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Italy’s Eni to invest $835m in Louisiana biorefinery

Eni Sustainable Mobility will invest in a biorefinery being built by PBF Energy in Louisiana.

Eni Sustainable Mobility and PBF Energy Inc. have entered into definitive agreements to partner in a 50-50 joint venture, St. Bernard Renewables LLC (SBR), for the biorefinery currently under construction co-located with PBF’s Chalmette Refinery in Louisiana (US).

Upon consummation of the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, Eni Sustainable Mobility will contribute capital totaling $835m plus up to additional $50m that is subject to the achievement of eventual project milestones and will provide expertise in biorefining operations, supply and marketing.

Citi is serving as financial advisor to PBF Energy.

PBF brings its strong industrial know-how in the United States and, as the contributor of the biorefinery, will continue to manage project execution and serve as the operator once construction is complete. The St. Bernard Renewables biorefinery startup is scheduled in the first half of 2023 and the facility is currently targeted to have processing capacity of about 1.1 million tonnes/year of raw materials, with full pretreatment capabilities. It will produce mainly HVO Diesel (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, commonly known as ‘renewable diesel’ in North America), with a production capacity of 306 million gallons per year. The biorefinery will use the Ecofining™ process developed by Eni in cooperation with Honeywell UOP.

This strategic partnership will leverage the experience and expertise of Eni Sustainable Mobility and PBF. Together with Ecofining™ technology, Eni brings its experience in biorefining that led to the world’s first conversion of a refinery into a biorefinery in Porto Marghera (Venice) in 2014, and to the second converted biorefinery that has been working in Gela (Sicily) since 2019. The company also provides its worldwide knowledge in supplying sustainable feedstock sourcing for HVO, mainly based on oily waste and residues, and raw materials that do not compete with the food chain, coupled with access to international markets beyond PBF’s footprint in the United States.

PBF brings experience in large capital project execution and fuels manufacturing as well as access to the California renewables market through its existing logistics assets. The joint venture reflects both partners’ commitment to deliver more sustainable transportation fuels using low carbon intensity feedstocks.

“Joining St. Bernard Renewables biorefinery project enables Eni to enter into US biofuels growing market together with a strong partner such as PBF. This is a further step for Eni Sustainable Mobility to expand its biorefining capacity, that today is over 1 million tonnes/year and it is planned to grow in the upcoming years. Following results achieved in Venice and Gela, Eni Sustainable Mobility is a pioneer in the biorefining industry, and it is also studying possible construction of two new biorefineries in Italy and in Malaysia. We do believe the role of HVO will strongly contribute to decarbonization of road transports, including hard to abate heavy duty sector, as it leverages existing infrastructure and can immediately fuel existing vehicle fleets. Biofuels are part of Eni strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through the reduction of the emissions generated during the entire products life cycle”, Stefano Ballista, CEO of Eni Sustainable Mobility, said.

“We’re excited to enter this strategic partnership with Eni Sustainable Mobility, a global leader in biorefining. The SBR biorefinery will benefit greatly from PBF and Eni’s complementary strengths and expertise. The project will utilize existing processing infrastructure and diverse inbound and outbound logistics and is ideally situated to support growing demand for low-carbon fuels,” said PBF President Matthew Lucey. “Our partnership with Eni signals a major milestone for PBF and demonstrates our commitment to contributing diversified sources of energy to the global mix while lowering the carbon intensity of our operations and the products we manufacture.”

SBR will operate as an independent entity with feed procurement and product distribution managed by a dedicated team working on behalf of the St. Bernard Renewables joint venture. While the partnership is set to benefit from its co-location with PBF’s Chalmette refinery through a variety of shared services, the operations and ownership of the Chalmette refinery will not be affected by the formation of the partnership.

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Canada’s Charbone Hydrogen appoints CFO

Charbone Hydrogen Corporation has appointed Benoit Veilleux as chief financial officer.

Charbone Hydrogen Corporation has appointed Benoit Veilleux as chief financial officer, effective 15 August.

This position was previously filled by Stéphane Dallaire, who will be promoted to executive vice president, according to a news release.

Veilleux began his professional career at KPMG LLP in 2003, where he managed and coordinated audit teams for public companies until 2010. From 2010 to 2013, he took the role of information analyst for the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec where he was involved in the continuous disclosure review program applicable to public companies. From 2013 to 2021, he acted as finance manager of special projects, then as a corporate controller for Air Liquide Canada. In 2021, he became senior director of corporate finance at Hypertec Group where he was responsible for the company’s corporate finance and accounting departments.

“I would like to thank Stéphane for assuming the role of CFO at a critical stage of Charbone’s corporate history and look forward to his future contribution to our growth initiatives. With our inaugural financing and listing transaction behind us, I welcome the opportunity to have Benoit join our team. The unique combination of energy and finance experience that he brings will prove invaluable to Charbone, as we seize on the green hydrogen opportunity and execute on our ambitious growth plan,” said Dave B. Gagnon, CEO and chairperson of the board of Charbone.

Charbone is a Canadian green hydrogen group. The company’s strategy is to develop modular and expandable hydrogen facilities and regional hubs. With the acquisition of hydroelectric power plants in the United States and Canada, Charbone will be able to produce green dihydrogen molecules using reliable and sustainable energy in order to distinguish itself as a supplier of an ecological solution for industrial and commercial companies.

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First Hydrogen selects Quebec for hydrogen production and vehicle assembly

Vancouver-based First Hydrogen commenced the process to secure and develop sites for the production of green hydrogen and the assembly of zero-emission commercial vehicles.

First Hydrogen Corp. has selected the City of Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada to develop its first green hydrogen ecosystem, according to a news release.

The company has conducted site evaluations and has now formally commenced the process to secure and develop respective sites for the local production of green hydrogen and the assembly of First Hydrogen zero-emission commercial vehicles.

First Hydrogen’s project plan is to produce up to 50 MW of green hydrogen using advanced electrolysis technology and distribute the hydrogen within the Montreal-Quebec City corridor for use with First Hydrogen’s light commercial vehicles (LCV) as well as supporting other hydrogen-fueled vehicles and applications in the region.

First Hydrogen LCVs are planned to be assembled in Shawinigan for distribution throughout North America in combination with the Company’s Hydrogen as a Service product offering. The assembly factory will be designed for an annual capacity of 25,000 vehicles per year when at full capacity and will represent a major boost to green technology jobs in the region.

The Company’s strategy is a close match with the Province of Quebec’s “Plan for a Green Economy” and the “2030 Quebec Green Hydrogen and BioEnergy Strategy” both targeting reduced dependence on fossil fuels, energy autonomy and green prosperity through the use of green hydrogen to decarbonize and strengthen its economy. Further, the Province of Quebec provides a stable and supportive environment for First Hydrogen’s project through its economic, innovation and energy policies and programs aimed at accelerating the pace of the green energy transition.

The project is also consistent with recent federal government announcements supporting green hydrogen and low-carbon fuels initiatives.

Rob Campbell, CEO of Energy for First Hydrogen, says: “Shawinigan, Quebec is a great place for First Hydrogen to plant the flag in North America. Quebec’s first hydroelectric company was established there in 1898 and Shawinigan has a strong history of energy and industry working together. The City and the region are very well positioned with its green energy resources, industrial community and growing green energy economy. It will be also very important to closely collaborate with the regional education network to create the required skills of tomorrow. The region is already the home of the l’institut de recherche en hydrogène de l’UQTR (IRH). Founded in 1994, IRH is one of Canada’s leading institutions in hydrogen research. We wish to thank the City of Shawinigan and Investissement Québec for their ongoing support for this exciting project.”

Balraj Mann, chairman & CEO First Hydrogen states: “We are seeing strong market support for our holistic product offering of zero-emission LCVs and green hydrogen. Customer pull combined with strong Quebec and Canadian policy support has convinced us that now is the time to move forward with this first project. Engineering studies are planned to commence in early 2023. Our announcement today coincides with the unveiling of our next-generation hydrogen fuel cell-powered light commercial vehicle in the coming weeks.”

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Gevo awarded USDA grant for carbon tracking

A grant of up to $30m will support tracking the carbon intensity of corn destined for SAF production.

Gevo, Inc. announced today it has finalized and executed a Notice of Grant and Agreement Award with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grant of up to $30m for Gevo’s Climate-Smart Farm-to-Flight Program, according to a news release.

This program is aimed at tracking and quantifying the carbon-intensity (CI) impact of climate-smart practices while creating market incentives for low CI corn to help accelerate production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and low-CI ethanol.

With the leadership and support of the USDA, we believe this grant will play a pivotal role in expediting the adoption of climate-smart farming practices and immediate market expansion of field-tracked, low-CI corn destined for SAF production in the area surrounding Gevo’s previously announced Net-Zero 1 (NZ1) SAF plant, currently under development in Lake Preston, South Dakota. The project will also accelerate the market adoption for climate-smart corn in close collaboration with Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), a dry-mill corn-based ethanol facility located near Council Bluffs, Iowa. An important part of the project is our aim to enroll majority female-owned farms in southeast Iowa and southeast Nebraska and Native American tribal organizations in South Dakota, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“Our Farm-to-Flight Program, under this USDA grant, aims to count all the carbon at the field level and reward farmers on a performance basis for delivering low-CI corn, as well as to accelerate the production of SAF to reduce dependency on fossil-based fuel,” says Dr. Paul Bloom, Chief Carbon Officer and Chief Innovation Officer for Gevo, and Head of Verity. “The program will also focus on deploying our Verity Tracking platform with farmers to help them measure, report and verify their CI reductions.”

Gevo believes that the Argonne National Laboratory GREET model is the best available standard of scientific-based measurement for life cycle inventory or LCI. Verity, a Gevo program, uses the high-quality field and process level data, and the versatility of GREET to calculate the commodity’s carbon performance with a high degree of confidence that is traceable, immutable, and fully auditable. “The Verity carbon accounting platform will give us the ability to assign carbon-intensity scores to feedstocks on a field-by-field basis – creating financial grade climate smart commodities that carry their performance through the supply chain to the final biofuel products,” Bloom says. “This grant will help us apply the best science and reward growers for making a real difference to lower GHGs of biofuels.”

“When Net-Zero 1 and other production facilities come online, the feedstocks in the program will be a key to the equation,” says Dr. Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo. “This Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grant will help ensure we count all the carbon through the entire business system and reward farmers for the good work they are doing.”

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Storage solutions firm in the market for strategic capital

An early-stage provider of hydrogen storage technology has hired a UK-based financial advisor to raise capital for a pilot plant.

Hydrogen carrier technology firm H2Fuel is seeking to raise approximately $25m to build a pilot project, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans.

The Dutch-based company has mandated a UK-based financial advisor to engage potential investors, with capital needs in the $12.5m range of a $25m project cost, the sources added.

In an interview, H2Fuel CEO Peter Huisman said the firm is “location agnostic” in looking for a site for a pilot project, but would prefer the US. Europe and India are also possibilities.

“We are early stage, in our view,” Huisman said. “[An investor will] need to have a long-term view of the market.”

Huisman declined to say which bank his company has hired but referred to it as a “top five” institution.

H2Fuel’s process combines hydrogen to salt, forming an energy-dense solid compound that can be transported and stored in dry conditions without complex requirements. A patented energy release process requires no extra energy, Huisman said.

The company has talked with some large strategics but has been told they are too early, Huisman said. The company views the near-term capital opportunities as one for pension funds or a venture capital.

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Low-carbon tech company targeting hydrogen at 35 cents per kilogram

A North Carolina net-zero solutions company has plans to raise capital and is scouting for a location in the US Gulf Coast for its first clean hydrogen production facility.

8 Rivers Capital, the North Carolina net zero solutions company and technology commercialization platform, will need to raise capital and is scouting for a location in the US Gulf Coast for its first clean hydrogen production facility, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder Bill Brown said on the sidelines of CERAWeek in Houston.

Brown declined to elaborate on the capital raise, but said he is well connected to finance from previous roles he held at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The company received a $100m investment from South Korea-based SK Group last March.

8 Rivers has technology for power generation, hydrogen production, gas processing, and direct air capture. Through its involvement with affiliate Net Power, 8 Rivers has developed the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, a power cycle that uses the oxy-combustion of carbon-based fuels and a high-pressure CO2 fluid in a highly recuperated cycle that captures emissions. Net Power was recently acquired in a SPAC deal with Rice Acquisition Corp. II, which valued the company at $1.459bn.

In hydrogen, 8 Rivers has developed 8RH2, a process to make hydrogen from natural gas that produces lower emissions and higher efficiencies, according to its website.

8 Rivers announced in November that it signed an MoU with Japan-based JX Nippon to evaluate the US Gulf Coast for “commercial-scale deployment of 8 Rivers technologies across ammonia and other net-zero projects, including potential projects using CO2-rich natural gas.”

Hydrogen at 35 cents?

Brown isn’t too concerned with the source, or color, of hydrogen. He’s much more concerned with the price per kilo, and says his goal is to make low or zero-carbon-intensity hydrogen without concern for its provenance.

“If we can get hydrogen at 35 cents, you would never build a new power plant, because you’ve got hydrogen cheap enough to use a traditional hydrogen turbine,” Brown said. “I can make the cheapest hydrogen from methane, or coal for that matter. I can’t make it from electricity without subsidy.”

Hydrogen at 35 cents is USD 3 per MMBtu, making it competitive with gas.

“One-dollar hydrogen, to me, is worthless,” he said. “Let’s face it, right now, we have one-dollar hydrogen in the world, not clean, but we have seen the full demand already.”

“8 Rivers does not want to be the company that says ‘here, take my technology,’” Brown said. “8 Rivers wants to be the company that says ‘come to us and we will give you the cheapest hydrogen and we’re agnostic as to where it came from, but we can tell you it’s green.’”

Target markets include customers that are blending hydrogen, Brown said. With USD 50bn of hydrogen assets already deployed in the US, he’s not concerned about offtake.

“It’s the system,” Brown said. “The system is the offtake.”

For ammonia, island nations in transition, commercial shipping and coal replacement all present large potential markets, Brown said. If ammonia can be produced at USD 100 per ton, it will be more competitive than coal as an export fuel.

But Brown is adamant that hydrogen blending in existing infrastructure presents the best and most immediate use for hydrogen.

“All it takes is offtake,” Brown said. “The easiest thing to do with hydrogen is not converting it to ammonia to ship it overseas with some supply contract, the easiest thing to do is put it in a pipeline.”

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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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