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Hydra Energy raising equity and debt capital for hydrogen refueling infrastructure

The hydrogen-as-a-service provider for commercial trucking fleets is pursuing an equity raise that will unlock a debt facility for scaling up hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Western Canada.

Hydra Energy, a hydrogen-as-a-service provider for commercial trucking fleets, is in the midst of a CAD 14m equity capital raise.

The Vancouver-based company is pursuing the equity raise in support of its Prince George hydrogen fueling station, which is set to be operational in 2024 and would be the largest in the world, Hydra CEO Jessica Verhagan.

The equity portion of the financing is needed to unlock an additional CAD 150m debt facility to complete initial scale-up of the company’s planned hydrogen corridor along Highway 16 in Western Canada, Verhagan added.

Verhagan said the company is not working with a financial advisor on the capital raise but could issue RFPs for advisory services in the future. She declined to name the provider of the proposed debt facility, apart from clarifying that it was not government-sponsored.

“To date, Hydra has been signing up commercial fleets and building out its initial hydrogen refuelling infrastructure throughout Western Canada, but the company is about to announce expansion throughout the rest of the country via licensing to a national fossil fuel distributor looking to extend its low-carbon alternative fuel offerings,” the executive said via email.

Hydra’s target market to date has been the roughly 5 million Class 8 trucks within North America, Verhagan said, with the company aiming to “conservatively” capture 1% of that market by 2030 through commercial discussions already underway. Hydra is also exploring expansion into the UK as well as Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

“Hydra’s initial focus has been on proving out its Hydrogen-as-a-ServiceTM (HaaSTM) template which includes the company providing its proprietary hydrogen-diesel, co-combustion conversion kits to commercial fleets at zero cost (in exchange for long-term hydrogen fuel contracts at diesel equivalent prices) as well as an initial hydrogen refuelling station to service 65 Hydra- converted trucks in Prince George, B.C.,” she said.

Verhagan said the company will announce its first electrolysis partner for the Prince George hydrogen refueling station early next year. The station will be able to refuel – as quickly as diesel – up to 24 Hydra-converted trucks each hour across four bays. The station will provide hydrogen from two onsite, 5 MW electrolyzers powered with electricity from BC Hydro.

“The adoption of Hydra’s technology really comes down to availability of low carbon hydrogen – showing fleets it’s possible to go green cost-effectively – and government support to utilize hydrogen to reduce trucking emissions right now,” Verhagan said.

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US SAF producer targeting 1H24 monetization

Calumet Specialty Products subsidiary Montana Renewables – now the largest producer of sustainable aviation fuel in North America – has received interest for the business indicating valuations in excess of the entire company’s current enterprise value.

Calumet Specialty Products is expecting to close on a monetization of a minority equity stake by early 2024 in its Montana Renewables subsidiary, which is now the largest sustainable aviation fuel producer in North America.

The company has been exploring a monetization, including an IPO, of Montana Renewables with Lazard as an advisor since last year, and would use proceeds to deleverage the parent company. Executives said today they are speaking with bulge bracket banks regarding the timing of a potential IPO or minority stake sale.

“We continue to expect a potential monetization of Montana Renewables to complete the deleveraging of Calumet,” CEO Todd Borgman said in prepared remarks. “For some time we’ve discussed the possibility of a Montana Renewables IPO, private monetization, or even both. We continue to receive clear feedback: that Montana Renewables is a differentiated business, with transformational value potential to Calumet, well in excess of the entire company’s enterprise value.”

Calumet had engaged Lazard last year to conduct a process that culminated in a $250m investment in Montana Renewables from Warburg Pincus in August, 2022. The investment, in the form of a participating preferred equity security, valued Montana Renewables at a pre-commissioning enterprise value of $2.25bn.

The facility began making SAF shipments to Shell as an offtaker earlier this year.

In response to a question, Calumet executives pointed to the enterprise values of publicly traded energy transition companies, noting that Montana Renewables should align with that “at a minimum, if not get a premium for the competitive advantages that we’ve got, due to location, due to advanced pre-treater technology we’ve got, and due to the fact that we’re now North America’s largest SAF producer.”

Calumet’s equity trades at $15.80 per share and a $1.26bn market cap.

The company is evaluating an expansion of its SAF production at Montana Renewables and has purchased a second reactor and applied for a $600m loan from the DOE.

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Heliogen and Dimensional Energy ink SAF production demo LOI

Heliogen has entered into a letter of intent with sustainable fuels-focused Dimensional Energy to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Heliogen, a provider of AI-enabled concentrated solar energy technology, has entered into a letter of intent (LOI) with sustainable fuels-focused Dimensional Energy to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), according to a news release.

The project is located at Heliogen’s concentrated solar thermal demonstration facility in Lancaster, California. This collaboration aims to create a reserve of jet fuel created from sunlight and air.

The companies will work to deploy Heliogen’s proprietary, artificial AI-powered HelioHeat technology to convert sunlight directly into thermal energy in the form of high temperature steam and air that will be used to produce green hydrogen for Dimensional Energy’s Reactor platform.

The hydrogen will be produced using Heliogen’s concentrated solar technology. The LOI includes a goal of building a fully integrated ~1 barrel per day drop-in ready SAF demonstration. The parties expect the demonstration project to be a first step to develop a pipeline for approximately 3m barrels of fuel over the next ten years.

Dimensional Energy has signed a commercial agreement to supply United Airlines with 300 million gallons of SAF over 20 years.

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Ara Partners takes majority interest in restructured renewable fuels infrastructure firm

The private equity and infrastructure firm has acquired USD Clean Fuels, a developer of logistics infrastructure in North America that was formed out of the restructured USD Partners.

Ara Partners, a private equity and infrastructure firm that specializes in industrial decarbonization investments, today announced that it has acquired a majority interest in USD Clean Fuels, LLC, a developer of logistics infrastructure in North America for the renewable fuels value chain.

As part of the transaction, USDCF has also acquired the West Colton Rail Terminal, a fully operational biofuels terminal in California. Ara has committed additional capital to support significant expansion of USDCF’s infrastructure footprint.

USD Partners, the seller of USDCF and the West Colton Rail Terminal, will use the proceeds to repay borrowings outstanding under its revolving credit agreement and to pay transaction expenses, according to a separate press release. As of December 22, 2023, the partnership had approximately $181m of borrowings outstanding under its credit agreement, on which it had been in forbearance since earlier this year.

In negotiations with creditors, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP served as legal advisor to the partnership and Lazard acted as financial advisor.

Previously backed by Energy Capital Partners, USD Partners was de-listed from the NYSE in 2023 after having IPO’d in 2014.

Based in Houston, Texas, USDCF develops, owns, and operates infrastructure to facilitate safe, reliable and economic delivery of renewable fuel feedstocks and biofuels to production facilities and end-market demand centers, according to today’s news release. The USDCF team, led by Chief Executive Officer Dan Borgen and President Bob Copher, has a longstanding track record of developing, commercializing and operating midstream infrastructure across North America, according to a news release.

“We have high conviction that the green molecules economy – whether it’s renewable fuel feedstocks or biofuels – offers disproportionate opportunity for returns and impact,” said George Yong, partner and co-head of infrastructure at Ara Partners. “The USDCF platform is particularly compelling because it combines a best-in-class management team with a portfolio of premiere terminal logistics projects that provide the ideal foundation for a durable and scalable infrastructure business.”

“We are excited to join forces with Ara Partners to bring critical infrastructure solutions to the rapidly growing North American renewable fuel market, beginning with the West Colton Rail Terminal,” said Borgen. “We are proud to be backed by an investor that is completely focused on enabling an accelerated and economical path to a low-carbon economy.”

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Exclusive: Plug Power enlists bank to evaluate financing options

The cash-burning company is working with a bulge-bracket American bank to evaluate debt financing options to help stave off a liquidity crisis.

Plug Power is working with Goldman Sachs to evaluate a capital raise in the form of debt financing to shore up its balance sheet, sources said.

The New York-based company recently said it was at risk of a liquidity crisis in the next 12 months if it is not able to raise additional capital, noting it was exploring various options for bringing in financing.

Its total cash and cash equivalents as of September 30 stood at $567m, representing a decline of $580m for the quarter, according to SEC filings. The company also has nearly $1bn of restricted cash balances stemming from sale-leaseback transactions, of which $50m becomes available per quarter.

In a shareholder letter and on its 3Q23 earnings call, executives outlined the financing options that are on the table for the company, including a debt raise, funding from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, and bringing in project equity partners for its facilities.

The company is “evaluating varied debt financing solutions to support [its] growth,” according to the shareholder letter. CFO Paul Middleton added on the call that they’ve had “some expressions of offers for ABL-like facilities” as well as restricted cash advance facilities. 

CEO Andy Marsh said the company would need to raise between $500m – $600m, according to a news report from Barron’s.

Representatives of Plug Power and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Plug is also working towards a conditional commitment from the DOE Loan Program Office to finance plants in its green hydrogen network. 

“The framework that we’re working on with them is a $1.5bn platform that would fund our green plants and would fund from construction phase onwards,” CFO Middleton said, adding that the funding could amount to as much as 80% of the projects. 

Middleton said he expected the DOE loan, if granted, would start funding in early 2Q24, and could even be used to back lever some of its existing plants in Texas and New York.

The company’s stock traded today with a $2.34bn market cap, while its outstanding debt consists of a $200m convertible note issued in 2020.

The notes traded around 130 cents of par before Plug’s going concern announcement, and subsequently dropped to trade in the high-70s, with quotes this week in the 80s.

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Exclusive: Australian fuels producer looking for US development partners

An Australian fuels producer and concentrated solar power developer partnered with German and US fossil interests is developing its first US clean fuels project in Texas, and is looking for development partners with eyes on the greater southwest.

Vast Energy, the Australia-based and NASDAQ-listed concentrated solar power (CSP) developer and fuels producer, is in the early stages of developing a project near El Paso, Texas – the company’s first in the US – and is seeking US development partners to generate a pipeline of projects throughout the country, CEO Craig Wood said in an interview.

Vast is in process with two projects in Port Augusta, South Australia: VS1, a 30 MW solar/8 MWh storage plant, and SM1, a demonstration solar-to-methanol plant co-located with VS1, producing up to 7,500 mtpa of green methanol from VS1 electricity and heat with extra power available on the grid.

VS1 is scheduled for FID in 3Q24 with FID on SM1 coming the following quarter, Wood said.

Vast recently announced funding agreements with German partner Mabanaft for up to AUD $40m for SM1, after the SM1 project was selected last year as a part of the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator (HyGATE).

Methanol from the $80m SM1 will in part be exported to Germany. Vast is also working with EDF to provide additional financing, Wood said.

“Essentially it’s going to be debt free and on balance sheet,” Wood said.

German container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd recently signed an MOU with Mabanaft to explore options for the supply of ammonia as bunker fuel to Hapag-Lloyd in the Port of Houston.

US opportunity

In the US, where Vast listed to be primed for opportunistic growth, the company has a shortlist of locations around El Paso, has engaged with regional economic development leaders, and held early talks with EPC providers, Wood said.

The El Paso project is being developed in conjunction with Houston-based oil and gas drilling business Nabors Industries, Wood said. Nabors backed the SPAC that took Vast public at a valuation of up to $586m in early 2023. Its current market cap is $64m.

There are ongoing discussions on whether to produce eSAF or methanol in El Paso, Wood said.

To produce eSAF, Vast would use a solid-oxide electrolyzer coupled with the Fischer-Tropsch process, Wood said. Meanwhile, the methanol distillation process lends itself well to Vast’s ability to produce low-cost heat.

CSP has a lower level of embedded carbon than any renewables technology other than wind, Wood said.

“The work that we have done to date indicated that you would most likely power an eFuels project with a CSP plant that was configured to operate in the day and night,” Wood said.

As for project costs, envisioning a project producing some 200 million liters per annum, roughly $3bn would be needed for the power station, and then half that for the infrastructure to make the fuels.

Preliminary offtake for the El Paso project is going to be critical for attracting investment, Wood said. Offtake will depend on the type of fuel produced, though conversations are ongoing with shipping companies (methanol) and airlines (eSAF).

“We’re not expecting to have any problem placing the product,” Wood said. Offtake would likely be targeted for the Port of Los Angeles, LAX airport, the ports of the Gulf Coast, or Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Development of CSP makes sense anywhere climate is sunny and hot, Wood said. The company could logically expand into more of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California.

The region around Farmington, New Mexico is particularly attractive for CSP development, Wood said. As a huge amount of coal-fired capacity in that area is retired, those interconnections, workforces and resources are ripe for repowering.

The turbines that one of those coal fired power stations would have is the same turbine at the core of Vast’s technology, Wood said. One difference is that Vast’s can be turned on and off quickly.

Development partnerships 

There is an opportunity for Vast to find a development partner, or partners, to stand up a pipeline of projects in two to three years’ time, Wood said.

“Almost everyone wants to wait until our project in Port Augusta reaches COD,” Wood said. “But we don’t want to wait that long to be developing projects in the US.”

Vast is capable of building CSP plants, which can be configured to operate in the day and night, co-located with existing larger-scale solar pv to provide additional generation and, critically, storage, Wood said. By directing sunlight to receivers and heating molten salt, CSP can store energy for 12-to-20 hours overnight to alleviate solar pv’s intermittency issues.

“Coming along and essentially retrofitting complementary CSP next to those [pv plants], we think is a very sensible way to go, both in terms of shared cost but also in terms of managing incremental transmission build,” Wood said. “We’re looking for people we can have conversations with.”

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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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