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Navigator Gas makes clean ammonia devcap investment

London-based Navigator received approval for a $2.5m development capital investment into a Gulf Coast clean ammonia project.

Navigator Gas said this week that it had received board approval to make a development capital investment into a clean ammonia export project in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

In its 1Q24 earnings release, the company stated the following:

On May 14, 2024, the Company’s Board of Directors approved a $2.5 million investment in an early-stage clean ammonia export project in the U.S. Gulf coast area. The Company expects to make its first monetary contribution to the project in the second or third quarter of 2024, and we will provide more details as the project develops. This initial investment is development capital, and subject to board approval, we also expect to make larger investments at FID and during the construction phase of the project towards a terminal and ship-shore logistics.

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Chrysalix Venture Capital closes fifth fund

The 120m fund will deploy into technologies supporting carbon neutrality in energy, mining, transport, chemicals, steel and cement, and forestry.

Chrysalix Venture Capital, an industrial sustainability investor with offices in Holland and Canada, has closed its fifth fund at $120m to invest in early-stage companies across the globe, according to a news release.

The Carbon Neutrality Fund is dedicated to developing technologies enabling carbon neutrality in energy, mining, transport, chemicals, steel and cement, and forestry. It will focus on technologies that include resource efficiency solutions, alternative fuels, materials substitution and circularity, carbon as a resource, negative emission technologies, carbon analytics and markets and will primarily invest across Canada, the US and Europe.

Investors in the fund include Evonik, LyondellBasell and Siam Cement Group (SCG).

“With this first close, the Fund is on its way to raising its target size of [$120m] and is supported by Chrysalix’s expanded presence in Europe, as well as the Chrysalix  ecosystem which includes many of the leading global industrial companies, top universities from Europe, North America and Asia, partnerships with climate technology accelerators and providers of non dilutive and growth capital,” the release states.

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SoCalGas and Bloom Energy powering Caltech with hydrogen project

The project will inject hydrogen into natural gas infrastructure and be converted into electricity using fuel cells.

Southern California Gas Company and Bloom Energy will power a portion of Caltech’s grid with an innovative hydrogen project that demonstrates how hydrogen could potentially offer a strong solution for long-duration clean energy storage and dispatchable power generation, according to a news release.

This project takes water from Caltech’s service line and runs it through Bloom Energy’s solid oxide electrolyzer, which uses grid energy to create hydrogen. The resulting hydrogen is injected into Caltech’s natural gas infrastructure upstream of Bloom Energy fuel cells, creating up to a 20% blend of hydrogen and natural gas. All of this fuel blend is then converted into electricity with Bloom Energy’s fuel cells, and the electricity is then distributed for use on campus.

Blending hydrogen into natural gas infrastructure statewide – which could help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and ultimately drive down hydrogen costs by scaling production – first requires developing a hydrogen injection standard. The global hydrogen economy is projected to potentially produce as much as 80 gigatons of carbon abatement by 2050, which represents approximately 11% of required cumulative emissions reductions.

SoCalGas is working to help develop a state hydrogen blending standard by proposing pilot projects for approval by the CPUC. These projects could help to better understand how clean fuels like clean renewable hydrogen could be delivered through California’s natural gas system.

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Germany-Canada partnership for reduced-emission fertilizer plant in Western Canada

thyssenkrupp Uhde and Genesis Fertilizers have partnered for a for reduced-emission fertilizer plant in Western Canada.

thyssenkrupp Uhde and Genesis Fertilizers Limited Partnership have signed a Pre-FEED (front-end engineering and design) contract to conceptually develop an integrated fertilizer complex to be located at Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan in Canada, according to a press release.

The proposed plant will be designed to produce 1,500 mtpd of ammonia, 2,600 mtpd of urea/UAS granulation, nitric acid and UAN plus the ability to produce Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF).

thyssenkrupp Uhde will provide engineering solutions for the integration of the above-listed objectives as a component of this Pre-FEED arrangement, with a key focus on minimizing plant emissions. thyssenkrupp Uhde’s proven EnviNOx® technology, for example, will almost completely eliminate nitrogen oxides from nitric acid production. Furthermore, the design of the plant will consider the potential use of renewable-based hydrogen and electricity.

Jason Mann, President and CEO of Genesis Fertilizers: “Our primary goal is to ensure the supply of fertilizers to the farmers in Western Canada based on the most advanced technologies available with the lowest possible carbon footprint. We are pleased to be working with a strong industry partner that offers expertise in all the processes and technologies involved from a single source.”

Lucretia Löscher, COO thyssenkrupp Uhde: “This project is a further proof that the transition of the fertilizer industry towards more sustainability has started. Our expertise in clean fertilizer technologies and their integration is essential to support our customers on their journey to protect the climate.”

This Partnership announcement initializes the conceptual design or Pre-FEED (front end engineering and design) stage which will complete the design basis of the plant, including capacities, technology selection, product mixes, mass balance of inputs and outputs, block flow diagrams and carbon footprint optimization. The product formulations this plant will produce are expected to greatly streamline fertilizer handling in Canada, leading to a notable reduction in the overall carbon footprint associated with fertilizer production, Genesis said in a separate press release.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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Solar-powered hydrogen producer raising capital for EU and US growth

A European JV developing off-grid hydrogen production units using concentrated solar power – “white hydrogen” – plans to raise capital for growth in Europe and the US.

hysun, a Spanish JV between European firms Nanogap and Tewer Engineering, will raise $15m over three years for its first industrial plant and commercialization by 2026, CEO and Co-founder Tatiana Lopez said in an interview.

hysun has not engaged a financial advisor to date, but is open to meetings, Lopez said.

The new venture, formed in November, has raised $2m and is actively seeking another $3m (pre-money valuation of $10m) equity for a100 g H2/h prototype to close by the end of the year.

The company will then need $4m for an industrial plant, locations for which are being scouted now in the US and Europe. After that, the founders intend to enter a commercialization phase.

hysun’s intellectual property allows it to produce off-grid “white hydrogen” via steam generated with concentrated solar technology, Lopez said. The lack of electrolyzers means about eight times less land is needed to generate projects as large as 200 MW assuming 2,500 hours of sunlight per year.

“You don’t need to be next to a wind farm or solar plant,” Lopez said, adding that the hydrogen is produced at $1 per kilo.

Average project sizes range between 50 and 100 tonnes per year, assuming the same amount of sunlight, though the technology is applicable on a micro scale. The company sees the end uses being for ammonia production, replacement of grey hydrogen in industry and remote location deployment.

Lopez said the company is interested in growing in the US and Europe but believes the US will develop its industry faster.

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Exclusive: Ammonia plant sale paused until commercial operations

The sale process for a Texas ammonia plant has been paused until the facility reaches commercial operations.

Gulf Coast Ammonia, the developer of a world-scale ammonia plant in Texas City, Texas, has paused a sale process until the plant reaches commercial operations, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The process to sell the plant, which will produce 1.3 million tons of ammonia per year, was underway earlier this year, led by Jefferies as sellside advisor. The plant was expected to reach COD in 2023, according to documentation.

The project was initiated by Agrifos Partners LLC and advanced to FID in collaboration with joint venture development partners Mabanaft and Macquarie Capital. Following the FID taken in late 2019, GCA is wholly owned by a joint venture of Mabanaft and Lotus Infrastructure (formerly known as Starwood Energy).

GCA is investing $600m towards the construction, operation, and ownership of the ammonia plant, which is situated on land owned by Eastman Chemical Company within Texas City’s industrial park. It includes a portion of Eastman’s port access. 

In tandem with the ammonia plant construction, Air Products is building a $500m steam methane reformer to provide hydrogen to the plant via pipeline. Air Products noted in a recent investor presentation that the SMR project recently came onstream.

Officials at Lotus, Mabanaft, and Jefferies did not reply to inquiries seeking comment.

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