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Iwatani hits Nel with fraud claims in California lawsuit

Iwatani Corporation of America accuses Norway-based Nel and its affiliates of a series of allegations including misrepresentation, concealment, fraud, and breach of contract, among others, related to the sale of hydrogen fueling equipment by Nel.

In a comprehensive lawsuit filed by Iwatani Corporation of America against Nel ASA, Nel Hydrogen A/S, Nel Hydrogen Inc., and unnamed defendants (DOEs 1-10), the plaintiff accuses the Norway-based Nel and its affiliates of a series of allegations including misrepresentation, concealment, fraud, and breach of contract, among others.

The legal action, lodged in the Central District of California – Southern Division, outlines a detailed account of alleged deceptive practices surrounding the marketing and sale of hydrogen fueling station equipment by Nel to Iwatani, one of Japan’s largest industrial gas companies aiming to expand its footprint in California’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

In a statement issued today, Nel said it strongly rejects the allegations and will vigorously oppose the lawsuit.

Iwatani, with its principal place of business in Texas, embarked on a venture to become a key supplier of hydrogen fueling stations in California. The company was influenced by Nel ASA’s public representations and direct communications, which purportedly showcased Nel’s technological advancements, operational capabilities, and market leadership in hydrogen fueling solutions. These assertions by Nel played a critical role in Iwatani’s decision to select Nel’s H2Station equipment for its ambitious expansion plans in California, which aimed to build out a robust infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The lawsuit alleges that Nel engaged in a calculated campaign of misrepresentation and concealment regarding the performance, reliability, and technological maturity of its H2Station equipment. Key claims include the assertion that Nel falsely represented the H2Station as a “new generation” solution with superior performance and efficiency, capable of meeting Iwatani’s stringent requirements for rapid, high-volume fueling operations. Nel’s presentations and documentation allegedly inflated the capabilities of their product, misleading Iwatani about the technology’s readiness and operational reliability.

Moreover, Iwatani claims that Nel concealed the problematic history and performance issues of its previously sold equipment, which had suffered from significant operational failures and had not lived up to the promised standards. According to the complaint, had Iwatani been fully aware of the true performance record and the ongoing disputes between Nel and other customers over equipment failures, it would not have chosen Nel’s H2Station for its projects.

The lawsuit further accuses Nel of engaging in a deliberate scheme to obfuscate the equipment’s defects and to control the flow of information to customers about encountered problems. This scheme allegedly included requiring customers to contract with Nel Hydrogen Inc. for the commissioning, service, maintenance, and operation of the equipment, thereby preventing customers from fully understanding or disclosing the equipment’s operational issues.

Iwatani seeks a comprehensive array of remedies, including but not limited to compensatory and punitive damages, rescission of contracts, restitution, and declaratory relief.

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Sumitomo eyeing stake in Calgary carbon capture project

Sumitomo has been granted the right to acquire an equity interest in the East Calgary Carbon Transportation & Sequestration Project.

Reconciliation Energy Transition Inc. and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation, have entered into an agreement whereby RETI has granted Sumitomo the exclusive right to acquire a significant equity interest in the East Calgary Carbon Transportation & Sequestration Project.

The CTS Hub is a proposed CO2 transportation and sequestration development project that is expected to involve constructing compression capacity, a COpipeline network, and injection and monitoring wells to support permanent sequestration of CO2 in deep saline aquifers at a location east of Calgary, according to a news release.

The project has an estimated first phase targeted CO2 storage volume of 3.0 million tonnes per annum.

“We are pleased to welcome Sumitomo to our East Calgary CTS Hub. They are one of the world’s leading trading and business investment companies and we are excited to work with their dedicated CCUS team. This partnership, with our commitment to Indigenous ownership, is a pivotal step to bring the CTS project to fruition.” said Stephen Mason, Chairman & CEO of RETI.

“We are delighted to partner with RETI and its commitment to meaningful Indigenous ownership on the development of the CTS Hub. The mitigation of climate change is one of our key areas of focus and we recognize that CCUS is a key technology in that battle,” said Shinichi “Sandro” Hasegawa, General Manager of Energy Innovation Initiative Americas at Sumitomo Corporation of Americas.

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Avina unveils Midwest ethanol-to-SAF project

Avina revealed more details about a planned SAF project in the Midwest, saying that funding commitments for the project through FID have been secured.

Clean hydrogen developer Avina said this week it is pursuing plans for a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant in the Midwest region set to commence operations in 2027.

The facility, engineered to produce 120 million gallons of SAF annually, will utilize alcohol-to-jet production technology pathway. The SAF produced will have significantly reduced life cycle carbon emissions compared to conventional jet fuel. The end product will be certified to meet ASTM D7566 standards, according to a news release.

Preliminary Front End Engineering Design (Pre-FEED) for the project is complete and FEED is expected to kick off in Q2 2024.

Funding commitments for the project through FID have been secured, and Avina is currently engaged in advanced discussions with various strategic and financial investors to fund the project at FID.

Avina is also pleased to announce that it has entered into long-term supply agreements with leading ethanol suppliers for a significant portion of the low carbon intensity (CI) ethanol feedstock volume requirement, a major milestone in moving the project forward. Substantial volumes of ethanol will be supplied by facilities with operational carbon capture and sequestration. Leveraging this low carbon intensity ethanol feedstock, the project is estimated to avoid around 840,000 metric tons of aviation-related carbon emissions annually. The project will leverage existing rail and pipeline infrastructure to ensure optimal delivery of end product into the Chicago O’Hare and other regional airports.

The US airline industry is experiencing a notable demand for SAF in response to commitments to utilize three billion gallons of SAF by 2030. Avina is proactively collaborating with airline customers and other stakeholders to play a key role in meeting this target.

“The strategic location, scale, and cost-effectiveness offer a significant advantage for our SAF project,” says Vishal Shah, CEO & Founder at Avina Clean Hydrogen. “Aviation sector accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions. In recent years, emissions from this sector have been increasing at a faster rate compared to those from rail, road, or shipping. Sustainable Aviation Fuels are critical to decarbonizing the aviation sector and the Ethanol-to-Jet production pathway is the most immediate, cost-effective, and scalable option for aviation decarbonization. With the procurement of low CI ethanol from existing production facilities that have CO2 capture and sequestration, we are excited about the project’s potential to drive aviation industry’s decarbonization efforts forward.”

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California outfit to build hydrogen-powered data center

Data center-as-a-service provider ECL is seeking to build its first 1 MW hydrogen-powered data center in 2Q23.

Data Center-as-a-Service pioneer ECL is seeking to build a modular, sustainable, off-grid data center that uses green hydrogen as its primary power source.

ECL will deliver data centers in 1 MW blocks with 99.9999% uptime, according to a news release. The company also announced $7m in seed financing co-led by Molex Ventures and Hyperwise Ventures.

The funds will be used by ECL to expand its market presence and in the construction of its first data center at the company’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters, with completion scheduled for Q2 2023.

While other data center providers have deployed hydrogen fuel cells as backup power supplies, and with some conducting trials of systems forecast for production delivery in three-to-five years, ECL is the first provider to deliver a fully-green hydrogen-powered data center, the release says. This innovation is enabled by bringing together several technologies including green hydrogen-based power generation, battery energy storage and highly reliable power architecture without dependence on the utility grid. This maximizes efficiency and time to delivery and all but eliminates waste.

Lily Yeung, vice president at Molex Ventures and Nathan Shuchami, managing partner at Hyperwise Ventures join ECL Founder and CEO Yuval Bachar as members of the ECL board of directors.

Optimized for use by mid-sized data center operators – typically large companies with a mix of cloud and on-premises IT environments – ECL’s Datacenter-as-a-Service is two-thirds the total cost of ownership (TCO) of traditional colocation data center providers when measured over five years. The community-integrated data center design consumes no local resources, including power or water, and operates with zero emissions at extremely low noise levels. ECL’s modularity and lack of dependence on local utilities also means that its data centers can be designed and delivered much faster than others’, reducing planning and construction cycles from between 18 to 24 months to between six and nine months.

Bachar previously held top engineering, infrastructure and architecture roles at Microsoft Azure, LinkedIn, Facebook, Cisco, Juniper Networks and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). He was a founder of the Open19 project, a data center industry initiative establishing a new open standard for servers based on a common form factor, and is past president of the Open19 Foundation. He holds eight U.S. patents in data center, networking and system design and is the recipient of three Cisco Pioneer Awards.

“We are proud to be a part of this much-needed revolution in the data center industry, and look forward to working closely with Yuval and his team as they bring this peerless innovation to market,” said Shuchami. “ECL has a long lead on the competition in the delivery of a data center powered primarily by green hydrogen and we can’t wait to stand with them as they raise the curtain in Q2 2023.”

“It’s exciting to see ECL investing to bring tremendously relevant and novel experience into this high growth space around customizable modular data centers that can support the growing demand for advanced and flexible computational needs and sustainable power use,” said Lily Yeung, VP of Molex Ventures.

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Exclusive: Hydrocarbon recycling firm raising pre-IPO equity

An early-stage company capturing and recycling CO2 from hydrocarbon engines in the northeastern US and Germany has hired an investment bank to help them with a public listing and is raising pre-IPO platform equity.

ESG Clean Energy, a Massachusetts-based carbon capture and recycling firm formed in 2016, plans to go public in 2025 but will first raise pre-IPO platform equity, CEO Nick Scuderi said in an interview.

ESG Clean Energy will change its name in a re-brand and has hired an investment bank to help with the IPO, which does not yet have a targeted quarter, Scuderi said. He declined to name the advisor.

After the name change but prior to the public listing, ESG is seeking to raise between $20m and $40m in platform equity, he said. The company is interested in a traditional IPO, not a SPAC or private debut opportunity.

Angel investors have backed the company to date, with some $40m total raised, Scuderi said. He owns a controlling stake in the company.

Power, water and CO2

ESG Clean Energy, billed as a thermal dynamics and fluid mechanics engineering company, has patented technology for use in fossil combustion engines – both piston-driven engines and bottoming cycles (secondary thermal dynamic waste-to-energy systems). Exhaust is treated to produce CO2 and water.

The technology is commercialized, producing power at a facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts under a 5 MW/20-year PPA with Holyoke Gas & Electric. The 5,000 square-foot plant in the city proper has two Caterpillar G3520 natural gas engines each producing 2 MW of power running on natural gas during peak hours.

The waste-heat from Holyoke One is used to create commodities, including distilled water.

“What we have is a design, a system, where we utilize our technology to separate the water from the exhaust,” Scuderi said. “We can utilize this technology in any power plant in the US that’s running on natural gas.”

In arid regions, the distilled water aspect has obvious potential. The Holyoke One facility makes up to 14,000 gallons of distilled water per day, Scuderi said.

The system is also applicable in ICE engines, Suderi said. The company has been in discussions with auto manufacturers to license ESG’s IP; he declined to name which auto companies.

The CO2 is sold to offtakers who do not re-emit it into the atmosphere, such as cannabis growers and CO2 beverage makers. ESG is also able to sell carbon credits.

Bankable opportunities in the US and Germany

Holyoke One, at a cost of $20m, can be replicated throughout the US and, post-IPO, ESG has eyes on power projects in New England, California and Florida, Scuderi said.

Power plants that produce from 100 MWh to 200 MWh will cost between $400m and $450m, and each of those projects will be set up as a separate LLC, Scuderi said. The demand is particularly large in powering data storage.

“We have different [investment] funds that are very large that are willing to put up the money” to fund the projects, Scuderi said. “It’s bankable because the power sales agreement is tied to a data storage company that’s triple-A rated.”

Data-heavy geographies like Virginia are targets for this kind of development, and ESG plans to sharpen its focus on these projects, as well as project finance efforts, following the IPO.

Now, the company has six large scale projects in development in Germany, including one advanced project serving a cloud computing offtaker in the Berlin area, needing 150 MW to 200 MW of power per hour, Scuderi said.

“In Germany, we’re very far along with getting power sales agreements,” he said. “Once we deploy this technology in one location, the world’s going to want it.”

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California Resources pursuing pipeline of blue molecule projects

Through a subsidiary called Carbon TerraVault, the upstream oil and gas producer will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals.

Through its subsidiary Carbon TerraVault, California Resources Corporation will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals, Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Gould said in an interview.

Carbon TerraVault is differentiated by its nature as a CCS-as-a-service company, Gould said, as most CCS projects are owned by emitters themselves.

“We are bringing to market a solution to decarbonize other parts of the California economy,” Gould said, noting that hydrogen producers, power plants and steel and cement makers are among potential clients. “We are out across the state, working with emitters.”

Carbon TerraVault is self-mandated to return one billion tons of carbon back into the ground, first as a gas and then pressurized into liquid. Revenue comes from the federal 45Q incentive and the California LCFS and related tradeable market.

The company has a JV with Brookfield Renewable for the first 200 million tons. That JV recently formed a separate JV with Lone Cypress Energy Services for a planned blue hydrogen plant at the Elk Hills Field in Kern County.

Carbon TerraVault will provide permanent sequestration for 100,000 MTPA at the facility, and will receive an injection fee on a per ton basis, according to a December 7 presentation.

In hiring Carbon TerraVault to provide CCS as a service, LoneCypress also invited the company to invest in the production, Gould said. The JV has the right to participate in the blue hydrogen facility up to and including a majority equity stake, the presentation shows.

“You should expect to see over time as we do more and more of these that we’re going to have multiple models,” Gould said of these partnerships and financial structures. A typical model may emerge as the industry matures.

The company could repeat that effort for “many more” blue hydrogen projects in the state, Gould said. “Green [hydrogen] is a longer-term proposition that is going to be based on renewable buildout,” he said. “Blue is kind of here now.”

Target market

Carbon TerraVault estimates that California’s total CCS market opportunity is between 150 MMTPA – 210 MMTPA, and is in discussions for 8 MMTPA of CCS, of which 1 MMTPA is in advanced discussions, the presentation shows.

Through California Resources’ Elk Hills land position of 47,000 acres and CO2 sequestration reservoirs, the company could attract additional greenfield infrastructure projects like the Lone Cypress Hydrogen Project and create a Net Zero Industrial Park, according to the presentation.

In that vein, Gould noted the huge need for decarbonized ammonia in California’s central valley agriculture, which today is imported from abroad.

“There is a need for clean hydrogen in California and it is best if it is created in California,” Gould said.

The JV with Brookfield funds Carbon TerraVault’s storage needs, Gould said. Investments in the production processes, such as the deal with Lone Cypress, will likely require additional capital.

Project level financing is a “default assumption,” Gould said, though that’s not set in stone. The company is working with a financial advisor but Gould declined to name the firm.

The scale of California’s hydrogen ambitions is far beyond what any one company can do, Gould said.

“If you’re an advisor that is working with a developer likeLone Cypress that is considering locating in California, then I would say give us a ring,” Gould said. “We’re the ones who are going to be able to do the sequestration there.”

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exclusive

Cutting the electricity out of electrolysis

Milwaukee-based start-up Advanced Ionics is seeking to commercialize an electrolyzer that cuts electricity needs for hydrogen production to as low as 30 kWh per kilogram.

Advanced Ionics is seeking to ramp manufacturing capacity and raise capital as it begins to commercialize an electrolyzer promising to reduce electricity needs, CEO Chad Mason said in an interview.

The Milwaukee-based company is working to demonstrate its low-cost electrolyzer technology through a partnership with the Repsol Foundation.

The technology will be tested locally, but could grow to include additional tests and, eventually, a commercial relationship with the Spain-based energy and petrochemical company.

Advanced Ionics is looking to move into a larger facility in Milwaukee to advance early-stage production of the electrolyzer, which uses steam from process and waste heat to reduce the amount of electricity required in electrolysis.

The company last year raised $4.2m in a seed round led by Clean Energy Ventures, with participation from SWAN Impact Network. It has also received financial support from Repsol and $500,000 from the DOE.

As it scales, Mason said, the company will also need to raise additional capital, but he declined further comment.

Going to market

The Repsol arrangement is part of the company’s early access program allowing potential end users to take a first look at the technology.

“Repsol is just the tip of the iceberg here,” Mason said. “We’re talking to some really amazing partners at some of the largest energy companies in the world. People who use hydrogen today and want to make it green immediately understand what we’re doing.”

Given the concentration of hydrogen use in petrochemicals and ammonia, Advanced Ionics is targeting these sectors for deployment of its electrolyzers to produce clean hydrogen, Mason added.

Mason noted that, as the traditional petrochemical industry dies off over time, it will be replaced by green materials and green fuels like sustainable aviation fuel and biofuels that require hydrogenation to be useable.

“You’ll see a bit of a replacement happening on the petrochemical side, towards a green chemical,” he said, adding that a third potential key market is green steel production using hydrogen.

Thermodynamically favored

The company’s Symbiotic electrolyzers use steam by tapping into excess heat from industrial settings, thereby lowering electricity needs for water splitting to 35 kWh per kg, with 30 kWh per kg possible. That compares to industry averages over 50 kWh per kg.

Advanced Ionics’ water vapor electrolyzer

“We set out to build an electrolyzer specifically that would operate at intermediate temperatures,” he said. “And that allows you to have the synergy with those processes, and the downstream effect is the most cost-effective hydrogen you can get.”

The resulting hydrogen could be available for less than $1 per kg – but, Mason notes, the underlying power price math assumes an abundance of cheap, clean power. The models are usually pricing in two cents per kWh, the availability of which, Mason added, is “extremely geographically dependent.”

“If you’re in Texas, you have a system with wind, solar, and some amount of clean energy grid back-up, it’s pretty attractive,” he said. “Or if you hook up to a hydroelectric facility in the Northwest or in the Quebec area.”

Mason added, “Electrolysis rides on the coattails of cheap, clean electricity. What we have under our control is to make sure we’re using as little electricity as possible.”

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