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Infinium to purchase Permian CO2 for e-fuels

e-fuels firm Infinium will purchase CO2 captured in the Permian Basin for utilization as feedstock for e-SAF.

eFuels firm Infinium has reached an agreement with a subsidiary of midstream energy company  Kinetik Holdings Inc. to purchase carbon dioxide captured from Kinetik’s gas gathering and processing system in the Permian Basin for use as a feedstock in the production of ultra-low carbon electrofuels, according to a news release.

Infinium eFuels are created through a proprietary process using waste CO2 and green hydrogen derived from renewable power.

The agreement is unique in its long-term nature and broad decarbonization benefits, providing measurable impacts for transportation alternatives. It provides a model for the industry to rethink how to contract waste streams such as CO2 for use in solutions that provide beneficial reuse of emissions.

“There are many roles to be played in the energy transition, and this partnership shows that eFuels production and utilization is truly a win-win for all in the energy industry,” said Infinium CEO Robert Schuetzle. “It’s great to welcome Kinetik into our community of companies seeking beneficial reuse solutions for its CO2. The agreement demonstrates major progress and shows Kinetik’s leadership relative to the existing traditional oil and gas sector’s carbon emissions strategies.”

Under the terms of the agreement, a subsidiary of Kinetik will dedicate CO2 from one of its amine gas processing facilities in West Texas to Infinium for use at its previously announced second eFuels project called Project Roadrunner. Project Roadrunner will deliver products into both U.S. and international markets. It will primarily produce Infinium eSAF, a sustainable aviation fuel with the potential to significantly reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with air transportation.

“Our partnership with Infinium reinforces Kinetik’s commitment to sustainability and our role as an agent for change. As the first step of Kinetik’s New Energy Ventures, I am excited to announce our participation in Project Roadrunner and strongly support Infinium’s mission to significantly reduce carbon emissions. Kinetik remains committed to further decarbonize our footprint and advance new low carbon technologies as part of our strategy of ‘energy for change,'” said Jamie Welch, Kinetik’s President and CEO.

Infinium previously announced a $75m equity commitment from Breakthrough Energy Catalyst for investment in Project Roadrunner, the first for the novel Bill Gates-founded platform that funds and invests in first-of-a-kind commercial projects for emerging climate technologies. American Airlines is the first announced offtake partner for eSAF produced at Project Roadrunner with emission reductions going to Citi, further modeling how long-term, innovative agreements contribute to decarbonization across multiple industries’ value chains.

Infinium operates the world’s first commercial scale eFuels facility in Corpus Christi, Texas and has more than a dozen projects in various stages of development globally.

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Cleveland-Cliffs submits application for front-end engineering design for large-scale carbon capture

The steel and iron ore company’s Burns Harbor project in Indiana aims to capture up to 2.8 million tons of CO2 per year from blast furnace gas with a net carbon capture efficiency of at least 95%.

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. announced that its initial phase of research being conducted with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) is coming to a close. Based on the results of the initial study, Cleveland-Cliffs has submitted an application on Monday, Dec. 5 for funding from the DOE’s OCED for the next phase of research for the front-end engineering design (FEED) for large-scale carbon capture at its Burns Harbor integrated iron and steel facility located in Northwest Indiana, according to a news release.

The company’s Burns Harbor project aims to capture up to 2.8 million tons of CO2 per year from blast furnace gas with a net carbon capture efficiency of at least 95%. The proposed FEED would be completed over a period of 24 months. The study would be funded 50 percent by Cleveland-Cliffs and 50 percent by the DOE through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law appropriations, which is part of a broader government approach to fund domestic commercial-scale Carbon Capture and Sequestration technology.

Cleveland-Cliffs has existing technical partnerships with the DOE and is the only American steel producer participating in the DOE Better Climate Challenge initiative. The Company is the largest industrial energy user in the DOE’s Better Plants program. Through DOE’s Better Climate Challenge, organizations join a network of market leaders that are stepping forward to work with DOE to plan for their organization’s future success by reducing GHG emissions and sharing replicable pathways to decarbonization.

Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. Founded in 1847 as a mine operator, Cliffs also is the largest manufacturer of iron ore pellets in North America.

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Ballard Power Systems makes senior leadership changes

The Canadian fuel cell developer has appointed Mark Biznek as chief operating officer.

Ballard Power Systems has appointed Mark Biznek as chief operating officer (COO), effective immediately, according to a press release.

During the past 10 years, Mark served in various leadership roles for Kohler Power Systems, including as general manager of Marine & Power Solutions, as vice president of Global Operations & Supply Chain, and as vice president of Operations & Engine Development.

He previously held manufacturing and strategy leadership roles at Mercury Marine (marine engines). In his earlier career, Mark served in various operations and engineering roles at Delphi (lithium batteries) and GE Aviation (aircraft engines). Mark has significant experience developing global manufacturing strategies, having had accountability for manufacturing facilities in the United States, France, China, India and Singapore.

Randy MacEwen, Ballard’s president & CEO, commented, “We are excited to welcome Mark to the Ballard team. Mark brings over 30 years of manufacturing and operations experience in the engine industry. His leadership experience across the business including supply chain, marketing, business development, and global operations will be a huge asset to Ballard’s operations as we prepare for commercial scale manufacturing.”

“With Mark’s appointment, Jyoti Sidhu, previously serving in the joint leadership role of senior vice president, chief people officer and senior vice president, Operations, will fully transition to the role of SVP, chief people officer. We are excited to have Jyoti fully leverage her operational insight into her CPO responsibilities and to support an orderly transition of Operations to Mark,” MacEwen added.

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Black Hills Energy studying hydrogen production from coal

BHE will partner with Babcock & Wilcox to study the cost and economics of deploying chemical looping technology at commercial scale to produce hydrogen from Powder River Basin coal and a nearly pure stream of CO2.

Black Hills Energy (BHE) has selected its BrightLoop hydrogen generation technology from Babcock & Wilcox for the feasibility study of a proposed project to produce clean hydrogen from coal and capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at BHE’s Neil Simpson Power Plant in Gillette, Wyo.

BrightLoop is a novel chemical looping technology that can use a variety of fuels to produce clean energy with complete CO2 capture, according to a news release from the companies.

BHE will partner with B&W to study the cost and economics of deploying the BrightLoop chemical looping technology at commercial scale to produce low carbon intensity hydrogen gas from Powder River Basin (PRB) coal and a nearly pure stream of CO2 suitable for beneficial use or storage without the need for expensive carbon separation equipment.

“As the United States and much of the world transitions to near-zero emissions fuels, our BrightLoop technology – which captures COand other pollutants while producing hydrogen – can provide a vital pathway to utilize our abundant natural resource of coal in a net-zero world,” said B&W Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Morgan.

“We are excited to utilize our highly experienced U.S. engineering team to work with BHE to develop a solution that will help them achieve their goals of creating and preserving jobs, diversifying Wyoming’s energy production and establishing new markets for the state’s natural resources,” Morgan said. “We thank BHE for this opportunity and for the confidence they have shown in B&W’s BrightLoop technology.”

Mark Stege, Black Hills Energy’s vice president of Wyoming operations agreed, adding, “Over 30 years of research has led us to this opportunity to unite clean energy technology with Wyoming’s important and abundant energy resources. We appreciate the partnership with B&W and the prospect of leveraging innovative hydrogen technology to deliver efficient energy to customers.”

B&W’s BrightLoop chemical looping technology is part of its ClimateBright suite of decarbonization and hydrogen technologies. The BrightLoop process uses a proprietary, regenerable particle and has been demonstrated to effectively separate CO2 while producing hydrogen, steam and/or syngas.

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Exclusive: Zero-emission locomotive start-up in Series B capital raise

A locomotive start-up focused on the US market for zero-emission freight trains is undergoing a Series B capital raise, with sights on a much larger Series C raise next year.

OptiFuel Systems, a provider of zero-emission line haul locomotives and generation solutions, is conducting a $30m Series B capital raise.

The South Carolina-based firm is seeking to finalize the Series B by the end of this year, and plans to use proceeds to advance production of its zero-emission technologies for the rail industry, which represents a massive decarbonization opportunity, CEO Scott Myers said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the firm will seek to tap the market for around $150m for a Series C next year, Myers added. The company is not working with a financial adviser. 

While the Series B will focus on bringing to production some of OptiFuel’s smaller rail offerings, such as the switcher locomotives, the Series C will be mostly dedicated to progressing testing, manufacturing, and commercialization of its larger line haul locomotive.

The company is also considering making its own investments into digesters for RNG facilities, from which it would source the gas to run its RNG-fueled locomotives. As part of its offering, OptiFuel also provides refueling infrastructure, and envisions this aspect of its business to be just as profitable as selling trains.

“We anticipate that we would be the offtaker” of RNG, “and quite potentially, the producer,” Cynthia Heinz, an OptiFuel board member, said in the interview.

A systems integrator, OptiFuel offers modular locomotives for the freight industry that can run on zero-emission technology such as renewable natural gas, batteries, and hydrogen. The company recently announced that it will begin testing of its RNG line haul locomotive, which is a 1-million-mile test program that will take two years and require 10 RNG line haul locomotives.

Image: OptiFuel

The company’s target market is the 38,000 operating freight trains in the U.S., 25,000 of which are line haul locomotives run by operators like BASF, Union Pacific, and CSX. Fleet owners will be required to phase out diesel-powered trains starting next decade following passage of in-use locomotive requirements in California, which includes financial penalties for pollution and eventual restrictions on polluting locomotives. Other states are evaluating similar measures.

“The question is not will the railroads change over: they have to,” Myers said. “The question is, how fast?”

Following completion of testing, OptiFuel aims to begin full production of the line haul locomotive – which has a price tag of $5.5m per unit – in 2028, and is aiming to produce 2,000 per year as a starting point. The smaller switcher units are priced between $1.5m and $2.5m depending on horsepower.

OptiFuel has held discussions with Cummins, one of its equipment providers, to source at least 2,000 engines per year from Cummins to support its production goal. 

“That’s a $10bn-a-year market for us,” Myers added.

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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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Denbury to transport CO2 for Louisiana blue methanol project

A subsidiary of Denbury Inc. will transport and store CO2 for a planned blue methanol plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Denbury Carbon Solutions has executed a 20-year definitive agreement to provide CO2 transportation and storage services to Lake Charles Methanol in association with that company’s planned 3.6 MMPTA blue methanol project, according to a press release.

LCM’s facility will be located along the Calcasieu River near Lake Charles, Louisiana, approximately 10 miles from Denbury’s Green Pipeline.

The facility is designed to utilize Topsoe’s SynCORTM technology to convert natural gas into hydrogen which will be synthesized into methanol while incorporating carbon capture and sequestration.

The process is anticipated to deliver more than 500 million kilograms of hydrogen per year as a feedstock to produce the 3.6 MMTPA of blue methanol.

LCM is finalizing its major permits to begin construction. The project is expected to reach a Final Investment Decision in 2023 with first production anticipated in 2027.

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