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Royal Caribbean testing biofuel blends in cruise ships

The cruise vacation provider is testing biofuel blends in several of its ships out of Europe.

Royal Caribbean Group, the vacation cruise provider, has completed more than 12 consecutive weeks of biofuel testing in Europe, according to a news release.

In Barcelona, Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas became the first ship in the maritime industry to successfully test and use a biofuel blend to meet part of her fuel needs.

The company confirmed onboard technical systems met operational standards, without quality or safety concerns, demonstrating the biofuel blend is a reliable “drop in” supply of lower emission energy that ships can use to set sail.

The company began testing biofuels last year and expanded the trail this summer in Europe to two additional ships. The biofuel blends tested were produced by purifying renewable raw materials like waste oils and fats and combining them with fuel oil.

The biofuel blends tested are accredited by International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), which verifies reductions of fuel emissions, the release states.

 

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Co-developers signing on to Canadian wind-to-hydrogen project

A pair of renewables developers with a track record of completing large wind farms in North America are in late stage talks to join a massive Canadian wind-to-hydrogen project as co-developers.

Northland Power and Pattern Energy are interested in co-developing the Port au Port-Stephenville Wind Power and Hydrogen Generation Project, or Project Nujio’qonik, according to an environmental impact statement submitted by developer World Energy GH2.

“Discussions are at advanced stages with both companies,” the statement reads. “The Project would then benefit from their onshore wind development experience and local knowledge and relationships.”

In order to finance the project, financial advisor Green Giraffe plans to take a wide market approach using its project finance contacts as well as World Energy GH2’s relationship banks, which are mostly local Canadian banks, the document reads. The advisor plans to conduct the capital raise “in due time” and expects “strong interest” from lenders given the scarcity of green hydrogen projects in the market.

“Lenders will highly value the location (politically stable country with ambitious carbon-neutral targets), the experienced consortium, and the innovative aspect of the project that will be de-risked with adequate mitigations solutions,” according to the EIS.

The project involves 1 GW of wind power to produce hydrogen and ammonia on the Port au Port peninsula, Port of Stephenville, in Newfoundland and Labrador. Future expansions plan for up to 3 GW of energy from additional wind farms.

First production is planned for 2Q24 with full production reached by 3Q35.

In May SK ecoplant, the environment and energy arm of Korea’s SK Group, invested $50m in Project Nujio’qonik, acquiring a 20% stake in the first phase.

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JERA targeting 7 million tons of hydrogen/ammonia by 2035

In a newly published 2035 strategy document, JERA said that it is targeting 7 million tons of handling volume of hydrogen and ammonia by 2035.

JERA Co. Inc. (JERA) today announced the new growth strategy that integrates strategic business pillars and organizational edge, marking a realistic pathway towards 2035, and ultimately its 2050 zero emission goals.

JERA’s 2035 growth strategy is outlined in a presentation here.

Amidst complex and rapidly changing global energy dynamics, JERA’s new growth strategy ensures the agility and efficiency further solidifying its leadership in solving energy trilemma, achieving energy sustainability, affordability, and stability all at once, the firm said in a news release.

JERA strategically emphasizes three key business pillars: LNG, renewables, and hydrogen & ammonia—a sector pioneered by JERA. These three pillars bring complementary synergies instrumental in driving steady and reliable progress toward decarbonization.

JERA has set the following goals corresponding to the three business pillars by fiscal year 2035:
–    LNG: JERA targets more than 35 million tons of transaction volume as one of the world’s largest LNG integrated value chain players.
–    Renewables: JERA aims at 20 GW (gigawatts) of capacity becoming one of the industry leading renewables players.
–    Hydrogen & Ammonia: JERA targets approximately 7 million tons of handling volume and aims to pioneer the global hydrogen & ammonia value chain.

JERA is also progressing toward creating zero emissions in thermal power generation and has set ambitious but realistic environmental targets. JERA is committed to reduce CO2 emissions intensity by 20% as of 2030, total CO2 emissions by 60% as of FY2035 before achieving zero COemissions from its domestic and overseas operations as of 2050.

To achieve these targets, JERA will phase out inefficient coal-fired thermal power by FY2030. JERA also intends to convert 100% of the other coal-fired power generation to ammonia by 2040’s, and eliminate coal completely.

JERA’s effort is not limited to CO2 only. JERA has succeeded in reducing NOx and SOx emissions to the lowest level globally and aims to deliver further reductions through adoption of new technologies such as low-NOx burners, the company said.

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Maritime MoU to explore West Coast ammonia feasibility

The study aims to explore possibility to utilize existing ammonia storage terminal at port of Stockton for a pilot demonstration project of ammonia bunkering for car carriers.

American Bureau of Shipping, CALAMCO, Fleet Management Limited, Sumitomo Corporation and TOTE Services, LLC have executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to jointly conduct a feasibility study with the aim to be one of the pioneers in establishing a comprehensive and competitive supply chain for the provision of clean ammonia ship-to-ship bunkering in the US West Coast.

The study will be conducted at the Port of Oakland, Benicia and nearby major ports in U.S. West Coast, according to a news release.

Ammonia, which does not emit any CO2 when combusted, has long been considered one of the most promising alternative marine fuels to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) direct emissions within the shipping industry which aligns with the revised International Maritime Organization (IMO) strategy to reach net-zero emissions from international shipping “close to” 2050 on a life-cycle basis.

CALAMCO is a California based cooperative composed of grower members, as well as the largest ammonia distributer in California. The study aims to explore possibility to utilize CALAMCO’s existing ammonia storage terminal at port of Stockton for a pilot demonstration project of ammonia bunkering for car carriers calling at port of Benicia and container vessels calling at port of Oakland as a first step toward wide adoption of ammonia as marine fuel in the US West Coast.

Port of Benicia is one of the key vehicle-handing ports in U.S. West Coast, while Port of Oakland also rank among top 10 of US largest container ports.

Safety assessments are critical to formulate standards for use of ammonia as a marine fuel due to the toxicity of the substance. Relevant government agencies and experts in the US will be engaged in working towards the standardization of safe operation and regulations, the news release states.

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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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California renewables developer taps advisor for capital raise

Utility-scale solar and storage developer RAI Energy has tapped an advisor for a capital raise. The company is evaluating co-development conversion for green ammonia production at projects in Arizona and California.

RAI Energy, the utility-scale solar and storage developer, has hired an advisor as it pursues a capital raise.

The company is working with Keybanc Capital Markets in a process to raise up to $25m, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

In an interview, RAI Energy CEO and owner Mohammed S. Alrai said the company “is excited about having [Keybanc] act as our financial advisors on this fundraising round.” He noted that RAI is first a solar-plus-storage developer and is approaching investors as such.

However, RAI is evaluating co-development conversion for green ammonia production at two of its project sites in Arizona and California, he said.

“Hydrogen is a natural next step,” Alrai said of his company, adding that the end-product would be green ammonia for use in fertilizer production and industrial sectors. Pure hydrogen could also be kept for use in transportation.

A variety of partnerships would be required to develop hydrogen at RAI’s solar sites, Alrai said. The company could need advisory services to structure those partnerships.

RAI is working with engineers on the hydrogen question now and is open to additional technology and finance advisory relationships, he said. The company is also evaluating several electrolyzer manufacturers.

“It’s an open book for us right now,” Alrai said of hydrogen production. “We’re always open to talking to people who can help us.”

For hydrogen project development, RAI would seek project level debt and equity similar to its solar developments, Alrai said. Early-stage project sites in Colorado and New Mexico could also be candidates for hydrogen co-development.

Keybanc delined to comment for this story.

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US clean fuels producer prepping equity and debt raises

A Texas-based clean fuels producer is close to mandating an advisor for a platform equity raise. It has already tapped Goldman Sachs to help arrange a cap stack in the billions for a project in Oregon.

NXTClean Fuels, a Houston-based developer of clean fuels projects, is preparing a $50m to $100m platform equity raise in the near term and has large debt and equity needs for a pair of projects in Oregon, CEO Chris Efird said in an interview.

The company is close to engaging a new financial advisor for the raise, which will launch late this year or early next, Efird said.

Port Westward

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs’ post-carbon group is retained for the capital stack on NXTClean’s flagship project at Port Westward, at the Port of Columbia County, Efird said. The $3bn CapEx (including EPC) project is fully permitted by the State of Oregon and is awaiting one federal Clean Water Act permit. An Environmental Impact Statement is expected this fall.

The project is dedicated to producing a split of renewable diesel and SAF, amounting to roughly 50,000 barrels per day total permitted capacity when fully operational.

FID is expected for roughly August 2024, he said. About 30 months from FID the plant will reach COD.

“What we’re most focused on right now is the true senior debt,” Efird said. On the equity side the company is engaged with strategic partners that have indicated interest in post-FID equity.

NXTClean has conversations ongoing with the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, along with commercial project finance lenders.

Red Rock

In April NXTClean acquired what was the Red Rock Biofuel facility in Lakeview, Oregon. That woody biomass-to-SAF facility foreclosed after $425m in investment, following technical and financial issues brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. NXTClean purchased the facility for $75m in preferred stock at auction on the courthouse steps.

GLC advisors was retained by lead bondholder Foundation Credit to advise on that process, Efird said.

Red Rock is being repurposed to produce carbon-negative RNG for the adjacent Tallgrass Ruby Pipeline, Efird said. The fully-permitted project has a significant amount of equipment already installed or on skids.

A first phase will require a spend of $100m to $150m. Some $50m of equity will augment a balance of debt, raised in part through USDA programming, Efird said. Cash flow from the first phase will help with the second phase, which will bring the capital needs of the facility up to as much as $400m.

Looking forward

Geographically, NXTClean will expand in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Efird said.

Each of NXTClean’s two projects are held by a separate subsidiary. The company has a third subsidiary called GoLo Biomass that focuses on feedstock aggregation, Efird said. It engages with fish processors in Vietnam and used cooking oil suppliers in South Korea to augment supply from large companies.

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