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Southwest Airlines acquires SAFFiRE Renewables

Southwest transitions from investor to sole owner of SAFFiRE, a developer of sustainable aviation fuel from ethanol.

Southwest Airlines Co. has acquired SAFFiRE Renewables, LLC as part of the investment portfolio of its wholly owned subsidiary Southwest Airlines Renewable Ventures, LLC (SARV).

SARV is dedicated to creating more opportunities for Southwest® to obtain scalable sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), according to a news release.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

SAFFiRE is part of a project supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and produce scalable renewable ethanol that can be upgraded into SAF. SAFFiRE expects to utilize technology developed at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to convert corn stover, a widely available agricultural residue feedstock in the U.S., into renewable ethanol.

“This acquisition marks Southwest’s transition from investor to sole owner of SAFFiRE, expressing our confidence in SAFFiRE’s technology and its potential to advance our sustainability goals as well as the goals of the broader industry,” said Bob Jordan, President & CEO of Southwest Airlines. “Championing SAF is a key pillar of Southwest’s Nonstop to Net Zero plan and our work toward a more sustainable future for air travel. We look forward to continuing our journey with SAFFiRE as part of our efforts to propel this promising technology forward.”

Southwest first invested in SAFFiRE during phase one of the pilot project in 2022. With this acquisition, SAFFiRE is expected to proceed with phase two of the project by developing a pilot plant hosted at Conestoga’s Arkalon Energy ethanol facility in Liberal, Kansas. Initially, this plant is intended to utilize SAFFiRE’s exclusive technology license from NREL to process 10 tons of corn stover per day for the production of renewable ethanol. Then, the plan is for the ethanol to be converted into SAF by LanzaJet, Inc. (LanzaJet).

“Renewable ethanol is an important feedstock to realizing high-volume, affordable SAF, which is a critical part of the journey to net zero carbon emissions,” said Tom Nealon, President of SARV and CEO of SAFFiRE. “We are enthusiastic about the ethanol-to-SAF pathway and SAFFiRE’s potential ability to produce renewable ethanol at a scale that is economically viable.”

The acquisition of SAFFiRE comes shortly after Southwest announced an investment in LanzaJet, a SAF technology provider and producer with a patented ethanol-to-SAF technology and the world’s first ethanol-to-SAF commercial plant.

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Phoenix Motor enters hydrogen fuel cell market

Phoenix Motor Inc has acquired hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing assets from Altergy Systems.

Phoenix Motor Inc. a manufacturer of all-electric, medium-duty vehicles, has acquired hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing assets, including an automated, robotic fuel cell assembly line, from Altergy Systems.

Phoenix will utilize the manufacturing facility to design and produce hydrogen fuel cells to power forklifts, hybrid buses, vans and trucks, and long-range, heavy-duty trucks, according to a press release.

Phoenix Motorcars CEO, Dr. Lance Zhou commented, “We are excited to further expand our operations with our entrance into the rapidly growing hydrogen fuel cell market. The acquisition of these manufacturing assets enables Phoenix to accelerate its development plans, and leverage the automated production capabilities of these facilities, as we transition to mass production of hydrogen fuel cells for the burgeoning EV market in the coming quarters. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act, also known as the U.S. climate bill, which was signed into law this week, should provide tremendous incentives, opportunities and market stability for us to grow this important clean energy power source. We are currently integrating the acquired assets and facility into our company and look forward to providing regular updates as we achieve important milestones in the hydrogen fuel cell business.”

The acquired manufacturing facility, located in Folsom, CA, has the capability to produce a fuel cell every 30 seconds on its advanced, robotic fuel cell assembly line. With the ability to produce fuel cells in high volumes, using off-the-shelf materials, stamped and molded fabrication, and robotic automated assembly equipment, Phoenix Motorcars plans to raise production at the Folsom facility in the quarters ahead.

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Hy24 and Masdar in green hydrogen co-development and investment framework

The Hy24-managed Clean Hydrogen Infrastructure Fund expects that co-investment and co-development opportunities will be made available to Masdar over a five-year time span.

Masdar and Hy24 have signed a strategic joint development and investment framework agreement to foster large-scale green hydrogen projects, according to a news release.

Masdar and Hy24 agreed a framework to explore the development and investment in projects along the Power-to-X value chain, which involves producing renewable power converted via electrolyzers into green hydrogen and, subsequently, its derivatives such as green ammonia, e-methanol, sustainable aviation fuel and liquid hydrogen. The companies will focus on projects located in key regional hubs across Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The Hy24-managed “Clean Hydrogen Infrastructure Fund” expects that co-investment and co-development opportunities will be made available to Masdar, which could represent up to €2bn of investments in the next five years. Green hydrogen will play a key role in enabling faster and more widespread global adoption of renewable energy, helping the planet to meet net-zero goals.

The agreement reinforces Hy24’s role as a catalyst in fostering the hydrogen economy and will leverage Masdar’s 20 GW of renewable energy projects worldwide, enabling the two leaders to target exploration of larger transactions and project developments across broader geographies at scale and pace. The agreement will also open new investment opportunities for Hy24 in the Middle East and North Africa and benefit from Ardian’s long-standing partnerships established in the region under the leadership of François-Aïssa Touazi (Chairman Ardian Ltd, Abu Dhabi). Hy24 is a joint venture between Ardian, Europe’s largest private investment house, and FiveT Hydrogen, a clean hydrogen investment platform.

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Developer planning $3.2bn methanol plant in Louisiana

Morgan Stanley is advising a developer expecting to take a final investment decision on a methanol plant with carbon capture by the middle of this year.

Lake Charles Methanol II, LLC (LCM) announced plans to invest $3.24 billion to construct a new manufacturing plant that will produce low-carbon intensity methanol and other chemicals at the Port of Lake Charles.

The company plans to use advanced auto thermal gas reforming technology and employ carbon capture and secure geologic storage to produce low-carbon hydrogen for conversion to methanol, according to a news release.

The project, which was first proposed in 2015, was originally going to gasify petroleum coke and convert it to methanol. It pivoted in 2022, and it submitted a new application to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in October 2023.

The developer previously said it has a long-term agreement to sequester its captured CO2 with Denbury Resources.

According to its website, LCM is being advised by Morgan Stanley on the process to raise equity for the project, and has a commitment to carry the project to FID, expected in mid-2024. It is also negotiating with the DOE for debt financing.

The proposed facility would reform natural gas and renewable gas feedstocks into hydrogen, while capturing carbon dioxide, which would then be used to produce about 3.6 million tons per year of methanol. Lake Charles Methanol plans to work with a third party to capture and sequester about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which would reduce the carbon intensity of the hydrogen for synthesis into low carbon intensity methanol.

“The project will deliver substantial tangible economic benefits to local communities while providing an environmentally beneficial blue methanol product to facilitate the transition to low-carbon chemicals and fuels,” LCM President Don Maley said. “With the strong support of state and local officials and the local community, we believe that Lake Charles is a fantastic location for this project and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to bring it to fruition.”

The project is currently undergoing a FEED study and regulatory permitting. Construction and commissioning of the facility are expected to take about three-and-a-half years, which would allow commercial operations to begin in late 2027.

To secure the project in Louisiana, LED offered a competitive incentives package that includes the comprehensive workforce development solutions of LED FastStart. It also includes a Performance-Based Grant of $5 million to be used for reimbursement of company expenditures for infrastructure needs. The company is also expected to participate in Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs programs.

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Exclusive: E-fuels developer raising $500m

A developer of green hydrogen for e-fuel products is looking for a more diverse set of backers for a recently launched Series C capital raise.

Ineratec, the German power-to-liquid fuels developer and technology provider, has launched a $500m Series C and could take on a US-based financial advisor to help, CEO Tim Boeltken said in an interview.

German boutique Pava Partners helped Ineratec on its $129m Series B, which was led by Piva Capital. The Series B raise, which was announced in January, also included participation from HG Ventures, TDK Ventures, Copec WIND Ventures, RockCreek, Emerald, Samsung Ventures as well as the increased support from current investors, including global corporates like ENGIE New Ventures, Safran Corporate Ventures and Honda.

The Series C can include equity, debt and project finance, Boeltken said.

The company, which takes a modular approach to fuels production, serves customers in Switzerland, Spain and Finland. Its e-fuels process involves two main steps: first, turning CO2 and hydrogen into synthesis gas, then using a second reactor to turn the synthesis gas into liquid and solid hydrocarbons, according to its website.

Growth in the US would include eventual rollout of its 100 MW commercial unit, none of which have been built to date. Now the company is focused on its 10 MW commercial units, following completion of a 1 MW industrial plant operating now.

In the next month Ineratec will be scouting locations in the US, Boeltken said, adding the the company is “hoping for many, many US installations” with eyes on additional applications in South America and Japan. The company also intends to establish a US headquarters.

Sites in New York and California are of first interest but there are also growth intentions in Texas, Washington state and Appalachia.

Ineratec is currently raising project finance for a “triple-digit” million capex project in the Europe, he said.

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Denbury to transport CO2 for Louisiana blue methanol project

A subsidiary of Denbury Inc. will transport and store CO2 for a planned blue methanol plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Denbury Carbon Solutions has executed a 20-year definitive agreement to provide CO2 transportation and storage services to Lake Charles Methanol in association with that company’s planned 3.6 MMPTA blue methanol project, according to a press release.

LCM’s facility will be located along the Calcasieu River near Lake Charles, Louisiana, approximately 10 miles from Denbury’s Green Pipeline.

The facility is designed to utilize Topsoe’s SynCORTM technology to convert natural gas into hydrogen which will be synthesized into methanol while incorporating carbon capture and sequestration.

The process is anticipated to deliver more than 500 million kilograms of hydrogen per year as a feedstock to produce the 3.6 MMTPA of blue methanol.

LCM is finalizing its major permits to begin construction. The project is expected to reach a Final Investment Decision in 2023 with first production anticipated in 2027.

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Exclusive: Riverstone Credit spinout preparing $500m fundraise

Breakwall Capital, a new fund put together by former Riverstone Credit fund managers, is preparing to raise $500m to make project loans in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector. We spoke to founders Christopher Abbate and Daniel Flannery.

Breakwall Capital is preparing to launch a $500m fundraising effort for a new fund – called Breakwall Energy Credit I – that will focus on investments in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector.

The founders of the new fund, Christopher Abbate, Daniel Flannery, and Jamie Brodsky, have spent the last 10 years making oil and gas credit investments at Riverstone Credit, while pivoting in recent years to investments in sustainability and decarbonization.

In addition to bringing in fresh capital, Breakwall will manage funds raised from Dutch trading firm Vitol, for a fund called Valor Upstream Credit Partners; and the partners will help wind down the remaining roughly $1bn of investments held in two Riverstone funds.

Drawing on their experience at Riverstone, Breakwall will continue to make investments through sustainability-linked loans across the energy value chain, but will also invest in the upstream oil and gas sector through Valor and the new Breakwall fund.

“We’re not abandoning the conventional hydrocarbon economy,” Flannery said in an interview. “We’re embracing the energy transition economy and we’re doing it all with the same sort of mindset that everything we do is encouraging our borrowers to be more sustainable.”

In splitting from Riverstone Credit, where they made nearly $6bn of investments, the founders of Breakwall said they have maintained cordial relations, such that Breakwall will seek to tap some of the same LPs that invested in Riverstone. The partners have also lined up a revenue sharing arrangement with Riverstone so that interests are aligned on fund management.

The primary reason for the spinout, according to Abbate, “was really to give both sides more resources to work with: on their side, less headcount relative to AUM, and on our side, more equity capital to reward people with and incent people with and recruit people with, because Riverstone was not a firm that broadly distributed equity to the team.”

Investment thesis

A typical Breakwall loan deal will involve a small or mid-sized energy company that either can’t get a bank loan or can’t get enough of a bank loan to finance a capital-intensive project. Usually, a considerable amount of equity has already been invested to get the project to a certain maturity level, and it needs a bridge to completion.

“We designed our entire investment philosophy around being a transitional credit capital provider to these companies who only needed our cost of capital for a very specific period of time,” Flannery said.

Breakwall provides repayable short-duration bridge-like solutions to these growing energy companies that will eventually take out the loan with a lower cost of capital or an asset sale, or in the case of an upstream business, pay them off with cash flow.

“We’re solving a need that exists because there’s been a flock of capital away from the upstream universe,” he added.

Often, Breakwall loan deals, which come at pricing in the SOFR+ 850bps range, will be taken out by the leveraged loan or high yield market at lower pricing in the SOFR+ 350bps range, once a project comes online, Abbate said. 

Breakwall’s underwriting strategy, as such, evaluates a project’s chances of success and the obstacles to getting built. 

The partners point to a recent loan to publicly listed renewable natural gas producer Clean Energy – a four-year $150m sustainability-linked senior secured term loan – as one of their most successful, where most of the proceeds were used to build RNG facilities. Sustainability-linked loans tie loan economics to key performance indicators (KPIs) aimed at incentivizing cleaner practices.

In fact, in clean fuels, their investment thesis centers on the potential of RNG as a viable solution for sectors like long-haul trucking, where electrification may present challenges. 

“We are big believers in RNG,” Flannery said. “We believe that the combination of the demand and the credit regimes in certain jurisdictions make that a very compelling investment thesis.”

EPIC loan

In another loan deal, the Breakwall partners previously financed the construction of EPIC Midstream’s propane pipeline from Corpus Christi east to Sweeny, Texas.

Originally a $150m project, Riverstone provided $75m of debt, while EPIC committed the remaining capital, with COVID-induced cost overruns leading to a total of $95m of equity provided by the midstream company. 

The only contract the propane project had was a minimum volume commitment with EPIC’s Y-Grade pipeline, because the Y-Grade pipeline, which ran to the Robstown fractionator near Corpus Christi, needed an outlet to the Houston petrochemical market, as there wasn’t enough export demand out of Corpus Christi.

“So critical infrastructure: perfect example of what we do, because if your only credit is Y-Grade, you’re just a derivative to the Y-Grade cost of capital,” Abbate said.

Asked if Breakwall would look at financing the construction of a 500-mile hydrogen pipeline that EPIC is evaluating, Abbate answered affirmatively.

“If those guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we want to build this 500-mile pipeline,’ I’d look at it,” he said. “I have to see what the contracts look like, but that’s exactly what type of project we would like to look at.”

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