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Strata makes hires for P2X strategy

North Carolina-based Strata Clean Energy has made a series of hires for its P2X platform.

Strata Clean Energy has recently made a raft of hires for its P2X platform.

The North Carolina-based renewable energy firm recently hired Hannah Perl as development manager for P2X, according to LinkedIn. She was previously a senior analyst of energy origination and development at TC Energy.

Strata has also recently hired Nancy Estrada, previously a SunCoke Energy environmental manager, as permitting and local affairs manager; and Tamara Becejac, who was previously program manager of green hydrogen at AVANGRID, as senior technical product manager.

Matthew Moshier joined from TC Energy in October as senior director of engineering. And Minashree Singh, who came for Algonquin Power & Utilities, joined Strata’s P2X platform as a senior supply chain manager, also in October, according to LinkedIn.

Strata is developing a pipeline of green hydrogen projects that will produce large amounts of green ammonia and other hydrogen derivatives later this decade, Mike Grunow, executive vice president and general manager of Strata’s P2X platform, said in an interview last year.

The P2X team also includes KJ Plank, Strata’s Chief Innovation Officer.

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Data: Japanese Companies in North American Clean Fuels Projects

A look at the Japanese firms that are making investments and forging project partnerships as that island nation seeks a North American footing for low-carbon fuels.

Japan is one of the largest importers of hydrogen worldwide, and it’s betting big on clean hydrogen for its decarbonization, planning to spend over $20 billion over the next 15 years to subsidize its production and supply chain.

In addition to investing to increase local capacity, Japanese firms are also focusing on importing clean fuels, with an eye on North America and the United States specifically, where project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers.

Many Japanese companies are actively participating in clean fuels projects across North America, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and biofuel projects.

Around 4% of all clean fuels projects in North America have one or more Japanese firms involved as co-developers, equity investors, or off-takers. The investments are mostly in the United States, and companies like Mitsubishi and Mitsui, which have a long history of US investments, are the most active.

Without committing to specific projects yet, developers like Sempra Infrastructure and 8 Rivers have signed MoUs with Japanese counterparts to promote the development of a clean energy supply chain, while others, like Intersect Power or Hydrogen Canada, are explicitly targeting Japan as an end market for their hydrogen products.

See a full list of North American projects with Japanese involvement.

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TotalEnergies and Air Liquide to produce low-carbon hydrogen at refinery near Paris

Air Liquide will invest over €130m in the construction and operation of a new unit producing hydrogen.

TotalEnergies and Air Liquide will produce renewable, low-carbon hydrogen at the Grandpuits zero crude platform, a refinery near Paris, according to a press release.

Under a long-term contract committing TotalEnergies to purchase the hydrogen produced for the needs of its platform, Air Liquide will invest over €130m in the construction and operation of a new unit producing hydrogen. This unit will partly use biogas from the biorefinery built by TotalEnergies and will be delivered with Air Liquide’s carbon capture technology Cryocap.

These innovations will prevent emissions amounting to 150,000 tons of CO a year compared to current processes. TotalEnergies’ biorefinery will use the unit’s hydrogen to produce sustainable aviation fuel.

In line with the two companies’ shared ambition to get to net zero by 2050, the project includes sustainable and circular innovations:

  • The new hydrogen production unit, with the capacity to produce over 20,000 tons a year will produce hydrogen that is partly renewable, thanks to the recycling of residual biogas from the Grandpuits biorefinery, in place of the natural gas that is normally used.
  • This unit will be delivered with a carbon capture technology, allowing it to help reduce the platform’s carbon footprint, by capturing over 110,000 tons of CO2 a year for reuse in food and industrial applications.
  • Most of the unit’s renewable, low carbon hydrogen will be used by the biorefinery itself, to produce sustainable aviation fuel, but it could also be used to support sustainable mobility in the Ile-de-France region.

“By recycling the biogas produced by the biorefinery into renewable hydrogen, this innovative project makes full use of the conversion of the Grandpuits refinery into a zero crude platform harnessing the potential of biomass, especially in the production of sustainable aviation fuel,” said Bernard Pinatel, president, refining & chemicals, TotalEnergies. “Combined with the production of low carbon hydrogen and the capture of CO2, this project contributes to TotalEnergies’ ambition to decarbonize all of the hydrogen used by its European refineries by 2030.”

“This innovative project is characterized by the combination of several solutions in order to produce renewable and low-carbon hydrogen,and contribute to the decarbonization of TotalEnergies’ Grandpuits site. It also provides the opportunity to recycle CO2 as part of a circular economy approach while securing its supply for agri-food applications. This project illustrates Air Liquide’s expertise in working with its customers on customized solutions to help them reduce their carbon footprint and actively participate in the fight against global warming. It provides yet another example of the key role that hydrogen will play to succeed in the energy transition”,” added Pascal Vinet, senior vice president and member of the executive committee, Air Liquide, in charge of Europe industries activities.

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Amazon investing big in direct air capture

The online retail giant entered a carbon removal agreement with an Oxy DAC project in Texas, and took a stake in a separate DAC developer.

Amazon has made its first investments in direct air capture (DAC) as part of its Climate Pledge commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, according to a news release.

Amazon is supporting the world’s largest deployment of DAC technology by committing to purchase 250,000 metric tons of carbon removal over 10 years from STRATOS, 1PointFive’s first DAC plant. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon stored naturally across more than 290,000 acres of U.S. forests—roughly half the size of the state of Rhode Island. Carbon captured under this agreement will be stored deep underground in saline aquifers, which are large geological rock formations that are saturated in salt water.

1PointFive is a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum.

In addition, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is making an investment in CarbonCapture Inc., a climate technology company recognized for its pioneering modular DAC systems. These systems are designed to be easily upgraded over time with next-generation sorbents that filter carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere, facilitating cost reductions driven by rapid material science advancements.

In DAC technology, CO2 in the atmosphere is filtered out and stored in underground geological formations, or used to create products such as building materials, like concrete, bricks, and cement. With these new investments, DAC will become one component of Amazon’s broader sustainability strategy, which also includes developing nature-based solutions such as forest conservation and restoration.

“Amazon’s primary focus is to decarbonize our global operations through our transition to renewable energy, building with more sustainable materials and electrifying our delivery fleet, and global logistics,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “We are also pursuing changes such as reducing the weight of packaging per shipment for our customers. At the same time, we also need to seek every possible avenue to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. These investments in direct air capture complement our emissions reductions plans, and we are excited to support the growth and deployment of this technology.”

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Biomass-to-hydrogen developer in talks for development capital, series A

A California developer that uses woody biomass to make green hydrogen is in discussions to raise capital for project development and a series A funding round.

Yosemite Clean Energy, a California-based biomass-to-hydrogen start-up, is in discussions with potential investors to raise development capital for projects and a series A round.

The company is currently seeking around $20m of development capital that would help advance woody biomass-to-hydrogen projects to FID, CEO Tom Hobby said in an interview.

Hobby said he is also in discussions with strategic capital partners about a series A funding round. The company is not using an advisor for the capital raise, Hobby said, but is working with the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

The company has so far raised less than $2m at the corporate level from friends and family and an additional $5m – including grants – for projects, Hobby added. The development capital as well as the series A raise would be conducted at the project level.

Yosemite has signed a letter of intent and term sheet for offtake from its first project in Oroville, California, which will produce approximately 24,000 kg per day (2,760 MMBtu) of green hydrogen from woody biomass, and is set for FID later this year. Hobby declined to name the offtaker but described it as a “global trading house.”

Hobby, whose family has lived in the Sierra Nevada for generations, emphasizes the company’s role as a partner with local communities to help manage forest waste, which has served as fuel for explosive wildfires in recent years.

“It’s de-risking their communities from catastrophic wildfires,” he said.

Design incentives

Under the original design for the Oroville facility, the company had planned to produce 31,000 kg per day of RNG and 12,200 kg per day of green hydrogen. But due to incentives for green hydrogen in the Inflation Reduction Act, the company has pivoted to a hydrogen-only design, Hobby said.

The $3/kg incentive for green hydrogen in the IRA created “additional value for no real capital cost differential,” he said.

Yosemite’s second project is in Toulumne County, California and will follow a design substantially similar to the Oroville facility.

The company employs dual-bed gasification technology licensed from Austrian firm Repotec, while Primoris is doing detailed design and engineering.

The technology takes wood and creates a medium-strength BTU gas that can be used to make different products, Hobby said. “Once it’s in a gaseous form, we can use it for a lot of purposes: we can take it to make power, we can produce hydrogen, we can use the Fischer-Tropsch process to make second-generation biofuels like aviation fuel, and we have a patent that can do hydrogen and RNG.”

Project ownership

Meanwhile, Yosemite has hired a Texas-based firm to help raise capital for projects, which are estimated to cost $250m at the outset, but could decline once efficiencies are achieved, Hobby said.

The company’s project ownership model is unique in that it seeks to bring in local wood businesses – in logging, land clearing, and orchard removal – as providers of biomass and also equity investors in the projects.

“To have their investment and their wood at the same time is huge,” Hobby said.

In raising capital for the projects, in addition to equity and debt investors, Yosemite is evaluating a mix of sources in the tax-exempt bond market as well as lower-interest loans from within California and export finance solutions. The company recently received two $500,000 Forest Biomass to Carbon-Negative Biofuels grants from the California Department of Conservation.

Hobby would like to build 50 woody biomass plants in California, which would utilize approximately 5 million tons of the 35 million tons of waste woody biomass available annually in the state.

“Our goal is not to have to truck and ship wood more than 50 miles,” he said. “If you put circles around every place in California that’s a decent wood basket […] I think we could sign about 50 facilities across the state.”

The company is also planning to expand beyond California to other states with a low-carbon fuel standard, Hobby said.

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Interview: Vinson & Elkins’ Alan Alexander on the emerging hydrogen project development landscape

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

In the meantime, a number of novel legal and commercial issues facing hydrogen project developers have come to the forefront, as outlined in a paper from the law firm this week, which serves as a guide for thinking through major development questions that can snag projects.

In an interview, Alexander, a Houston-based project development and finance lawyer, says that, although some of the issues are unique – like the potential for a clean fuels pricing premium, ownership of environmental attributes, or carbon leaking from a sequestration site – addressing them is built on decades of practice.

“The way I like to put it is, yes, there are new issues being addressed using traditional tools, but there’s not yet a consensus around what constitutes ‘market terms’ for a number of them, so we are having to figure that out as we go,” he says.

Green hydrogen projects, for example, are “quite possibly” the most complex project type he has seen, given that they sit at the nexus between renewable electricity and downstream fuels applications, subjecting them to the commercial and permitting issues inherent in both verticals.

But even given the challenges, Alexander believes the market has reached commercial take-off for certain types of projects.

“When the hydrogen rush started, first it was renewables developers who knew a lot about how to develop renewables but nothing about how to market and sell hydrogen,” he says. “Then you got the people who were very enthusiastic about developing hydrogen projects but didn’t know exactly what to do with it. And now we’re beginning to see end-use cases develop and actionable projects that are very exciting, in some cases where renewables developers and hydrogen developers have teamed up to focus on their core competencies.”

A pricing premium?

In the article, Vinson & Elkins lawyers note that commodities pricing indices are not yet distinguishing between low-carbon and traditional fuels, even though a clean fuel has more value due to its low-carbon attributes. The observation echoes the conclusion of a group of offtakers who viewed the prospect of paying a premium for clean fuels as unrealistic, as they would need to pass on the higher costs to customers.

Eventually, Alexander says, the offtake market should price in a premium for clean products, but that might depend in the near term on incentives for clean fuels demand, such as carbon offsets and levies, like the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.

“Ultimately what we need is for the market to say, ‘I will pay more for low-carbon products,’” he says. “The mindset of being willing to pay more for low-carbon products is going to need to begin to permeate into other sectors. 30 or 40 years ago the notion of paying a premium for an organic food didn’t exist. But today there are whole grocery store chains built around the idea. When the consumer is willing to pay a premium for low-carbon food, that will incentivize a farmer to pay a premium for low carbon fertilizer and ammonia, which will ultimately incentivize the payment of a premium for low-carbon hydrogen. The same needs to repeat itself across other sectors, such as fuels and anything made from steel.”

The law firm writes that US projects seeking to export to Europe or Asia need to take into account the greenhouse gas emissions and other requirements of the destination market when designing projects.

In the agreements that V&E is working on, for example, clients were first focused on structuring to make sure they met requirements for IRA tax credits and other domestic incentives, Alexander says. Meanwhile, as those clean fuels made their way to export markets, customers were coming back with a long list of requirements, “so what we’re seeing is this very interesting influx” of sustainability considerations into the hydrogen space, many of which are driven by requirements of the end-use market, such as the EU or Japan.

The more stringent requirements have existed for products like biofuels for some time, he adds, “but we’re beginning to see it in hydrogen and non-biogenic fuels.”

Sharing risk

Hydrogen projects are encountering other novel commercial and legal issues for which a “market” has not yet been developed, the law firm says, especially given the entry of a raft of new players and the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In the case of a blue hydrogen or ammonia project where carbon is captured and sequestered but eventually leaks from a geological formation, for example, no one knows what the risk truly is, and the market is waiting for an insurance product to provide protection, Alexander says. But until it does, project parties can implement a risk-sharing mechanism in the form of a cap on liabilities – a traditional project development tool.

“If you’re a sequestration party you say, ‘Yeah, I get it, there is a risk of recapture and you’re relying on me to make sure that it doesn’t happen. But if something catastrophic does happen and the government were to reclaim your tax credits, it would bankrupt me if I were to fully indemnify you. So I simply can’t take the full amount of that risk.’”

What ends up getting negotiated is a cap on the liability, Alexander says, or the limit up to which the sequestration party is willing to absorb the liability through an indemnity.

The market is also evolving to take into account project-on-project risk for hydrogen, where an electrolyzer facility depends on the availability of, for example, clean electricity from a newly built wind farm.

“For most of my career, having a project up and reaching commercial operations by a certain date is addressed through no-fault termination rights,” he says. “But given the number of players in the hydrogen space and the amount of dollars involved, you’re beginning to see delay liquidated damages – which are typically an EPC concept – creep into supply and offtake agreements.”

If a developer is building an electrolyzer facility, and the renewables partner doesn’t have the wind farm up and running on time, it’s not in the hydrogen developer’s interest to terminate through a no-fault clause, given that they would then have a stranded asset and need to start over with another renewable power provider. Instead, Alexander says, the renewables partner can offset the losses by paying liquidated damages.

Commercial watch list

In terms of interesting commercial models for hydrogen, Alexander says he is watching the onsite modular hydrogen development space as well as power-to-fuels (natural gas, diesel, SAF), ammonia and methanol, given the challenges of transporting hydrogen.

“If you’re going to produce hydrogen, you need to produce it close to the place where it’s going to be consumed, because transporting it is hard. Or you need to turn it into something else that we already know how to transport – natural gas, renewable diesel, naphtha, ammonia.”

Alexander believes power-to-fuels projects and developers that are focused on smaller, on-site modular low-carbon hydrogen production are some of the most interesting to watch right now. Emitters are starting to realize they can lower their overall carbon footprint, he says, with a relatively small amount of low-carbon fuels and inputs.

“The argument there is to not completely replace an industrial gas supplier but to displace a little bit of it.”

At the same time, the mobility market may take off with help from US government incentives for hydrogen production and the growing realization that EVs might not provide a silver-bullet solution for decarbonizing transport, Alexander adds. However, hydrogen project developers targeting the mobility market are still competing with the cost of diesel, the current “bogey” for the hydrogen heavy mobility space, Alexander says.

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US hydrogen and LNG developer raising capital

A Texas-based project developer is conducting a development capital raise for a flagship LNG and green hydrogen project in the Northeast.

New Energy Development Company, a Katy, Texas-based developer with offices in Boston, Texas, is raising between $5m and $8m for an LNG liquefaction, storage and re-gasification facility with additional green hydrogen production and storage, Partner Scott Shields said in an interview.

The company is not using a financial advisor, Shields said, noting that a larger second round capital raise will likely start near the beginning of 2024.

New Energy has secured a brownfield site for a peak-shaving LNG facility in New England with 2 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and 50 MW of solar pv, Shields said. Also planned is an expandable 40 MW PEM electrolyzer line.

He declined to name the state in which the project is located, adding that the company is trying to put a strong support system and marketing plan in place before the location is made public.

The proceeds of the capital raise will go in part to hiring local lawyers and engineering and design work (pre-FEED and FEED), through to FID, Shields said. The project will be built in two phases, Phase 1 being the LNG component and Phase 2 focusing on green hydrogen.

The LNG facility will be the offtaker for the hydrogen, which will run the plant when the solar is insufficient. Through an open season process New Energy has identified five investment grade offtakers for the LNG.

Ramping capex

“We’ve been self-funding up until now,” Shields said of New Energy, which has also put capital and development resources into half-a-dozen other projects around the country.

It’s time for a ramp up in capital expenditures and New Energy is in discussions with strategic and private equity providers, Shields said, noting that the company would prefer the former. Discussions include options to fund just the flagship project, as well as platform equity.

Shields noted that he has investment banking experience and that New Energy Managing Partner Alexander “Hap” Ellis serves as chairman of Old Westbury Funds and the George and Barbara Bush Foundation.

New Energy has partnered with McDermott International to develop patented GreenER hydrogen facilities, a modular, expandable hydrogen facility that can produce 24,000 kg per day (2,760 MMBtu) of renewable hydrogen. The companies in 2021 completed engineering deliverables for multiple designs which are marketed as ideal for grid-scale blending with natural gas pipelines, blending for existing or new power generating facilities and storage injection into salt caverns and above ground storage tanks.

The company has also combined GreenER LNG and hydrogen production and storage plants into an integrated energy hub, capable of producing an additional 200,000 MMBtu of LNG.

New Energy recently hired Chico DaFonte, formerly a vice president at Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power, as executive vice president working on LNG and hydrogen projects.

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