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Green hydrogen developer raises $250m from Generate Capital

Green hydrogen developer Ambient Fuels completed the capital raise to support its pipeline of projects.

Generate Capital, a leading sustainable infrastructure investment and operating company, has made an investment in Ambient Fuels, a pioneering developer that builds green hydrogen projects to support the decarbonization of heavy industries and transportation, according to a news release.

The agreement includes a commitment to fund up to $250m of green hydrogen infrastructure. The funding supports Ambient Fuels’ fast-growing pipeline of projects.

CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview earlier this year with ReSource that the company was in exclusivity with an investor.

Susman declined to name the private equity provider but said the backing will allow Ambient to develop several projects, as well as acquire projects from other developers. The deal was proceeding without the help of a financial advisor, he said at the time.

Ambient Fuels offers custom-engineered green hydrogen solutions, overseeing every step of execution—from project development and design to financing and construction—of its renewable hydrogen centers. The company’s technology-agnostic approach works with any renewable energy source to support decarbonization at scale. With experience across both conventional and renewable energy as well as industrial and chemical processes, the Ambient Fuels team offers deep development and technical expertise.

“Joining forces with a global sustainability leader such as Generate gives us access not only to the capital we need to grow our business but also to a trusted and strategic partner who is committed to our long-term success,” said Jacob Susman, chief executive officer of Ambient Fuels. “Our collaboration with Generate Capital supercharges our ability to meet the unique needs of our customers by delivering the green hydrogen facilities they require for their decarbonization efforts.”

“For the last decade, Generate Capital has been partnering with leading project developers and technology companies to de-risk, accelerate and scale innovative, sustainable infrastructure,” said Scott Jacobs, co-founder and chief executive officer of Generate Capital. “We are excited to work with the team at Ambient Fuels to deliver effective and cost-competitive solutions to emission-intensive sectors that have traditionally been considered hard to decarbonize.”

“Since SJF Ventures led the seed financing for Ambient Fuels in late 2021, the firm has developed a strong pipeline of green hydrogen projects,” said Dave Kirkpatrick, co-founder and managing director of SJF. “Generate has been extremely successful at scaling critical, sustainable infrastructure so we are delighted to partner with them to get all these projects built.”

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Quantron AG established US HQ

Quantron AG, the German battery and hydrogen mobility solutions provider, has expanded into North America.

Quantron AG, the German battery and hydrogen mobility solutions provider, has expanded into North America, according to a news release.

Richard Haas, a veteran in the mobility industry based in Detroit, has joined as president and CEO for Quantron US. Haas was president and CEO of the automotive start-up Mahindra Automotive North America, launching a new assembly plant in the Detroit area. Before that, he was Director of Engineering for the Tesla Model S and a veteran at Ford Motor Company,

Based on its strategic partnership with the Canadian fuel cell expert Ballard Power Systems, Quantron aims to supply the hydrogen-based long-range vehicle segment in the U.S.

By 2025, the company aims to generate around 50% of its turnover in the North American market, with a strong focus on hydrogen solutions for long range transport such as Class 8 trucks.

In Europe, close to 100 vehicles converted by Quantron are in use.

“We see potential for the USA in the early years of a triple-digit volume annually,” Michael Perschke, CEO of Quantron AG, said in the release.

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Eversource to record $1.6bn impairment, nears sale of offshore wind stakes

Eversource Energy expects to record an impairment of up to $1.6bn in connection with its offshore wind holdings, and is nearing a deal to divest its ownership of the assets to a global infrastructure investor.

Eversource Energy expects to record a substantial impairment charge in the fourth quarter of 2023, primarily due to increased costs and uncertainties in its offshore wind projects. The company is also in advanced talks to divest its 50% ownership in three major offshore wind projects: South Fork Wind, Revolution Wind, and Sunrise Wind​​.

The anticipated impairment charge, in the range of $1.4 to $1.6bn, arises from revised project construction costs and supply chain constraints, particularly in installation vessels and foundation fabrication. These challenges have led to a significant decrease in the fair value of these projects, according to the company. Additionally, the denial of Sunrise Wind’s petition by the New York State Public Service Commission to amend its Offshore Renewable Energy Credit (OREC) contract has contributed to the impairment. This decision impacts Sunrise Wind’s involvement in New York’s renewable energy solicitation and necessitates renegotiation of the OREC agreement at a revised price, further contributing to the impairment expected to be in the range of $600m to $700m for Sunrise Wind alone​​.

Eversource is negotiating with a leading global private infrastructure investor to sell its stake in these projects. While the final terms are still under discussion, Eversource aims to promptly announce the details upon reaching a definitive agreement. This potential divestiture is subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions, including partnership agreements with Ørsted, Eversource’s joint venture partner​​.

Joe Nolan, Eversource’s Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, commented on the challenges faced by the offshore wind industry, noting significant supply chain disruptions and inflationary pressures.

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KBR awarded tech contract for Texas blue ammonia plant

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas.

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for Holland-based OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas, according to a news release.

Under the terms of the contract, KBR will supply the technology license, basic engineering design, proprietary equipment and catalyst for the 1.1 million ton per annum blue ammonia plant. Targeting completion by 2025, the project will be designed to transition from blue to green ammonia production as green hydrogen becomes available at larger scale in the future.

KBR, based in Houston, has licensed and designed 252 grassroots ammonia plants since 1944. Around half of global licensed ammonia capacity uses KBR-designed plants.

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Analysis: Premium for clean hydrogen unlikely

A group of hydrogen offtakers say they have every intention of decarbonizing their fuel intake, but barring the implementation of a carbon-pricing mechanism, paying a premium for it is unrealistic.

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act ignited investor interest in the global market for clean hydrogen and derivatives like ammonia and methanol, but offtake demand would be better characterized as a flicker.

And while many questions about the nascent market for green hydrogen remain unanswered, one thing is clear: offtakers seem uninterested in paying a “green premium” for clean fuels.

That doesn’t mean offtakers aren’t interested in using clean fuels – quite the opposite. As many large industrial players worldwide consider decarbonization strategies, hydrogen and its derivatives must play a significant role.

Carbon pricing tools such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism in Europe could introduce a structural pricing premium for clean products. And industry participants have called for carbon levies to boost clean fuels, most recently Trafigura, which released a white paper today advocating for a carbon tax on fossil-based shipping fuels.

But the business case for clean fuels by itself presents an element of sales risk for potential offtakers, who would have to try to pass on higher costs to customers. Even so, there is an opportunity for offtakers to make additional sales and gain market share using decarbonization as a competitive advantage while seeking to share costs and risks along the value chain.

“It’s a very difficult sell internally to say we’re going to stop using natural gas and pay more for a different fuel,” said Jared Elvin, renewable energy lead at consumer goods company Kimberly-Clark. “That is a pickle.”

Needing clean fuels to reach net zero

Heavy-duty and long-haul transportation is viewed as a clear use case for clean fuels, but customers for those fuels are highly sensitive to price.

“We’re very demand focused, very customer focused,” said Ashish Bhakta, zero emission business development manager at Trillium, a company that owns the Love’s Travel Shop brand gas stations. “That leads us to be fuel-agnostic.”

Trillium is essentially an EPC for fueling stations with an O&M staff for maintenance, Bhakta said.

As many customers consider their own transitions to zero-emissions, they are thinking through EV as well as hydrogen, he said. Hydrogen is considered better for range, fueling speed and net-payload for mobility, all of which bodes well for the clean fuels industry.

One sticking point is price, he said. Shippers are highly sensitive to changes in fuel cost – and asking them to pay a premium doesn’t go far.

Alessandra Klockner, manager of decarbonization and energy solutions manager at Brazilian mining giant Vale, said her employer is seeking partnerships with manufacturers, particularly in steel, to decarbonize its component chain.

In May Vale and French direct reduced iron (DRI) producer GravitHy signed an MoU to jointly evaluate the construction of a DRI production plant using hydrogen as a feedstock in Fos-sur-Mer, France. The company also has steel decarbonization agreements in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.

In the near term, 60% of Vale’s carbon reductions will come from prioritizing natural gas, Klockner said. But to reach net zero, the company will need clean hydrogen.

“There’s not many options for this route, to reach net zero,” she said. “Clean hydrogen is pretty much the only solution that we see.”

Elvin, of Kimberly-Clark, noted that his company is developing its own three green hydrogen projects in the UK, meant to supply for local use at the source.

“We’re currently design-building our third hydrogen fueling facility for public transit,” he said. “We’re basically growing and learning and getting ready for this transition.”

The difficulty of a “green premium

The question of affordability persists in the clean fuels space.

“There are still significant cost barriers,” said Cihang Yuan, a senior program officer for the World Wildlife Fund, an NGO that has taken an active role in promoting clean fuels. “We need more demand-side support to really overcome that barrier and help users to switch to green hydrogen.”

Certain markets will have to act as incubators for the sector, and cross-collaboration from production to offtake can help bring prices down, according to Elvin. Upstream developers should try to collaborate early on with downstream users to “get the best bang for your buck” upstream, as has been happening thus far, he added.

Risk is prevalently implied in the space and must be shared equitably between developers, producers and offtakers, he said.

“We’ve all got to hold hands and move forward in this, because if one party is not willing to budge on any risk and not able to look at the mitigation options then they will fail,” he said. “We all have to share some sort of risk in these negotiations.”

The mining and steel industries have been discussing the concept of a green premium, Klockner said. Green premiums have actually been applied in some instances, but in very niche markets and small volumes.

“Who is going to absorb these extra costs?” she said. “Because we know that to decarbonize, we are going to have an extra cost.”

The final clients are not going to accept a green premium, she said. To overcome this, Vale plans to work alongside developers to move past the traditional buyer-and-seller model and into a co-investment strategy.

“We know those developers have a lot of challenges,” she said. “I think we need to exchange those challenges and build the business case together. That’s the only way that I see for us to overcome this cost issue.”

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EnCap’s Shawn Cumberland on the fund’s approach to clean fuels

Cumberland, a managing partner with EnCap Energy Transition, discusses how the clean fuels sector compares to the emergence of other new energy technologies, and outlines the firm’s wait-and-see approach to investment in hydrogen and other clean fuels.

EnCap Energy Transition, the energy transition-focused arm of EnCap Investments, is evaluating scores of opportunities in the hydrogen and clean fuels space but doesn’t feel the need to be an early mover if the risk economics don’t work, Managing Partner Shawn Cumberland said in an interview.

Houston-based EnCap prefers to invest in early stages and grow companies deploying proven technologies to the point that they’re ready to be passed onto another investor with much deeper pockets. There are hundreds of early-stage clean fuels companies looking for growth equity in the space, he said, but the firm believes it’s not necessary to deploy before the technology or market is ready.

Given the fund’s strategy of investing in the growth-equity stage, EnCap gains exposure to a niche set of businesses that are not yet subjected to the broader financial markets.

For example, when EnCap stood up Energy Transition Fund I, a $1.2bn growth capital vehicle, the manager piled heavily into storage, dedicating some $600m, more than half of the fund, to the sector.

“That was at a time when all we saw were some people putting some really dinky 10 MW and 20 MW projects online,” he said. “We absolutely wanted to be a first and fast mover and saw a compelling opportunity.”

The reasons for that were two converging macro factors. One was that the battery costs had come down 90% because of EV development. Meanwhile, the demand for batteries required storage to be built out rapidly at scale. So, that inflection point – in addition to the apparent dearth of investor interest in the space at the time – called for early action.

“We were sanctioning the build of these things with no IRA,” Cumberland said.

‘If it works’

To be sure, EnCap is not a technology venture capital firm and waits for technologies to be proven.

As such, the clean fuels sector could end up being a longer play for EnCap, Cumberland noted, but the fund continues to weigh whether there will be a penalty for waiting. In the meantime, regulatory issues like IRS guidance on “additionality” for green hydrogen and the impact of the EU’s rules for renewable fuels of non-biological origin should get resolved.

Still, market timing plays a role, and the EnCap portfolio includes a 2021 investment into Arbor Renewable Gas, which develops and owns facilities that convert woody biomass into low-carbon renewable gasoline and green hydrogen.

Cumberland also pointed to EnCap’s investment in wind developer Triple Oak Power, which is currently for sale via Marathon Capital. That investment was made when many industry players were moving toward solar and dropping attention to wind.

Now, clean fuels are trading at a premium because of investor interest and generous government incentives for the sector, he noted.

“Hydrogen, if it works, may be more like solar,” Cumberland said, describing the hockey-stick growth trajectory of the solar industry over 15 years. If the industry is cost-competitive without subsidies, there will be a flood of project development that requires massive funding and talented management teams

“We won’t be late to the party,” he said.

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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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