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LyondellBasell exploring refinery conversion to hydrogen

The company is evaluating multiple options for its Houston site including recycled and renewable-based feedstocks and green and blue hydrogen.

LyondellBasell today announced plans to delay its refining business exit from year-end 2023 to no later than the end of the first quarter 2025, according to a news release.

Favorable inspections and consistent performance have given the company confidence to continue safe and reliable operations at the Houston site. LyondellBasell anticipates moderate maintenance spend to support this extension in 2023 and 2024 but remains committed to ceasing operation of its oil refining business. The extension will minimize workforce impacts as the company continues to develop future options for the site and will enable a smoother transition between the shutdown and the implementation of the retrofitting and circular projects.

One of the three pillars of the company’s new strategy is to build a profitable Circular and Low Carbon Solutions business. In support of this strategy, LyondellBasell is developing future plans for the Houston refining site.

“Our plans to transform the site for future growth beginning in 2025 are aligned with our purpose of creating solutions for everyday sustainable living,” said Peter Vanacker, LyondellBasell CEO. “It is exciting to have a suite of future projects in the early stages of development.”

Multiple options are being evaluated including recycled and renewable-based feedstocks and green and blue hydrogen. The growth projects under development would connect to existing assets in the Houston area and use existing infrastructure on the refining site including hydrotreaters, pipelines, tanks, utilities, buildings, and laboratories. In the future, LyondellBasell expects the 700-acre refining site will be part of a Houston regional hub for its Circular and Low Carbon Solutions business and support the growth of the LyondellBasell Circulen product portfolio.

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Decarbonization start-up raises $125m

The company provides technology using natural microorganisms to convert greenhouse gas into moldable carbon.

Newlight Technologies, Inc., a provider of decarbonization technology using natural microorganisms to convert greenhouse gas into high-performance AirCarbon®-based materials, has completed an equity investment round led by GenZero totaling $125m, according to a news release.

The funding round includes participation by GenZero, a Temasek-owned decarbonization-focused investment platform company, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures (OLCV), a subsidiary of Occidental (Oxy) focused on advancing low-carbon technologies and business solutions, Charter Next Generation (CNG), North America’s leading producer of specialty films, and a global luxury goods manufacturer, as well as other new and existing shareholders.

In addition to financial participation, Newlight has completed development agreements with CNG to commercialize specialty films decarbonized with AirCarbon and with OLCV to use direct air capture (DAC) systems to develop carbon dioxide feedstock for AirCarbon production plants.

Newlight is currently delivering AirCarbon-based products and materials to over 5,000 locations across the world, including to customers and partners in the fashion, entertainment, foodservice, hotel, and automotive industries. This investment will enable Newlight to expand its AirCarbon manufacturing platform towards the company’s goal of using greenhouse gas as a resource to manufacture decarbonized materials at global scale.

“This capital round represents an inflection point for Newlight, where we have the opportunity to build on 20 years of research, development, and commercialization, and expand biological decarbonization at large scale,” said Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight. “It is an important milestone for Newlight, and we are tremendously excited about the path ahead.”

Newlight uses microorganisms found in California that eat greenhouse gas as their food source to grow a molecule inside of their cells, like muscle, called PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate). PHB is a molecule found in most life on Earth and is used by living organisms as a biological energy and carbon storage vehicle. When purified, PHB becomes meltable and moldable, able to deliver broad-based functionality within the materials market. By weight, AirCarbon is approximately 40% oxygen derived from air and 60% carbon derived from greenhouse gas.

Frederick Teo, CEO of GenZero, said, “Newlight’s work is transformational in leveraging the power of both technology and nature to produce biomaterials. By using captured greenhouse gases such as methane to produce a high-quality material (AirCarbon) and replace fossil-based plastics, we can achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions. We are excited to support Newlight in their next phase of growth as they expand their commercial production to meet the increasing demand for zero-carbon materials and deliver decarbonization impact at scale.”

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures is leveraging its parent company’s carbon management expertise to deliver solutions that reduce emissions to help Oxy and others achieve net zero. OLCV is making investments in technology, projects and development platforms across the carbon capture value chain. It is currently leading the construction of Stratos, the world’s largest Direct Air Capture plant in Texas, and building sequestration hubs throughout the U.S. Gulf coast region to provide large-scale and rapid carbon removal solutions to help the climate.

“We are excited to work with innovative companies like Newlight who share our vision in decarbonizing a multitude of industries that can help accelerate the path to net zero,” said Derek Willis, Vice President, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures. “Direct Air Capture provides a unique opportunity to supply CO2 as a raw material to create low carbon products. We look forward to supporting Newlight as they work to unlock new value from CO2 while addressing climate change.”

Today, AirCarbon is being used to develop and manufacture products across a range of industries, with a goal of turning everyday products into a consumer-driven force for carbon reduction. The capital investment in this round will enable Newlight to significantly expand the production of AirCarbon at both its existing California facility as well as a new AirCarbon production facility being built in Ohio.

“Our vision is a world where greenhouse gas is used the way nature uses it–as a resource–and by turning it into high-performance consumer products, we can provide companies with a measurable and scalable path to help them decarbonize their products and move closer to a net-zero world,” said Herrema.

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OCI CEO: Blue ammonia as maritime fuel could hit $900 per ton

OCI executives today touted the prospects for their Texas blue ammonia plant, the only such project currently under construction in the US. They were discussing the company’s focus on decarbonizing growth opportunities following recently completed asset sales worth $6.2bn in net proceeds.

Prices for blue ammonia as a maritime fuel could come in at $900 per ton, a prospect that underscores OCI Global’s enthusiasm for its focus on decarbonizing energy transition projects.

OCI CEO Ahmed El-Hoshy made the remark today in discussing the company’s recently announced asset sales that will bring in roughly $6.2bn in net proceeds, which will be used to reduce debt, return value to shareholders – and make additional investments in energy transition projects.

The company launched a strategic review of its asset portfolio earlier this year under pressure from activist investor Inclusive Capital.

Announced Friday, OCI offloaded its 50% stake in fertilizer producer Fertiglobe to Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in a deal worth $3.62bn. OCI and ADNOC separately announced they will explore opportunities for collaboration on joint venture investments in development projects in decarbonization and product distribution across North America and Europe. 

Today, OCI announced it has reached a deal to sell 100% of the equity interests in Iowa Fertilizer Company to Koch Ag & Energy Solutions for $3.6bn. OCI was advised by Morgan Stanley as financial advisor on the transaction and Cleary Gottlieb served as legal counsel.

Texas Blue

The company’s biggest investment globally is the 1.1 million ton Texas blue ammonia project, which is in development with partners Linde and ExxonMobil. OCI is in talks with Asian offtakers and other strategics about phase 1 offtake and a minority equity investment in that project. El-Hoshy also said previously the company is exploring adding a second line to expand production at the site. 

“Once the first line has some of that ammonia spoken for, that second line has the benefit of a lot of the utilities, the off-site being already in place, so that we’re talking about mainly inside the battery limit-type investments save for a few utility-type investments,” he said.

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SOEC electrolyzer maker Sunfire attracts EUR 500m

German electrolyzer maker Sunfire added new equity investors including GIC and secured a loan from the European Investment Bank.

The German electrolyzer manufacturer Sunfire has raised EUR 215 million in a Series E equity financing round, further complemented by a term loan of up to EUR 100 million provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

In addition, Sunfire has access to approx. EUR 200 million from previously approved, undrawn grant funding to support its growth, according to a news release. This makes Sunfire one of the best capitalized electrolyzer manufacturers in the industry.

Sunfire announces the successful completion of a substantial Series E financing round, raising EUR 215 million in equity capital. The new investment will further boost the company’s critical role in ramping up the hydrogen economy. Sunfire welcomes LGT Private Banking, GIC, Ahren Innovation Capital, and Carbon Equity as new investors. The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close in Q2 2024.

Sunfire-CEO Nils Aldag said, “This substantial financing round is good news for Europe’s leading role in hydrogen production and for the European clean-tech industry. I am delighted to welcome additional investors backing our vision, product offering, and capabilities to deliver industrial electrolyzers at pace and scale. With this new capital, we are uniquely positioned to further accelerate our company’s growth and industrialization plans to meet the fast-growing demand for electrolysis technologies.”

In addition to the new investors, existing shareholders have increased their investment in Sunfire – among them Lightrock, Planet First Partners, Carbon Direct Capital, the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, and Blue Earth Capital.

In line with Sunfire’s commitment to financial diversification, the company has also secured a credit of up to EUR 100 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which provides increased capacity to boost its development and industrialization of solid oxide electrolyzers.

Sunfire’s pressurized alkaline and high-temperature solid oxide electrolysis technologies are a key enabler of the transition to renewable energy, offering a scalable and efficient means of producing green hydrogen. The company targets installing several gigawatts of electrolysis equipment by 2030 in large-scale green hydrogen projects, securing a leading position in the fast-growing global electrolyzer market.

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Exclusive: Green hydrogen developer planning capital raises for distributed portfolio

A developer of US green hydrogen projects will need to access the project equity, debt and tax equity markets in the near term for a pipeline of distributed assets nationwide.

NovoHydrogen, the Colorado-based renewable hydrogen developer, will be in the market for project financing for a portfolio of distributed green hydrogen projects in 2024, CEO Matt McMonagle said.

The company, which recently agreed to a $20m capital raise with Modern Energy, is aiming to attract additional private equity and infrastructure investors for the projects it is developing, the executive said.

“The opportunity is really there for attractive risk-adjusted returns at the project level based on how we’re structuring these projects with long-term contracted revenue,” he said.

The company plans to bring its first projects online in late 2024 or 2025.

“We don’t have the project financing set at the point that we can announce, but that’s something myself and my team have done in our careers,” McMonagle said, adding that he’s focused on bankability since founding the company. “We wanted to be as easy for the lenders to underwrite as possible.”

No financial advisors have been attached to the project financings, McMonagle said. A recently announced Series A, first reported by ReSource in February, gave the company exposure to investors that want to participate in project financings, he said.

“We’ll really be ramping that process up, likely after the new year,” McMonagle added, declining to say how much the company would need to raise in 2024.

NovoHydrogen doesn’t have a timeline on a Series B, he said.

Distributed pipeline

The company looks to do onsite projects adjacent to consumption, McMonagle said. The first projects that will go online will be 10 MW and smaller.

“Typically the permitting is straightforward in that we’re adding equipment to an already impacted industrial site,” McMonagle said. He declined to elaborate on where these projects are located or what customers they will serve.

The company also has off-site, or near-site projects, where production is decoupled from consumption. But the company still calls those distributed because they are being developed with a targeted customer in mind.

“We want to be as close as possible to that customer,” he said. Those off-site projects typically are larger and will begin coming online in 2026 and 2027.  

In Texas NovoHydrogen has two large-scale green hydrogen developments in production, co-located with greenfield renewables projects, McMonagle said. Partners, including EPC, are in place for those efforts. The company also has projects in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and along the west coast.

“Where can we add the most value and have the biggest competitive advantage?” McMonagle said of the company’s geographic strategy. “We have very specific go-to-markets in each of those regions which we feel play to our strengths.”

NovoHydrogen is a member of the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub and is involved with the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), though not in line to receive DOE funding through that hub.

Post-IRA, green hydrogen projects will look much like renewables deals from the equity, tax equity and debt perspectives, he said.

“We’re structuring and setting up our projects to take advantage of that existing infrastructure and knowledge base of how to finance deals,” he said. New options on transferability will enable additional financing options as well.

No flipping

NovoHydrogen does not plan to flip projects before COD, McMonagle said.

“We are planning to deploy hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in capex for these projects, and we’ll certainly need to partner with folks to deploy that capital,” McMonagle said. “But we will remain in deals with our customers because that relationship is really the fundamental value that we bring in our business.”

Hydrogen projects are different from renewables in that the customers need greater assurances of resiliency, security of supply and performance, than in a space like solar, he said.

Flipping projects before COD would be inconsistent with the trust required to attract offtakers.

“We don’t believe doing a flip reflects that level of importance and support and, frankly, incentive, behavioral incentive, that we have to show to our customers,” he said.

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Exclusive: Methanol electrolyzer start-up gearing up for seed capital raise

An early-stage technology company seeking to commercialize an electrolyzer that produces methanol from CO2 at ambient temperature and pressure is preparing its first capital raise.

Oxylus Energy, a methanol technology and project development start-up, is preparing to kick off its first capital raise later this month.

The Yale-based firm is seeking to raise $4m in seed funding, with proceeds funding the advancement of a production-scale CO2-to-methanol electrolyzer cell and its first commercial agreements for offtake, CEO Perry Bakas said in an interview.

Oxylus aims to commercialize an electrolyzer that creates methanol from CO2 at room temperature and pressure, and also plans to develop and operate its own methanol production plants, he said.

The technology, which will scale to larger versions in coming years, recently hit a key milestone with the validation of a 5cm2 platform.

The seed capital raise would provide approximately 26 months of runway, according to Bakas. The company would then raise between $20 – $30m in a follow-on Series A in late 2026.

“What we’re gonna do with the Series A is put that first electrolyzer into the ground,” he said. “It’ll be our first revenue-producing methanol.”

Oxylus is currently owned by Bakas and his fellow co-founders. The company has been entirely grant funded to this point. DLA Piper is advising as the law firm on the seed capital raise.

“I think the most important thing about the technology is it’s the most energy-efficient pathway to making renewable methanol,” he said. “At the right energy prices, you’re below cost parity with fossil-derived methanol. When that happens, I think it’ll become a very interesting development scenario.”

Oxylus is focused on bringing the so-called green premium down to zero, Bakas said, noting that it requires achieving scale in electrolyzer production or partnering with established electrolyzer manufacturers.

Methanol for shipping

Oxylus will seek to introduce its technology into target markets that are already using methanol as a feedstock, like high-value petrochemicals. In the longer term, shipping and aviation are likely to become attractive markets. Taken together, the company believes methanol has the potential to decarbonize 11% of global emissions.

Methanol will compete with ammonia for primacy as a shipping fuel in the future, but Bakas believes methanol is the better option.

“These are massive markets – they need a lot of solutions, and quickly,” he said. “But ammonia is not energy dense, and it doesn’t integrate with existing infrastructure.”

The International Energy Agency recently projected that while ammonia will be cheaper to make, methanol is easier to handle, resulting in roughly similar cost profiles for e-methanol and green ammonia. The added cost for methanol production, the report found, is likely to come from a scarcity of biogenic CO2.

On that topic, Bakas acknowledged that the methanol pathway still requires combustion of carbon, but emphasized his technology’s ability to displace existing fossil fuel-based methanol production.

“The distinction we need to make is: are these virgin hydrocarbons or are they recycled hydrocarbons? If you’re just continuously pumping new CO2 out of the ground into the atmosphere, you’re gonna continue to cause climate change,” he said.

“The technologies that we are building in this suite of technologies that cover direct air capture, point source capture, carbon conversion, that whole CCUS world,” he added, “are really working to monitor and create a homeostasis in the atmospheric balance of CO2.”

Oxylus recently completed a lifecycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, Bakas said, finding that its fuels are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 95% at optimal voltage compared to natural gas steam methane reforming.

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Exclusive: Renewable fuels firm hires advisor for topco raise

A renewable fuels firm with operations in California has hired a bulge bracket bank to raise project and platform capital for new developments in the Gulf Coast.

Oberon Fuels, a California-based renewable fuels developer, has hired Morgan Stanley for a topco and project capital raise to launch soon, CEO Rebecca Bordreaux said in an interview.

The company, backed by Suburban Propane, plans to reach COD on its next facility in the Gulf Coast in 2026, Boudreaux said. Late last year the company hired its first CFO Ann Anthony and COO Derek Winkel.

Oberon produces rDME at its Maverick Innovation Center in Brawley, California and recently established a partnership with DCC Fuels focused on Europe.

The location of the Gulf Coast facility is not public, Bordreaux said, though the company aims to reach FID on it this year. When operational it would produce 45,000 mtpy of methanol, or a comparative amount of rDME. Capex on the facility is in the range of $200m.

The company is shifting toward production of methanol as a shipping fuel, she said. New opportunities also include using DME as a renewable hydrogen carrier, as the fuel is easily transportable and compatible with many existing logistical networks.

Oberon is also preparing to issue $100m of municipal bonds from the state of Texas, Bordreaux said.

More than $50m has been raised by the company to date, with Suburban Propane being the largest investor and customer in California, Bordreaux said. The company has a third project in the pre-FEED phase.

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