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Senators introduce legislation to ensure GREET model use for SAF

The ethanol industry and other biofuels producers had been advocating for a modification to laws that would allow SAF produced from certain feedstock to qualify for federal incentives.

A bipartisan group of US Senators has introduced legislation that would update federal standards for the definition of sustainable aviation fuel at the Federal Aviation Administration and require agencies to adopt the GREET model, which the Senators say is the most accurate tool for measuring lifecycle emissions.

The Duckworth-Fischer-Ernst-Klobuchar Sustainable Aviation Fuels Accuracy Act of 2023 would identify the standards required to meet the definition of SAF at the FAA by:

• Requiring the Federal Government adopt the most up-to-date lifecycle emissions models,including, GREET or successor LCA models to GREET;

• Preventing the Federal Government from picking winners and losers in the SAF market; and

• Clarifying that the United States Government does not encourage the banning of agriculturalfeedstocks from being utilized as a viable source of SAF.

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Steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs completes blast furnace hydrogen trial

Hydrogen was used as a partial substitute for the coke necessary for iron reduction, ultimately replacing the release of CO2 with the release of water vapor with no impact to product quality or operating efficiency.

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. has successfully completed a hydrogen (H2) injection trial at its Middletown Works blast furnace.

This groundbreaking introduction of hydrogen gas as an iron reducing agent in the blast furnace is the first-ever use of this carbon friendly technology in the Americas region, the company said in a news release. The successful use of hydrogen gas represents a significant step toward the future decarbonization of blast furnaces, which are necessary for the continued service of the most quality-intensive steel applications, particularly for the automotive industry.

During the trial completed on May 8, 2023, hydrogen gas was injected into all 20 tuyeres at the Middletown #3 blast furnace, facilitating the production of clean pig iron – the foundation of high-end steelmaking. Hydrogen was used as a partial substitute for the coke necessary for iron reduction, ultimately replacing the release of CO2 with the release of H2O (water vapor) with no impact to product quality or operating efficiency. The hydrogen was delivered to the Middletown facility via the existing pipeline and transportation infrastructure in place for the facility’s other hydrogen uses, including for its annealing furnaces.

Lourenco Goncalves, Cliffs’ chairman, president and chief executive officer, said: “We are proud to be the first company in the Americas to inject hydrogen into a blast furnace – a demonstration of our commitment to develop and implement breakthrough technological advancements toward decarbonization. Cleveland-Cliffs thrives on innovation, so it was fitting that this major step was completed just a short distance from our Cliffs Research and Innovation Center in Middletown, Ohio. This achievement proves our ability to use green hydrogen throughout our footprint when it becomes readily and economically available, including in our seven blast furnaces and our state-of-the-art direct reduction facility. We are already the world leaders in natural gas injection, and this success confirms there is a bright, sustainable and environmentally friendly future for the much needed BF-BOF steelmaking technology.”

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Equatic releases whitepaper on carbon dioxide removal

A fledgling company with a relationship with Boeing is marketing a process for seawater electrolysis to capture and store CO2 while producing hydrogen.

Carbon removal company Equatic has developed a process that relies on seawater electrolysis to capture and store CO2 while producing clean hydrogen, according to a news release.

A white paper written with consultation from EcoEngineers outlines Equatic’s approach to quantifying and verifying the carbon removal process.

Equatic operates two pilots in Los Angeles and Singapore. The company sells carbon removal credits and recently announced a pre-purchase option agreement with Boeing.

Under that agreement, Equatic will remove 62,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and will deliver 2,100 metric tons of carbon-negative hydrogen to Boeing.

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AIMCo establishes $1bn energy transition fund

The Alberta Investment Management Corporation, part of a consortium of investors in the ACES Delta hydrogen project, has established a $1bn funding pool dedicated to the energy transition and decarbonization.

The Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) today outlined its approach to climate investing and introduced its Energy Transition Opportunities Pool (ETOP), which is a $1bn fund dedicated to investing in the global energy transition and decarbonization sectors.

“AIMCo has been strategically evaluating climate change risks and opportunities for the last decade and the organization has a strong track record of making investments in the energy transition space,” said Marlene Puffer, Chief Investment Officer, AIMCo, in a news release. “Our climate approach provides important transparency around how we consider climate in our investments and how we will, over the long run, help reduce emissions.”

AIMCo’s climate approach includes the introduction of a climate taxonomy that evaluates and classifies the energy transition readiness and carbon intensity of existing and new investments. This tool helps the investment teams analyze climate risk within client portfolios, as well as measure and improve total portfolio transition readiness.

The initial $1bn in AIMCo’s ETOP represents new capital. The investments made through ETOP will be in addition to AIMCo’s other climate-related investments across asset classes. Many of AIMCo’s clients have allocated funds to the new pool, which will offer them exposure to a variety of energy transition opportunities and themes, including:

  • Industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and sequestration
  • Sustainable solutions and renewable fuels
  • Low-carbon renewable energy production and related technologies
  • Electrification, storage and energy efficiency

“We are gratified by our clients’ commitment both to the new pool and to our shared objective of supporting and benefiting from energy transition and decarbonization opportunities,” said Ben Hawkins, Executive Managing Director, Head of Infrastructure & Renewable Resources.

For more information about the climate approach and the ETOP, please click here.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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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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AIMCo-backed midstream infrastructure firm in refi

The company, whose asset footprint includes Gulf Coast hydrogen production, today priced a debt refinancing transaction with an 8.875% coupon.

Howard Energy Partners today priced $550m of senior unsecured notes to refinance amounts outstanding on its revolving credit facility.

The company, which is majority owned by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), will pay 8.875% on the notes, inside of price talk of between 8.75% – 9%, according to sources familiar with the matter.

RBC Capital Markets and TD Securities are joint active bookrunners on the deal, the sources said.

Howard in 2021 closed on the acquisition of the Javelina Facility in Corpus Christi, Texas — a treating and fractionation plant that extracts olefins, hydrogen, and natural gas liquids from the gas streams produced by local refineries.

Starting in Jan of 2023, a strategic technology partner began producing a low-carbon diesel substitute using Javelina’s hydrogen and CO2 as feedstocks, making it one of the first merchant “clean” hydrogen facilities on the US Gulf Coast, according to the company. HEP is also pursuing carbon capture and sequestration opportunities with its Javelina assets through a joint venture with TALOS Energy and the Port of Corpus Christi.

AIMCo acquired an initial 28% stake in HEP in 2017, and brought its ownership stake to 87% last year following the purchase of Astatine Investment Partners’ stake in the company.

Howard operates in two key segments in the US and Mexico: natural gas and liquids. The natural gas segment includes 1,175 miles of pipelines and approximately 4.3 Bcf/d of throughput capacity and 600 MMCf/d of cryogenic processing capacity.

The liquids segment includes terminalling and logistics services for refined products as well as refinery-focused off-gas handling, treating, processing, fractionation and hydrogen supply services.

Spokespersons for the company, RBC, and TD did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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