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Port Houston awarded $27m for clean truck program

Port Houston will use the U.S. DOT grant to subsidize replacement of drayage trucks with new zero emission trucks, including electric and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced that Texas was awarded a $26.9 million grant for the Port Houston new clean truck program to help reduce air emissions, according to a news release.

Port Houston’s CLEANSTACS Program (Catalyzing Lower Emissions with Alliances and New Systems in Trucking and Community Sustainability) was one of fewer than 20 projects selected nationwide.

The program will help fund 30 new zero-emission (ZE) short-haul trucks, and portable electric chargers for battery electric vehicle trucks, to make zero-emission technology accessible and more affordable to owners and operators of small trucking fleets. The funds will also pay for installing new automated terminal operating systems to help reduce truck idling times.

Port Houston will use its portion of the grant to subsidize replacement of existing drayage trucks with new ZE trucks, which can cost upwards of $400,000 -$500,000. Fleet owners are responsible for covering 20% of the cost, and both electric and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks are eligible.

Of the $26.9 million grant, $25.1 million will help jumpstart the CLEANSTACS first phase, which includes 30 new zero-emission drayage trucks, 15 anti-idling devices for existing trucks, a regional truck study to help reduce traffic through port communities, including Galena Park and Pleasantville, and public engagement and community education for the new technologies available in goods movement. The 30 new ZE trucks are scheduled to be deployed by the end of 2025.

Jacintoport International, LLC will receive $1.8 million of the funding to install new terminal operating systems at its facility along the Houston Ship Channel. Truck idling time at the gates is expected to be reduced by at least 10 minutes.

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Veteran legal advisor joins new firm

Mona Dajani, a veteran legal advisor heavily involved in hydrogen dealmaking, has left Pillsbury Winthrop for a new role.

Mona Dajani, a prominent legal advisor in infrastructure, mobility, renewables and water, has left Pillsbury Winthrop to become global head of renewables, hydrogen and ammonia at Shearman & Sterling, according to a post on LinkedIn.

She will take a dual title as global co-head of energy and infrastructure at the firm as well.

Her post mentions Jorge Medina, partner and head of renewables at Shearman, who is also leaving Pillsbury for a new role.

In numerous public appearances Dajani has been bullish on the proliferation of blue hydrogen as a transition fuel and the use of renewable natural gas. Her clients have included major multinationals and US energy producers.

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TPG Rise acquires fuels testing and certification company

The target firm, AmSpec, increasingly facilitates the penetration of biofuels, hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel, and other alternatives throughout the global fuel system.

TPG Rise Climate, the dedicated climate investing strategy of TPG’s global impact investing platform TPG Rise, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire AmSpec Group, Inc., one of the fastest growing Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC) companies specializing in energy, commodities, and fuels.

AmSpec’s existing majority shareholder, Olympus Partners, will retain a minority interest in the company. Additional terms of the investment were not disclosed.

Goldman Sachs and Baird served as financial advisors and Morgan Lewis served as legal counsel to AmSpec in relation to the transaction.

Founded in 1986, AmSpec operates an extensive global footprint of over 300 inspection sites and laboratories throughout 61 countries, many of which are located at key industrial centers, ports, or trade hubs. AmSpec’s core service involves testing and certifying the performance and emission qualities of fuels or commodities at each stage along the value chain.

By monitoring and reporting to regulators and independent certification bodies, AmSpec plays a key role in emissions controls and enforcement on conventional fuels, while also increasingly facilitating the penetration of biofuels, hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel, and other alternatives throughout the global fuel system.

“As part of its broad set of services, AmSpec has developed deep expertise in the control of pollutants and emissions factors in legacy fuels, and they will play a critical role in processing, testing, and certifying the growing volume of increasingly complex renewable fuels that we see coming online,” said Marc Mezvinsky, Partner at TPG and senior member of its climate investing team. “We are thrilled to be investing in AmSpec’s best-in-class lab network at this inflection point in the global fuels mix, and we look forward to working closely with the management team to enter new markets and accelerate the global energy transition.”

As part of the transaction, Mezvinsky will join AmSpec’s Board of Directors along with TPG Rise Climate’s Roger Stone and Tracy Wolstencroft, a TPG Senior Advisor who served as former president and CEO of both the National Geographic Society and executive search and management consulting company Heidrick & Struggles. He also served as former chair of Goldman Sachs’ clean energy technology practice.

“Our commitment to innovation and service has made us a leader in the industry, and we are excited about what we will be able to accomplish with this new partnership. TPG Rise Climate has the resources, network, and vision to drive our next phase of growth, particularly as global supply chains rapidly change and the flows of critical molecules begin to transition,” said Matt Corr, CEO of AmSpec. “Our team is fully aligned with TPG on capturing the opportunity set in front of us and we are grateful to have Olympus’s continued partnership and support.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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PowerCell serving H2 fuel stacks to ZeroAvia

The agreementcomprises 5,000 hydrogen fuel cell stacks with deliveries planned to start in 2024.

PowerCell has signed the world’s first contract covering the serial delivery of hydrogen fuel stacks to the aviation industry, according to a press release.

The agreement, potentially valued up to SEK 1.51bn, is conditioned on client ZeroAvia obtaining necessary certifications. It comprises 5,000 hydrogen fuel cell stacks with deliveries planned to start in 2024.

Approximately SEK 25m of the order value is expected to impact revenues in 2022.

ZeroAvia focuses on hydrogen-electric aviation solutions and aims to launch a 19-seat aircraft with 300-mile range by 2025. The American and British company acquired California-based fuel cell stack innovator HyPoint this month.

The total order value of SEK 1.51 billion is conditional on ZeroAvia obtaining necessary certifications of the powertrain.

PowerCell will, upon completed aviation certifications, deliver a total of 0.5 GW fuel cells comprising of 300 kW superstack modules based on the industrialized 100 kW fuel cell stack. The fuel stacks will be used by ZeroAvia to manufacture a 600 kW, low-temperature, hydrogen-electric powertrain for the certified 19-seat, fuel cell-powered commercial aircraft.

As part of the agreement, PowerCell will establish a unit in the UK for final assembly and the adaptation of the stacks to ZeroAvia’s fuel cell system and application.

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Caliche CEO talks hydrogen and CO2 storage expansion

Following the acquisition of assets in Texas and California, Caliche Development Partners CEO Dave Marchese discusses opportunities for growth in the hydrogen and C02 storage market.

Caliche Development Partners II has made a pair of acquisitions with the aim of expanding into growing hydrogen and CO2 storage markets in Texas and California, CEO Dave Marchese said in an interview.

The company, which is backed by Orion Infrastructure Capital and GCM Grosvenor, this week announced the purchase of Golden Triangle Storage, in Beaumont, Texas; and the anticipated acquisition of Central Valley Gas Storage, in Northern California – two regions with increasing demand for storage to support variable power loads, natural gas liquefaction, and high penetrations of renewable resources.

Caliche and seller Southern Company did not use financial advisors for the transaction. Caliche used Willkie Farr as its law firm for the financing and the transactions.

Marchese, who has a private equity background and first worked on a successful investment in a fuel cell company in the year 2000, has also racked up years of experience investing in and operating underground storage assets. The Caliche team developed and sold a natural gas liquids and helium storage business – called Coastal Caverns – earlier this year.

“We know how to put things underground and keep them there, including very small molecules, and we have relationships with many of the customers that are using hydrogen today,” he said.

Roughly a third of the industrial CO2 emissions on the Gulf Coast come from the Golden Triangle area, a region in Southeast Texas between the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange. Much of this CO2 comes from the steam methane reformers that are within 15 miles of Caliche’s newly acquired Golden Triangle asset, Marchese said. The site is in similar proximity to pipelines operated by the air companies – Air Products, Air Liquide, and Praxair – that run from Corpus Christi to New Orleans.

“We’re within 15 miles of 90% of the hydrogen that’s flowing in this country today,” he added. “Pipeline systems need a bulk storage piece to balance flows. We can provide storage for an SMR’s natural gas, storage for its hydrogen, and we can take away captured CO2 if the plant is blue.”

The Golden Triangle site, which sits on the Spindletop salt dome, has room and permits for nine caverns total, with two currently in natural gas service. Three of those caverns are permitted for underground gas storage. “We could start a hydrogen well tomorrow if we had a customer for it,” Marchese said.

The Central Valley assets in Northern California are also positioned for expansion, under the belief that the California market will need natural gas storage for some time to support the integration of renewables onto the grid, he said. Additionally, the assets have all of the safety, monitoring and verification tools for sequestration-type operations, he added, making it a good location to start exploring CO2 sequestration in California. “We think it’s an expansion opportunity,” he said.

“Being an operator in the natural gas market allows us to enter those other markets with a large initial capital investments already covered by cash flowing business, so it allows us to explore incrementally the hydrogen and CO2 businesses rather than having to be a new entrant and invest in all the things you need to stand up an operation.”

Caliche spent $186m to acquire the two assets, following a $268m commitment from Orion and GCM. The balance of the financial commitment will support expansion.

“We’re capitalized such that we have the money to permit, build, and operate wells for potential CO2 sequestration customers,” he said. “The relationship with these stable, large investors also meets the needs of expansion projects: if somebody wanted not only a hydrogen well but compressors as well, we have access to additional capital for underwritten projects to put those into service.”

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Waste-to-energy company interviewing advisors for strategic capital raise

Vancouver-based Klean Industries plans to run a process to raise between $250m – $500m of capital to deploy into projects, some of which would use green hydrogen to upgrade recovered fuel and pyrolysis oils.

Waste-to-energy specialist Klean Industries is interviewing financial advisors and planning to run a process to find investors for a strategic capital raise.

The Vancouver-based company is seeking to raise between $250m – $500m in a minority stake sale that would value the company around $1bn, Klean CEO Jesse Klinkhamer said in an interview.

Klean had previously intended to list on the NASDAQ exchange but those plans were nixed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. The company still plans to list publicly in 2024 or 2025.

Proceeds from a capital raise now would be used to “rapidly deploy” into the projects that Klean is advancing around the globe, Klinkhamer said.

For one of those projects – a flagship tire pyrolysis plant in Boardman, Oregon – Klean is raising non-recourse debt to finance construction, the executive said. Klinkhammer declined to name the advisor for the project financing but said news would be out soon and added that the company has aligned itself with infrastructure funds willing to provide non-recourse debt for the facility.

The Boardman project, which is expected to cost roughly $135m, is an expansion of an existing site where Klean will use its advanced thermal conversion technology to recover fuel oil, steel, and refined carbon black from recycled tires. The end products are comparable to virgin commodities with the exception of being more cost-effective with a lower carbon footprint.

“A lot of what we do is of paramount interest to a lot of the ESG-focused infrastructure investors that are focused on assets that tick all the boxes,” Klinkhamer said, noting the consistent output of the waste-to-energy plants that Klean is building along with predictable prices for energy sourced from renewable power.

Klean has also partnered with H2Core Systems, a maker of containerized green hydrogen production plants, and Enapter, an electrolyzer manufacturer. The company will install a 1 MW electrolyzer unit at the Boardman facility, with the green hydrogen used to upgrade recovered fuel oil and pyrolysis oil into e-fuels that meet California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standards.

“We were exploring how we could improve the quality of the tire pyrolysis oil so that it could enter the LCFS market in California,” he said, “because there are significant carbon credits and tax incentives associated with the improved product.”

The company received proposals from industrial gas companies to bring hydrogen to the Boardman facility that were not feasible, and Klean opted for producing electrolytic hydrogen on site in part due to the abundance of low-cost hydroelectric power and water from the nearby Columbia River.

Addressable market

Discussing Klean’s addressable market for waste-to-energy projects, Klinkhamer points to Japan as an example of a comparable “mature” market.

Japan, an island nation of 126 million people, has built roughly 5,000 resource recovery, waste-to-energy plants of various scopes and designations, he notes. For comparison, the United Kingdom – another island nation of 67 million people – has just 20 waste-to-energy plants.

“The opportunity for waste-to-energy in the UK alone is mind boggling,” he said. “There are a thousand opportunities of scope and scale. Nevermind you’ve got an aging, outdated electrical infrastructure, limited landfills, landfill taxes rising – a tsunami of issues, plus the ESG advent.”

A similar opportunity exists in North America, he noted, where there are around 100 waste-to-energy plants for 580 million people. The company is working on additional tire, plastic, and waste-to-energy projects in North America, and also has projects in Australia and Europe.

Hydrogen could be the key to advancing more projects: waste-to-energy plants have typically been hamstrung by a reliance on large utilities to convert energy generated from waste into electricity, which is in turn dependent on transmission. But the plants could instead produce hydrogen, which can be more easily and cost effectively distributed, Klinkhamer said.

“There is now an opportunity to build these same plants, but rather than rely on the electrical side of things where you’re dealing with a utility, to convert that energy into hydrogen and distribute it to the marketplace,” he added.

Hydrogen infrastructure

Klinkhamer says the company is also examining options for participating in a network of companies that could transform the logistics for bringing feedstock to the Boardman facility and taking away the resulting products.

The company has engaged in talks with long-haul truckers as well as refining companies and industrial gas providers about creating a network of hydrogen hubs – akin to a “Tesla network” – that would support transportation logistics.

“It made sense for us to look at opportunities for moving our feedstock via hydrogen-powered vehicles, and also have refueling stations and hydrogen production plants that we build in North America,” he said.

Klean would need seven to 12 different hubs to supply its transportation network, Klinkhamer estimates, while the $350m price tag for the infrastructure stems from the geographic reach of the hubs as well as the sheer volume of hydrogen required for fueling needs.

“With the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. has set itself up to be the lowest-cost producer of hydrogen in the world, which will really spur the development of hydrogen logistics for getting hydrogen out,” he said. “And to get to scale, it’s going to require some big investments.”

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Exclusive: US-Ukraine battery storage firm in seed round

A US-based battery storage technology firm with operations in Ukraine and a utility-offtake pilot project in the southwestern US is in the early stages of finding institutional investors in the US and Europe.

SorbiForce, an Arizona-based battery storage technology firm, is raising $4.7m in seed funding with ambitions to find strategic investors for larger fundraising efforts in the next year, CEO Serhii Kaminskyi said in an interview.

The company, which was founded in western Ukraine and still has R&D operations there, aims to finish the seed round in five months, Kaminskyi said. Currently the US operations are housed at the University of Arizona Center for Innovation.

The batteries the company designs use little metal compared to other battery pack systems, instead using organic matter that can ultimately be biodegraded. The packs are filled with “ultra porous carbon materials” capable of storing up to 0.7 MWh.

SorbiForce is assisted by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff and Squire Patton Boggs as legal counsels, Kaminskyi said.

The seed round is for a 1 MW pilot project near Tucson, Arizona. That project has offtake contracted with Tucson Electric Power, Kaminskyi said. The B2B business model will be to sell batteries to customers in power generation, industrials, municipalities, and EV charging.

Kaminskyi, speaking from southern Italy, said the company is testing batteries in that country and has had discussions with offtakers in Germany, including automakers. The company has signed an agreement with a European energy company, he said, declining to name which.

The early-stage company is too-early for many financial investors, Kaminskyi said, and is looking for institutional investors with downstream need for battery storage.

“We’ve already received money from customers,” Kaminskyi said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put strain on the company, particularly concerning the families of the company’s founding employees, Kaminskyi said. The facilities in Ukraine are safe, but he is in process of moving those facilities to Arizona.

Kaminskyi owns 56% of the company, with additional equity held by the founding scientific team and US employees, he said.

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