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Norway’s Nel nearing US electrolyzer gigafactory site selection

Electrolyzer manufacturer Nel has narrowed down its site search for a 2 GW electrolyzer manufacturing plant to three potential locations in the US.

Norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer Nel is seeking to capitalize on the scaling up of hydrogen projects by expanding its manufacturing presence in the United States.

The company has narrowed its search to three sites that could support a 2 GW manufacturing plant producing both PEM and alkaline electrolyzers.

Nel executives also said they would spend $25m to expand PEM electrolyzer production capacity at its Wallingford, Connecticut plant to 500 MW, from 50 MW currently. The company has received a $5.6m grant from the US Department of Defense for advanced PEM electrolyzer development. The Connecticut facility is estimated to be at full capacity by 2025.

“Due to the [Inflation Reduction Act] and the political developments in the US, we expect a lot of demand to come from the US,” CEO Hakon Volldal said on the company’s 4Q earnings call today.

Of the three remaining potential site options in the US, Nel is evaluating parameters such as labor costs, support packages, and construction costs. “It’s a tight race,” Volldal said, adding that he expects a final decision in the first half of this year.

Market share

Nel is aiming for 20% – 30% market share (excluding China) in electrolyzers as the hydrogen market scales up, Volldal said, with the company targeting North America and Europe as well as other large export hubs.

“The electrolyzer industry is going from small to large scale – that’s a fact,” Volldal said. “The jury is not out anymore – this is happening.”

Volldal added that Nel would rapidly scale production capacity in line with market demand. “We will be ahead of the market, but we won’t build dozens of factories that are empty – we want to phase in capacity in a smart way.”

Nel has established an order backlog of $251m and is growing revenues, but the company recorded negative EBITDA of $20.9m in 4Q22.

In 4Q, Nel received orders from Woodside Energy for a project in Oklahoma in addition to a purchase order from Statkraft.

PEM vs alkaline

Volldal believes Nel has the cheapest atmospheric alkaline electrolyzer in the market. The company is also developing a pressurized alkaline system.

He acknowledges that Nel’s PEM electrolyzer is not the cheapest, which led the company to strike a deal with General Motors to accelerate industrialization of Nel’s PEM platform.

“The reason we are investing in multiple technologies is because the jury is still out,” Volldal said, noting that PEM electrolyzers are currently the least efficient when it comes to electricity use. But with newer membrane technologies, “it might become fantastic,” he added.

“You still have reason to believe that atmospheric alkaline can become cheaper and more efficient. There’s a lot happening in pressurized alkaline. So we have to acknowledge that we don’t know yet, and that’s why we at Nel invest in multiple R&D platforms” until there’s a clear technology leader, he said.

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Gulf Coast Sequestration appoints CEO

GCS is building a world-scale carbon sequestration hub on the Gulf Coast.

Gulf Coast Sequestration has named Dave Cook as CEO.

Prior to joining GCS, Cook was a director of Vaalco Energy, following its merger with TransGlobe Energy Corporation of which he was Chair from 2019 to 2022. Previously, he served as CEO of Noreco in London and INEOS DENOS in Copenhagen. Earlier in his career, he spent more than 20 years with BP in various international assignments.

GCS is building a world-scale carbon sequestration hub on the Gulf Coast.

W. Gray Stream, founder of GCS, will assume the role of Executive Chairman. Completing the leadership team, Benjamin Heard will serve as Chief Strategy Officer, while Scott Stepp is Chief Financial Officer.

“With two Class VI permit applications with the Environmental Protection Agency, GCS is at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to develop and implement carbon capture and sequestration. Under Dave’s leadership, I’m confident we are well positioned to continue our significant progress toward building a carbon sequestration hub on the Gulf Coast,” Stream said.

The addition of Cook follow the recent hire of former Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) regulator Kaycee Garrett as Head of Permitting. Garrett worked in the Underground Injection Control section of the LDNR Office of Conservation for ten years, followed by five years of consulting experience to advance injection well permit applications for operators across the Gulf Coast.

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Air Liquide Finance announces cash tender offers for two series of USD Notes

The tender offers to purchase for cash up to $350m of its outstanding 2.500% notes due 2026 and $100m of its outstanding 3.500% notes will enable the company to optimize its funding structure.

Air Liquide Finance has announced offers to purchase for cash up to $350m of its outstanding 2.500% notes due 2026 and $100m of its outstanding 3.500% notes due 2046, according to a press release.

“The Offeror intends, but is not obligated, to increase either or both of the applicable Maximum Tender Amounts to the extent necessary to allow for a combined acceptance of Notes validly tendered and not validly withdrawn at or prior to the Early Tender Time up to an aggregate maximum principal amount for both series of up to [$500m],” the release states.

Air Liquide has retained BofA Securities Europe SA, Citigroup Global Markets Limited and Natixis Securities Americas to act as the dealer managers for the tender offers, and Global Bondholder Services Corporation to act as the information and tender agent.

The Tender Offers will expire at 11:59 p.m., New York City time, on April 11, 2023.

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Barclays establishes energy transition group

Barclays is establishing a global energy transition group and has named Mike Cormier as its head.

Barclays is establishing a new energy transition group within its corporate and investment bank.

The new group will be responsible for providing strategic advice to clients as they explore potential energy transition opportunities, according to a news release.

The new team will be comprised of industry sector specialists from within Barclays’ global Natural Resources, Power, and Sustainable and Impact Investment Banking teams, focusing on hydrogen, energy transition finance, carbon capture, renewables, nature-based solutions, and renewable natural gas.

Mike Cormier has been appointed as Global Head of the Energy Transition Group, reporting directly to Cathal Deasy and Taylor Wright, Global Co-Heads of Investment Banking, and working in close partnership with Daniel Hanna, Global Head of Sustainable Finance.

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Exclusive: Australian fuels producer looking for US development partners

An Australian fuels producer and concentrated solar power developer partnered with German and US fossil interests is developing its first US clean fuels project in Texas, and is looking for development partners with eyes on the greater southwest.

Vast Energy, the Australia-based and NASDAQ-listed concentrated solar power (CSP) developer and fuels producer, is in the early stages of developing a project near El Paso, Texas – the company’s first in the US – and is seeking US development partners to generate a pipeline of projects throughout the country, CEO Craig Wood said in an interview.

Vast is in process with two projects in Port Augusta, South Australia: VS1, a 30 MW solar/8 MWh storage plant, and SM1, a demonstration solar-to-methanol plant co-located with VS1, producing up to 7,500 mtpa of green methanol from VS1 electricity and heat with extra power available on the grid.

VS1 is scheduled for FID in 3Q24 with FID on SM1 coming the following quarter, Wood said.

Vast recently announced funding agreements with German partner Mabanaft for up to AUD $40m for SM1, after the SM1 project was selected last year as a part of the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator (HyGATE).

Methanol from the $80m SM1 will in part be exported to Germany. Vast is also working with EDF to provide additional financing, Wood said.

“Essentially it’s going to be debt free and on balance sheet,” Wood said.

German container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd recently signed an MOU with Mabanaft to explore options for the supply of ammonia as bunker fuel to Hapag-Lloyd in the Port of Houston.

US opportunity

In the US, where Vast listed to be primed for opportunistic growth, the company has a shortlist of locations around El Paso, has engaged with regional economic development leaders, and held early talks with EPC providers, Wood said.

The El Paso project is being developed in conjunction with Houston-based oil and gas drilling business Nabors Industries, Wood said. Nabors backed the SPAC that took Vast public at a valuation of up to $586m in early 2023. Its current market cap is $64m.

There are ongoing discussions on whether to produce eSAF or methanol in El Paso, Wood said.

To produce eSAF, Vast would use a solid-oxide electrolyzer coupled with the Fischer-Tropsch process, Wood said. Meanwhile, the methanol distillation process lends itself well to Vast’s ability to produce low-cost heat.

CSP has a lower level of embedded carbon than any renewables technology other than wind, Wood said.

“The work that we have done to date indicated that you would most likely power an eFuels project with a CSP plant that was configured to operate in the day and night,” Wood said.

As for project costs, envisioning a project producing some 200 million liters per annum, roughly $3bn would be needed for the power station, and then half that for the infrastructure to make the fuels.

Preliminary offtake for the El Paso project is going to be critical for attracting investment, Wood said. Offtake will depend on the type of fuel produced, though conversations are ongoing with shipping companies (methanol) and airlines (eSAF).

“We’re not expecting to have any problem placing the product,” Wood said. Offtake would likely be targeted for the Port of Los Angeles, LAX airport, the ports of the Gulf Coast, or Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Development of CSP makes sense anywhere climate is sunny and hot, Wood said. The company could logically expand into more of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California.

The region around Farmington, New Mexico is particularly attractive for CSP development, Wood said. As a huge amount of coal-fired capacity in that area is retired, those interconnections, workforces and resources are ripe for repowering.

The turbines that one of those coal fired power stations would have is the same turbine at the core of Vast’s technology, Wood said. One difference is that Vast’s can be turned on and off quickly.

Development partnerships 

There is an opportunity for Vast to find a development partner, or partners, to stand up a pipeline of projects in two to three years’ time, Wood said.

“Almost everyone wants to wait until our project in Port Augusta reaches COD,” Wood said. “But we don’t want to wait that long to be developing projects in the US.”

Vast is capable of building CSP plants, which can be configured to operate in the day and night, co-located with existing larger-scale solar pv to provide additional generation and, critically, storage, Wood said. By directing sunlight to receivers and heating molten salt, CSP can store energy for 12-to-20 hours overnight to alleviate solar pv’s intermittency issues.

“Coming along and essentially retrofitting complementary CSP next to those [pv plants], we think is a very sensible way to go, both in terms of shared cost but also in terms of managing incremental transmission build,” Wood said. “We’re looking for people we can have conversations with.”

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exclusive

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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Storage solutions firm in the market for strategic capital

An early-stage provider of hydrogen storage technology has hired a UK-based financial advisor to raise capital for a pilot plant.

Hydrogen carrier technology firm H2Fuel is seeking to raise approximately $25m to build a pilot project, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans.

The Dutch-based company has mandated a UK-based financial advisor to engage potential investors, with capital needs in the $12.5m range of a $25m project cost, the sources added.

In an interview, H2Fuel CEO Peter Huisman said the firm is “location agnostic” in looking for a site for a pilot project, but would prefer the US. Europe and India are also possibilities.

“We are early stage, in our view,” Huisman said. “[An investor will] need to have a long-term view of the market.”

Huisman declined to say which bank his company has hired but referred to it as a “top five” institution.

H2Fuel’s process combines hydrogen to salt, forming an energy-dense solid compound that can be transported and stored in dry conditions without complex requirements. A patented energy release process requires no extra energy, Huisman said.

The company has talked with some large strategics but has been told they are too early, Huisman said. The company views the near-term capital opportunities as one for pension funds or a venture capital.

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