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Indiana blue ammonia project obtains Class VI injection well permit

A blue ammonia plant that’s under development in Indiana is the first out of the gate with a Class VI CO2 injection well permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wabash Valley Resources (WVR) has obtained the first Class VI carbon dioxide injection permit from the EPA for a blue ammonia project, setting it up to become an early mover in blue ammonia-based fertilizer production.

WVR, which is owned by Phibro and Nikola, is a $1.2bn development in West Terre Haute, Indiana, designed to convert a former gasification plant into an anhydrous ammonia production facility.

The site will produce hydrogen for upgrading into ammonia and CO2, up to 1.65 million tons of which will be captured and stored under the Class VI well permit. The draft permit was published in July, and the final version was released yesterday (January 24).

The WVR injection permit is only the second Class VI permit to be issued, following the 2021 issuance of a permit for Archer Daniels Midland’s carbon dioxide injection well in Decatur, Illinois.

WVR seeks to displace roughly half – about 500,000 metric tons – of the imported ammonia supply to the Eastern Corn Belt. The company believes this will apply downward pressure on ammonia pricing and reduce dependence on imported fertilizer, according to a media kit provided by the firm.

In repurposing the former SG Solutions gasification facility, WVR can bring the plant online in half the time of similar projects, the company says.

WVR has received funding from the DOE for a FEED study and for subsurface geological characterization. It has also raised money from OGCI Climate Investments (in 2019) and Nikola (in 2021), giving the latter a 20% stake in the project for $50m.

The company will need to raise equity and debt capital to finance the project. Local news reports have suggested they could raise $500m from a Department of Energy loan program.

Still, the project has not been without opposition, as carbon capture projects come under fire from local communities across the Midwest. A contentious three-hour town hall meeting from August – which is posted online – shows local residents forcefully protesting the placement of the facility in their communities.

“Nobody in this room wants it,” residents repeatedly told company executives.

A Facebook group called Concerned Citizens against Wabash Valley Resources has 1,600 members.

In a news release, the EPA noted that the well sites were selected following extensive research “to ensure the carbon dioxide can be safely stored in the rock formations about 5,000 feet below the ground.” It added that studies of the site “show that there is about 2,100 feet of solid rock, including very low-permeability shale, between the deepest source of drinking water in the area and the proposed carbon dioxide reservoir below, creating an effective and impermeable confining zone.”

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Yara Clean Ammonia hires CEO from OCI

Yara Clean Ammonia has hired a CEO out of OCI’s fertilizers business in Europe.

Hans Olav Raen has been appointed CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia, effective May 1, 2024.

Raen has until now been Business Director and heading OCI’s fertilizers business in Europe. He has more than 25 years of experience in the fertilizer industry, including twelve years with Norsk Hydro and Yara International (between 1997 and 2009), where Raen held commercial and managerial roles in Europe and Africa.

“We are pleased to announce that Hans Olav will be heading Yara Clean Ammonia. Together with the strong YCA-team, I am confident that Hans Olav will support and lead the company to the next level, spearheading the rapidly growing clean ammonia business,” said Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, EVP Corporate Development in Yara International.

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PE-backed biomass-to-energy operator on the block

A biomass-to-energy firm with four operational assets in the US and Canada has launched a sale process. The company is also developing 110 MW of co-located BESS projects, with additional revenue streams expected from organic waste diversion, gasification and carbon capture, and heavy-duty vehicle charging stations, according to a sale teaser.

Biomass-to-energy firm Greenleaf Power is for sale.

Denham Capital, the company’s private equity owner, has mandated BNP Paribas to run the process, which launched last week, according to two sources familiar with the process.

California-based Greenleaf is a biomass generation platform with 135.5 MW of fully-contracted renewable generation capacity and remaining weighted-average PPA term length of 9.5 years, according to a sale teaser.

The company’s four operational assets are the 45 MW Desert View Power, in Mecca, California; the 30 MW Honey Lake Power in Wendel, CA; the 23 MW St Felicien Cogeneration facility in Quebec; and the 37.5 MW Plainfield plant in Connecticut.

Greenleaf expects to generate $106m of biomass revenues in 2024, resulting in $24m in expected EBITDA.

According to the teaser, co-located battery energy storage projects amounting to 110 MW are also under development, with CODs expected for 2025 – 2026.

There is potential for additional revenue streams from existing infrastructure and land, including organic waste diversion, gasification and carbon capture, co-location of renewables, and heavy-duty electric vehicle charging stations, the teaser states.

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Iwatani acquires Aspen Air

The acquisition marks Japany-based Iwatani’s entrance into US industrial gases.

Iwatani Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Japan’s Iwatani Corporation, has acquired Aspen Air, based in Billings, Montana, according to a press release.

Aspen Air is a manufacturer and distributor of bulk liquid industrial gases in Montana and surrounding states. It supports industrial and medical customers including those in the energy and chemicals sectors, hospitals, and packaged gases and independent distributor networks.

This acquisition marks Iwatani’s entrance into US industrial gasses.

Tom Harrison, Iwatani Corporation of America’s Vice President of Industrial Gases, will lead the Aspen Air Team. He has been leading Iwatani Corporation of America’s Specialty Gases business and Hydrogen Sourcing activities for the past 2 years and prior to that spent 32 years with Linde.

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Exclusive: Geologic hydrogen startup raising Series A

A US geologic hydrogen startup that employs electric fracking with a pilot presence on the Arabian Peninsula is raising a $40m Series A and has identified a region in the midwestern US for its first de-risked project.

Eden GeoPower, a Boston-based geologic hydrogen technology provider, is engaged in raising a Series A and has a timeline on developing a project in Minnesota, CEO and co-founder Paris Smalls told ReSource.

The Series A target is $40m, with $10m being supplied by existing investors, Smalls said. This round, the company is looking for stronger financial investors to join its strategic backers.

The company has two subsidiaries wholly owned by the parent: one oil and gas-focused and one climate-focused. The Series A is topco equity at the parent level.

Eden was one of 16 US Department of Energy-selected projects to receive funding to explore geologic hydrogen; the majority of the others are academic lab projects. Eden has raised some $13m in equity and $12m in grant funding to date.

Beyond geothermal

Eden started as a geothermal resource developer, using abandoned oil and gas wells for production via electric fracking.

“We started seeing there were applications way beyond geothermal,” Smalls said. Early grant providers recommended using the electric fracking technology to go after geologic hydrogen reservoirs, replacing the less environmentally friendly hydraulic fracking process typically used.

A test site in Oman, where exposed iron-rich rock makes the country a potential future geologic hydrogen superpower, will de-risk Eden’s technology, Smalls said. Last year the US DOE convened the first Bilateral Engagement on Geologic Hydrogen in Oman.

Early developments are underway on a demonstration project in Tamarack, Minnesota, Smalls said. That location has the hollow-vein rocks that can produce geologic hydrogen.

“We likely won’t do anything there until after we have sufficiently de-risked the technology in Oman, and that should be happening in the next 8 months,” Smalls said. “There’s a good chance we’ll be the first people in the world to demonstrate this.”

Eden is not going after natural geologic hydrogen, but rather stimulating reactions to change the reservoir properties to make hydrogen underground, Small said.

The University of Minnesota is working with Eden on a carbon mineralization project, Smalls said. The company is also engaged with Minnesota-based mining company Talon Metals.

Revenue from mining, oil and gas

Eden has existing revenue streams from oil and gas customers in Texas and abroad, Smalls said, and has an office in Houston with an expanding team.

“People are paying us to go and stimulate a reservoir,” he said. “We’re using those opportunities to help us de-rick the technology.”

The technology has applications in geothermal development and mining, Smalls said. Those contracts have been paying for equipment.

Mining operations often include or are adjacent to rock that can be used to produce geologic hydrogen, thereby decarbonizing mining operations using both geothermal energy and geologic hydrogen, Smalls said.

“On our cap table right now we have one of the largest mining companies in the world, Anglo American,” Smalls said. “We do projects with BHP and other big mining companies as well; we see a lot of potential overlap with the mining industry because they are right on top of these rocks.

Anti-fracking

Eden is currently going through the process of permitting for a mining project in Idaho, in collaboration with Idaho National Labs, Smalls said.

In doing so the company had to submit a public letter explaining the project and addressing environmental concerns.

“We’re employing a new technology that can mitigate all the issues [typically associated with fracking],” Small said.

With electric fracturing of rocks, there is no groundwater contamination or high-pressure water injection that cause the kind of seismic and water quality issues that anger people.

“This isn’t fracking, this is anti-fracking,” Smalls said.
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Feature: Why blue hydrogen developers are on the hunt for livestock-based RNG

The negative carbon intensity ascribed to livestock-derived renewable natural gas could allow blue hydrogen production to meet the threshold to qualify for the full $3 per kg of hydrogen tax credit under section 45V. The viability of this pathway, however, will depend on how hydrogen from biogas is treated under the IRS’s final rules.

Lake Charles Methanol, a proposed $3.24bn blue methanol plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will use natural gas-based autothermal reforming technology to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which will then be used to produce 3.6 million tons per year of methanol while capturing and sequestering 1 million tons per year of carbon dioxide.

And if certain conditions are met in final rules for 45V tax credits, the developer could apply for the full benefit of $3 per kg of hydrogen produced. How? It plans to blend carbon-negative renewable natural gas into its feedstock.

“Lake Charles Methanol will be a large consumer of RNG to mitigate the carbon intensity of its hydrogen production,” the firm’s CEO, Donald Maley, said in written comments in response to the IRS’s rulemaking process for 45V.

The issue of blending fractional amounts of RNG into the blue hydrogen production process has emerged as another touchstone issue before the IRS as it contemplates how to regulate and incentivize clean hydrogen production.

The IRS’s proposed regulations do not provide guidance on the use of RNG from dairy farms in hydrogen production pathways such as SMR and ATR, gasification, or chemical looping, but instead only define clean hydrogen by the amount of carbon emissions.

In theory, a blue hydrogen producer using CCUS could blend in a small amount – around 5% – of carbon-negative RNG and achieve a carbon intensity under the required .45 kg CO2e / kg of hydrogen to qualify for the full $3 per kg incentive under 45V. 

This pathway, however, will depend on final rules for biogas within 45V, such as which biogas sources are allowed, potential rules on RNG additionality, incentive stacking, and the appropriate carbon intensity counterfactuals. 

Furthermore, a potentially separate rulemaking and comment period for the treatment of biogas may be required, since no rules were actually proposed for RNG in 45V on which the industry can comment.

Like the treatment of electricity within 45V, there appears to be some disagreement within Treasury about the role of RNG in the hydrogen production process, with some in the Democratic administration perhaps responding to the view of some progressives that RNG is a greenwash-enabling “sop” to the oil and gas industry, said Ben Nelson, chief operating officer at Cresta Fund Management, a Dallas-based private equity firm.

Cresta has investments in two renewable natural gas portfolio companies, LF Bioenergy and San Joaquin Renewables, and expects RNG used in hydrogen to be a major demand pull if the 45V rules are crafted correctly.

A major issue for the current administration, according to Nelson, is the potentially highly negative carbon intensity score of RNG produced from otherwise vented methane at dairy farms. The methane venting counterfactual, as opposed to a landfill gas counterfactual, where methane emissions are combusted as flared natural gas (therefore producing fewer GHG emissions than vented methane), leads to a negative CI score in existing LCFS programs, which, if translated to 45V, could provide a huge incentive for hydrogen production from RNG. 

“Treasury may be struggling with the ramifications of making vented methane the counterfactual,” Nelson said.

Divided views

The potential for this blending pathway has divided commenters in the 45V rulemaking process, with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and similar companies calling for additional pathways for RNG to hydrogen, the promulgation of the existing mass balance and verification systems – as used in LCFS programs – for clean fuels, and the allowance of RNG credit stacking across federal, state, and local incentive programs.

Meanwhile, opponents of RNG blending noted that it would give an unfair economic advantage to blue hydrogen projects and potentially increase methane emissions by creating perverse incentives for dairy farmers to change practices to take advantage of the tax credits.

For example, in its comments, Fidelis New Energy speaks out forcefully against the practice, calling it “splash blending” and claiming it could cost Americans $65bn annually in federal incentives “with negligible real methane emission reductions while potentially driving an increase in emissions overall without proper safeguards.”

Fidelis goes on to state that allowing RNG to qualify under 45V results in a “staggering” $510 / MMBtu for RNG, a “market distorting value and windfall for a select few sizable industry participants.”

Renewables developer Intersect Power similarly notes the potential windfall for this type of project, since the $3 credit would be higher than input costs for blue hydrogen. “Said another way, hydrogen producers using natural gas and blending RNG with negative CI will be extremely profitable, such that it would encourage the creation of more sources of RNG to capture more credits,” according to the comments, which is signed by Michael Wheeler, vice president, government affairs at Intersect.

Stacking incentives

In its initial suggestions from December, Treasury introduced the possibility of limiting RNG that qualifies under 45V from receiving environmental benefits from other federal, state, or local programs, such as the EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) and various state low carbon fuel standards (LCFS).

In response, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas said that it does not “believe it is the intent of the Section 45V program to limit or preclude RNG from participation in” these programs. 

“In particular, a hydrogen facility utilizing RNG to produce clean hydrogen as defined in Section 45V program should be eligible to claim the resulting Section 45V tax credit, and not be barred or limited from participating in the federal RFS or a state LCFS program, if the RNG-derived hydrogen is being used as a transportation fuel or to make a transportation fuel (e.g. SAF, marine fuel, or other fuel) used in the contiguous U.S. and/or the applicable state (e.g., California), respectively,” the organization wrote.

Various commenters along with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas stated that the incentives should work together, and that the EPA has “long recognized that other federal and state programs support the RFS program by promoting production and use,” as Clean Energy Fuels wrote.

Cresta, in its comments, noted that the 45V credit would result in a tax credit of $19.87 per MMBtu of RNG, while almost all potential dairy RNG build-out has a breakeven cost above $20 per MMBtu — in other words, not enough to incentivize the required buildout on its own.

Including this incentive plus environmental credits such as LCFS and RINs could get RNG producers to higher ranges “where you’re going to get a lot of buildout” of new RNG facilities, Nelson said.

In contrast, Fidelis argues that the ongoing RNG buildout utilizing just the existing state LCFS and RFS credits is proof enough that the incentives are working, and that 45V would add an exorbitant and perverse incentive for RNG production.

“To demonstrate the billions in annual cost to the American taxpayer that unconstrained blended RNG/natural gas hydrogen pathways could generate in 45V credits, it is important to consider the current incentive structure and RNG value today with CA LCFS and the EPA’s RFS program, as well as with the upcoming 45Z credit,” Fidelis writes. “Today, manure-RNG sold as CNG with a CI of -271.6 g CO2e / MJ would generate approximately $70 / MMBtu considering the value of the natural gas, CA LCFS, and RFS. The environmental incentives (LCFS and RFS) are 23x times as valuable as the underlying natural gas product.”

In its model, Fidelis claims that the 45V credit would balloon to $510 / MMBtu of value generation for animal waste-derived RNG, but does precisely explain how it arrives at this number. Representatives of Fidelis did not respond to requests for comment.

RNG pathways

As it stands, the 45VH2-GREET 2023 model only includes the landfill gas pathway for RNG, thus the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and other RNG firms propose to add biogas from anaerobic digestion of animal waste, wastewater sludge, and municipal solid waste, as well as RNG-to-hydrogen via electrolysis.

According to the USDA, “only 7% of dairy farms with more than one thousand cows are currently capturing RNG, representing enormous potential for additional methane capture,” the coalition said in its comments.

Even the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, supports allowing biomethane from livestock farms to be an eligible pathway under 45V, “subject to strong climate protections” such as monitoring of net methane leakage to be factored into CI scores and the reduction of ammonia losses, among other practices.

However, the EDF argues against allowing carbon-negative offsets of biomethane, saying that “doing so could inappropriately permit hydrogen producers to earn generous tax credits through 45V for producing hydrogen with heavily polluting fossil natural gas.”

First productive use

In issuing the 45V draft guidance in December, the Treasury Department and the IRS said they anticipated that in order for RNG to qualify for the incentive, “the RNG used during the hydrogen production process must originate from the first productive use of the relevant methane,” which the RNG industry has equated with additionality for renewables under 45V.

The agencies said that they would propose to define “first productive use” of the relevant methane “as the time when a producer of that gas first begins using or selling it for productive use in the same taxable year as (or after) the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service,” with the implication being that  “biogas from any source that had been productively used in a taxable year prior to taxable year in which the relevant hydrogen production facility was placed in service would not receive an emission value consistent with biogas-based RNG but would instead receive a value consistent with natural gas.”

This proposal is opposed by the RNG industry and others planning to use it as a feedstock.

“Instituting a requirement that the use of RNG for hydrogen production be the ‘first productive use’ of the relevant methane would severely limit the pool of eligible projects for the Section 45V PTC,” NextEra Energy Resources said in its comments.

Nelson, of Cresta, called the “first productive use” concept for RNG “a solution in search of a problem,” noting that it’s more onerous than the three-year lookback period for additionality in renewables.

“Induced emissions are a real risk in electricity – they are a purely hypothetical risk in RNG,” Nelson said, “and will remain a hypothetical risk indefinitely in virtually any scenario you can envision for RNG buildout, because there’s just not that many waste sites and sources out there.”

The issue, Nelson added, is that if RNG facilities are required to align their startup date with hydrogen production, the farms where RNG is produced would just continue to vent methane until they can coincide their first productive use with hydrogen.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas argues that the provision “would cause a significant value discrepancy for new RNG projects creating a market distortion, greater risk of stranded RNG for existing projects, added complexity, and higher prices for end-consumers.”

The Coalition proposes, instead, that Treasury could accept projects built prior to 2030 as meeting incrementality requirements “with a check in 2029 on the market impacts of increased hydrogen production to determine, using real world data, if any such ‘resource shifting’ patterns can be discerned.”

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Exclusive: Wisconsin RNG portfolio for sale with large renewables portfolio

A major Canadian utility is auctioning off four Wisconsin RNG assets as part of a larger renewables selldown. The subsidiary at auction has previously indicated that it would take part in Northeastern US hydrogen development.

Algonquin Power & Utilities is selling a package of four renewable natural gas assets, totaling 532 mmbtu, in Wisconsin as part of a larger renewables auction, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

JP Morgan is advising on the process, codenamed Project Power, the sources said.

The process comprises mostly operational onshore wind (2,325 MW) and solar (670 MW), along with an 8 GW development pipeline across 10 power markets, according to a teaser seen by ReSource. The renewable assets are collectively known as Liberty under the Algonquin banner.

The pipeline includes 1,600 mmbtu of RNG. The operational RNG assets reached COD in 2022.

Algonquin did not respond to requests for comment. JP Morgan declined comment.

The Wisconsin assets are apparently the former Sandhill Advanced Biofuels projects, which were acquired by Algonquin in 2022.

When that acquisition was made, it was announced that Liberty had signed on as a “hydrogen ecosystem partner” in the multi-state Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub. That hub ultimately was not selected by the US department of Energy for hub funding.

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