.” 

Before joining Fortescue, Tichio spent over 17 years at Riverstone Holdings, a New York based private equity firm, that has seen total capital raised across a variety of private equity and related products exceed $42bn. 

Tichio will be joined by a senior leadership team with a global background across sustainable infrastructure, climate technology, energy and private markets, which includes Nathan Craig, Rael McNally and Jennifer Zarrilli. 

Each will serve as Managing Directors and be based in New York. 

Tichio reports to Mark Hutchinson, CEO of Fortescue Energy, and the Operating Board of Fortescue Capital, which will initially include Robert Tichio, Jean Baderschneider, Mark Hutchinson and Mark Barnaba. Fortescue Capital is being developed as a fiduciary for third-party capital, which will complement the Energy and Metals internal corporate finance teams that already exist and work collaboratively to serve the shareholders of Fortescue. 

Funding models will differ on a project-by-project basis as projects are formally approved by the Fortescue Board. The Company expects to hold equity stakes between 25 per cent and 50 per cent in each project, with third-party investors. 

These potential capital partners include sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, endowments, insurance companies and ultra-high net worth family offices.

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Nel sells shares of Danish firm Everfuel

Nel has sold its shareholdings of Danish green hydrogen spin-off firm Everfuel to Japanese partners Itochu Corporation and Osaka Gas.

Nel ASA has agreed to sell all its shares in Danish green hydrogen producer Everfuel.

A total of 11,698,918 shares are sold for a total consideration of NOK 116.6m ($10.6m), equal to NOK 9.97 per share, according to a release from Nel.

HyVC ApS, a company owned by Japanese corporations Itochu Corporation and Osaka gas, is the block buyer of the shares.

Everfuel said the Japanese partners will support future equity financing rounds and invest in one or more of its private placements in the next 36 months with up to EUR 20m, with an initial contribution being the commissioning of Everfuel’s HySynergy phase 1 project.

“Nel is in a build-up phase streamlining the company and focusing all resources on our own growth. We are therefore divesting non-strategic financial positions. With this sale we no longer own any equity listed instruments,” said Kjell Christian Bjørnsen, CFO of Nel.

Everfuel was spun out of Nel in 2020 and has since then been a key client for both Nel’s Electrolyser and Fueling departments, Nel said in the release.

“With this transaction, Everfuel will get a solid, long-term industrial cornerstone investor. Nel has been with Everfuel from the beginning, and while we are no longer shareholders, we look forward to a close relationship with the company,” said Bjørnsen.

Closing of the transaction is contingent upon regulatory approvals.

Carnegie acted as financial advisor to Nel in connection with the transaction.

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Power plant manager seeking capital for Boston acquisitions

A manager of natural gas power plants is seeking capital to acquire two facilities in the Boston area and convert them into low-carbon generation assets.

US Grid Company, an owner and operator of electric generation assets in US cities, is seeking to raise capital to make a pair of acquisitions in Boston.

The New York-based plant manager is targeting facilities owned by Calpine and Constellation, CEO Jacob Worenklein said.

Calpine owns the Fore River Energy Center, a 731 MW, combined-cycle plant located 12 miles southeast of Boston, while Constellation owns Mystic Generating Station, a 1,413 MW natural gas-fired plant in Everett, Massachusetts.

Worenklein would acquire the assets and seek to implement lower-carbon generation solutions such as batteries, renewables, or clean fuels, he said.

He has held conversations with both Calpine and Constellation about acquiring the assets, and would need approximately $100m of equity capital to make an acquisition, he said, with the balance coming in the form of debt capital.

US Grid Company previously had investment backing from EnCap Energy Transition and Yorktown Partners, but the funds for the deal were pulled.

Worenklein has had a storied career in the US power sector, serving as a global head in roles at SocGen and Lehman Brothers. He was also founder and head of the power and projects law practice at Milbank.

From 2017 to 2020 he served as chairman of Ravenswood Power Holdings, the owner and operator of a 2,000 MW gas-fired plant in Queens, New York.

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NovoHydrogen hires director of project development

The new director will be joining a team mandated to develop and deliver renewable hydrogen solutions to large-scale industrial, transportation, and power sector customers.

NovoHydrogen, a renewable hydrogen developer based in Colorado, has hired Jason Harris as director of project development, according to a post on LinkedIn.

Harris previously worked as a director of market strategy at AES Clean Energy and before that held positions at sPower and NextEra Energy Resources.

He will be joining a team mandated to develop and deliver renewable hydrogen solutions to large-scale industrial, transportation, and power sector customers, his post reads.

NovoHydrogen and TigerGenCo in November said they would advance development of green hydrogen capacity to reduce reliance on natural gas at the Bayonne Energy Center located in New Jersey. NovoHydrogen will develop and operate the hydrogen production facility to reduce Bayonne’s carbon emissions.

The company is also a partner in the Aliance for Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) for the California DOE Hydrogen Hub submission.

Harris did not respond to a request for comment.

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Exclusive: National RNG developer in equity sale process

A large US developer and operator of renewable natural gas projects has tapped an advisor and is in the early stages of a sale process.

DTE Vantage, a developer of renewable energy projects with a national footprint in the US, is in the first round of a process to sell its RNG business, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Lazard is running the process, the sources said. First round bids were recently received.

The company’s RNG portfolio includes 13 projects, four of which are landfill-to-gas while the remainder are on dairy farms, with more under construction, according to company materials. One of the largest RNG producers in the Midwest, the company also has projects in North Carolina, California, New York, and Wisconsin.

Of note, the Riverview Energy landfill gas asset in Riverview, Michigan produces 8.6 mmcfd of pipeline natural gas and includes 6.6 MW of solar. Pinnacle Gas in Moraine, Ohio, produces 4.5 mmcfd, while Seabreeze Energy in Angleton, Texas produces 5.8 mmcfd.

DTE Vantage is a non-utility subsidiary of DTE Energy. Founded in the 1990s, it has about 600 employees and operates 64 projects in 16 US states, with one asset in Canada. The company serves industrial, agricultural, and institutional clients across three core groups: Renewable Energy, Custom Energy Solutions, and Emerging Ventures.

DTE declined to comment. Lazard did not respond to a request for comment.

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Of CfDs and RFNBOs: Untangling the global hydrogen policy web

US ammonia and hydrogen project developers are increasingly looking to Japan and South Korea as target markets under the belief that new rules for clean hydrogen and its derivatives in Europe are too onerous.

Much fuss has been made about the importance of pending guidance for the clean hydrogen industry from US regulators. Zoom out further and major demand centers like the European Union, Japan, and South Korea have similarly under-articulated or novel subsidy regimes, leaving US clean fuels project developers in a dizzying global tangle of red tape. 

But in the emerging global market for hydrogen and ammonia offtake, several themes are turning up. One is that US project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers, turning away from Europe following the implementation of rules that are viewed as too onerous for green hydrogen producers.

The other is that beneath the regulatory tangle lies a deep market, helping to answer one of the crucial outstanding questions that has been dogging the nascent ammonia and hydrogen industry: where is the offtake? 

Many projects are proceeding towards definitive offtake agreements and final investment decisions despite the risks embedded in potential changes in policy, according to multiple project finance lawyers. In most cases, reaching final agreements for offtake would not be prudent given the raft of un-issued guidance in these major markets, said the lawyers, who acknowledge a robust offtake market but may advise their clients against signing final contracts.

The European Union rules for green hydrogen and its derivatives became law in June, and included several provisions that are proving challenging for developers and their lawyers to structure around: prohibiting state-subsidized electricity in the production of green hydrogen, and the requirement that power for green hydrogen be purchased directly from a renewable energy supplier. 

Taken together, the policy developments have pushed many US project developers away from Europe and toward Japan and South Korea, where demand for low-carbon fuels is robust and regulations are viewed as less burdensome, if still undefined, experts say.

Developers are carefully choosing jurisdictions for their target offtake markets, “limiting their focus to North Asian rather than European buyers, with the expectation that certain standards and regulations will be less strict, at least in the near term,” said Allen & Overy Partners Hitomi Komachi and Henry Sohn, who are based in Japan and Korea, respectively.

Trade association Hydrogen Europe lambasted the new European rules last year while they were still in formation, saying they would cause a “mass exodus” of the continent’s green hydrogen industry to the US.

Make or break

US policymakers delivered a shock blow with last year’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act – but its full benefits have yet to flow into the clean fuels sector due to outstanding guidance on additionality, regionality, and matching requirements. 

At the same time, the 45V tax credit for clean hydrogen has been called potentially the most complex tax credit the US market has ever seen, requiring a multi-layered analysis to ensure compliance. The US policy uncertainty is coated on top of an already-complex development landscape facing developers of first-of-kind hydrogen and ammonia projects using electrolyzer or carbon capture technologies. 

“Even though folks are moving forward with projects, the lack of guidance impacts parties’ willingness to sign definitive documents, because depending on the guidance, for some projects, it could break the economics,” said Marcia Hook, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington DC.

Now, US developers seeking access to international markets are contending with potential misalignment of local and international rules, with Europe’s recently enacted guidelines serving as a major example of poorly arrayed schemes. 

Some US developers have already decided it may be challenging to meet the EU’s more rigorous standards, according Hook, who added that, beyond the perceived regulatory flexibility, developers appear to be garnering more offtake interest from potential buyers in Asia.

Projects that depend on outstanding guidance in Asia are also moving ahead, a fact that, according to Alan Alexander, a Houston-based partner at Vinson & Elkins, “represents a little bit of the optimism and excitement around low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia,” particularly in Japan and Korea.

“Projects are going forward but with conditions that these schemes get worked out in a way that’s bankable for the project,” he added. “It’s not optimal, but you can build it in,” he said, referencing a Korean contract where conditions precedent require that a national clean hydrogen portfolio standard gets published and the offtaker is successful in one of the  Korean power auctions.

RED III tape

Unlike the US, the EU has focused on using regulation to create demand for hydrogen and derivative products through setting mandatory RFNBO quotas for the land transport, industry, shipping and aviation sectors, according to Frederick Lazell, a London-based lawyer at King & Spalding.

Lazell called the EU rules “the most fully-developed and broad market-creation interventions that policymakers have imposed anywhere in the world.” As a result, being able to sell RFNBO into Europe to meet these quotas is expected to fetch the highest prices – and therefore potentially the highest premiums to suppliers, he said.

The European guidelines enacted in June introduced several provisions that will make it challenging for US developers to structure projects that meet the EU’s classification for renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs).

For one, the European Commission issued guidance that prohibits subsidies for renewable energy generation when it is transmitted via a power purchase agreement through the electrical grid to make RFNBO.

This provision potentially eliminates all green hydrogen-based projects in the US from qualifying as an RFNBO, a managing partner at a US-based investment firm said, given that green hydrogen projects will likely be tied to renewables that are earning tax credits.

“The EC’s decision to include this restriction on State aid makes the EU’s version of additionality more onerous than even the strictest requirements being considered in the US,” lawyers from King & Spalding wrote in a September note, adding that some people in the industry argue that the decision is inexplicable under the RED II framework that authorized the European Commission to define additionality. 

A second challenge of the EU regulations is the mandate that PPAs be contracted between the RFNBO producer and the renewable energy source. Such a requirement is impossible for electricity markets where state entities are mandated to purchase and supply power, a structure that is common in multiple jurisdictions. Moreover, the requirement would remove the possibility of using a utility or other intermediary to deliver power for green hydrogen production.

“These technical issues may be serious enough for some in the industry to consider challenges before the Court of Justice of the European Union,” the King & Spalding lawyers wrote. “However, it is not yet clear whether there is the appetite or ability to turn such suggestions into a formal claim.”

Go East

Although the subsidy regimes in Japan and South Korea are expected to be less stringent in comparison to the EU, the programs are still not completely defined, which leaves some uncertainty in dealmaking as projects move forward.

The traditional energy sector has always dealt with change-in-law risk, but the risk is heightened now since regulations can change more rapidly and, in some cases, impact ongoing negotiations, said Komachi and Sohn, of Allen & Overy, in a joint email response. 

“Certain regulations coming into force may be contingent or related to the funding plan of the project,” they said. As such, clean fuels offtake frameworks need to facilitate not only the tracking and counting of emissions, they added, but also leave sufficient flexibility as regulatory frameworks evolve.

Japan, through its Hydrogen Basic Strategy, set out targets to increase the supply of hydrogen and ammonia in the country while reducing costs, deploying Japanese electrolysis equipment, and increasing investment into its supply chain. Additionally, Japan is contemplating a contracts-for-difference-style regime to support the gap between the price of clean hydrogen or ammonia and corresponding fossil fuels for 15 years.

Still, standards for “clean hydrogen” have not been clarified, though most observers believe the country will follow a carbon emissions lifecycle analysis in line with IPHE criteria, which is proposed at 3.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen. Similarly, rules around “stacking” subsidies in Japan with other jurisdictions such as the Inflation Reduction Act have not been defined.

Meanwhile, Korea is considering carbon emissions standards of up to 4 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of hydrogen. It is pushing for greater use of hydrogen in part through its Amended Hydrogen Act, requiring electric utilities to buy electricity made from hydrogen in a bidding round starting in 2024. The requirement scales up from 1,300 GWh of general hydrogen in 2025 to 5,200 GWh for general hydrogen and 9,5000 GWh for clean hydrogen in 2028.

Both countries are working to incentivize the entire supply chain for hydrogen and ammonia to ensure the separate pieces of infrastructure will be available on investable and bankable terms, with the aim of creating a demand center when the export centers are developed, Komachi and Sohn added.

They also point out that the emerging clean fuels offtake market will operate in the near term in a more spotty fashion in comparison with the more liquid markets for oil and gas.

“Hydrocarbon markets have gradually moved towards portfolio players, trading and optimization,” said Goran Galic, an Australia-based partner at Allen & Overy. “Smaller market size, technological and regulatory considerations mean that clean fuels, at least initially, require more of a point-to-point approach and so building long-term working relationships between the developers and offtakers is a key aspect of offtake strategy.”

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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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