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South Dakota denies permit for BlackRock-backed CO2 carbon pipeline

South Dakota regulators have denied an application from Navigator CO2 for a permit to construct its Heartland Greenway carbon capture pipeline through the state.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously yesterday to reject an application by BlackRock-backed Navigator CO2 to build a carbon dioxide pipeline through the state.

Commissioners listed several reasons for the permit denial in public remarks yesterday, according to news reports, including a failure by the company to disclose carbon dioxide plume modeling, and a failure to provide timely notices to some landowners along the proposed route.

“While we are disappointed with the recent decision to deny our permit application in South Dakota, our company remains committed to responsible infrastructure development,” a statement from Navigator said. “We will evaluate the written decision of the Public Utilities Commission once issued and determine our course of action in South Dakota thereafter.”

The denial comes on the heels of North Dakota’s rejection last month of another carbon pipeline put forward by Summit Carbon Solutions.

The Navigator CO2 pipeline has faced pushback from residents and local authorities across its footprint.

Proponents previously withdrew an application for eminent domain powers in Illinois after state regulators said the filing was incomplete.The company then announced it would reapply with an expanded route.

The project scope includes 21 carbon dioxide collection points – at midwestern biofuel plants – along with 1,350 miles of new pipeline and four booster stations across Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Project costs, including capture and sequestration facilities, are projected at approximately $3.4bn.

The proposed pipeline is contracted with industrial producers to capture, transport, and store up to 10 million metric tons of CO2 annually. When fully expanded, the system will be able to transport up to 15 MMT of CO2 annually, according to documentation.

Construction of the project is expected to commence in 2Q24 pending receipt of regulatory approvals.Equity funding for the project is primarily sourced from BlackRock’s Global Energy & Power Infrastructure Fund III, which has committed equity of $5.1bn. 

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Renewables developer drops P2X strategy

A US renewable energy developer has dropped its P2X strategy. It had recently added staff to pursue developments in the green hydrogen sector.

Strata Clean Energy has nixed its power-to-X strategy.

The North Carolina-based renewable energy developer has decided not to pursue developments in the green hydrogen sector, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Mike Grunow, who was executive vice president in charge of P2X, as well as KJ Plank, who was chief innovation officer, are no longer with the firm.

Strata announced in November that it was building a P2X platform, and Grunow said in a subsequent interview that the company was pursuing a multiple gigawatt pipeline of projects.

The firm had recently added staff to support the P2X platform, including Plank, who has recently launched his own company called Grid-Scale advisors since departing Strata in February, according to LinkedIn. Plank notes on his LinkedIn page that, “As developers often do with major projects, Strata decided not to pursue P2X.”

Representatives of Strata did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Direct air capture firm launches with venture backing

ZeoDAC, Inc. launches with an international group of investment partners that include: Wilson Hill Ventures, Caltech, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, Freeflow Ventures and Global Brain.

Direct air capture firm ZeoDAC has launched with backing from venture capital and strategic investors, according to a news release.

The company is founded by industry veterans and technical pioneers Professor Christopher W. Jones, an international expert in direct air capture of carbon dioxide technologies from Georgia Tech, and Mark E. Davis, a chemical engineering Professor from Caltech, who has brought multiple academic innovations to commercial success, including zeolite-based processes.

ZeoDAC, Inc. launches with an international group of investment partners that include: Wilson Hill Ventures, Caltech, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, Freeflow Ventures and Global Brain.

“ZeoDAC’s CO2 capture process leverages chemically and mechanically robust solid sorbents with established supply chains deployed in an energy efficient temperature-vacuum swing adsorption cycle, leading to a simple yet economically advantaged process,” said Christopher Jones.

By combining these innovations and expertise, ZeoDAC aims to provide a compelling economic advantage for large-scale, commercial carbon capture and use. The company has raised several million dollars from institutional venture capital and strategic investors led by Wilson Hill Ventures.

“ZeoDAC can deliver compelling Net Present Value (NPV) to industrial partners on an international scale, enabling a multibillion-dollar market with positive impacts for the climate,” said Ajay Kshatriya from Wilson Hill Ventures.

ZeoDAC not only captures carbon dioxide but also water, allowing for the production of several valuable end-products that can drive an economic return while delivering an environmental benefit.

“We are excited to embark on this journey with ZeoDAC. We believe that Direct Air Capture offers the potential for us to source sustainable ingredients and materials while reducing our environmental footprint. After extensively reviewing the market, we are confident that ZeoDAC’s novel approach provides the affordability, scalability, and energy efficiency needed to become a major player in the DAC industry,” said Nicola Tongue, Associate Director, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners.

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Brookfield-backed CCS developer raises CAD 200m

BMO Capital Markets advised Canada Growth Fund on a CAD 200m investment in Entropy, which was coupled with a fixed-price carbon credit purchase agreement of up to one million tonnes per annum.

Canada Growth Fund Inc. has entered into a strategic investment agreement with Entropy Inc., a Calgary-based developer of carbon capture and sequestration projects.

CGF has agreed to a CAD 200m investment in Entropy coupled with a fixed-price carbon credit purchase agreement of up to one million tonnes per annum, according to a news release.

Once fully drawn, the investment could result in CGF owning approximately 20% of Entropy. Brookfield will continue to invest the balance of its existing CAD 300m hybrid security into the business, by which point it would be the largest shareholder and control Entropy.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and BMO Capital Markets acted as advisors to Canada Growth Fund Inc.

Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP and TD Securities Inc. acted as advisors to Entropy Inc.

According to the release, the strategic growth partnership represents an important new investment in Canadian carbon markets. The features of the CCO—notably its large scale and its long-term fixed-price—represent a global first in compliance markets. This financeable structure helps to de-risk and accelerate private CCS investment by establishing carbon price certainty for Canadian projects.

One pillar of CGF’s mandate is to invest in projects and technologies, including CCS, that hold significant potential to reduce emissions across the Canadian economy. A second pillar is to scale promising Canadian clean technology champions that can help create value for Canadians.

In March 2022, Entropy announced a strategic CAD 300 million investment agreement with Brookfield, via the Brookfield Global Transition Fund, to scale up the deployment of Entropy’s CCS technology globally. Today’s announcement builds on this strong foundation and provides greater revenue certainty to accelerate Entropy’s major investments in Canada.

Transaction Highlights

  • Definitive agreements between Entropy and CGF to accelerate the decarbonization of hard-to-abate industries in Canada;
  • CGF to invest CAD 200m in Entropy for the development of Canadian CCS projects and for corporate purposes which, once fully drawn, could result in CGF owning approximately 20% of Entropy;
  • Brookfield will continue to invest the balance of its existing CAD 300 million hybrid security into the business, by which point it would be the largest shareholder and control Entropy;
  • CGF to provide the first ever large-scale, long-term, fixed-price CCO in a compliance carbon market, committing to purchase up to one million tpa of carbon credits for 15 years;
  • The initial allocation of CCO commitment will allow Entropy to proceed with its Glacier Phase 2 project, targeting the sale of up to 185,000 tpa of Alberta TIER carbon credits at an initial price of $86.50 per tonne for a term of 15 years;
  • The balance of the remaining CCO will be available for Entropy to underwrite additional third-party projects on similar terms in Canada;
  • Post-investment, Entropy will have approximately CAD 460 million of capital available which, together with investment tax credits, carbon capture incentives and project financing, establishes a path to execute over CAD 1 billion of CCS projects and abate more than 1 million metric tonnes per annum (“MMTPA”) of emissions, with a focus on the Canadian market.

Deal Structure Overview 

CGF’s investment in Entropy is via a hybrid security similar to the prior investment from Brookfield (please see Entropy news release dated March 28, 2022), though at a valuation that reflects the numerous advancements of the business in the last two years. The flexible structure ensures access to capital for Entropy and retains flexible liquidity options for all major investors including Brookfield, CGF and Advantage (the Company’s controlling shareholder). Funding draws from Brookfield and CGF for Canadian projects and corporate purposes will proceed in tandem.

Coupled with the CGF investment, Entropy and CGF have entered into a CCO agreement whereby CGF has committed to purchase up to 9 million tonnes (up to 600,000 tpa over a 15-year term) of TIER or equivalent carbon credits from Entropy projects. The initial project to benefit from the CCO is intended to be Advantage Glacier Phase 2, drawing up to 185,000 tpa at an initial price of $86.50 per tonne, for a total of approximately 2.8 million tonnes over the 15-year term. With this CCO agreement in place, CGF has absorbed the carbon pricing risk for the project. Entropy is therefore pleased to announce provisional final investment decision of Glacier Phase 2.

Beyond Glacier Phase 2, CGF and Entropy intend to enter into separate CCO agreements for other Canadian projects, on terms that are expected to provide similar investment returns. Upon successful deployment of the initial 600,000 tpa of CCO, CGF may make available a further 400,000 tpa of CCOs for additional Entropy Canadian CCS projects.

CGF will nominate one member to the Entropy Board of Directors and is pleased to participate in the growth and evolution of this Canadian clean technology leader. Advantage and Brookfield will retain their existing Entropy board representation.

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Brookfield-owned renewables developer planning hydrogen co-location

An IPP and developer of wind, solar and storage projects is in early discussions with potential partners to co-locate electrolysis with its operating assets and projects in development.

Scout Clean Energy, the Boulder, Colorado-based IPP and renewables developer, is laying the groundwork to co-locate electrolysis for green hydrogen with its wind and solar assets, CEO Michael Rucker said in an interview.

The company’s Power2X team is charged with looking for alternative strategies, Rucker said.

“We are actively trying to match project opportunities with the future hydrogen economy,” he said, noting that the company’s operating wind portfolio provides a crucial piece of that. “Wind is an especially good fit for hydrogen production just in terms of pricing.”

Scout, which is owned by Brookfield Renewable, sees itself as producing green electrons and doesn’t want to get into marketing and distribution of hydrogen, Rucker said.

Brookfield acquired Scout in 2022 for $1bn, with the potential to invest an additional $350m to support development activities.

Scout has its first solar project in development in ERCOT, a market where shipping of hydrogen would make for a promising project, Rucker said. The company has also looked at the Midwest, where a robust SAF production ecosystem is forming, as well as the Pacific Northwest.

The company is already working with one hydrogen developer to match production to one of its wind farms, Rucker said. An exact location has not been selected.

Pricing diligence has been promising, Rucker said. But the offtake market in the US remains slow to develop despite regulatory encouragement.

“The IRA has given us maybe the most subsidized hydrogen production market in the world but it’s really being production-driven not demand-driven, so we really need to see more of the economy using hydrogen,” Rucker said. “I trust that will come, it’s just going to take longer than we think.”

Scout is not ready to take anything to market related to hydrogen, but ultimately there will be a need for financial advisory, Rucker said.
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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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Midstream hydrogen firm to seek capital for projects within one year

The first slate of the company’s salt cavern hydrogen storage and pipeline projects will likely reach FID within six to 12 months, setting the stage for a series of project finance and tax equity transactions.

NeuVentus, the newly formed midstream infrastructure and hydrogen storage company backed by Lotus Infrastructure Partners, will likely seek project financing and tax equity for its first cache of projects in the Gulf Coast region of Texas and Louisiana in six to 12 months, CEO Sam Porter said in an interview.

“It sure looks like 45V and 45Q, and basically everything the IRA just did, is like a brick on the accelerator,” Porter said, explaining that he expects additional federal clarifications for hydrogen to come this year. “We’re looking at FIDing a first batch of projects, which I think are really going to marry up some things that the project finance community loves.”

That includes salt cavern storage and pipelines with a novel ESG twist, Porter said. The company plans to own and operate its developments as a platform. If in time demand for projects becomes overwhelming, the equity holders could sell those projects.

NeuVentus recently launched with Lotus’ backing. The private equity firm’s position is that they are able and ready to fund all project- and platform-level equity, Porter said.

“There’s certainly project level finance requirements, debt, tax equity and sponsor equity,” Porter said. The company will first get its projects de-risked as much as possible.

Pickering Energy Partners was mandated for NeuVentus’ seed raise. Porter said there could be additional opportunities for financial advisors to participate in fundraising, though Lotus has significant in-house capabilities and relationships.

Vinson & Elkins served as the law firm advising Lotus Infrastructure, formerly Starwood Energy, on the launch of NeuVentus.

The company is also open to acquiring abandoned or underutilized infrastructure assets, convertible to hydrogen, Porter said. Assets that connect production and consumption that can be more resistant to embrittlement than newer midstream infrastructure and would be of interest.

Exiting assets in regions that are good for hydrogen production, namely those that are sunny and windy, and are relatively close to consumption, will get the closest look.

Oil & gas in the energy transition

Renewable-sourced hydrogen offers an opportunity for traditional oil and gas operators to continue their work in salt domes.

NeuVentus’ plan is to focus on storage first, and then have the pipeline emanate from that, Porter said. The founding team of the company has a lot of experience in oil & gas and structuring land deals (mineral rights and surface/storage rights) in the Gulf region, where salt caverns are abundant.

The company is also open to an anchor tenant that needs a pipeline segment between production and consumption. But from a developers’ perspective the most prudent play will be around storage sites located with multiple interconnection options, he said.

There are roughly 1,500 miles of pipeline and 9 to 10 million kilograms of daily hydrogen production and consumption in the Texas and Louisiana Gulf region, Porter said.

“I think we’re going to see a significant need for more midstream build-out,” he said. “The traditional fee-for-service model is going to be appealing to a lot of the new entrants.”

A molecule-agnostic approach

Hydrogen is “a Swiss army knife” of a feedstock for numerous use cases, Porter said. That all of those use cases will prevail is uncertain, but NeuVentus ultimately only needs one or two of them to grow.

“Additional hydrogen infrastructure is going to be required,” whether it’s for ammonia as fertilizer or methanol as fuel or something else, Porter said. “We don’t necessarily care: all of them are going to require clean hydrogen.”

Equity owners in NueVentus will be opportunistic when it comes to an eventual financial exit, Porter said.

“The beauty of this is that I can see a number of potential buyers,” he said.

An offtaker that wants to vertically integrate, like foreign consumers of hydrogen products, could want to acquire a midstream platform for purposes of national energy security. Industrial gas companies could want to acquire the infrastructure as well. Large energy transfer companies that move molecules are obvious acquirers as well, and finally the company could remain independent or list publicly under its own business plan.

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