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Reaching bankability: The developing financial landscape around green hydrogen

Panelists at the S&P Platts Global Power Markets conference discussed existing and future opportunities to finance hydrogen production, storage and transport.

Decarbonizing is no longer an option: almost every company in every industry understands that’s the direction in which they need to be moving – now.

And for some companies, hydrogen is the only solution, Fanny Charrier, hydrogen Americas coordinator at Crédit Agricole CIB, said during the Fueling Tomorrow with Hydrogen panel at the S&P Platts Global Power Markets conference this week.

Even so, the project menu is limited.

“We haven’t seen many projects to finance,” Charrier said. “Everybody’s waiting.”

ACES Delta in Utah is thus far the only producing green hydrogen project in the US to raise financing, Charrier said. Credit Agricole is thus focused on M&A debt and equity advisory.

“What we’re looking at is mostly pure green hydrogen projects,” she said. Green ammonia shipping to Europe is a main end-use and market. Project sizes range from a few million up to USD 5bn. “We’re also supporting some electrolyzer manufacturing plants.”

Mobility, heavy trucks and shippers looking for hydrogen is a potentially huge market, but hasn’t materialized yet, she said.

Demand signals

In Europe, commitments to close traditional power generation assets hold promise for clean fuels, António Fayad, manager of hydrogen strategy at EDP Renewables, said during the panel. In the US, EDP is mainly looking to industry to buy hydrogen at or adjacent to factories and other relevant facilities.

There has been a strong, customer-led demand signal from the US, said Sam Bartholomaeus, vice president of power and renewables at Woodside Energy. Woodside was already considering a hydrogen project in Oklahoma when the IRA was passed.

“The signal was already there in terms of seeing demand sectors that need to be decarbonized and seeing that we had a competitive proposition,” he said of the hydrogen portfolio Woodside is developing in the US.

Woodside recently signed a contract for Air Liquide to provide liquefaction equipment for a hydrogen project in Ardmore, Oklahoma. First production at that project will begin in 2026 and Woodside is targeting FID this year.

Government support and finding offtake  

Last year, the USD 504m loan guarantee for the US Department of Energy was a huge boost for the ACES Delta in Utah, Susan Fernandez, senior director of strategy at ACES-Delta, said.

That kind of support from governments and legislatively mandated decarbonization quickens the proliferation of new hydrogen technologies and projects.

“Others will also have the ability to receive more loan guarantee dollars,” Fernandez said of the post-IRA landscape. “We’ll see more projects come to the space.”

Still, offtake is key to reaching bankability, Charrier said.

“The key is always the offtake,” she said. Rather than a chicken-and-egg metaphor, she said she likes to mention a domino effect. “Yes, at the beginning we’ll have to pay a premium, but if it’s driven by a net-zero commitment everything will fall into place.”

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HIF, Idemitsu, and MOL to cooperate on e-fuels supply chain

HIF Global will assess demand for CO2 in its eFuels production facilities around the world. Idemitsu will study the capture of CO2 in Japan. MOL will examine the transportation and shipping of CO2 from Japan and eFuels to Japan.

HIF Global, an eFuels company, Idemitsu Kosan, the Japanese petroleum company and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL), the international shipping company, have reached an agreement to develop an eFuels supply chain between HIF facilities and Japan.

The agreement also outlines how the companies will explore the potential for supplying carbon dioxide (CO2) from Japan for use as a feedstock for the eFuels production process in HIF facilities under development in the USAAustralia and Chile, according to a news release.

HIF Global will assess demand for CO2 in its eFuels production facilities around the world. Idemitsu will study the capture of CO2 in Japan. MOL will examine the transportation and shipping of CO2 from Japan and eFuels to Japan.

Cesar Norton, President & CEO of HIF Global, said: “At HIF Global, we are developing a portfolio of eFuels facilities that would recycle approximately 25 million tonnes per year of CO2, equivalent to the emissions from over 5 million cars. Carbon neutral eFuels are an immediate replacement for fossil fuels across the global transport sector. Initiatives like this collaboration will bring us a step closer to fueling our world with renewable energy as we strive towards net zero emissions now.”

Hiroshi Tanaka, General Manager (Carbon Neutral Transformation Department) of Idemitsu Kosan said: “As part of our commitment to sustainability, Idemitsu is actively working towards establishing a robust supply chain for eMethanol and eFuels. We recognize the importance of these low environmental impact alternatives in our business and their versatility. Through strategic collaborations such as this, we are confident in our ability to take a leading role in reducing carbon emissions in both the energy and transportation sectors. Additionally, we see tremendous potential in the development of various business opportunities within the supply chain. We look forward to exploring and capitalizing on these opportunities together.”

Hirofumi Kuwata, Senior Managing Executive Officer of MOL, said: “Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is pleased to be working with HIF Global and Idemitsu Kosan to develop a value chain for CO2, synthetic fuel, and synthetic methanol, contributing to decarbonization throughout the lifecycle. We will establish efficient maritime transport of CO2, synthetic methanol, and synthetic fuel within the supply chain connecting Japanese and overseas projects.”

The parties will also discuss the sale and purchase of eFuels and analyze the resulting greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

eFuels are made using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to separate hydrogen from oxygen in water. The green hydrogen is combined with recycled carbon dioxide to produce carbon neutral eFuels, which are chemically equivalent to fuels used today and can therefore be dropped-in to existing engines without requiring any modifications.

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Twelve plans groundbreaking for eSAF plant in Washington state

The first customers to receive E-Jet fuel from the plant will be companies and major airlines with which Twelve has existing partnerships, including Shopify, Alaska Airlines, and Microsoft.

Carbon transformation company Twelve and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have announced plans to scale the production of E-Jet® fuel, Twelve’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from CO2 and renewable energy, with a commercial-scale production facility in Moses Lake, WA.

The announcement was made during a press conference held at the Washington State exhibit at the 2023 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France.

A groundbreaking event for the facility will take place on July 11 with Gov. Inslee and other regional and local stakeholders who support sustainable aviation fuel development in Washington State. The first customers to receive E-Jet fuel from the plant will be companies and major airlines with which Twelve has existing partnerships, including Shopify, Alaska Airlines, and Microsoft.

Twelve’s E-Jet fuel is produced using the company’s carbon transformation technology, which uses only renewable energy and water to transform COinto critical chemicals and materials conventionally made from fossil fuels. With up to 90% lower lifecycle emissions compared to conventional fossil-based fuels, E-Jet fuel is a drop-in synthetic fuel that works seamlessly with existing aircraft and faces no constraints on feedstock, offering the best viable long-term solution to address emissions in the aviation industry. Transitioning to E-Jet fuel not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels, but also reduces particulate emissions from aviation and decreases impacts on neighboring communities.

“Washington maintains its widely-recognized leadership in the aviation and aerospace industries by creating a competitive business environment that fosters technology innovation, such as carbon transformation, that will help decarbonize the global aviation industry,” said Gov. Inslee. “We’re excited for Twelve to join the growing number of innovative companies that recognize everything that Washington has to offer.”

“Commercial-scale production of E-Jet fuel is a major milestone in our mission of creating a world run on air,” said Twelve co-founder and CEO Nicholas Flanders. “Washington is the perfect location for our facility, with its abundant renewable energy resources to power our carbon transformation process and longstanding global leadership in the aviation industry.”

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Japanese MoU for ammonia-fueled bulk carriers

The Japanese firms will each play a role in the design, development and implementation of the ammonia-fueled ships.

A group of Japanese firms has signed an MoU to jointly develop the commercialization of ammonia-fueled ships.

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. together with ITOCHU Corporation, Nihon Shipyard Co., Ltd., MAN Energy Solutions (MAN), Mitsui E&S Co., Ltd., and NS United Kaiun Kaisha, Ltd. have signed the MoU, according to a news release.

The MoU is based on the premise that 200,000 deadweight ton class bulk carriers to be built by Nihon Shipyard will be equipped with ammonia-fueled engines being developed by MAN as a pilot project prior to commercialization, and that the necessary operational data will be collected after the delivery of the ships for the commercialization of ammonia-fueled engines and ammonia-fueled ships in cooperation with other parties involved.

The signing of this MOU is an important milestone for the implementation of ammonia-fueled ships, a new challenge being taken on by the maritime industry, and also an important step in the ongoing implementation of the Integrated Project being facilitated by ITOCHU, the release states.

ITOCHU and its partners will proceed with the development of the ammonia-fueled engines and ships based on this MOU, aiming to begin social implementation once the engines and ships are ready in accordance with the integrated project for the development and social implementation of ammonia fueled ships selected by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in October 2021.

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Exclusive: Carbon conversion startup planning capital raise

A Halliburton Labs-backed startup is developing a pilot plant in the Pacific Northwestern US, while forming financial relationships for an industrial-scale carbon conversion facility in the same location.

OCOchem, a Washington state-based carbon conversion startup, will seek new capital partners to build its first commercial scale facility in 2026, CEO Todd Brix said in an interview.

Starting in late 2024 or early 2025, the company will likely go to market for new liquidity – including project debt and equity, Brix said. He declined to talk about capex, but said the first commercial plant in Richland, Washington will cost “multiple tens of millions of dollars.”

The company is working with two EPCs now and is represented legally by Miller Nash law firm in the Pacific Northwest, Brix said. The company does not have a formal relationship with an investment bank but will likely form one for a Series A and later rounds.

“We’ve been in touch with a number of private equity and project finance people,” Brix said of early-stage discussions.

OCOchem is considering land options in Richland for its first plant and is organizing to begin permitting, Brix said. There is opportunity to form relationships with industrial partners in need of an offtaker for their CO2 emissions and new incremental revenue streams, as well as customers for chloral hydrates and other formic acid products.

“We expect to build hundreds of these plants all around the planet,” Brix said, referring to the process of electrochemically converting emitted CO2 and water to formic acid, which can then be used to make a suite of products like hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and formate (methanoate) derivatives. “We are close to industrial size on our plants right now.”

CO2 is captured from steam methane reformers, natural gas processing and piping, and ammonia production, among other processes. The gas is then combined with water in a cellular, modular process producing formic acid, derivatives of which can be used in a range of industries like pharmaceuticals.

The company recently raised $5m in seed funding from lead investor TO VC, which joined backers LCY Lee Family Office, MIH Capital Management, and Halliburton Labs. An additional $8m has been raised in grant funding from the US departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD).

The company is also partnered with the Nutrien Corporation on a small scale facility in Kennewick, Washington, just upriver from Richland, Brix said. Financing for that project is largely arranged with the FEED completed.

Brix owns a majority of the company with his father.

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IPP retains banker for California plant sale

An independent power producer has retained a banker for a sale of a decades-old gas plant in California. Aging gas plants have been in the sights of clean fuels developers looking to retrofit or use facilities for clean fuel production and combustion.

GenOn, an independent power producer, has hired Solomon Partners to sell a 54 MW gas plant in California, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The plant, Ellwood, is located in Goleta, in Santa Barbara County, and was shuttered and retired by GenOn as of 2019. It reached COD in 1973 and ran two Pratt & Whitney FT4C-1 gas turbine engines.

Ellwood previously interconnected via Southern California Edison, a utility that is pursuing multiple natural gas decarbonization projects, including a hydrogen-blending initiative with Bloom Energy.

A teaser for the sale of Ellwood, which was issued last week, notes there is an opportunity to install a battery energy storage system at the site, one of the sources added.

Elsewhere in California, investment firm Climate Adaptive Infrastructure and developer Meridian Clean Energy are seeking to demonstrate decarbonization in peaker plants at the much newer gas-fired Sentinel Energy Center. Their plans include hydrogen blending.

GenOn declined to comment. Solomon Partners did not respond to requests for comment.

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California Resources pursuing pipeline of blue molecule projects

Through a subsidiary called Carbon TerraVault, the upstream oil and gas producer will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals.

Through its subsidiary Carbon TerraVault, California Resources Corporation will approach carbon capture and blue molecule production investments on a project-level basis to help meet California’s lofty decarbonization goals, Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Gould said in an interview.

Carbon TerraVault is differentiated by its nature as a CCS-as-a-service company, Gould said, as most CCS projects are owned by emitters themselves.

“We are bringing to market a solution to decarbonize other parts of the California economy,” Gould said, noting that hydrogen producers, power plants and steel and cement makers are among potential clients. “We are out across the state, working with emitters.”

Carbon TerraVault is self-mandated to return one billion tons of carbon back into the ground, first as a gas and then pressurized into liquid. Revenue comes from the federal 45Q incentive and the California LCFS and related tradeable market.

The company has a JV with Brookfield Renewable for the first 200 million tons. That JV recently formed a separate JV with Lone Cypress Energy Services for a planned blue hydrogen plant at the Elk Hills Field in Kern County.

Carbon TerraVault will provide permanent sequestration for 100,000 MTPA at the facility, and will receive an injection fee on a per ton basis, according to a December 7 presentation.

In hiring Carbon TerraVault to provide CCS as a service, LoneCypress also invited the company to invest in the production, Gould said. The JV has the right to participate in the blue hydrogen facility up to and including a majority equity stake, the presentation shows.

“You should expect to see over time as we do more and more of these that we’re going to have multiple models,” Gould said of these partnerships and financial structures. A typical model may emerge as the industry matures.

The company could repeat that effort for “many more” blue hydrogen projects in the state, Gould said. “Green [hydrogen] is a longer-term proposition that is going to be based on renewable buildout,” he said. “Blue is kind of here now.”

Target market

Carbon TerraVault estimates that California’s total CCS market opportunity is between 150 MMTPA – 210 MMTPA, and is in discussions for 8 MMTPA of CCS, of which 1 MMTPA is in advanced discussions, the presentation shows.

Through California Resources’ Elk Hills land position of 47,000 acres and CO2 sequestration reservoirs, the company could attract additional greenfield infrastructure projects like the Lone Cypress Hydrogen Project and create a Net Zero Industrial Park, according to the presentation.

In that vein, Gould noted the huge need for decarbonized ammonia in California’s central valley agriculture, which today is imported from abroad.

“There is a need for clean hydrogen in California and it is best if it is created in California,” Gould said.

The JV with Brookfield funds Carbon TerraVault’s storage needs, Gould said. Investments in the production processes, such as the deal with Lone Cypress, will likely require additional capital.

Project level financing is a “default assumption,” Gould said, though that’s not set in stone. The company is working with a financial advisor but Gould declined to name the firm.

The scale of California’s hydrogen ambitions is far beyond what any one company can do, Gould said.

“If you’re an advisor that is working with a developer likeLone Cypress that is considering locating in California, then I would say give us a ring,” Gould said. “We’re the ones who are going to be able to do the sequestration there.”

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