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Planted Materials in funding round with plans for biorefinery

The Seattle-based company plans commercialization of its first biorefinery and is seeking its next round of funding.

Planted Materials, a provider of renewable feedstocks to manufacturers, is in a funding round with plans to use its modular recycling process to turn non-woody waste biomass into chemicals, according to a news release.

By recycling organic waste into tannins, lipids, and cellulose, Planted Materials aims to supply local manufacturers with materials to reduce the Washington State’s carbon emissions by 2% within one year, the release states.

“We’ve spent the past four years analyzing different types of organic waste to identify market-ready materials that will drive the circular economy and help shift global dependence away from fossil fuels,” Noah Belkhous, CEO and co-founder of Planted Materials, said in the release. “Our commercialization plan is designed to help Washington reduce waste and emissions while also supplying companies with the necessary materials to help other manufacturers achieve their own sustainability goals.”

Upon commercialization of the Planted Materials biorefinery, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by capturing biogenetic carbon in manufacturing. Urban areas can especially benefit from the Planted Materials recycling process, as it offers access to renewable materials that do not compete with land use for food production.

“Our recent analytical laboratory trials have validated proof of concept stage technology that is being refined for pilot scale demonstration using non-woody biomass. Through an iterative approach, PM2RP will expand to accommodate a diverse range of inputs which can be seamlessly integrated with existing infrastructure such as waste management/recycling or food processing facilities,” Greg Jenson, CTO and co-founder, said in the release. “At commercial scale operation these advanced biorefineries will be the backbone of the circular economy by employing novel mechanical, chemical, and biochemical technologies.”

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TPG-backed Ohmium to collaborate with Aguastill to produce GH2 from seawater

The parties will collaborate on a new application of sustainable desalination technology powered using waste heat to enable expansion of green hydrogen production.

Ohmium International, a leading green hydrogen company that designs, manufactures, and deploys advanced Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyzers, today announced a strategic collaboration with Aquastill, one of the leaders in modular membrane distillation technology that uses the sustainable power of waste heat for desalination.

The companies said today that the collaboration will enable Ohmium to use desalinated seawater as an input in green hydrogen production.

By integrating Aquastill’s desalination capabilities with Ohmium’s modular green hydrogen electrolyzers, the collaboration will create new decarbonization opportunities for businesses operating in coastal areas by providing a more efficient, sustainable and affordable way of producing clean energy.

In addition, the innovative integration of modular desalination units will facilitate new applications for cost-effective green hydrogen production, including co-locating PEM electrolyzers with offshore wind farms, to enable the production of green hydrogen at-source. Ohmium and Aquastill have begun assessing optimal integration of these technologies, with the intention of having these fine-tuned modules commercially available as soon as possible.

Headquartered in the United States, with manufacturing facilities in India and operations worldwide, Ohmium has a global green hydrogen project pipeline of more than 1.8 GW across three continents. In 2023, Ohmium raised $250 Million in Series C financing, led by TPG Rise Climate.

“This strategic collaboration is a great example of how the innovative integration of Ohmium and Aquastill’s technologies can enable the expansion of green hydrogen production to new sectors and geographies,” said Arne Ballantine, CEO of Ohmium International. “Utilizing Aquastill’s membrane technology to efficiently produce green hydrogen from seawater has the potential to be a game changer for companies operating in coastal or rural regions that want to affordably and sustainably decarbonize.”

Aquastill’s technology is powered by the residual heat from Ohmium’s electrolyzers and the membrane distillation process simultaneously provides additional cooling capabilities for the electrolyzer. Unlike other energy intensive desalination technologies, the waste heat membrane-based distillation process has minimal energy requirements. These advanced desalination modules feature a modular and compact system design, making them easily transportable to wherever clean water is needed.

“We are excited to be working with Ohmium, to successfully pair their cutting-edge PEM electrolyzers with our membrane distillation technology – providing an ideal platform to expand the transformational impact of green hydrogen production to other industries,” said Bart Nelemans, CEO of Aquastill“We have already begun to test the integration of our respective technologies, and we are confident that as a result of this joint collaboration we will be able to produce cost-competitive green hydrogen from seawater, while simultaneously helping decarbonize the operations of companies operating in coastal regions.”

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Downstream hydrogen firm adds Chevron to investor group

Hydrogen distribution and fueling business OneH2 has closed an investment round led by Chevron and existing investors Trafigura and The Papé Group.

Hydrogen distribution and fueling business OneH2 has closed its latest funding round with investments led by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and current investors Trafigura and The Papé Group, according to a news release.

Terms of the transactions were not disclosed.

Funds from the round will be used to help accelerate the development and deployment of mid-scale hydrogen generators and fuel distribution solutions, which will enable OneH2 and its channel partners provide lower carbon solutions to its customers.

“We welcome Chevron’s investment and eagerly anticipate collaborating with one of the world’s largest vertically integrated energy companies,” said Paul Dawson, OneH2’s president and CEO. “The OneH2 team deeply appreciates the steadfast support from our existing investors as we continue to invest in hydrogen infrastructure across the United States. Each of our investors will play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of OneH2 and contributing to the advancement of the broader hydrogen industry.”

Chevron’s decision to lead the round demonstrates its ongoing commitment to exploring diverse energy sources and technologies. By investing in OneH2, Chevron aims to play a key role in driving hydrogen as a viable, pragmatic and economical energy source.

“At Chevron, we believe affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy is essential to enabling human progress, and we believe the use of lower carbon intensity hydrogen as a fuel source can help reduce emissions,” said Nuray Elci, Chevron’s general manager of Renewables. “We are excited to work with the team at OneH2 and other partners to help build the fueling infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles, moving this technology forward.”

Additional investment by Trafigura and The Papé Group represent their continued confidence in OneH2’s strategic direction and their commitment to bringing practical, hydrogen fueling technology to the market.

“This is our third equity investment in OneH2, showing our support for the progress that they’re making and scalability of their business, we are encouraged about the growth inflection point OneH2 is reaching and what it means for hydrogen adoption in the US,” said Julien Rolland, Head of Renewables and Strategic Investments for Trafigura.

Jordan Papé, president and CEO of The Papé Group, added, “Papé provides solutions that maximize our customers’ uptime while staying abreast of regulatory trends in the lower carbon energy sector. Our investment in OneH2 will allow us to continue to provide solutions for our customers both today and into the future.”

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Raven SR and H3 Dynamics sign MoU for waste-to-hydrogen supply at airports

The companies will jointly develop renewable hydrogen facilities to supply fuel for various ground operations at airports.

Raven SR Inc., a renewable fuels company, and H3 Dynamics, a developer of hydrogen aviation technologies, today announced their memorandum of understanding to globally collaborate on waste-to-hydrogen energy systems to support the decarbonization of airport operations and the adoption of hydrogen at airports.

H3 Dynamics will provide hydrogen power systems to replace conventional fuel and other energy sources at airports, especially in Asia, Europe and the US. Raven SR will provide renewable hydrogen production facilities to supply airports. The use of hydrogen to power various ground operations will help reduce emissions at airports.

“We see tremendous demand to decarbonize the aviation sector with renewable fuels, including on the ground,” said Matt Murdock, CEO of Raven SR. “By collaborating with H3 Dynamics, we can reach a broader network among airports and equipment, including a variety of aircraft operations, to install waste-to-energy hubs where there is an acute need to curb emissions.”

The Raven SR technology is a non-combustion thermal, chemical reductive process that converts organic waste and landfill gas to hydrogen and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels. Unlike other hydrogen production technologies such as electrolysis, Raven SR’s Steam/CO2 reformation does not require fresh water as a feedstock. The process is more efficient than conventional hydrogen production and can deliver fuel with low to negative carbon intensity. Additionally, Raven SR’s goal is to generate as much of its own power onsite as possible to reduce reliance on the power grid and even be independent of the grid. Its modular design provides a scalable means to locally produce renewable hydrogen and synthetic liquid fuels from local waste.

“Raven SR provides a way to convert a variety of waste feedstocks into clean hydrogen, with a process that uses less energy than other renewable hydrogen production. Raven SR’s advanced waste-to-hydrogen technology offers a less intensive, more sustainable means of locally producing fuel,” said Taras Wankewycz, CEO of H3 Dynamics.

H3 Dynamics will work with its technology and manufacturing partners to configure hydrogen power systems componentry to meet certification requirements within the airport and aircraft environment.

“H3 Dynamics will deploy decarbonization use cases that have a more immediate impact, so that the infrastructure built today can also welcome hydrogen aircraft in the future,” said Wankewycz.

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DG Fuels charting path to be SAF powerhouse

The company has retained advisors and is mapping out a plan to build as many as 50 production facilities in North America for a “gigantic” sustainable aviation fuel market.

DG Fuels is charting a plan to build a proprietary network of 30 to 50 sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facilities in North America, CEO Michael Darcy said in an interview.

The Washington, D.C.-based company will pursue a combination of debt and equity on a case-by-case basis to fund the projects, Darcy explained, with financings underway now for the firm’s initial project in Louisiana and a second facility in Maine. The Louisiana facility recently inked a USD 4bn offtake agreement with an undisclosed investment grade industrial buyer.

The company is working with Guggenheim and Stephens as financial advisors, Darcy said. About 60 people hold equity in the company; Darcy and the founding team hold a majority stake.

In the coming months DG Fuels will likely make announcements about more SAF plants in the US and British Columbia, Darcy said. Site negotiations are underway and each project is its own subsidiary of the parent company.

“There’s clearly a good return of what we refer to as the ‘project level,’ and then we have the parent company,” Darcy said. “We have strategic investment at the parent and now we’re looking at strategic investment at the project level.”

Huge demand, low supply

DG Fuels produces SAF from cellulosic biomass feedstock, a technology that does not need sequestration of CO2 because natural gas is not used.

“We like to say it’s the corn cob, not the corn,” Darcy said. The company can also use timber waste, waxes, and renewable power as an important source of energy.

The company gets about 4.5 barrels of SAF for every ton of biomass feedstock, which is roughly three to four times the industry average, Darcy said.

“Practical scale” for a facility is 12,000 to 15,000 barrels a day, Darcy said. That’s big enough to be commercialized without stressing the electrical grid with power demand.

Despite the company’s advantages, there is “plenty of room” for other producers to come into the SAF space, Darcy said.

“Right now, the market for SAF is gigantic and the supply is minimal,” Darcy said. “Companies like us are able to pick and choose high-quality offtakers.”

DG Fuels includes Delta Airlines, Air France and General Electric as committed offtakers.

Multi-tasking

DG Fuels is “always engaged in some level of capital raise for construction of facilities and detailed engineering,” Darcy said. “There’s always more engineering to be done.”

Some of the financing has already been completed, but Darcy declined to go into additional detail. After Louisiana, the company will quickly follow up with Maine.

HydrogenPro AS recently announced that it would join Black & Veatch and Energy Vault in financing the remaining capital requirements of DG Fuels’ project in Louisiana, which is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

Most of the engineering work in Louisiana is transferable to the company’s project in Maine. Darcy likened the facilities’ build-out to a class of ships: once the first is completed, the second and third can be built almost concurrently.

“There will be a point where we won’t be building one at a time,” Darcy said.

The opportunity for funders to participate is broad in the SAF space, Darcy said. There is a crossover of good economics and ESG, so strategics, industrials, private equity and other pure financial players can all be involved.

The broad base of capital eager to participate in companies that are innovative — but not too innovative as to scare investors — is indicative of the industry’s ability to secure offtakers and feedstock.

Storing power

It’s one thing to acknowledge the need for reduction of carbon, but hard work is required ahead, Darcy said.

“The low-hanging fruit has been done,” he said of the renewables industry. “Now it’s not really about the power, it’s about the storage of power.”

DG Fuels is an offtaker of non-peak renewable power to displace fossil fuel energy. But baseload renewable power is becoming available almost anywhere.

The Maine project will use stranded hydroelectric power, Louisiana will use solar, and projects in the Midwest will use wind, Darcy said. Additionally, geothermal power is “starting to become a very real opportunity,” he added.

Deploying broadly with renewable power gets past the issues of variability of renewable power at a reasonable cost, he said.

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Developer Profile: Green hydrogen developer finds strength in numbers

Clean Energy Holdings is assembling a coalition of specialized companies as it seeks to break into the novel green hydrogen market.

Nicholas Bair draws a direct line from his childhood on an Oregon dairy farm to the coalition of specialized companies that, as the CEO of Clean Energy Holdings, he is now assembling in pursuit of key-player status in the green hydrogen industry.

“We created our own milk from our own hay,” he says, of his family’s organic dairy farm in Klamath Falls, near the California border. He adds, using an expression he often repeats: “Everything was inside the battery limits.”

This phrase – “inside the battery limits” – represents what Bair, who is forty-one and a chemist by trade, is trying to achieve with The Alliance: a broad, self-contained battery of partners with specialized competencies working in coordination on the challenges of developing and operating groundbreaking green hydrogen projects.

“We’re doing everything from soup to nuts,” he says.

CEH and The Alliance are planning to build roughly $1bn worth of projects per year over the next ten years, Bair says. As a launching point, the parties are advancing a green hydrogen facility – called Clear Fork – near Sylvester, Texas that would churn out 30,000 kg per day in phase 1 starting in 4Q24. The hydrogen would be produced using electrolyzers powered by a 325 MW solar farm, while ancillary facilities at the site would be powered by a gas turbine capable of blending up to 70% hydrogen.

As members of The Alliance, Equix Inc. is acting as the EPC for the solar and gas turbine portion of the project, while Chart Industries is providing tankers, trailers, and liquefaction to transport hydrogen from the site in northwest Texas. Meanwhile, Hartford Steam Boiler – an original contributor to standards written by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – will provide quality assurance and control; Coast 2 Coast Logistics is responsible for trucking; and The Eastman Group provides permitting and facilities management.

‘First-of-kind’

Although a renewable project, the green hydrogen concept is similar to most refinery EPC contracts, since many of them are first-of-kind with significant liquidated damages, Bair says. Additionally, the green hydrogen projects are “married to renewables, and you need the cryogenics and the distribution in between.”

Before starting Clean Energy Holdings, Bair was the founder and CEO of Bair Energy, a program and construction manager for infrastructure and energy projects – a service that Bair Energy is providing as a member of the Alliance. A period of low natural gas prices made Bair Energy’s specialty – geothermal power – less competitive, and Bair, seeking to develop his own projects instead of managing projects for others, sought to branch out into new types of energies.

Bair Energy itself consists of professionals that have been cherry-picked from the industry, Bair says. Candice McGuire, a veteran of Shell and Technip, is Bair’s chairman; chief operations officer John Strawn recently joined from Technip; and wind-industry veteran Peder Hansen has joined as VP and chief engineering manager.

“Our experience on the team is taking first-of-kind, developing it, and getting it to market,” he says. With The Alliance, “We went out and found the best at what they do, put them on lump-sum order, and brought them to the table early to figure out how to make their product talk to the other person’s product, so we can have a guarantee,” he says.

What distinguishes Clean Energy Holdings from other green hydrogen developers is, in fact, the coalition it is building, says Elizabeth Sluder, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright who is CEH’s legal advisor.

“It’s intended to be one-stop shopping in a vertically integrated structure such that as and when needed for future CEH projects or third party projects that are identified, you have all the various players you need to take it from point A to point B,” she adds.

Because the parties are on standby with a common goal, CEH and its partners can provide lump-sum turnkey services, with some element of bulk pricing potentially factored in, because savings are generated through not having to issue RFPs for partners in future projects.

“The savings in time and money is, I would expect, very valuable,” Sluder says. “And when you apply those principles to long-term strategy and equity investment-type opportunities, the lower capex spend should theoretically benefit the project at large.”

Keeping the pieces moving

Bair runs CEH alongside Co-Founder and President Cornelius Fitzgerald. The two met as children – Fitzgerald was raised on a nearby cattle farm in southern Oregon – and enjoy the uncommon chemistry of childhood friends.

In something of classic pairing, “I’m much more the trumpet, paving the path,” Bair says, while Fitzgerald “usually keeps the pieces moving.”

“Sometimes Cornelius has had the best cup of coffee and takes the lead in meetings. And sometimes I do,” he says. “It’s that ability to rely on each other that set the basis of design in my mind for what a good partner looks like.”

Fitzgerald says they approach the challenge of breaking new ground in green hydrogen with “quiet confidence and humility.” By having a big picture vision as well as “credible and tangible fundamentals for the project” – like land, resource, and water control – the project moved from an idea to a reality, he adds.

“And really we’ve been driving at how to get the best experience and expertise at the table as early as possible,” Fitzgerald says.

Equix, Inc, a civil engineering firm, joined the grouping to build the solar and gas generation portion of the facility, representing the company’s first-ever foray into a hydrogen project, says Tim LeVrier, a vice president of business development at the firm.

“There are many challenges integrating all these types of power sources and energy into creating hydrogen,” Levrier says. “From an electrical engineering standpoint it is extremely challenging to coordinate power switching from one source to another. Another consideration we are having to work through is what to do in regards to producing hydrogen at night. Will there be a battery portion to the project or do we just not produce hydrogen when it is dark? These are all things we are considering and will have to find creative solutions for.”

‘Pathological believer’

CEH recently added Chart Industries to The Alliance, which in addition to furnishing liquefaction, tanks and trailers to move hydrogen, will provide fin fans for cooling and a reverse osmosis system for cleaning water. “We don’t want to give away all our secrets,” Bair says, “but it’s a very efficient process.”

The unique perspective and expertise of partners in The Alliance makes for a fulsome ecosystem around any CEH project, says Jill Evanko, CEO of Chart Industries. With respect to CEH’s projects, Evanko says they are “very targeted, which, with focus, will continue to help evolve the hydrogen economy.”

“Chart’s hydrogen liquefaction process as well as associated hydrogen equipment including storage tanks and trailers” – which the company has been manufacturing for over 57 years – “will be sole-source provided into the project. This will allow for efficient engineering and manufacturing to the CEH Clear Fork project schedule,” she says.

In any molecule value chain, hydrogen included, Chart serves customers that are the producers of the molecule, those who store and transport it as well as those who are the end users, Evanko adds. “This allows us to connect those who are selling the molecule with those who need it.”

Looking ahead, CEH is preparing to meet with investors in the lead-up to an April, 2023 final investment decision deadline for the Texas project. And it is being advised by RockeTruck for another RFP seeking fuel cell vehicles to transport hydrogen from the site as the trucks become available – a design that will likely include hydrogen fueling stations at the production facility as well as at the Port of Corpus Christi, Bair says.

CEH also has plans to develop its own geothermal plants and explore the role that nuclear energy can play in green hydrogen. Bair Energy recently hired Eric Young as its VP of engineering and technology from NuScale, where he worked on the research team that received approvals from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a small modular nuclear reactor.

“We’re a technology-driven owner-operator,” Bair says. “We’re all technologists, which means we’re pathological believers in technology. We’re all looking for transformational energy.”

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3Q deals in focus: Macquarie’s investment in Atlas Agro

In one of the largest and most compelling clean fuels deals of 3Q23, Macquarie made a $325m investment into Americas-focused Atlas Agro, a developer of industrial-scale green nitrogen fertilizer plants that utilize green hydrogen as a feedstock. William Demas, head of Macquarie Asset Management Green Investments in the Americas, provides a closer look.

Macquarie Asset Management’s investment into green nitrogen developer Atlas Agro gives the manager a stake in the company along with the ability to invest in the developer’s projects.

The $325m investment, made via the Macquarie GIG Energy Transition Solutions fund, will benefit Atlas Agro’s previously announced fertilizer plant project in Richland, WA, and will also support the company’s global pipeline of green fertilizer facilities, according to William Demas, head of Macquarie Asset Management Green Investments in the Americas.

In addition to the 700,000 tons-per-year Richland project, Atlas Agro is pursuing a project in Minas Gerais, Brazil that will produce 500,000 tons per year. Both projects would make nitrate fertilizer and are estimated to cost $1bn. An additional facility is planned for the US Midwest.

In the production process, the plants utilize air, water, and renewable electricity as the only raw materials.

“There are a number of things that attracted us to Atlas Agro,” Demas said in response to written questions. “They have a strong management team with an established track record managing established companies and delivering projects in the fertilizer space.”

The GIG Energy Transition Solutions fund has a target size of approximately $1.9bn, which to date is just over 50% committed, according to a source familiar with the fund.

Next phase

Equally important for the Atlas investment, Demas added, is that the company is aligned with Macquarie’s next phase energy transition thesis in the US – in this case hydrogen. 

“In this application, green hydrogen will be used as a feedstock rather than as an energy carrier, and the end-product of green fertilizer will attract customers looking to enter into long-term offtake contracts,” he said.

Through the development of plants in Washington state and the US Midwest, Atlas Agro is seeking to take advantage of favorable logistics to displace the need for imported fossil-fuel based fertilizer. Brazil also imports around 95% of its nitrogen fertilizers, according to Atlas.

“An important benefit of Atlas Agro’s model is the availability of locally produced, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating many of the issues associated with international supply chains,” Demas said, noting that offtakers are local to Atlas Agro’s operations.

Further, Macquarie and Atlas plan to pursue a project finance model for funding the projects under development.

“As an infrastructure investor, we focus on opportunities that are bankable, which means, ultimately project financeable,” Demas said. “We backed Atlas Agro because we believe their approach to project development, commercialization, construction and operations aligns with our views on how to underwrite infrastructure investments.”

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