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FuelCell Energy secures $20m debt financing for Naval Submarine Base

Lenders on the financing include Liberty Bank and Amalgamated Bank.

FuelCell Energy, Inc. has closed on a project debt financing transaction with Liberty Bank and Amalgamated Bank as senior lenders and the Connecticut Green Bank as subordinated lender for its Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) fuel cell microgrid-ready project at the Naval Submarine Base New London, located in Groton, Connecticut (Groton Project).

Liberty Bank and Amalgamated Bank’s senior commitment totals $12m with a seven-year term and Connecticut Green Bank’s commitment totals $8m with a 20-year term, according to a news release.

According to SEC filings, the portion of the loan provided by Liberty will accrue at 6.75%, while the piece from Amalgamated Lender will accrue interest at 6.07% during all times at which a “Carbon Offset Event” is not continuing and 7.32% at all times at which a “Carbon Offset Event” has occurred and is continuing.

Michael Bishop, EVP and CFO of FuelCell Energy, said, “We are thrilled to enter into this long-term financing solution with this banking group. With its recurring revenue and cash flow profile, this fuel cell project allows for the efficient and cost-effective financing of our Company. In addition, we believe this financing further highlights financial institutions’ confidence in the demonstrated long-term performance of our globally deployed power platforms. Lastly, the long-term nature of the loan commitments allows the Company to confidently redeploy that capital in support of our growth initiatives.”

“The Connecticut Green Bank is proud to be part of the Groton Project. This strategically important project and our continued partnership with FuelCell Energy, Amalgamated Bank, and Liberty Bank exemplify how the green bank model works to leverage public dollars to attract multiples of local- and national-level private investment into clean energy infrastructure,” said Bert Hunter, Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of the Connecticut Green Bank. “This also highlights the environmental, economic, and strategic value of distributed base load fuel cells, capable of operating as a microgrid, as a key to grid resilience, reliability, and energy security, especially for our nation’s military defense.”

“Liberty Bank is proud to support FuelCell Energy, Inc., a leader in the green energy industry, with project financing for the Groton Project to provide grid resilience for the local community and our nation’s military. Liberty Bank is committed to clean energy solutions partnering with The Connecticut Green Bank, who is a testament to the power of collective action in addressing the urgent challenge of providing sustainable energy sources to Connecticut,” said Daniel Longo, First Vice President of Liberty Bank.

William Peterson, SVP Senior Lending Officer & Director of Climate Lending of Amalgamated Bank, commented, “Our team’s significant experience in sustainable lending uniquely positioned Amalgamated to partner with Liberty Bank and the Connecticut Green Bank to underwrite FuelCell Energy’s project at the Naval Submarine Base as it further develops its power supply through sustainable energy. Sustainable lending is a critical and growing source of financing as the United States strives to achieve net-zero emissions across federal operations by 2050. Amalgamated’s team of recognized thought leaders and sustainable lending experts are excited by the opportunity to help combat climate change as we work to underwrite sustainable solutions and emerging technologies much like FuelCell Energy’s project with the U.S. Navy.”

Bishop concluded, “We believe that the commitment from these respected financial institutions demonstrate the financeability of the solutions FuelCell Energy is offering to customers like CMEEC, that are helping them achieve their decarbonization, resiliency and clean energy goals.”

Proceeds of this financing have been (i) redeployed to FuelCell Energy (ii) used to retire a $3m corporate credit facility with Connecticut Green Bank (iii) used to fund project reserves and (iv) pay transaction fees.

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Exclusive: Green hydrogen developer raising capital for flagship project

A Québécois green hydrogen developer has retained a financial advisor and is raising equity capital for a pipeline of smaller scale projects in Canada and the United States.

Charbone, a publicly traded green hydrogen developer based near Montreal, has retained a financial advisor and is seeking equity capital for a pipeline of smaller scale projects in Canada and the US.

The company is working with advisory firm US Capital Global to raise $5m in equity capital to support the first phase of its flagship green hydrogen project, the Sorel-Tracy plant, located about 45 minutes from Montreal, CFO Benoit Veilleux said in an interview.

The Sorel-Tracy project, which could expand to up to 10 tonnes per day of production, requires about $2m of capital in order to advance through phase 1, which would amount to a capacity of approximately 200 kg per day. The balance of the raise would support development of additional projects, including one in Michigan that will seek to provide green hydrogen for the automobile industry, Veilleux said.

Veilleux expects that the projects will eventually be back-levered through a debt raise, and that Canada’s export agencies, including Investissement Québec, will be involved in providing financing.

In total, Charbone plans to scale and deliver 16 green hydrogen production facilities in the US and Canada by 2030, each set up as a separate legal entity with its own strategic and financial backers. The company is also working with New York-based Maxim Group on additional project financing and equity raise aspects of its project pipeline.

Potential Charbone sites. Source: Charbone corporate presentation

Charbone believes the smaller scale of their projects give it a near-term advantage in getting projects off the ground, according to Veilleux, as they are finding offtakers interested in the product now, versus waiting several more years for larger projects to come online.

“We’re focusing on this niche and we have a window, we think of 10 to 15 years where there’s big players or big projects that will start to come into play,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a massive market that is increasing every day.”

Charbone is working with renewable energy construction firm EBC Inc. to lead project delivery, and has signed offtake contracts with Superior Plus, a North American gas marketer and distributor.

While Charbone has chosen its sites to be close to industrial demand, it chose to sign offtake agreements with a distributor to take advantage of Superior’s existing infrastructure and transportation capabilities.

The company plans to use PEM electrolyzers that can ramp up and down more quickly with intermittent power from renewables, and is in talks with several of the major PEM manufacturers.

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Exclusive: Texas ammonia developer raising project capital

A developer of large-scale green ammonia projects is in the process of raising $2.5bn in equity and debt for a project in Texas, while also seeking a development partner for 1 GW of co-located renewable generation.

Avina Clean Hydrogen, the multi-faceted developer of green hydrogen and ammonia projects, is raising some $2.5bn in debt and equity for its green ammonia project in Nueces County, Texas, CEO Vishal Shah said in an interview.

The firm, which is based out of Short Hills, New Jersey, has hired an investment bank, Shah said, declining to name the advisor. The raise is targeting a variety of strategic and financial investors with a roughly 60/40 split between equity and debt for the 800,000 mtpy green ammonia facility outside of Corpus Christi, known as Nueces Green Ammonia.

Avina is advancing four more projects, in addition to Nueces Green Ammonia, which is slated for FID in 2Q24, Shah said.

California compressed green hydrogen project is approaching COD in the second half of this year; Avina Northern Illinois will reach FID this year; and additional projects in SAF and methanol are in the works.

The company is also in talks with renewables developers to supply 1 GW of renewable generation co-located with Nueces Green Ammonia.

“We are trying to bring a lot of these first-of-a-kind large scale projects to fruition,” Shah said. “There are more opportunities down the line for additional capital.”

Nueces Green Ammonia, a subsidiary of Avina, has applied for a water permit with the Water and Control District Three of Nueces County in Texas, a local official told ReSource.

The permit, for 4.5 million gallons per day of potable water and 1 million gallons per day of raw water, was recently filed with the office in Robstown, Texas, the official said. The company has also acquired land to the north of Robstown, Texas.

Corpus Christi city council members voted last week to approve a seawater desalination plant – producing 30 million gallons per day – that will be a critical source of water for the growing clean fuels industry in the region.

Avina, via Nueces Green Ammonia, filed for a separate permit to construct the facility with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

ReSource reported in April, 2023 that the company was auditioning advisors for a capital raise.

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Hexagon Composites seeking CEO

The Norway-based provider of composite cylinder technology for the clean energy industry is seeking a new CEO.

Norway-based Hexagon Composites CEO Jon Erik Engeset will step down as group president and chief executive officer.

The company will shortly commence a search process. Engeset will continue as CEO until the position is filled, following which he will continue to support the company in an advisory role, the company said in a news release.

Hexagon Group is a global manufacturer of Type 4 composite cylinders used for storing gas under high-and low-pressure.

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exclusive

Mobility solutions provider to raise up to EUR 200m

Quantron, the German and US-based mobility solutions provider, is set to launch a capital raise that could entail the sale of up to 20% equity.

Quantron, the German and US-based mobility solutions provider, is set to launch a capital raise that could entail the sale of up to 20% equity, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The company is seeking between EUR 150m and EUR 200m in the process, the sources said, implying a valuation of up to EUR 1bn.

Quantron, which recently expanded into North America with the opening of an office in Detroit, will also consider debt as a part of the raise, one of the sources said.

At a ceremony at the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (DGIC) in Washington D.C. on 12 October, Quantron signed a deal to supply TMP Logistics with 500 Class 8 trucks. The trucks will be operated by Quantron’s as-a-service (QaaS) vertical; they are scheduled for delivery in 2024.

Quantron AG CEO Michael Perschke told ReSource at that event that the company is in discussions with US investors about the capital raise, which has not formally launched but is tentatively scheduled to wrap up in 2Q23. Quantron is also in pre-closure discussions with several US law firms.

A fourth source said Quantron has worked with Danish consulting firm Ramboll Group on past deals.

Perschke said his company has relationships with PwC and EY, the latter especially on IPO readiness.

Quantron in September closed on a EUR 50m Series A with NASDAQ-listed Ballard Power Systems and German machinery manufacturer Neuman & Esser as investors.

Looking forward the company would like to work with a US strategic or private equity interest committed to hydrogen.

Utilities or corporates investing in hydrogen production but still building out the offtake structure would be of interest to Quantron, Perschke said. He noted that private equity interest like Ardian’s HY24 and Beam Capital are also active in the space.

Quantron is in the final stages of a deal with an oil company that Perschke declined to name, but said the company has 2,000 fueling stations across Europe that they are considering for conversion to hydrogen.

Perschke said his company plans to build out its presence in California and then could look for expansion in the northeast, Gulf Coast or Canada. The company aims to be an early mover in US hydrogen-fueled long-haul trucking along with peer Nikola Motor.

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exclusive

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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Exclusive: Inside Strata’s P2X strategy

Strata Clean Energy is seeking to engage with global chemical, energy, and shipping companies as a potential partner for a pipeline of green hydrogen projects that will have FIDs in 2025 and CODs later this decade.

Strata Clean Energy is developing a pipeline of green hydrogen projects that will produce large amounts of green ammonia and other hydrogen derivatives later this decade.

Mike Grunow, executive vice president and general manager of Strata’s Power-to-X platform, said in an interview that the company is investing in the development of proprietary modeling and optimization software that forms part of its strategy to de-risk Power-to-X projects for compliance with strict 45V tax credit standards.

“We’re anticipating having the ability to produce substantial amounts of low-carbon ammonia in the back half of this decade from a maturing pipeline of projects that we’ve been developing, and we’re looking to collaborate with global chemical, energy, and shipping companies on the next steps for these projects,” he said.

Strata’s approach to potential strategic offtakers could also include the partner taking an equity stake in projects, “with the right partner,” Grunow said. The projects are expected to reach FID in 2025.

Grunow declined to comment on the specific size or regional focus of the projects.

“We aspire for the projects to be as large as possible,” he said. “All of the projects are in deep discussions with the regional transmission providers to determine the schedule at which more and more transmission capacity can be made available.”

Strata will apply its expertise in renewable energy to the green hydrogen industry, he said, which involves the deployment of unique combinations of renewable energy, energy storage, and energy trading to deliver structured products to large industrial clients, municipal utilities and regulated utilities.

The company “commits to providing 100% hourly matched renewable energy over a guaranteed set of hours over the course of an entire year for 10 – 20 years,” Grunow said.

“It’s our expectation that the European regulations and more of the global regulations, and the guidance from the US Treasury will require that the clean energy supply projects are additional, deliverable within the same ISO/RTO, and that, eventually, the load of the electrolyzer will need to follow the production of the generation,” he said.

Strata’s strategy for de-risking compliance with the Inflation Reduction Act’s 45V revenue stream for green hydrogen will give asset-level lenders certainty on the delivery of a project’s IRA incentives.

“Right now, if I’m looking at a project with an hourly matched 45V revenue stream, I have substantial doubt about that project’s ability to actually staple the hourly matched RECs to the amount of hydrogen produced in an hour, to the ton of hydrogen derivative,” he said.

During the design phase, developers evaluate multiple electrolyzer technologies, hourly matching of variable generation, price uncertainty and carbon intensity of the grid, plant availability and maintenance costs along with evolving 45V compliance requirements.

Meanwhile, during the operational phase, complex revenue streams need to be optimized. In certain markets with massive electrical loads, an operator has the opportunity to earn demand response and ancillary service revenues, Grunow said.

Optimal operations

“The key to maximizing the value of these assets is optimal operations,” he said, noting project optionality between buying and selling energy, making and storing hydrogen, and using hydrogen to make a derivative such as ammonia or methanol.

Using its software, Strata can make a complete digital twin of a proposed plant in the design phase, which accounts for the specifications of the commercially available electrolyzer families.

Strata analyzes an hourly energy supply schedule for every project it evaluates, across 8,760 hours a year and 20 years of expected operating life. It can then cue up that digital project twin – with everything known about the technology options, their ability to ramp and turn down, and the drivers of degradation – and analyze optimization for different electrolyzer operating formats. 

“It’s fascinating right now because the technology development cycle is happening in less than 12 months, so every year you need to check back in with all the vendors,” he said. “This software tool allows us to do that in a hyper-efficient way.”

A major hurdle the green hydrogen industry still needs to overcome, according to Grunow, is aligning the commercial aspects of electrolysis with its advances in technological innovation.

“The lender at the project level needs the technology vendor to take technology and operational risk for 10 years,” he said. “So you need a long-term service agreement, an availability guarantee, key performance metric guarantees on conversion efficiency,” he said, “and those guarantees must have liquidated damages for underperformance, and those liquidated damages must be backstopped by a limitation of liability and a domestic entity with substantial credit. Otherwise these projects won’t get financed.”

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