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TC Energy CEO: Canada ahead of US on CCUS

In spite of all of the hullabaloo over the Inflation Reduction Act, Canada is in a leading position over the US to advance carbon capture and sequestration projects, TC Energy President and Chief Executive François Poirier said today.

In spite of all of the hullabaloo over the Inflation Reduction Act, Canada is in a leading position over the US to advance carbon capture and sequestration projects, TC Energy President and Chief Executive François Poirier said today.

The main reason? Canadian provinces have “primacy” over permitting  sequestration sites, Poirier said. Meanwhile, in the US, the federal government issues permits through the Environmental Protection Agency, an often lengthy and demanding process.

In Canada, “The primacy is provincial on the pore space,” Poirier said during TC Energy’s Sustainable Energy Forum today. “In the United States there’s only one state – and that’s North Dakota – where the primacy is clear. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that therefore we have two or three carbon capture and storage projects we’re developing in North Dakota.”

In Alberta, for example, there are large emissions to be captured, and oil-sands producers view their carbon competitiveness as critical to their long-term prosperity, Poirier said. In addition, the point of capture and the point of sequestration are, in many cases, co-located.

“You’ve got good geology for sequestering the CO2 where it’s being captured, so it can be done on a very effective and economic basis in terms of the gross deployment of capital.”

In meetings with Canadian policymakers, Poirier recommends officials focus not just on CCUS incentives, but also permitting and regulation, because that could differentiate Canada even further.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that the US is also talking about permitting reform because they’ve recognized that that’s the way we’re going to accelerate the deployment of the infrastructure,” he said.

TC Energy is developing a project with Pembina – the Alberta Carbon Grid – to sequester up to 20 million tons per year across the province. Alberta, specifically, is “well ahead” of other provinces on bidding out the pore space and having a clear framework for developing infrastructure, Poirier said.

“In terms of the cost, the process, the clarity around primacy, and around the technology to transport and sequester carbon: it’s there,” he said, in response to a question about the readiness of carbon capture. He added, however, that more innovation is needed on the capture side, an aspect of the market Poirier does not expect TC will participate in.

“We want to be involved predominantly on the transportation and sequestration side,” he said.

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Norway’s Nel to expand production capacity for US and EU green hydrogen

The norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer is to spend $36.2m to double the total annual alkaline production capacity in its Herøya factory, to 1GW, on the strength of rising demand for green hydrogen and production equipment.

Norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer, Nel, is to spend $36.2m to double the total annual alkaline production capacity in its Herøya factory, to 1GW, on the strength of rising demand for green hydrogen and production equipment that extends beyond Europe to the US.

The North American market will be important to Nel after US hydrogen tax credits were included in the Inflation Reduction Act, according to a company presentation.

In July, Nel Hydrogen Electrolyser AS, a subsidiary of Nel ASA, received its “largest ever purchase order” from an undisclosed US customer for 200 MW of alkaline electrolyser equipment for industrial application.

The contract for the electrolyser stacks is a firm order with a value in excess of $46m. Production and delivery of stacks is planned from February 2023 until mid-2024 at Nel’s large-scale electrolyser production facility at Herøya, according to a press release.

Following an ongoing engineering study, Nel could also get the opportunity to provide additional balance-of-plant (BoP) equipment for the project.

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DOE seeking applications for $500m in CO2 transportation infrastructure

Under this FOA, the transport system—which may include pipelines, rail, trucks, barges, and/or ships—must connect, either directly or indirectly, two or more CO2 emitting sources to one or more conversion sites or secure geologic storage facilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) is planning to disburse up to $500m for projects that will help expand carbon dioxide (CO2) transportation infrastructure to help reduce CO2 emissions across the United States.

America’s carbon transport system is already of significant scale—including multiple methods such as pipelines, trucks, and freight that together transport almost 60 million metric tons of CO2 per year, the DOE said in a news release. The United States will likely need to capture and permanently store approximately 400–1,800 million tonnes of CO2 annually to meet its net-zero commitments by 2050. To accommodate the rapid growth of carbon capture and storage industry, we must significantly expand the infrastructure to transport carbon dioxide over the next decade.

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will provide future growth grants under DOE’s Carbon Dioxide Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (CIFIA) program, made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Future growth grants are intended to provide financial assistance for designing, developing, and building CO2 transport capacity up front that will then be available for future carbon capture and direct air capture facilities as they are developed and for additional CO2 storage and/or conversion sites as they come into operation.

Under this FOA, the transport system—which may include pipelines, rail, trucks, barges, and/or ships—must connect, either directly or indirectly, two or more CO2 emitting sources to one or more conversion sites or secure geologic storage facilities. DOE is interested in projects sited in different regions that will provide increased understanding of varying CO2 transport costs, transport modes, and transport network configurations, as well as technical, regulatory, and commercial considerations. This information will help inform DOE’s research and development strategy and to encourage commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage and COremoval.

Read more details about this FOA here. All questions must be submitted through FedConnect; register here for an account. The application deadline is July 30, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

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Hydrofuel Canada issued US patents for micro ammonia production

Hydrofuel says its technology can significantly reduce the overall cost of green ammonia and the hydrogen in it to 50% of the cost of hydrogen produced via current electrolysis technologies.

Hydrofuel Canada Inc. has been issued US Patent 11,885,029 “Systems and Methods for Forming Nitrogen-Based Compounds” and has completed of their Micro Ammonia Production System (MAPS 1.0) commercial prototype, enabling high-yield, sustainable ammonia synthesis from air and water with unprecedented efficiency using a gas-phase electrochemical process.

The MAPS 1.0 and 2.0 technologies significantly reduce the costs and energy requirement of making ammonia (NH3) compared to traditional methods, according to a news release. Multiple 381 ton per year units can be combined to operate in series or parallel to increase capacity.

The US$700,000 MAPS 1.0 version uses externally produced hydrogen (H2) to synthesize with nitrogen from air to make ammonia.

The US$850,000 MAPS 2.0 system represents a major breakthrough in the production of green hydrogen and ammonia, as it addresses one of the biggest challenges in hydrogen production – the high cost of electrolysis. By combining hydrogen and nitrogen production in a single unit, MAPS 2.0 eliminates the need for separate production processes, significantly reducing the overall cost of green ammonia and the hydrogen in it to 50% of the cost of hydrogen produced via current electrolysis technologies. All Capex and Opex costs quoted exclude any government incentives or tax credits.

Hydrofuel’s MAPS 2.0 Opex, Capex, Customer Deposit (CNW Group/Hydrofuel Canada Inc.)

“We are thrilled to announce the issuance of our US patent for MAPS 1.0 and the completion of our commercial prototype” said Greg Vezina, Chairman and CEO of Hydrofuel Canada. “This is a major milestone and a significant step towards making clean energy and fertilizer more affordable and accessible with MAPS 1.0 units expected to be available by the spring of 2025. With MAPS 2.0 expected to be released in the summer of 2025, customers will be able to produce and store green hydrogen in ammonia at a fraction of the cost, making it a game-changer in the clean energy and fertilizer industries. We will soon announce details of our pre-order campaign that will enable customers to place a small deposit on one of our MAPS units for early delivery.”

The company is currently in talks with potential partners and investors to bring MAPS 1.0 and 2.0 to the market and make a significant impact in the clean energy and fertilizer sectors. With the US patent and commercial prototype completed, Hydrofuel Canada is one step closer to achieving their goal of making green energy and chemicals more affordable and accessible for all.

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Exclusive: World Energy GH2 targeting early 2025 FID

World Energy GH2 is aiming to reach FID early next year – and advancing project financing discussions with a pair of advisors – on the $5bn phase 1 green ammonia development in Newfoundland and Labrador known as Project Nujio’qonik. We spoke to Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet in detail about the project.

World Energy GH2, the developer of a green ammonia export project in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is aiming to reach FID in early 2025 on phase 1 of Project Nujio’qonik, Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet said in an interview.

Phase 1 of the project entails the construction of a 1 GW wind facility and 600 MW of electrolysis for an estimated cost of $5bn, Leet said. Once complete, the first phase of Project Nujio’qonik is expected to produce approximately 400,000 tonnes of green ammonia for export.

The developer is working with Green Giraffe and RBC Capital Markets to advance a project financing deal, the same advisors that assisted World Energy GH2 on a $95m loan from Export Development Canada, announced last week.

The debt-to-equity split for the $5bn capital raise is still being iterated as the company looks at financing options with the available government subsidies and potential support from export agencies, Leet said. The company has not yet lined up an arranger for debt financing and expects to make a decision on that role at a later date, he added.

A schedule update is in progress as part of the project’s FEED readiness assessment. This update, considering factors such as long lead item availability and offtaker delivery requirements, is a required step before the start of FEED and is expected to be released around April 15. 

The FEED readiness assessment, Leet said, “is a process that we’ve undertaken with some value engineering due to some learnings from the pre-FEED deliverables and some other aspects of just making sure we’re well prepared for FEED so we can execute flawlessly on that.”

Leet expects the FEED process will take between nine and 12 months, setting the developer up for an FID in early 2025. As part of a competitive bidding process, World Energy GH2 was awarded four different Crown land sites, each capable of producing 1 GW of wind power, allowing for additional phases up to 4 GW of renewables.

Newfoundland, the distant Canadian island where Project Nujio’qonik is located, has become a hotbed of green ammonia project activity due to its exceptional wind resource, with as many eight major projects springing up (see, and zoom, on map).

Investment outlook

The Canadian government has promulgated a clean hydrogen investment tax credit of up to 40% on certain expenses, available until 2035. And in its most recent budget, the government floated the idea of providing contracts for difference to help de-risk emission-reducing projects. 

Leet believes that the CfD arrangement, which will be administered by the Canada Growth Fund, will be tied to the Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance, an agreement that promotes clean hydrogen trade ties between the two nations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed the accord at World Energy GH2’s site in Stephenville, with the aim of shipping hydrogen or ammonia by 2025 – a timeline that looks increasingly stretched. And World Energy GH2 earlier this year became the first North American member of Germany’s Port of Wilhelmshaven's energy hub.

“Those details haven’t been announced yet but we’re hopeful that the CfD mechanism is there to work alongside the ITC,” Leet said.

Additional financing could come from more export credit agencies “in the countries you would expect” that would support local companies providing equipment to Project Nujio’qonik. “That will be a very likely piece of our financing arrangement.”

World Energy GH2 is in discussions with various offtakers, but will be able to engage in greater detail once the ITC and CfD subsidies are clarified, and once the project receives its environmental permit, Leets said. 

World Energy GH2 was set up as a standalone Canadian company with the sole purpose of executing on Project Nujio’qonik. It is owned by its founders along with SK ecoplant, the environment and energy arm of Korea’s SK Group, which took a 20% stake in the company – and also the project – for $50m.

Gene Gebolys, the founder and CEO of World Energy LLC, a provider of low-carbon fuels, is also a founder of Project Nujio’qonik. And John Risley, another partner of the Canadian project, is a co-owner of World Energy LLC.

Support from existing investors along with the Export Development Canada facility announced last week make the project entity well capitalized to move “expeditiously” through FEED to FID, Leet said.

Canada to Europe

World Energy GH2 is talking to the major ammonia players about a scale-up of import capacity on European shores.

Leet noted specifically that the Antwerp-Bruges port has plans to scale up to handle the increased amounts of ammonia imports, for use in the various industries located in Belgium and potentially on to Germany from there.

Three companies – Fluxys, Advario Stolthaven Antwerp, and Advario Gas Terminal – have said they are considering constructing an open-access ammonia import terminal at the port of Antwerp-Bruges. Air Liquide also said it will build an ammonia cracking facility there.

The Port of Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where World Energy GH2 is a member of the energy hub, has similar plans to scale up, with various companies evaluating ammonia import terminals and cracking facilities.

Meanwhile, Leet said the ammonia product that it ships to Europe, in addition to benefiting from Canadian subsidies and tax credits, will also comply with the EU’s RFNBO standards.

The project has existing grid and water connections already at the Port of Stephenville, since the hydrogen plant will be built on top of a former paper mill which consumed both water and electricity. 

“So we're fortunate to have that grid connection available to us and the power in the Newfoundland grid is well over 90% existing hydro,” Leet said. “So between that and our wind power, we will have no issue meeting the standard set by the EU for green hydrogen and it will be 100% RFNBO compliant.”

The company is working on regulatory certification with multiple bodies but has not finalized a provider.

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exclusive

Of CfDs and RFNBOs: Untangling the global hydrogen policy web

US ammonia and hydrogen project developers are increasingly looking to Japan and South Korea as target markets under the belief that new rules for clean hydrogen and its derivatives in Europe are too onerous.

Much fuss has been made about the importance of pending guidance for the clean hydrogen industry from US regulators. Zoom out further and major demand centers like the European Union, Japan, and South Korea have similarly under-articulated or novel subsidy regimes, leaving US clean fuels project developers in a dizzying global tangle of red tape. 

But in the emerging global market for hydrogen and ammonia offtake, several themes are turning up. One is that US project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers, turning away from Europe following the implementation of rules that are viewed as too onerous for green hydrogen producers.

The other is that beneath the regulatory tangle lies a deep market, helping to answer one of the crucial outstanding questions that has been dogging the nascent ammonia and hydrogen industry: where is the offtake? 

Many projects are proceeding towards definitive offtake agreements and final investment decisions despite the risks embedded in potential changes in policy, according to multiple project finance lawyers. In most cases, reaching final agreements for offtake would not be prudent given the raft of un-issued guidance in these major markets, said the lawyers, who acknowledge a robust offtake market but may advise their clients against signing final contracts.

The European Union rules for green hydrogen and its derivatives became law in June, and included several provisions that are proving challenging for developers and their lawyers to structure around: prohibiting state-subsidized electricity in the production of green hydrogen, and the requirement that power for green hydrogen be purchased directly from a renewable energy supplier. 

Taken together, the policy developments have pushed many US project developers away from Europe and toward Japan and South Korea, where demand for low-carbon fuels is robust and regulations are viewed as less burdensome, if still undefined, experts say.

Developers are carefully choosing jurisdictions for their target offtake markets, “limiting their focus to North Asian rather than European buyers, with the expectation that certain standards and regulations will be less strict, at least in the near term,” said Allen & Overy Partners Hitomi Komachi and Henry Sohn, who are based in Japan and Korea, respectively.

Trade association Hydrogen Europe lambasted the new European rules last year while they were still in formation, saying they would cause a “mass exodus” of the continent’s green hydrogen industry to the US.

Make or break

US policymakers delivered a shock blow with last year’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act – but its full benefits have yet to flow into the clean fuels sector due to outstanding guidance on additionality, regionality, and matching requirements. 

At the same time, the 45V tax credit for clean hydrogen has been called potentially the most complex tax credit the US market has ever seen, requiring a multi-layered analysis to ensure compliance. The US policy uncertainty is coated on top of an already-complex development landscape facing developers of first-of-kind hydrogen and ammonia projects using electrolyzer or carbon capture technologies. 

“Even though folks are moving forward with projects, the lack of guidance impacts parties’ willingness to sign definitive documents, because depending on the guidance, for some projects, it could break the economics,” said Marcia Hook, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington DC.

Now, US developers seeking access to international markets are contending with potential misalignment of local and international rules, with Europe’s recently enacted guidelines serving as a major example of poorly arrayed schemes. 

Some US developers have already decided it may be challenging to meet the EU’s more rigorous standards, according Hook, who added that, beyond the perceived regulatory flexibility, developers appear to be garnering more offtake interest from potential buyers in Asia.

Projects that depend on outstanding guidance in Asia are also moving ahead, a fact that, according to Alan Alexander, a Houston-based partner at Vinson & Elkins, “represents a little bit of the optimism and excitement around low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia,” particularly in Japan and Korea.

“Projects are going forward but with conditions that these schemes get worked out in a way that’s bankable for the project,” he added. “It’s not optimal, but you can build it in,” he said, referencing a Korean contract where conditions precedent require that a national clean hydrogen portfolio standard gets published and the offtaker is successful in one of the  Korean power auctions.

RED III tape

Unlike the US, the EU has focused on using regulation to create demand for hydrogen and derivative products through setting mandatory RFNBO quotas for the land transport, industry, shipping and aviation sectors, according to Frederick Lazell, a London-based lawyer at King & Spalding.

Lazell called the EU rules “the most fully-developed and broad market-creation interventions that policymakers have imposed anywhere in the world.” As a result, being able to sell RFNBO into Europe to meet these quotas is expected to fetch the highest prices – and therefore potentially the highest premiums to suppliers, he said.

The European guidelines enacted in June introduced several provisions that will make it challenging for US developers to structure projects that meet the EU’s classification for renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs).

For one, the European Commission issued guidance that prohibits subsidies for renewable energy generation when it is transmitted via a power purchase agreement through the electrical grid to make RFNBO.

This provision potentially eliminates all green hydrogen-based projects in the US from qualifying as an RFNBO, a managing partner at a US-based investment firm said, given that green hydrogen projects will likely be tied to renewables that are earning tax credits.

“The EC’s decision to include this restriction on State aid makes the EU’s version of additionality more onerous than even the strictest requirements being considered in the US,” lawyers from King & Spalding wrote in a September note, adding that some people in the industry argue that the decision is inexplicable under the RED II framework that authorized the European Commission to define additionality. 

A second challenge of the EU regulations is the mandate that PPAs be contracted between the RFNBO producer and the renewable energy source. Such a requirement is impossible for electricity markets where state entities are mandated to purchase and supply power, a structure that is common in multiple jurisdictions. Moreover, the requirement would remove the possibility of using a utility or other intermediary to deliver power for green hydrogen production.

“These technical issues may be serious enough for some in the industry to consider challenges before the Court of Justice of the European Union,” the King & Spalding lawyers wrote. “However, it is not yet clear whether there is the appetite or ability to turn such suggestions into a formal claim.”

Go East

Although the subsidy regimes in Japan and South Korea are expected to be less stringent in comparison to the EU, the programs are still not completely defined, which leaves some uncertainty in dealmaking as projects move forward.

The traditional energy sector has always dealt with change-in-law risk, but the risk is heightened now since regulations can change more rapidly and, in some cases, impact ongoing negotiations, said Komachi and Sohn, of Allen & Overy, in a joint email response. 

“Certain regulations coming into force may be contingent or related to the funding plan of the project,” they said. As such, clean fuels offtake frameworks need to facilitate not only the tracking and counting of emissions, they added, but also leave sufficient flexibility as regulatory frameworks evolve.

Japan, through its Hydrogen Basic Strategy, set out targets to increase the supply of hydrogen and ammonia in the country while reducing costs, deploying Japanese electrolysis equipment, and increasing investment into its supply chain. Additionally, Japan is contemplating a contracts-for-difference-style regime to support the gap between the price of clean hydrogen or ammonia and corresponding fossil fuels for 15 years.

Still, standards for “clean hydrogen” have not been clarified, though most observers believe the country will follow a carbon emissions lifecycle analysis in line with IPHE criteria, which is proposed at 3.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen. Similarly, rules around “stacking” subsidies in Japan with other jurisdictions such as the Inflation Reduction Act have not been defined.

Meanwhile, Korea is considering carbon emissions standards of up to 4 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of hydrogen. It is pushing for greater use of hydrogen in part through its Amended Hydrogen Act, requiring electric utilities to buy electricity made from hydrogen in a bidding round starting in 2024. The requirement scales up from 1,300 GWh of general hydrogen in 2025 to 5,200 GWh for general hydrogen and 9,5000 GWh for clean hydrogen in 2028.

Both countries are working to incentivize the entire supply chain for hydrogen and ammonia to ensure the separate pieces of infrastructure will be available on investable and bankable terms, with the aim of creating a demand center when the export centers are developed, Komachi and Sohn added.

They also point out that the emerging clean fuels offtake market will operate in the near term in a more spotty fashion in comparison with the more liquid markets for oil and gas.

“Hydrocarbon markets have gradually moved towards portfolio players, trading and optimization,” said Goran Galic, an Australia-based partner at Allen & Overy. “Smaller market size, technological and regulatory considerations mean that clean fuels, at least initially, require more of a point-to-point approach and so building long-term working relationships between the developers and offtakers is a key aspect of offtake strategy.”

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Analysis: States with hydrogen use and production incentives

Some states are mulling hydrogen-specific incentives and tax credits as they wait for final federal regulations for clean hydrogen production, Bianca Giacobone reports.

[Editor’s note: Paragraphs six through nine have been modified to clarify that Colorado legislation does in fact include ‘three pillars’ language.]

Final guidelines for the federal hydrogen production tax credits are still a work in progress, but in the meantime, legislatures across the country have been mulling their own incentives to spur production. 

So far, 14 U.S. states have or are considering legislation that includes tax credits or other incentives for the use or production of hydrogen, five of which specify the hydrogen has to be “green,” “clean” or “zero-carbon.” 

The industry is waiting for the final regulations relating to the 45V tax credit for production of clean hydrogen, a draft of which was released last December, and states are similarly waiting to make their own moves. 

“States have interest in developing hydrogen programs, but they will lag the federal initiatives,” said Frank Wolak, CEO of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association. “The new suite of things that the states will do is largely dependent upon the reaction from the federal government, which is brand new.” 

The ones that aren’t waiting opt for vagueness. 

Val Stori, senior program manager at the Great Plains Institute, a non-profit focused on the energy transition, notes that Washington state has a bill supporting renewable electrolytic hydrogen, but it doesn’t specify whether electricity has to be sourced directly from renewables or if it can come from the grid. It doesn’t touch upon the more granular “three pillars” requirements for clean hydrogen which could be included in federal regulations: new supply, temporal matching, and deliverability.

“The lack of specificity is the trend,” she said.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s Advance the Use of Clean Hydrogen Act is the exception to that rule with what’s considered the country’s first clean hydrogen standards, including “matching electrolyzer energy consumption with electricity production on an hourly basis” and requiring that “the electricity used to produce clean hydrogen comes from renewable energy that would otherwise have been curtailed or not delivered to load or from new zero carbon generation.”

The standard will be enforced starting in 2028 or when the deployment of hydrogen electrolyzers in the state exceeds 200 MW.

(Colorado also has a Clean Air Program and a recently launched Colorado Industrial Tax Credit Offering that can offer financial support for industrial emissions reduction projects, including hydrogen projects, but they don’t mention hydrogen use or production specifically.)

“You might see the beginnings of laws that are starting to appear now,  but it might take two or three years before states build the momentum to figure out what they should be doing,” said Wolak. 

Nine out of the 14 states that have hydrogen-specific legislation don’t target clean hydrogen, but hydrogen in general. Kentucky, for example, has a 2018 tax incentive for companies that engage in alternative fuel production and hydrogen transmission pipelines. 

More recently, Oklahoma introduced a bill that proposes a one-time $50m infrastructure assist to a company that invests a minimum of $800m in a hydrogen production facility. According to local news reports, the bill is aimed at Woodside Energy’s electrolytic hydrogen plant in Ardmore. 

“We are an oil and gas state and we will be a primarily oil and gas state for a long time,” Oklahoma Senator Jerry Alvord, the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview. “But we could be at the forefront in our area of hydrogen and the uses that hydrogen puts before us.” 

Depending on the state, general hydrogen incentives could potentially add to federal tax incentives for clean hydrogen projects. 

Meanwhile, other states have been implementing Low Carbon Fuel Standards to encourage the development and use of clean fuels, including hydrogen, in transportation.

Last month, for example, New Mexico enacted its Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a technology-neutral program based where producers and vendors of low-carbon fuels, including clean hydrogen, generate credits to sell in the clean fuels marketplace, where they can be bought by producers of high carbon fuels. 

Similar programs exist in Oregon, Washington, and California, which was early to the game and began implementing its program in 2011. 

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