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London-based hydrogen fund expanding in US

A UK-based investor in early-stage hydrogen companies has completely allocated its first two funds and is looking to grow its presence in the US.

AP Ventures, the London-based venture capital and private equity firm, will need new advisory relationships and offices in the US as it looks for investors and deployment opportunities there, Managing Partner Andrew Hinkly said in an interview.

The company has fully allocated its first two funds with 12 LPs, Hinkly said.

Fund 1 ($85m) is fully deployed with two of the LPs. Two realizations have come from that fund to date: the sale of United Hydrogen Group in Tennessee to Plug Power and the sale of Hyatt Hydrogen to Fortescue Future Industries.

Fund 2 ($315m) is fully allocated with 12 LPs, including the two from Fund 1. The portfolio includes 21 companies across the hydrogen value chain (ammonia for transport, liquefaction, electrolyzer production, compressor technology, etc.) at the seed, Series A and Series B stages.

“We believe we have a very differentiated set of capabilities and experiences because we are singularly focused on the hydrogen value chain,” Hinkly said.

The firm’s LPs include AngloAmerican, Equinor, Implats, Mitsubishi, Nyso Climate Investments, Pavilion Capital, Plastic Omnium, Public Investment Corporation, Sparx, Sumitomo, and Yara International.

Strategic advice need apply

In the near-term AP Ventures can offer deal flow, opportunities within portfolio companies for various professional services, and an understanding of the progression of hydrogen businesses for later-stage investors, Hinkly said.

Transactions to date have been conducted bilaterally with external legal counsel, Hinkly said. AP Ventures has yet to engage a financial advisor for that purpose.

“If you want to know about hydrogen and hydrogen deal flow, AP Ventures sees most of it,” Hinkley said. “We bring with us an ecosystem of fairly regular co-investors who are similarly interested in hydrogen.”

Co-investors include Amazon, Mitsuibishi, Chevron and Aramco.

Some of the firm’s more mature companies will take on strategic consulting services as they prepare for larger fundraising, Hinkly said.

“Clearly there are a series of advisory services that our portfolio companies require as they raise capital or subsequently look to acquire or be acquired,” he added.

Later-stage investors are keen to understand the development of AP’s portfolio, Hinkly said. Topco equity and larger-scale infrastructure investors have collaborative relationships with the firm as they prepare to acquire its portfolio companies in the future.

“We have a common interest in the continued development and maturity of the companies we’re investing in,” Hinkly said. “We have an ever-increasing roster of later-stage private equity investors who have a desire to maintain a dialog with us and to be introduced to our portfolio companies on a regular basis.”

New world opportunities

US portfolio companies could be in greater need of strategic advisory services in the near term than some of AP’s European holdings, Hinkly said.

The firm is looking to establish offices in the US with an eye on Denver and Houston, Hinkly said.

Greater support for hydrogen in the US under the IRA means European companies within AP Ventures’ portfolio are also looking to establish themselves in the US.

In terms of a target market, AP Ventures is particularly interested in Texas, which Hinkly said he expects will be the hydrogen capital of the world. Existing infrastructure, human capital and enormous wind and solar resources pair well with a willingness to build out the industry there, he said.

AP will continue investing in the full hydrogen value chain as it has been for years, identifying weak spots in the chain to strengthen the industry, Hinkly said. But moving forward, the firm would like to invest in carbon capture utilization and storage as well.

Scaling up with the industry

As the hydrogen industry grows and its portfolio companies scale, there is significant opportunity for AP Ventures to grow and provide more financing, Hinkly said.

“There is a huge requirement for capital and we are knowledgeable, very knowledgeable, of where good opportunities exist,” he said.

The nature of the firm’s early contracts gives them preferential access to those opportunities in some cases as well. Whether that would be best done directly with a new fund or partnership with a firm with complementary skills is an open question.

“That strategic question is one that’s frankly ahead of us this year.”

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Linde seeking double-digit return on Texas blue hydrogen plant

Linde CEO Sanjiv Lamba expects the $1.8bn project to achieve a double-digit return, and expressed confidence that the facility will be completed on time in 2025.

Linde plc will spend roughly $5bn on capex and acquisitions in 2023, CEO Sanjiv Lamba said on the company’s 4Q22 earnings call.

That includes a long-term agreement to supply clean hydrogen and other industrial gases to OCI’s new blue ammonia plant in Beaumont, Texas. Linde will build, own and operate an on-site complex by 2025 which will include autothermal reforming with carbon capture, plus a large air separation plant

The company estimates a return profile in the double digits for the project, Lamba said.

“This is a traditional industrial gas project no different to any other that we do and that’s how we would then factor the return coming back into the returns you would see hitting the EPS,” Lamba said.

Lamda also expressed confidence in the company’s ability to complete the project on time in 2025 in spite of its complexities. He noted Linde has already been working on the project for a while, and is in discussions with major carbon capture players, some of which already hold or are in the process of obtaining a federal Class VI permit for carbon dioxide sequestration.

The OCI project will connect to Linde’s existing pipeline in the region, Lamba said.  “We have demand for that blue hydrogen and yes, there is a premium,” Lamba said of the company’s existing grey hydrogen customers.

The partnership with OCI helped add to the company’s project backlog, defined as contractual growth projects with secured returns, which now stands at $9.2bn, Lamba said. Last year was also a record year for small on-site wins, with 52 new secured contracts providing revenue for the next decade.

Lamba said the industrial gasses giant has “no interest to own or speculate” in the global chemicals market and will instead seek offtakers like OCI for its products. OCI is an expert in ammonia production, logistics and marketing, things Linde does not want to engage in.

Meanwhile, Linde has started the process of selling $2bn in gas projects, including Linde’s $1.4bn project with Exxon Mobile in Singapore, Lamba said.

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Topsoe to license waste-to-fuel technology

The agreement with Steeper Energy will allow Topsoe to provide a waste-to-fuel technology solution for sustainable aviation fuel, marine biofuel, and renewable diesel from waste biomass.

Denmark-headquartered Topsoe, a developer and provider of carbon emission reduction technologies, has signed a global licensing agreement for a complete waste-to-fuel solution with Steeper Energy.

With the agreement, Topsoe will be able to provide a complete waste-to-fuel technology solution and at the same time a one-stop solution for refineries, project developers, and industries having access to excess waste biomass, according to a news release. The end-products include sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), marine biofuel, and renewable diesel from waste biomass.

“This will make it easier for refineries and project developers to access the technology they need for advanced biofuels,” Peter Vang Christensen, senior vice president, Clean Fuels & Chemicals – Technology, Topsoe, said. “It will also allow them to access new renewable feedstocks while supporting decarbonization of the transportation sector, not least aviation and shipping.”

“Steeper recognizes Topsoe as a world leader in developing and implementing renewable refining technologies. Steeper’s Hydrofaction™ process, when combined with Topsoe’s technology, completes the pathway from biomass waste to drop-in liquid fuels and is compatible with existing refining infrastructure,” Bevan May, president, Steeper Energy, said. “This reduces capital requirements and allows for the accelerated deployment of these solutions. We are excited to combine our efforts with Topsoe and bring our joint solution to the renewable liquid fuels market.”

Steeper’s Hydrofaction™ has been validated through various stages of continuous pilot and demonstration-scale plant operations over the past 10 years.

With this agreement, the parties are working towards the first commercial scale deployment of Hydrofaction™ technology.

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Hyundai Motor North America appoints head of commercial vehicle and hydrogen business development

Jim Park will be responsible for Hyundai’s hydrogen initiatives in North America, which includes commercial vehicle sales, infrastructure development, commercialization of hydrogen, and related future mobility solutions.

Hyundai has hired Jim Park as the senior vice president, commercial vehicle and hydrogen business development, Hyundai Motor North America, effective June 12, according to a news release.

In this new role, Park is responsible for Hyundai’s hydrogen initiatives in North America, which includes commercial vehicle sales, infrastructure development, commercialization of hydrogen, and related future mobility solutions.

Park reports directly to José Muñoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America and president and Global COO of Hyundai Motor Company, and functionally via dotted-line to Ken Ramirez, executive vice president, head of global commercial vehicle and hydrogen business, Hyundai Motor Company.

“Hyundai is committed to accelerating the development of hydrogen technology as it provides a scalable zero-emissions solution for a variety of applications,” said Muñoz. “Jim’s extensive career in automotive business development will help us build the team and obtain the tools and resources we need to continue our hydrogen expansion in North America.”

Park has more than three decades of experience in the automotive industry with leadership roles at both Harman-Samsung and Chrysler. Prior to joining Hyundai, Park was president of Harman International Korea, where he initiated strategies for its automotive business units and Samsung’s Automotive Electronic Business. He managed and led four divisions including connected car, car audio, consumer electronics and professional solutions, and oversaw respective KPI’s such as sales revenue growth, market share, cost management, compliance, and employee development.

Before joining Harman International, Park was the president and CEO of Global Auto Systems, an advisory and consulting services company he formed in 2000, a role he held until 2018. In nearly two decades, his group of consultants worked with leaders and top decision makers around the world providing in-depth industry insights, product, market knowledge and strategic perspectives. Park also previously served on the Board of Governors for the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

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Exclusive: Carbon capture firm raising $1.2bn for ammonia facility

A carbon capture and technology firm is conducting a FEED study for a blue ammonia facility it expects will cost some $1.2bn in traditional project finance. The company also has a pipeline of biomass-to-electricity (or “biome”) projects in the works.

8 Rivers Capital, the North Carolina-based carbon capture and technology firm backed by South Korea’s SK, Inc., is planning to raise some $1.2bn for its first ammonia production facility in Texas, Chief Development Officer Damian Beauchamp said in an interview.

The firm is conducting a FEED study for its Cormorant blue ammonia facility in Port Arthur, Texas, which will be finished in October, Beauchamp said. The firm is not using a financial advisor.

The money will be raised in a 30/70 split between equity and debt, he said. SK will take 100% of the facility’s production. 8 Rivers anticipates bringing the facility online in 2027 or 2028.

The company will seek to maintain significant ownership in its ammonia facilities. Once the FEED is finished on one the firm will start another until the company has completed between 10 and 20 of these facilities, Beauchamp said.

“We have the ambition to dominate the ammonia/zero carbon fuels space,” Beauchamp said.

‘BIOME’

In a new vertical start of electricity generation production, 8 Rivers is now scouting locations to develop its first biomass-to-electricity generation facilities in the US, Beauchamp said.

The projects, referred to as “biome” by the firm, will use forestry biomass as a feedstock in plants up to 250 MW in size. Unlike ammonia, 8 Rivers will not seek to keep ownership in an IPP play, but rather solicit co-investment from utility and industrial offtakers.

The southeastern US is a region of particular interest, Beauchamp said, because of a long growing season, the abundance of feedstock from timber, lumber and paper product producers, and proximity to existing CO2 management and transport infrastructure.

“That’s our general focus area for that first project,” he said of the deep south of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

The strategy is to take on strategic ownership partners – utilities and industrial powers users — as early as possible to finance development, he said. Large entities, including foreign utilities, could also take ownership interest in projects, not dissimilar from investment in LNG facilities.

Projects will likely cost $1bn and up, and the firm anticipates having the first progressing in earnest by 2029. Eventually 8 Rivers seeks to develop a portfolio of four or five of these projects at 250 MW each along with additional projects of a smaller size, Beauchamp said.

The first project should also be able to sell 2.7m tonnes of carbon credits per annum, Beauchamp said.

8 Rivers’ Calcite technology was announced as a winner of the Department of Energy’s Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hub grant, as an anchor technology in the Alabama regional DAC hub led by Southern States Energy Board.

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exclusive

Hydrogen developer raising equity for US and EU projects

A Washington, DC-based hydrogen developer has hired an advisor to raise equity for three projects in California, and is laying the groundwork for a second capital raise in the EU.

SGH2 Energy, a Washington D.C.-based hydrogen developer, is in the early stages of a process to raise project equity for its three California projects.

Morgan Stanley has been retained to run the process, which could result in taking on two investors, CEO Robert Do said in an interview. The company hopes to have the process wrapped up within three months, he added.

Do declined to disclose the amount he is seeking to raise, but said the company prefers a strategic investor that can co-develop projects outside of California.

Meanwhile, SGH2 has filled out 70% of the senior debt commitments it will need for its Lancaster, California plant, Do said. At the Lancaster plant, SGH2 plans to produce up to 12,000 kilograms (1,380 MMBtu) of clean hydrogen per day, and 4.5 million kilograms per year (517,000 MMBtu) from the conversion of 42,000 tons per year of rejected recycled mixed-paper waste.

An additional set of three projects in Germany, Belgium and Holland will need an equity provider as well, Do said. That process could launch at the end of this year and the company could hire additional financial advisors.

A less expensive proposition

In addition to the Lancaster plant, SGH2 is advancing a Bay Area agricultural waste-to-hydrogen project in Stockton and a Sierra Valley forest residue-to-hydrogen plant.

Lancaster has offtake agreements for 10 years, and the company is in talks with the same offtaker for the other projects.

SGH2’s process requires about five acres of land for a project, as opposed to about 300 acres for solar-powered electrolysis, Do said. The process also requires less water.

“It gives us a cost-competitiveness where we can be two-to-three times cheaper,” Do said.

SGH2 is exporting that process to Europe, Do said. The EU is still going through iterations of new legislation, particularly the Renewable Energy Directive III, that could clarify SGH2’s place in that market.

“Until the legislation is clear it’s hard to really launch the project and know what kind of support you’re getting,” Do said. SGH2 has sites, feedstock and development partners in place for Europe.

SGH2 was spun off from a technology development company that raised about $50m from various VC firms and energy companies, Do said. He is the controlling owner of SGH2.

Do plans to expand across the globe and will be raising money to fund projects in Korea, South Africa and elsewhere.

“There will be indeed opportunities for us to work with additional bankers and funders,” he said.

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Exclusive: Wisconsin RNG portfolio for sale with large renewables portfolio

A major Canadian utility is auctioning off four Wisconsin RNG assets as part of a larger renewables selldown. The subsidiary at auction has previously indicated that it would take part in Northeastern US hydrogen development.

Algonquin Power & Utilities is selling a package of four renewable natural gas assets, totaling 532 mmbtu, in Wisconsin as part of a larger renewables auction, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

JP Morgan is advising on the process, codenamed Project Power, the sources said.

The process comprises mostly operational onshore wind (2,325 MW) and solar (670 MW), along with an 8 GW development pipeline across 10 power markets, according to a teaser seen by ReSource. The renewable assets are collectively known as Liberty under the Algonquin banner.

The pipeline includes 1,600 mmbtu of RNG. The operational RNG assets reached COD in 2022.

Algonquin did not respond to requests for comment. JP Morgan declined comment.

The Wisconsin assets are apparently the former Sandhill Advanced Biofuels projects, which were acquired by Algonquin in 2022.

When that acquisition was made, it was announced that Liberty had signed on as a “hydrogen ecosystem partner” in the multi-state Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub. That hub ultimately was not selected by the US department of Energy for hub funding.

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