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LanzaTech plans Wales SAF facility

NASDAQ-traded LanzaTech is initially seeking planning permission for a commercial scale alcohol-to-jet facility that would supply around 1% of the UK’s jet fuel needs.

LanzaTech UK Ltd, a subsidiary of LanzaTech Global, Inc. has announced plans for Wales’ first carbon recycling facilities in and around Port Talbot that would transform emissions into sustainable aviation fuel, according to a news release.

The pioneering ‘Project Dragon’ aims to reduce emissions from industry and help facilitate lower emission flying.

Building on the area’s industrial strength, the facilities enable Neath Port Talbot to play a leading role in creating carbon reduction industries in South Wales critical to delivering the UK’s net zero economy and tackling the climate emergency, the release states.

LanzaTech is initially seeking planning permission for a ground-breaking commercial scale Alcohol-to-Jet facility that would supply around 1% of the UK’s jet fuel needs. The facility is expected to convert sustainable ethanol, via the LanzaJet™ Alcohol-to-Jet Process™, into sustainable aviation fuel which reduces the climate impact of flying by more than 70%.

To produce the ethanol for the Alcohol-to-Jet plant, a second facility is planned which uses a naturally occurring organism that transforms greenhouse gases to ethanol as part of its natural life cycle. With a World Health Organization Risk Group Rating the same as baker’s yeast, this nature-based solution creates valuable raw materials that would otherwise come from virgin fossil inputs. The details of this second facility would be progressed through a separate planning application when the location is confirmed.

Aviation is one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize and, to accelerate the project, LanzaTech has received £25m of support from the Department for Transport’s Advanced Fuels Fund. Subject to planning permission, construction of the Alcohol-to-Jet facility is expected to begin in 2025 with production starting in 2026/7.

Remarking on this news, Jim Woodger, LanzaTech UK Ltd. managing director, said, “LanzaTech is thrilled to announce its plans to transform derelict land in Port Talbot into the site for Wales first sustainable aviation fuel production. The rich industrial heritage of the region will be maintained through new innovative technologies like these which transform industrial waste gases into valuable products and create long-term, skilled jobs.”

LanzaTech will be sharing further details of its plans for the Alcohol-to-Jet facility as these develop in the coming months, and are keen to receive feedback from members of the local Port Talbot community including through a new project website which launched today at www.lanzadragon.wales. A full planning application for the Alcohol-to-Jet facility is being prepared and will be submitted later this year. A location for the second facility converting wastes to sustainable ethanol is still being identified. Once this is finalised a second planning application will be submitted.

Ben Burggraaf, CEO of Net Zero Industry Wales, added, “We are delighted to see LanzaTech’s project progress within the wider South Wales Industrial Cluster. Together with the successful Celtic Freeport bid and the shortlisting of Hanson’s capture and storage project in North Wales, Industry is now creating skilled, long-term and green jobs in Wales.”

LanzaTech’s announcement coincides with the release of a new roadmap for net zero aviation by Sustainable Aviation. The report identifies sustainable aviation fuels as the key immediate opportunity to reduce aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions and as playing a major role in reaching net-zero aviation by 2050. The roadmap is being released at a major conference and exhibition on zero emission aviation at Farnborough.

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Nel needs more orders to build Michigan electrolyzer plant

Nel Hydrogen executives said today that they will need to win more large-scale orders in order to take a positive final investment decision on a proposed Michigan electrolyzer factory.

Norway-based Nel Hydrogen will need to win more large-scale orders in order to build its proposed electrolyzer gigafactory in Michigan, executives said today.

The company announced last month that it has selected Plymouth Charter Township near Detroit as the location for the plant, with an anticipated annual capacity of 4 GW between PEM and alkaline technology.

Nel has so far secured more than $50 million in financial support for the site. Pending approval of additional state and federal applications, this amount could increase to around $150m.

The company has still not made a final investment decision on the facility, and does not provide a timeline for when it expects to do so.

“For us to do something in Michigan we first need to utilize the capacity that we are building now,” CEO Håkon Volldal said. “It doesn’t make sense to build another factory in Michigan and run our current facilities with utilization rates at sixty to seventy percent.”

To execute on the new plant, it would take large-scale orders that they would ideally like to produce and deliver in the US. 

“We will not invest a lot of capital up front and wait for the order,” he said. “We would like to see the orders materialize before we invest, and that’s why we don’t give an exact schedule for when we start the construction.”

Nel’s order intake for 3Q23 came in at 352 NOK ($31m), the lowest of the previous four quarters. Volldal noted that Nel’s win rate for electrolyzer contracts remains around one or two per quarter; however, the 3Q contract wins were smaller compared to previous quarters.

Its total backlog for electrolyzers stands at 2,442bn NOK ($218.5m).

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IRS 45V tax credit rules draft stricter than EU

A leaked draft report of pending 45V guidance from the US Treasury Department has advocates of the emerging green hydrogen industry warning of too-stringent measures.

US Treasury guidance for clean hydrogen producers to claim the top $3/kg rate of the hydrogen production tax credit could be overly onerous on the fledgling industry, according to responses to reporting on a draft in Politico and Bloomberg.

Reportedly, new rules include requirements that hydrogen be produced from newly created renewables (additionality), as well as geographic correlation and hourly time-matching requirements to qualify for the top rate.

“The proposal suggests that there will be an hourly matching requirement from 2027, making the rules stricter than those in the EU: a surprise to many, and potentially problematic in the eyes of some,” Ben Heininger, a manager at Baringa, said in a statement on LinkedIn. “This will lead to a material increase in costs, given the challenges in procuring firm 24/7 green power – a boon for storage developers no doubt.”

The increase in cost will drive the levelized cost of hydrogen higher and producers will likely have greater concerns over competitiveness for exports, Heininger said.

“If true, the Biden Administration’s proposed strategy for implementing these provisions will fail to get this new industry off the ground,” Jason Grumet, chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Clean Power Association, said in a statement yesterday. “It is surprising and disappointing that the administration would propose such a rigid approach that is at odds with decades of learning about new technology deployment.”

The 45V tax credit was originally unveiled as part of the Inflation Reduction Act and is split into four rates based on emissions intensity.

Hydrogen project developers and investors worry that stringent 45V rules will put the nascent industry on its back foot, significantly enough to kill projects by increasing the cost of green hydrogen production as the number of hours an electrolyzer can be operational is reduced and the sources of energy from which they can purchase power is limited.

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Irish agribusiness investing $500m in US biorefinery

The facility is in line for a $400m DOE loan guarantee as part of the investment.

ClonBio, an Irish agribusiness firm with global operations, is planning to invest $500m in a biorefinery plant in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

The group has already invested the first $100m in the facility, called Aztalan, following the acquisition of the moth-balled plant in 2022.

Given incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the owners are accelerating their investment program in tandem with an application for a Department of Energy loan guaranteed, the Irish Independent reported.

“It will drive the most efficient use of grain in the history of the United States,” CEO Jeff Oestmann said in a statement. “Every part of the corn kernel is going to be used efficiently to make starch based, fibre based, protein based and fat based foods, feeds, and fuels, thereby promoting the circular economy and maximizing food security,” he added.

Company representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

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Exclusive: TransGas CEO talks mega ammonia project

The owners of a proposed colossal ammonia production facility in Appalachian coal country are in the beginning stages of seeking liquidity, EPC contracting, and advisory services for a project they say will ultimately be financed akin to an LNG export terminal.

It’s an appeal often made in modern US politics – doing right by those left behind.

Perhaps no place is more emblematic of that appeal than West Virginia, and perhaps no region in that state more so than the southern coal fields. It’s there a fossil developer is proposing the architecture of the ruling coal industry be used to build a $10bn decarbonized ammonia facility and is gathering the resources to do so.

“It’s world class, and it makes southern West Virginia, Mingo County, the catalyst for the 21st century’s energy revival,” said Adam Victor, the CEO of TransGas Development Systems, the developer of the project. “The people [here] are the heirs and descendants of the people that mined the coal that built the steel that built the Panama Canal.”

The Adams Fork Energy project in Mingo County, jointly developed by TransGas and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, is slated to reach commercial operations in 2027. Six identical 6,000 mtpd ammonia manufacturing plants are being planned on the site of a previously permitted (but not constructed) coal-to-gasoline facility.

ReSource exclusively reported this week that the state has issued a permit to construct the facility. TransGas owns 100% of the project now, though if the Tribe comes through with federal funding then it will become the majority owner.

TransGas itself could take on a liquidity partner to raise up to $20m in development capital for the project, Victor said. The company is not using a financial advisor now but will hire one in the future.

White & Case is TransGas’ legal advisor. The company is in discussions with Ansaldo Energia, of Italy, about construction.

“The project is not averse to talking to private equity or investment bankers, because nothing has been decided right now,” Victor said, noting that the company is just beginning talks with infra funds and is eager to do so. “The project will be looking for an EPC.”

The first of the six plants will cost about $2bn, but each one will get successively less expensive, Victor said. Total capex is about $10bn, though there is discussion of acquiring adjacent land to double the size of the project – or 12 plants in all producing 6,000 mtpd each.

TransGas has the support of West Virginia politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Jim Justice, Victor said. Financing the project will be a function of the offtake.

Electricity for data centers, or ammonia for export?

The company is conducting a market analysis to determine avenues for offtake, Victor said. They could do partial electricity generation onsite to power a data center, with the remainder of the hydrogen being used to make ammonia for shipment overseas.

Depending on the needs of offtakers, the facility could also do one or the other entirely, he said.

The project, if configured at current size, could support about 6,000 MW of non-interruptible power generation, 2,000 MW of that for cooling.

“This could basically become a 6,000 MW campus to become the center of data centers in the United States,” Victor said, noting that the region is much less prone to natural disasters than some others and is high enough in elevation to escape any flooding. “I think we could rival Loudoun County [Virginia] as where data centers should be located.”

Adams Fork sits on the largest mine pool reservoir in the eastern US, Victor noted. Data centers need constant cooling, particularly new chip technology that requires liquid cooling.

TransGas will know in a matter of weeks if it’s going to go the electrical route, Victor said. There are only five companies in the world with data centers large enough to efficiently offtake from it: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Meta and Apple.

If not, the facility will continue down the path of selling the decarbonized ammonia, likely to an oil company or international ammonia buyer like JERA in Japan.

Partnering with a tech company will make it easier to finance the project because of high credit ratings, Victor said. International pressure on oil companies could affect those credit ratings.

“We think the investor world could be split,” he said, noting tech and fuels investors could both be interested in the project. “You’re doubling the universe of investors and offtakers.”

He added: “Once we have the offtake, we think we could have a groundbreaking this year.”

Two ways of shipping

For ammonia production the facility could use the same shipping channels the coal industry uses – either to the Big Sandy River to be sent by barge on the Ohio to New Orleans, or rail to ports in Baltimore; Norfolk, Virginia; and Savanna, Georgia.

By rail, two 40-car trains per day would take ammonia to port. Norfolk Southern and CSX both operate in the region.

Another option is to have a fleet of 50 EV or hydrogen-powered trucks to transport ammonia to the Big Sandy where electric-powered barges can take it to the Gulf, Victor said. That latter option could mean a lower CI score because it will eliminate rail’s diesel power.

Mercedes-Benz and Volvo both make the kind of trucks used for this work in Europe and Asia, he said. Coal mines in the region use diesel trucks in fleets as numerous as 500, and the original TransGas coal plant was permitted for 250 trucks per day.

“This is something that our offtake partner is going to determine,” he said. Japan would likely want the ammonia in the Gulf of Mexico, whereas European shipping companies would want it on an Atlantic port.

The LNG financial model

The offtakers themselves could fund the facility, Victor said.

“The financial model for this is the financial model for funding LNG terminals,” he said. “The same teams that put those large facilities together, financial teams, would be the same teams that we’re talking to now.”

The offtakers may also dictate who they want to be the financial advisor, he said.

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exclusive

Pennsylvania RNG firm outlines strategic outlook

A growing RNG developer, owner and operator based in Pennsylvania is anticipating a liquidity event on the part of its private equity owner — once it has locked down a “critical mass” of projects.

Vision RNG, a developer of US RNG projects, could see its next project reach commercial operations in Tennessee in a line of projects in southeastern and mid-western states, CEO Bill Johnson said in an interview.

Vision Ridge Partners, a private equity firm, is the majority owner of the company. Management owns the remaining minority stake.

The company is still in early stages and would likely need to get something like six projects to COD before a liquidity event.

“Locking down projects creates a lot of value,” Johnson said, noting that Vision Ridge will likely follow a typical private equity monetization pattern.

The company’s project at Meridian Waste’s Eagle Ridge Landfill in Bowling Green, Missouri is fully operational. It uses 1,500 scfm of landfill gas (LFG) and produces 375,000 MMBtu of RNG annually.

That mid-sized project is similar in scale to what is being developed in Tennessee, which will likely be the next project to reach COD, Johnson said, declining to provide details on exact location.

“We’re working on developing other opportunities with some of the largest publicly owned landfill companies in the country,” Johnson said.

Projects require between $20m and $60m in capex, ranging from small to large, Johnson said. Vision Ridge takes care of the company’s equity requirements.

Debt options are being considered on a project-by-project basis, he said. Debt tends to range from 50% to 70% of total spend.
“We’ll look to put reasonable project debt on these,” he said.

Vision has not to date retained the services of an investment bank, Johnson said.

Vision is pursuing opportunities in Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma, and will evaluate suppliers of services and equipment for each. The location-agnostic company is also open to new relationships with potential future financial and strategic acquirers.

“If you are a private equity group, you’re a potential buyer of the company at some point, so we would be happy to know them and keep their interest in us up,” Johnson said. An acquirer would not necessarily need to have expertise in RNG.

M&A potential

M&A of projects is an option on the table, Johnson said. But returns are better if Vision develops its own projects; and a more challenging macroeconomic environment makes acquisitions somewhat unlikely.

“With the market premiums being paid, I see us continuing to keep our head down and focusing on organic growth,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he expects to see continued consolidation in the greater market. Many large strategic and midstream companies have yet to make significant buys in RNG.

He pointed to bp’s acquisition of Archaea Energy as a significant milestone in the RNG market.

“There’s quite a number of potential acquirers,” Johnson said. “The market is kind of fundamentally and always will be under-supplied and over-demanded.”

Vision would potentially be open to a merger with a portfolio company of a strategic or PE investor, Johnson said.

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exclusive

Midwestern SAF developer in capital raise

A municipal solid waste solutions firm based in the midwestern US is undergoing a $30m capital raise ahead of its first SAF project with plans to launch another raise late this year or early next.

Illinois Clean Fuels, the municipal solid waste solutions firm in Deerfield, Illinois, has mandated two advisors to run a capital raise, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Chabina Energy Partners and Weild & Co. are assisting on the process, which the company plans to have finished by October, the sources said.

The equity will be put toward six recovery facilities to supply feedstock for an unannounced project located in the Chicagoland region, one of the sources said. Following two years or so of engineering and permitting, that project should enter construction.

In December or early 1Q24 ICF plans to launch another equity raise for development capital.

ICF, Chabina and Weild & Co. declined to comment.

Illinois Clean Fuels has a synthetic fuel plant under development that will convert municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel in combination with carbon capture and storage, according to its website.

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