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Gas separations provider raises $11m seed round

An industrial separations technology company that purifies gases has raised an oversubscribed VC round in addition to funding from the DOE.

Osmoses, an industrial separations technology company that purifies gases, has raised an oversubscribed $11m seed round led by Energy Capital Ventures, according to a news release.

Additional participating investors include Engine Ventures, Fine Structure Ventures, New Climate Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Little Green Bamboo, BlindSpot Ventures and several prominent angel investors, including Martin Madaus, the former CEO of Millipore Corporation.

In addition to its venture capital funding, Osmoses recently received a $1.5m grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE), as well as additional grant support from ARPA-E and NSF, among other organizations.

Osmoses will use the funding to develop commercial scale membrane modules for field deployment and establish pilot partnerships.

“In the coming months, Osmoses will double its full-time employee headcount, increase its pilot programs with chemical and petrochemical companies, utilities, and alternative energy companies, and develop partnerships with engineering and manufacturing firms,” the release states.

Gas molecules like hydrogen, biomethane, and oxygen are essential ingredients for alternative, low-carbon energy production, the release states. Because these gases don’t naturally occur in a form pure enough for direct use, they must first be separated, but their size and volatility makes doing so energy-intense, and expensive.

Today’s industrial separation processes, including cryogenic processes, distillation, and solvent absorption, account for 15% of the world’s energy consumption, the release states. CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes accounted for 89% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.

“Membrane technology, which operates as molecular filters to separate gas molecules from one another, has the potential to reduce energy consumption, but widespread implementation remains limited due to product loss and high operating costs,” the release states. Osmoses has developed a patented novel membrane technology that purifies gas molecules with unprecedented flux and selectivity, meaning lower capital requirements and operating costs for customers, with a significantly smaller physical footprint than today’s traditional separation processes – all while reducing industrial energy consumption by up to 90%.”

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Plastics recycling tech provider strikes insurance partnership

New Energy Risk will provide technology performance insurance to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

New Energy Risk, a wholly owned division of Paragon Insurance Group, and Green Circle, a wholly-owned division of Lummus Technology, have forged a strategic partnership in which NER will serve as the preferred insurance supplier for Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology.

Upon completing a thorough due diligence process, NER is prepared to provide technology performance insurance solutions to plant owners and operators who license Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic recycling technology. Since 2013, NER’s performance insurance has enabled the financing of over $3bn for development of new and renewable clean energy technologies and other circular economy projects.

“NER provides an extremely valuable service to project owners looking to deploy early-stage technologies at scale through project finance,” said Greg Shumake, managing director of Green Circle. “They thoroughly evaluated our advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology and are confident in its commercial viability. And as a result, it will be easier for our clients to develop bankable projects to drive a more circular economy.”

The waste plastic pyrolysis technology uses a thermochemical process for turning end-of-life plastics into a high-quality product that can be used to reduce the carbon intensity in the production of both transportation fuels and circular plastics. Green Circle is working across the sector, from Fortune 500 companies to independent project developers, to deploy technologies that close the loop of the plastic product lifecycle.

“Green Circle’s advanced waste plastic pyrolysis technology has been developed with a level of expertise and discipline that is rare,” said Brad Price, managing director of Technical Due Diligence at New Energy Risk. “We are proud to help accelerate the adoption of this technology by providing assurance to owners and investors that this technology will perform.”

Green Circle concentrates and expands Lummus Technology’s capabilities to capture new opportunities in the energy transition and circular economy. Green Circle is a leader in providing economically and technically sound solutions to: process solid wastes containing plastics; process various renewable bio-based feedstocks to value-added chemicals, polymers and fuels; decarbonize refinery and petrochemicals assets; and expand production of blue hydrogen and biofuels.

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Data: Japanese Companies in North American Clean Fuels Projects

An updated look — following JERA Co.’s framework with ExxonMobil, announced last week — at the Japanese firms that are making investments and forging project partnerships as that island nation seeks a North American footing for low-carbon fuels.

Here is an updated view of the Japanese firms with involvement in North American clean fuels projects, following the announcement last week that JERA Co. established a framework to potentially offtake and invest in a low carbon hydrogen and ammonia project at Exxon’s Baytown Complex.

Japan is one of the largest importers of hydrogen worldwide, and it’s betting big on clean hydrogen for its decarbonization, planning to spend over $20 billion over the next 15 years to subsidize its production and supply chain.

In addition to investing to increase local capacity, Japanese firms are also focusing on importing clean fuels, with an eye on North America and the United States specifically, where project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers.

Many Japanese companies are actively participating in clean fuels projects across North America, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and biofuel projects.

Around 4% of all clean fuels projects in North America have one or more Japanese firms involved as co-developers, equity investors, or off-takers. The investments are mostly in the United States, and companies like Mitsubishi and Mitsui, which have a long history of US investments, are the most active.

Without committing to specific projects yet, developers like Sempra Infrastructure and 8 Rivers have signed MoUs with Japanese counterparts to promote the development of a clean energy supply chain, while others, like Intersect Power or Hydrogen Canada, are explicitly targeting Japan as an end market for their hydrogen products.

See a full list of North American projects with Japanese involvement.

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Rolls-Royce and easyJet test hydrogen jet engine

The UK ground test was conducted on an early concept demonstrator using green hydrogen created by wind and tidal power.

Rolls-Royce and easyJet today have successfully tested an aero engine on hydrogen, according to a press release.

The ground test was conducted on an early concept demonstrator using green hydrogen created by wind and tidal power.

The companies have ambition to carry out flight tests, the release states.

The test took place at an outdoor test facility at MoD Boscombe Down, UK, using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine. Green hydrogen for the tests was supplied by the European Marine Energy Centre, generated using renewable energy at their hydrogen production and tidal test facility on Eday in the Orkney Islands.

Following analysis of the ground test the partnership plans a series of rig tests leading up to a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine.

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Interview: Vinson & Elkins’ Alan Alexander on the emerging hydrogen project development landscape

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

In the meantime, a number of novel legal and commercial issues facing hydrogen project developers have come to the forefront, as outlined in a paper from the law firm this week, which serves as a guide for thinking through major development questions that can snag projects.

In an interview, Alexander, a Houston-based project development and finance lawyer, says that, although some of the issues are unique – like the potential for a clean fuels pricing premium, ownership of environmental attributes, or carbon leaking from a sequestration site – addressing them is built on decades of practice.

“The way I like to put it is, yes, there are new issues being addressed using traditional tools, but there’s not yet a consensus around what constitutes ‘market terms’ for a number of them, so we are having to figure that out as we go,” he says.

Green hydrogen projects, for example, are “quite possibly” the most complex project type he has seen, given that they sit at the nexus between renewable electricity and downstream fuels applications, subjecting them to the commercial and permitting issues inherent in both verticals.

But even given the challenges, Alexander believes the market has reached commercial take-off for certain types of projects.

“When the hydrogen rush started, first it was renewables developers who knew a lot about how to develop renewables but nothing about how to market and sell hydrogen,” he says. “Then you got the people who were very enthusiastic about developing hydrogen projects but didn’t know exactly what to do with it. And now we’re beginning to see end-use cases develop and actionable projects that are very exciting, in some cases where renewables developers and hydrogen developers have teamed up to focus on their core competencies.”

A pricing premium?

In the article, Vinson & Elkins lawyers note that commodities pricing indices are not yet distinguishing between low-carbon and traditional fuels, even though a clean fuel has more value due to its low-carbon attributes. The observation echoes the conclusion of a group of offtakers who viewed the prospect of paying a premium for clean fuels as unrealistic, as they would need to pass on the higher costs to customers.

Eventually, Alexander says, the offtake market should price in a premium for clean products, but that might depend in the near term on incentives for clean fuels demand, such as carbon offsets and levies, like the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.

“Ultimately what we need is for the market to say, ‘I will pay more for low-carbon products,’” he says. “The mindset of being willing to pay more for low-carbon products is going to need to begin to permeate into other sectors. 30 or 40 years ago the notion of paying a premium for an organic food didn’t exist. But today there are whole grocery store chains built around the idea. When the consumer is willing to pay a premium for low-carbon food, that will incentivize a farmer to pay a premium for low carbon fertilizer and ammonia, which will ultimately incentivize the payment of a premium for low-carbon hydrogen. The same needs to repeat itself across other sectors, such as fuels and anything made from steel.”

The law firm writes that US projects seeking to export to Europe or Asia need to take into account the greenhouse gas emissions and other requirements of the destination market when designing projects.

In the agreements that V&E is working on, for example, clients were first focused on structuring to make sure they met requirements for IRA tax credits and other domestic incentives, Alexander says. Meanwhile, as those clean fuels made their way to export markets, customers were coming back with a long list of requirements, “so what we’re seeing is this very interesting influx” of sustainability considerations into the hydrogen space, many of which are driven by requirements of the end-use market, such as the EU or Japan.

The more stringent requirements have existed for products like biofuels for some time, he adds, “but we’re beginning to see it in hydrogen and non-biogenic fuels.”

Sharing risk

Hydrogen projects are encountering other novel commercial and legal issues for which a “market” has not yet been developed, the law firm says, especially given the entry of a raft of new players and the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In the case of a blue hydrogen or ammonia project where carbon is captured and sequestered but eventually leaks from a geological formation, for example, no one knows what the risk truly is, and the market is waiting for an insurance product to provide protection, Alexander says. But until it does, project parties can implement a risk-sharing mechanism in the form of a cap on liabilities – a traditional project development tool.

“If you’re a sequestration party you say, ‘Yeah, I get it, there is a risk of recapture and you’re relying on me to make sure that it doesn’t happen. But if something catastrophic does happen and the government were to reclaim your tax credits, it would bankrupt me if I were to fully indemnify you. So I simply can’t take the full amount of that risk.’”

What ends up getting negotiated is a cap on the liability, Alexander says, or the limit up to which the sequestration party is willing to absorb the liability through an indemnity.

The market is also evolving to take into account project-on-project risk for hydrogen, where an electrolyzer facility depends on the availability of, for example, clean electricity from a newly built wind farm.

“For most of my career, having a project up and reaching commercial operations by a certain date is addressed through no-fault termination rights,” he says. “But given the number of players in the hydrogen space and the amount of dollars involved, you’re beginning to see delay liquidated damages – which are typically an EPC concept – creep into supply and offtake agreements.”

If a developer is building an electrolyzer facility, and the renewables partner doesn’t have the wind farm up and running on time, it’s not in the hydrogen developer’s interest to terminate through a no-fault clause, given that they would then have a stranded asset and need to start over with another renewable power provider. Instead, Alexander says, the renewables partner can offset the losses by paying liquidated damages.

Commercial watch list

In terms of interesting commercial models for hydrogen, Alexander says he is watching the onsite modular hydrogen development space as well as power-to-fuels (natural gas, diesel, SAF), ammonia and methanol, given the challenges of transporting hydrogen.

“If you’re going to produce hydrogen, you need to produce it close to the place where it’s going to be consumed, because transporting it is hard. Or you need to turn it into something else that we already know how to transport – natural gas, renewable diesel, naphtha, ammonia.”

Alexander believes power-to-fuels projects and developers that are focused on smaller, on-site modular low-carbon hydrogen production are some of the most interesting to watch right now. Emitters are starting to realize they can lower their overall carbon footprint, he says, with a relatively small amount of low-carbon fuels and inputs.

“The argument there is to not completely replace an industrial gas supplier but to displace a little bit of it.”

At the same time, the mobility market may take off with help from US government incentives for hydrogen production and the growing realization that EVs might not provide a silver-bullet solution for decarbonizing transport, Alexander adds. However, hydrogen project developers targeting the mobility market are still competing with the cost of diesel, the current “bogey” for the hydrogen heavy mobility space, Alexander says.

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Exclusive: E-fuels developer raising $500m

A developer of green hydrogen for e-fuel products is looking for a more diverse set of backers for a recently launched Series C capital raise.

Ineratec, the German power-to-liquid fuels developer and technology provider, has launched a $500m Series C and could take on a US-based financial advisor to help, CEO Tim Boeltken said in an interview.

German boutique Pava Partners helped Ineratec on its $129m Series B, which was led by Piva Capital. The Series B raise, which was announced in January, also included participation from HG Ventures, TDK Ventures, Copec WIND Ventures, RockCreek, Emerald, Samsung Ventures as well as the increased support from current investors, including global corporates like ENGIE New Ventures, Safran Corporate Ventures and Honda.

The Series C can include equity, debt and project finance, Boeltken said.

The company, which takes a modular approach to fuels production, serves customers in Switzerland, Spain and Finland. Its e-fuels process involves two main steps: first, turning CO2 and hydrogen into synthesis gas, then using a second reactor to turn the synthesis gas into liquid and solid hydrocarbons, according to its website.

Growth in the US would include eventual rollout of its 100 MW commercial unit, none of which have been built to date. Now the company is focused on its 10 MW commercial units, following completion of a 1 MW industrial plant operating now.

In the next month Ineratec will be scouting locations in the US, Boeltken said, adding the the company is “hoping for many, many US installations” with eyes on additional applications in South America and Japan. The company also intends to establish a US headquarters.

Sites in New York and California are of first interest but there are also growth intentions in Texas, Washington state and Appalachia.

Ineratec is currently raising project finance for a “triple-digit” million capex project in the Europe, he said.

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Ambient Fuels evaluating hydrogen project acquisitions

The company is well capitalized following a $250m equity investment from Generate Capital and is now opportunistically reviewing an initial slate of project M&A offerings.

Following an equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient Fuels has begun to evaluate potential acquisitions of hydrogen projects that are under development, CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview.

“We’ve seen our first project M&A opportunities come through in the last 10 days or so,” Susman said.

Three projects for sale involve land positions, he said. Those that appear most attractive have a clear line of site to offtake or a strong approach to renewable power supply. Two out of three are not on the Gulf Coast.

“In no instance are these brokered deals,” Susman said.

Following the $250m equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient is capitalized for several years and has no immediate plans to seek debt or tax equity, Susman said. The transaction was done without the help of a financial advisor.

Moving forward Ambient is open to JV formation with a partner that can help access offtake and renewable power, Susman said. Those points will drive future capital investment in the company and were resources that Generate brought to the table besides money.

According to ReSource‘s project tracker, Ambient is involved in at least two of the hubs that were encouraged by the DOE to submit a final application: California’s Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), and the Port of Corpus Christi Green Hydrogen Hub.

In 2021 Ambient completed a funding round led by SJF Ventures. Several other VC funds and angel investors also participated.

In January The Hydrogen Source reported that Ambient was in exclusivity with an equity provider.

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