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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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Ampaire tests SAF with hybrid electric aircraft

Combining the hybrid electric propulsion with SAF fuel more than doubles the efficiency and drives emissions to near zero, the company said.

Ampaire Inc., a maker of hybrid electric aircraft systems, has completed its first ground test utilizing pure 100 percent ASTM D7566 Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) produced by Dimensional Energy from electricity and carbon dioxide.

Los Angeles-based Ampaire conducted rigorous ground testing using its Eco Caravan hybrid electric aircraft to validate the performance and viability of Dimensional Energy’s pure e-fuel SAF, according to a news release. The results exceeded expectations, demonstrating an increase in efficiency compared to traditional aviation fuels.

Ampaire’s AMP-H570 AMP Drive™ hybrid electric propulsion units are capable of 50 to 70 percent reduction in fuel and emissions as compared to conventional Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engines typically found in Cessna Caravan turboprops. Combining the hybrid electric propulsion with SAF fuel more than doubles the efficiency and drives emissions to near zero.

Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire, emphasized the significance of this milestone, stating: “The successful ground test using pure SAF from Dimensional Energy marks a pivotal moment in our journey towards sustainable aviation. By showcasing the transformative efficiency gains achievable through hybrid electric propulsion, we are driving the future of eco-friendly air travel. For those already recognizing the potential of SAF, its integration into our hybrid electric aircraft enhances its appeal even further.”

SAF, derived from renewable resources, has emerged as a key solution to reducing aviation’s carbon footprint. Dimensional Energy has two ongoing projects which will add significant inventory to the world’s availability of e-fuels. By scaling hybrid electric technology and SAF for aviation, there is an additional opportunity to address the quality and cost concerns associated with SAF, paving the way for even broader use in the aviation industry.

“Technology providers have to collaborate beyond innovation and into execution. By combining Dimensional Energy e-fuels with Ampaire’s aircraft technology that can reduce the amount of fuels combusted during flight, we quicken the pace up the steep curve of the energy transition and reduce the need for extraction faster,” said Jason Salfi, CEO of Dimensional Energy. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Ampaire on this groundbreaking initiative. Our partnership underscores our commitment to advancing sustainable aviation fuel solutions that offer tangible benefits to the aviation industry and contribute to a greener future.”

Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit investor focused on scaling climate technologies with deep community impact, has provided project development capital and multiple years of hands-on support to help scale Ampaire and Dimensional Energy’s technologies.

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BlackRock’s Larry Fink underscores ‘enormous’ capital demands for infrastructure

In acquiring GIP, BlackRock believes that, over the next 10 years, infrastructure and energy investments will become a major component of the private market ecosystem.

The growth of private markets in infrastructure underpins the industrial logic of BlackRock’s $12.5bn deal for infrastructure asset manager Global Infrastructure Partners, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said today.

In a Friday morning call with analysts, Fink emphasized the expected growth of private capital in infrastructure and energy markets over the next 10 years as a major factor in its acquisition of GIP.

“Growing public deficits, a modernizing digital world, advancing energy independence, and the energy transition are driving the mobilization of private capital to fund critical infrastructure,” Fink said.

“I believe that the amount of capital that is to be needed as we digitize everything, the need to upgrade our power grids worldwide is a must,” he said. “The capital associated with that is going to be enormous.”

BlackRock is acquiring GIP for $3bn of cash and approximately 12 million shares of BlackRock common stock. The combination creates the second-largest global infrastructure private markets business, with over $150m in client assets, according to a presentation.

Fink expects BlackRock to continue to partner with corporations in acquiring asset carve-outs or co-investing in infrastructure projects, such as its deals with Occidental Petroleum (direct air capture) and AT&T (5G buildout).

GIP Founding Partner, Chairman, and CEO Bayo Ogunlesi, who is slated to become a member of BlackRocks’ board following the transaction, highlighted the complementary aspects of the business combination.

“BlackRock has built a terrific infrastructure business,” he said. “But they make mid-market or mid-cap investments. We make large-cap investments.”

He added, “[BlackRock has] a terrific infrastructure debt business that is mostly investment grade, ours is mostly below investment grade. They have a capital solutions business that we don’t have. So if you put these two businesses together, we can go to clients, large cap clients, mid cap clients, offer them a complete array of solutions.”

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Black Hills Energy studying hydrogen production from coal

BHE will partner with Babcock & Wilcox to study the cost and economics of deploying chemical looping technology at commercial scale to produce hydrogen from Powder River Basin coal and a nearly pure stream of CO2.

Black Hills Energy (BHE) has selected its BrightLoop hydrogen generation technology from Babcock & Wilcox for the feasibility study of a proposed project to produce clean hydrogen from coal and capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at BHE’s Neil Simpson Power Plant in Gillette, Wyo.

BrightLoop is a novel chemical looping technology that can use a variety of fuels to produce clean energy with complete CO2 capture, according to a news release from the companies.

BHE will partner with B&W to study the cost and economics of deploying the BrightLoop chemical looping technology at commercial scale to produce low carbon intensity hydrogen gas from Powder River Basin (PRB) coal and a nearly pure stream of CO2 suitable for beneficial use or storage without the need for expensive carbon separation equipment.

“As the United States and much of the world transitions to near-zero emissions fuels, our BrightLoop technology – which captures COand other pollutants while producing hydrogen – can provide a vital pathway to utilize our abundant natural resource of coal in a net-zero world,” said B&W Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Morgan.

“We are excited to utilize our highly experienced U.S. engineering team to work with BHE to develop a solution that will help them achieve their goals of creating and preserving jobs, diversifying Wyoming’s energy production and establishing new markets for the state’s natural resources,” Morgan said. “We thank BHE for this opportunity and for the confidence they have shown in B&W’s BrightLoop technology.”

Mark Stege, Black Hills Energy’s vice president of Wyoming operations agreed, adding, “Over 30 years of research has led us to this opportunity to unite clean energy technology with Wyoming’s important and abundant energy resources. We appreciate the partnership with B&W and the prospect of leveraging innovative hydrogen technology to deliver efficient energy to customers.”

B&W’s BrightLoop chemical looping technology is part of its ClimateBright suite of decarbonization and hydrogen technologies. The BrightLoop process uses a proprietary, regenerable particle and has been demonstrated to effectively separate CO2 while producing hydrogen, steam and/or syngas.

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Exclusive: Residential microgrid developer to seek electrolysis partner, raise capital

A developer of planned microgrid communities will look for an electrolysis partner to provide green hydrogen for use in agricultural applications and is planning to go to market for platform equity and project debt.

Embark Fund and NOVA Constructors, a group of real estate development interests focused on developing three planned residential communities, will look for an electrolysis partner for its community microgrid development efforts, managing partner Craig McBurney said in an interview.

McBurney, who is also solar development manager for the South Carolina-based renewables developer Alder Energy, said the partners are in the process of acquiring land – between 1,500 and 2,000 acres per parcel – in Virginia, Maryland and Illinois. The latter project is the most advanced.

Each is for a planned residential community including microgrid development, he said. The communities will include renewables, which could be used to power electrolysis during times of low demand. He gave the example of a 30 MW solar ground array.  

“We are preparing to announce a [$60m to $80m] equity raise,” McBurney said, adding that between $240m and $300m of debt will also be required. The money will be used for site acquisition, development and EPC. “The whole capital stack is an opportunity.”  

The group has not formally engaged with an investment bank or financial advisor, he said. They will be targeting private equity, sovereign wealth funds, and family offices.

McBurney pointed to communities like Whisper Valley in Texas and Babcock Ranch in Florida as examples of his group’s efforts to develop sustainable off-grid communities.

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Green hydrogen developer in exclusivity with new investor

New York-based green hydrogen developer Ambient Fuels is in exclusivity with a new investor, with proceeds from the capital raise slated to fund project development and acquisitions.

Ambient Fuels, the New York-based green hydrogen developer, is in exclusivity with a new investor for a bilateral capital raise, CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview.

Susman declined to name the private equity provider but said the backing will allow Ambient to develop several projects, as well as acquire projects from other developers. The deal is proceeding without the help of a financial advisor.

Once the company reaches its run rate, Ambient plans to complete three to four projects per year costing $50m and up, Susman said, with the first expected to reach operation in 2025.

The company’s initial geographic focus is on the Gulf Coast, centered on the Port of Corpus Christi, Susman said. New York, California, the Pacific Northwest and traditional wind energy states in the Midwest and West are areas of additional work.

Hydrogen hubs

Ambient is closely following the DOE hydrogen hub applications process, Susman said. Which regions are awarded funding could make a difference for where the company locates new projects.

According to ReSource‘s project tracker, Ambient is involved in at least two of the hubs that were encouraged by the DOE to submit a final application: California’s Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), and the Port of Corpus Christi Green Hydrogen Hub.

In 2021 Ambient completed a funding round led by SJF Ventures. Several other VC funds and angel investors also participated.

Open for offtake business  

Ambient is looking for offtakers in industries that use the molecules for feedstock and energy but need to meet decarbonization targets.

The company is working to provide hydrogen as an industrial feedstock and energy source to sectors including transportation, oil and gas, mining, glass and steel production and automobile manufacturing. Supplying hydrogen for ammonia fertilizer is another target market.

Advisors with clients in those industries should reach out to Ambient, Susman said.

M&A strategy

Ambient strives to be a fully integrated devco with the resources, capital and expertise to take a project to fruition, Susman said. Projects developed by smaller companies can look to Ambient as a buyer for their projects.

“We want to be a home for those great projects that are being developed independently,” Susman said. “Absolutely we will be acquiring projects.”

Smaller developers with good projects could also be targets for takeover with the backing from the new investor, Susman said. The firm could also make a technology buy in software for project development, operations, or possibly the equipment side, though Susman said there’s a low probability of that.

Financial advisors that have leads on good projects Ambient can acquire are welcome to pitch, Susman said.

Susman said he is not in a hurry to exit Ambient and can see the company being independently financed for years to come.

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RNG developer selling landfill gas portfolio

A Texas-based renewable natural gas developer has tapped an advisor and is selling a portfolio of waste-to-energy projects.

Morrow Energy, an RNG developer based in Midland, Texas, is working with a financial advisor to sell off a portfolio of waste-to-energy projects.

Sparkstone Capital Advisors, a boutique advisory firm based in Virginia, is the sellside advisor on the sale, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Morrow and Sparkstone did not respond to requests for comment.

The Morrow portfolio in the US consists of 12 projects in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and Washington, according to its website.

Of note, Morrow has developed the Blue Ridge Landfill High BTU project, which is designed for up to 13,000 SCFM of raw landfill gas and can be expanded to up to 30,000 SCFM. Gas from the facility is sold and delivered to vehicle fuel markets in the US.

The company is led by Paul Morrow, its founder and president, who has worked in the RNG industry for over 20 years. Morrow Energy built its first renewable gas facility in the year 2000.

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