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LIFTE H2 acquired by US and Canadian strategics

The US-based operations of LIFTE H2 will become the US subsidiary of a Canadian utility, while its custom Asset Performance Management platform has been acquired by a separate US hydrogen strategic.

The US-based operations and infrastructure solutions of LIFTE H2 will become the US subsidiary of Canada’s Powertech Labs, according to the companies.  

Headquartered in British Columbia, Powertech Labs is a subsidiary of the government-owned BC Hydro.

Separately, the company’s digital Asset Performance Management platform has been acquired by Massachusetts-based Electric Hydrogen.

Resource reported in April that Energy & Industrial Advisory Partners had been hired to help LIFTE H2 conduct a Series A.

Powertech USA, the new subsidiary, will serve the US and Canadian markets.

“Powertech USA will provide a family of infrastructure solutions including hydrogen export systems, high-capacity transport trailers, mobile refuelers, and fueling stations,” a post on LinkedIn states. “Together, these solutions form the market’s first end-to-end hydrogen fueling solution – integrating the movement of hydrogen from the production outlet to the vehicle inlet.”

Powertech USA will be led by Angie Ackroyd, LIFTE’s co-founder and chief technology officer, according to Lifte’s website. Jeremy Maunus, LIFTE’s COO, along with Matthew Blieske, LIFTE’s CEO, will continue to support the Powertech USA team in advisory roles.
The post describes the management platform as a synchronized workspace designed to manage hydrogen data, assets, and people. 

LIFTE H2 will continue operations in Europe. The company has offices in Berlin.

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Power plant manager seeking capital for Boston acquisitions

A manager of natural gas power plants is seeking capital to acquire two facilities in the Boston area and convert them into low-carbon generation assets.

US Grid Company, an owner and operator of electric generation assets in US cities, is seeking to raise capital to make a pair of acquisitions in Boston.

The New York-based plant manager is targeting facilities owned by Calpine and Constellation, CEO Jacob Worenklein said.

Calpine owns the Fore River Energy Center, a 731 MW, combined-cycle plant located 12 miles southeast of Boston, while Constellation owns Mystic Generating Station, a 1,413 MW natural gas-fired plant in Everett, Massachusetts.

Worenklein would acquire the assets and seek to implement lower-carbon generation solutions such as batteries, renewables, or clean fuels, he said.

He has held conversations with both Calpine and Constellation about acquiring the assets, and would need approximately $100m of equity capital to make an acquisition, he said, with the balance coming in the form of debt capital.

US Grid Company previously had investment backing from EnCap Energy Transition and Yorktown Partners, but the funds for the deal were pulled.

Worenklein has had a storied career in the US power sector, serving as a global head in roles at SocGen and Lehman Brothers. He was also founder and head of the power and projects law practice at Milbank.

From 2017 to 2020 he served as chairman of Ravenswood Power Holdings, the owner and operator of a 2,000 MW gas-fired plant in Queens, New York.

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United Airlines invests in NEXT Renewable Fuels

Houston-based NEXT is permitting a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, which could produce 50,000 barrels per day of renewable fuels.

United Airlines Ventures has made a strategic investment in NEXT Renewable Fuels, according to a press release.

Houston-based NEXT is permitting a flagship biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, with expected production beginning in 2026. At full production, the facility could produce 50,000 barrels per day of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

UAV could invest as much as $37.5m into NEXT contingent on milestone targets.

NEXT has secured an agreement with BP for sourcing 100 percent of its feedstock. Once all the necessary approvals and permits are obtained and the biorefinery is operational, it has the potential to be used as a platform to scale SAF and deploy additional future technologies, the release states.

The announcement marks UAV’s fifth SAF-related technology investment and its first investment directly in a biorefinery.

United is the latest major airline to deploy equity in the hydroge space. Last month, American Airline announced an equity investment in Universal Hydrogen Co.

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CleanBay Renewables signs LOI for SPAC takeover

The proposed transaction values CleanBay, a producer of RNG, green hydrogen and controlled-release fertilizer, at $330m.

CleanBay Renewables, a producer of RNG, green hydrogen and controlled-release fertilizer, has signed a letter of intent for a potential business combination with NASDAQ-listed SPAC BurTech Acquisition Corp., according to a news release.

Under the terms of the letter, CleanBay’s existing equity holders would convert 100% of their equity into the combined public company. The proposed transaction values CleanBay at $330m. The BurTech trust account currently holds approximately $294m in cash.

“BurTech expects to announce additional details regarding the proposed business combination when a definitive merger agreement is executed in the second quarter of 2023,” the release states.

CleanBay’s process converts agricultural byproducts into fertilizer. CleanBay’s Chief Executive Officer Donal Buckley said in the release that the company is pursuing new facility developments for that purpose.

“We are excited to partner with CleanBay and believe that access to capital markets will enable CleanBay to commercialize and scale its proprietary and patented processes,” BurTech Chairman and CEO Shahal Khan said in the release. “CleanBay’s ‘shovel-ready projects’ present an attractive investment opportunity for existing and future shareholders.”

The release also highlights Maryland and California state policies to assist in financing such plants and produce RNG, hydrogen and natural fertilizer on an industrial scale.

“With nine identified facilities and eight potential future facilities in the pipeline, we believe that CleanBay will become a significant player in the North American RNG and natural fertilizer market,” Khan said.

According to CleanBay’s management, at full capacity, each CleanBay bioconversion facility can recycle more than 150,000 tons of poultry litter annually. By repurposing a potential source of excess nutrients, each facility can generate more than 750,000 MMBtus of sustainable RNG, 100,000 tons of natural, controlled-release fertilizer, and up to an estimated 1,000,000 tons of CO2 equivalent carbon credits that can be available for monetization in global carbon markets.

As an alternative to renewable natural gas, the facilities can also produce clean hydrogen at an estimated rate of 20,000 tons per year. CleanBay has accumulated proprietary intellectual property covering its conversion process to include trade secrets, a U.S. patent and pending patent applications in the U.S. and Europe.

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Caliche CEO talks hydrogen and CO2 storage expansion

Following the acquisition of assets in Texas and California, Caliche Development Partners CEO Dave Marchese discusses opportunities for growth in the hydrogen and C02 storage market.

Caliche Development Partners II has made a pair of acquisitions with the aim of expanding into growing hydrogen and CO2 storage markets in Texas and California, CEO Dave Marchese said in an interview.

The company, which is backed by Orion Infrastructure Capital and GCM Grosvenor, this week announced the purchase of Golden Triangle Storage, in Beaumont, Texas; and the anticipated acquisition of Central Valley Gas Storage, in Northern California – two regions with increasing demand for storage to support variable power loads, natural gas liquefaction, and high penetrations of renewable resources.

Caliche and seller Southern Company did not use financial advisors for the transaction. Caliche used Willkie Farr as its law firm for the financing and the transactions.

Marchese, who has a private equity background and first worked on a successful investment in a fuel cell company in the year 2000, has also racked up years of experience investing in and operating underground storage assets. The Caliche team developed and sold a natural gas liquids and helium storage business – called Coastal Caverns – earlier this year.

“We know how to put things underground and keep them there, including very small molecules, and we have relationships with many of the customers that are using hydrogen today,” he said.

Roughly a third of the industrial CO2 emissions on the Gulf Coast come from the Golden Triangle area, a region in Southeast Texas between the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange. Much of this CO2 comes from the steam methane reformers that are within 15 miles of Caliche’s newly acquired Golden Triangle asset, Marchese said. The site is in similar proximity to pipelines operated by the air companies – Air Products, Air Liquide, and Praxair – that run from Corpus Christi to New Orleans.

“We’re within 15 miles of 90% of the hydrogen that’s flowing in this country today,” he added. “Pipeline systems need a bulk storage piece to balance flows. We can provide storage for an SMR’s natural gas, storage for its hydrogen, and we can take away captured CO2 if the plant is blue.”

The Golden Triangle site, which sits on the Spindletop salt dome, has room and permits for nine caverns total, with two currently in natural gas service. Three of those caverns are permitted for underground gas storage. “We could start a hydrogen well tomorrow if we had a customer for it,” Marchese said.

The Central Valley assets in Northern California are also positioned for expansion, under the belief that the California market will need natural gas storage for some time to support the integration of renewables onto the grid, he said. Additionally, the assets have all of the safety, monitoring and verification tools for sequestration-type operations, he added, making it a good location to start exploring CO2 sequestration in California. “We think it’s an expansion opportunity,” he said.

“Being an operator in the natural gas market allows us to enter those other markets with a large initial capital investments already covered by cash flowing business, so it allows us to explore incrementally the hydrogen and CO2 businesses rather than having to be a new entrant and invest in all the things you need to stand up an operation.”

Caliche spent $186m to acquire the two assets, following a $268m commitment from Orion and GCM. The balance of the financial commitment will support expansion.

“We’re capitalized such that we have the money to permit, build, and operate wells for potential CO2 sequestration customers,” he said. “The relationship with these stable, large investors also meets the needs of expansion projects: if somebody wanted not only a hydrogen well but compressors as well, we have access to additional capital for underwritten projects to put those into service.”

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How hydrogen from nuclear power shows pitfalls of ‘additionality’

An interview with the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Director of Markets and Policy Benton Arnett.

Tax credits for low-carbon hydrogen production in the Inflation Reduction Act represent one of the climate law’s most ambitious timelines for implementation, with the provision taking effect late last year. That means low-carbon hydrogen producers can, in theory, already begin applying for tax credits of up to $3 per kilogram, depending on the emissions intensity of production.

However, IRS guidelines for clean hydrogen production have yet to be issued, and industry groups, environmentalists, and scientists are taking sides in a debate over whether the tax credits should require hydrogen made via electrolysis to be powered exclusively with new sources of zero-carbon electricity, a concept known as “additionality.”

In a February letter, a coalition of environmental groups and aspiring hydrogen producers expressed concern to the IRS that guidelines for 45V clean hydrogen production tax credit implementation would not be sufficiently rigorous, especially when it comes to grid-connected electrolyzers. Citing research from Princeton University, the group argued that grid-powered electrolyzers siphon off renewable generation capacity, requiring the grid to be backfilled by fossil power and thus producing twice the carbon emissions that natural gas-derived hydrogen emits currently.

(The group, which includes the National Resources Defense Council, Intersect Power, and EDF Renewables, among others, also argues in favor of hourly tracking, which they say would better guarantee energy used for electrolysis comes from clean sources, and deliverability, requiring renewable power to be sourced from within a reasonable geographic distance. In February, the European Commission issued a directive phasing in, over a number of years, rules for additionality, hourly tracking, and deliverability.)

Benton Arnett, director of markets and policy for the Washington, DC-based Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry trade association, does not believe the concept of additionality was part of Congress’s intent when the body crafted the Inflation Reduction Act. For one, he notes, the text of the 45V provision for clean hydrogen production includes specific prescriptions for the carbon intensity of hydrogen production as well as for the analysis of life-cycle emissions, but says nothing about additionality.

“When you get legislative text, you don’t usually have prescriptions on carbon intensities for the different levels of subsidies,” he said. “You don’t usually have specifications on what life-cycle analysis model to use – and yet all of that is included in the 45V text. Clearly [additionality] is not something that was intended by Congress.”

Reading further into the law, section 45V contains precise language allowing renewable electricity used for the production of hydrogen to also claim renewable energy tax credits, or “stacking” of tax credits. Further, the statute includes a subsection spelling out that producers of nuclear power used to make clean hydrogen can also avail themselves of the 45U tax credit for zero-emission nuclear energy production.

“It’s really hard for me to think of a scenario where the drafters of the IRA would have included a provision allowing existing nuclear assets to claim 45V production tax credits and also be thinking that additionality is something that would be applied,” Arnett said.

Text of the IRA

The NEI emphasized these provisions in a letter to Treasury and IRS officials last month, noting that, “given the ability to stack tax credits for existing sources with section 45V, the timing of when the section 45V credit was made available” – December 31, 2022 – “and congressional support for leveraging existing nuclear plants to produce hydrogen, it is clear Congress intended for existing facilities to be eligible to supply electricity for clean hydrogen production.”

Arnett adds that the debate around additionally ignores the fact that not all power generation assets are created equal. Nuclear facilities, in particular, given the regulatory and capital demands, do not fit within a model of additionality geared toward new renewable energy capacity. (Hydrogen developers have also proposed to use existing hydropower sources for projects in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast.)

This year, the NEI conducted a survey of its 19 member companies representing 80 nuclear facilities in the US. The survey found that 57% of the facilities are considering generation of carbon-free hydrogen. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy’s hydrogen hubs grant program requires that one hub produce hydrogen from nuclear sources; and the DOE has teamed up with several utilities to demonstrate hydrogen production at nuclear power plants, including Constellation’s Nine Mile Point Power Station, Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, and Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Generating Station.

“We’re worried that if [additionality] goes into effect it’s going to remove a valuable asset for producing hydrogen from the system, and it’s really going to slow down penetration of hydrogen into the market,” Arnett said.

As for the research underlying arguments in favor of additionality, Arnett says that it appears to take the 45V provision in a vacuum, without considering some of the larger changes that are taking shape in US electricity markets. For one, the research, which argues that electrolyzers would absorb renewable capacity and require fossil-based generation to backfill to meet demand, assumes that natural gas generation will continue to be the marginal producer on the electrical grid.

“One of the shortcomings of that is that the IRA has hundreds of billions of dollars of incentives aimed at changing that very dynamic. The whole goal of the IRA is that marginal additions of power are carbon-free,” he said, noting incentives for clean electricity production tax credits, investment tax credits, supply chain buildouts, and loan program office support for all of these projects.

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Methanol-to-hydrogen firm planning capital raise

An early-stage provider of distributed methanol-to-hydrogen solutions is planning a capital raise as it scales up.

Kaizen Clean Energy, a Houston-based methanol-to-hydrogen fuel company, is planning to raise additional capital in support of upcoming projects.

The company, which uses methanol and water to produce hydrogen with modular units, recently completed a funding round led by Balcor Companies, in which Balcor took a minority interest in Kaizen.

Additional funding in the capital raise was provided by friends and family, Kaizen co-founder and chief commercial officer Eric Smith said in an interview.

But with its sights on larger project opportunities this year, the company is already targeting an additional capital raise to support continued growth, Smith said. He declined to comment further on the capital raise and potential advisors, but noted that the company’s CFO, Craig Klaasmeyer, is a former Credit Suisse banker.

Kaizen’s methanol model utilizes a generator license from Element 1 and adds in systems to produce power or hydrogen, targeting the diesel generator market, EV charging and microgrids as well as hydrogen fueling and industrial uses.

Compared to trucking in hydrogen, the model using methanol, an abundant chemical, cuts costs by around 50%, Smith said, noting that Kaizen’s containers are at cost parity with diesel.

In addition, the Kaizen container is cleaner than alternatives, producing no nitric or sulfur oxide, according to Smith. Its carbon intensity score is 45, compared to 90 for the California electric grid and 100 for diesel generators.

Smith also touts a streamlined permitting process for Kaizen’s containerized product. The company recently received a letter of exemption for the container from a California air district due to low or no emissions. The product similarly does not require a California state permit and similarly, when off grid, no city permits are required, he added.

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