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Toronto-based AmmPower in green hydrogen MoU with Port of Corpus Christi

The project will be one of the first renewable energy projects of this scale at one of the larger working ports in the world.

AmmPower Corp. has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of Corpus Christi Authority to explore the development of a green hydrogen used as feedstock for green fuel and green derivatives production, storage and distribution facility, according to a news release.

As previously announced, AmmPower has been named as one of the Private Sector Partners in the Port of Corpus Christi Authority’s Horizons Clean Hydrogen Hub.

PCCA has emerged as a gateway for exporting low carbon energy to international markets due to PCCA’s ability to provide access to a deep draft channel, land for site location and close proximity to renewable energy, according to the release. PCCA has voluntarily purchased electricity from 100% renewable sources since 2017 and has also been an Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner since 2021.

“This is an important step forward for AmmPower to be able to work with the Port of Corpus Christy Authority with the aim of creating one of the leading clean energy ports in the world. The green fuel made with hydrogen feedstock is intended to be produced by AmmPower’s facility and will be used as fuel for next generation ships as well as a medium to transport green energy on a global basis,” said Gary Benninger, AmmPower CEO and executive chairman.

AmmPower is evaluating the feasibility of working with PCCA to explore the development of a large green hydrogen feedstock for green fuel facility, to produce, store and distribute these derivatives for use as a carbon free fuel and a carrier of hydrogen energy. The facility will produce green hydrogen rich derivatives for domestic and export markets. AmmPower possess an expert team, led by Zhenyu Zhang, whom are global experts in hydrogen feedstock and transfer to green fuel production.

This project, led by Maarten Mobach, president of AmmPower Maritime and long-time industry veteran, will be one of the first renewable energy projects of this scale, at one of the larger working ports in the world. Mobach states, “having been involved in a number of large port construction and infrastructure projects over the past 40 years, I can truly say this is a remarkable moment. The pivotal shift to green energy is a very important one. This will be the first of many projects in the maritime industry that will help transition towards green energy.”

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IRS 45V tax credit rules draft stricter than EU

A leaked draft report of pending 45V guidance from the US Treasury Department has advocates of the emerging green hydrogen industry warning of too-stringent measures.

US Treasury guidance for clean hydrogen producers to claim the top $3/kg rate of the hydrogen production tax credit could be overly onerous on the fledgling industry, according to responses to reporting on a draft in Politico and Bloomberg.

Reportedly, new rules include requirements that hydrogen be produced from newly created renewables (additionality), as well as geographic correlation and hourly time-matching requirements to qualify for the top rate.

“The proposal suggests that there will be an hourly matching requirement from 2027, making the rules stricter than those in the EU: a surprise to many, and potentially problematic in the eyes of some,” Ben Heininger, a manager at Baringa, said in a statement on LinkedIn. “This will lead to a material increase in costs, given the challenges in procuring firm 24/7 green power – a boon for storage developers no doubt.”

The increase in cost will drive the levelized cost of hydrogen higher and producers will likely have greater concerns over competitiveness for exports, Heininger said.

“If true, the Biden Administration’s proposed strategy for implementing these provisions will fail to get this new industry off the ground,” Jason Grumet, chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Clean Power Association, said in a statement yesterday. “It is surprising and disappointing that the administration would propose such a rigid approach that is at odds with decades of learning about new technology deployment.”

The 45V tax credit was originally unveiled as part of the Inflation Reduction Act and is split into four rates based on emissions intensity.

Hydrogen project developers and investors worry that stringent 45V rules will put the nascent industry on its back foot, significantly enough to kill projects by increasing the cost of green hydrogen production as the number of hours an electrolyzer can be operational is reduced and the sources of energy from which they can purchase power is limited.

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Hydrogen investment fund launches pure-play platform

The recently established outfit, called Avina Clean Hydrogen, has an advanced portfolio of green ammonia and hydrogen plants that are expected to become operational in 2024.

Principals of Hydrogen Technology Ventures, a firm established in 2019 to invest across the clean hydrogen value chain, have launched Avina Clean Hydrogen Inc, a pure-play clean hydrogen platform, according to a press release.

The recently established outfit has an advanced portfolio of green ammonia and hydrogen plants that are expected to become operational in 2024.

Avina has recently concluded multiple strategic partnerships, customer off-takes and investment agreements with leading industry players and is well capitalized to advance development of 250 MW of green ammonia and hydrogen plants in multiple locations within the United States.

The platform plans to invest $1 billion in green ammonia and hydrogen plants by 2025 and has a pipeline of an additional 1.5 GW of renewable energy assets that can be converted into green hydrogen projects under various stages of development.

The platform is developing proprietary, modularized solutions to deploy low-cost distributed green hydrogen at scale and is well equipped with industry experts that have decades of experience in green hydrogen, industrial gas and renewable energy sectors, according to the release.

“Today, even though gray hydrogen production costs in the United States are about $1.50/kg, delivered gray hydrogen costs to the end customer in many instances are still a multiple of production costs and this problem is likely to become much larger as new applications for hydrogen get developed in locations where supply is not easily accessible,” said Vishal Shah, Avina’s Founder and CEO.

“Moreover, intermittency of renewable power and increasing transmission and distribution costs will continue to remain a challenge for the hydrogen industry even as electrolyzer costs continue to decline. Our platform is uniquely positioned to offer proprietary system level solutions to multiple stakeholders – renewable developers that are dealing with the grid congestion problem, hydrogen customers that are dealing with unsustainable distribution costs as well as customers that want to bring production costs down by solving the renewable power intermittency problem.”

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Imperial to invest CAD 720m to build largest renewable diesel facility in Canada

The project, at Imperial’s Strathcona refinery near Edmonton, is expected to produce more than one billion liters of renewable diesel annually.

Imperial will invest about CAD 720m (USD 560m) to move forward with construction of the largest renewable diesel facility in Canada.

The project at Imperial’s Strathcona refinery near Edmonton is expected to produce more than one billion liters of renewable diesel annually primarily from locally sourced feedstocks and could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Canadian transportation sector by about 3 million metric tons per year, as determined in accordance with Canada’s Clean Fuel Regulation.

Regulatory approval for the project is expected in the near term.

“Imperial supports Canada’s vision for a lower-emission future, and we are making strategic investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations and to help customers in vital sectors of the economy reduce their emissions,” said Brad Corson, Imperial chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The investment at our Strathcona refinery will deliver immediate benefits to the local economy creating jobs and contributing to a lower-emission energy future for our employees, neighbors and communities.”

The renewable diesel project was first announced in August 2021, with the Province of British Columbia supporting this project through a Part 3 Agreement under the BC low carbon fuel standard. A significant portion of the renewable diesel from Strathcona will be supplied to British Columbia in support of the province’s plan to lower carbon emissions. Imperial also intends to use renewable diesel in operations as part of the company’s emission reduction plans.

Imperial’s renewable diesel facility will use low-carbon hydrogen produced with carbon capture and storage technology to help Canada meet low emission fuel standards. Imperial has entered into an agreement with Air Products for low-carbon hydrogen supply and is developing agreements with other third parties for biofeedstock supply. The low-carbon hydrogen and biofeedstock will be combined with a proprietary catalyst to produce premium lower-emission diesel fuel and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional fuels.

Site preparation and initial construction are underway. Renewable diesel production is expected to start in 2025. The project is expected to create about 600 direct construction jobs, along with hundreds more through investments by business partners.

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Exclusive: OCI Global exploring ammonia and methanol asset sales

Global ammonia and methanol producer OCI Global is working with an investment bank to explore a sale of ammonia and methanol assets as part of the re-opening of its strategic business review.

OCI Global is evaluating a sale of several ammonia and methanol assets as part of the re-opening of its strategic business review.

The global producer and distributor of methanol and ammonia is working with Morgan Stanley to explore a sale of its ammonia production facility in Beaumont, Texas, as well as the co-located blue ammonia project under development, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The evaluation also includes OCI’s methanol business, one of the sources said.

Representatives of OCI and Morgan Stanley did not respond to requests for comment.

As part of the earlier strategic review announced last year, OCI in December announced the divestiture of its 50% stake in Fertiglobe to ADNOC, and the sale of its Iowa Fertilizer Company to Koch Industries, bringing in $6.2bn in total net proceeds.

However, OCI has received additional inbound inquiries from potential acquirers for the remaining business, leading it to re-open the review, CEO Ahmed El-Hoshy said last month on OCI’s 4Q23 earnings call.

“As such, OCI is exploring further value creative strategic actions across the portfolio, including the previously announced equity participation in its Texas blue clean ammonia project,” he said, adding: “All options are on the table.”

The comments echoed the remarks of Nassef Sawiris, a 40% shareholder of OCI, who recently told the Financial Times that OCI could sell off most of its assets and become a shell for acquisitions.

In the earnings presentation, El-Hoshy took time to lay out the remaining pieces of the business: in particular, OCI’s 350 ktpa ammonia facility in Beaumont; OCI Methanol Group, encompassing 2 million tons of production capacity in the US and a shuttered Dutch methanol plant; and its European ammonia/nitrogen assets.

Texas blue

The Texas blue ammonia project is a 1.1 million-tons-per-year facility that OCI touts as the only greenfield blue ammonia project to reach FID to date. The company has invested $500m in the project as of February 24, out of a total $1bn expected investment, according to a presentation.

“Commercial discussions for long-term product offtake and equity investments in the project are at advanced stages with multiple parties,” El-Hoshy said. “This reflects the very strong commercial interest and increasing appetite from the strategics to pay a price premium to secure long-term low-carbon ammonia.”

El-Hoshy’s comments highlight the fact that, unlike most projects in development, OCI took FID on the Texas blue facility without an offtake agreement in place. The executive did, however, highlight the first-mover cost advantages from breaking ground on the project early and avoiding construction cost inflation.

Additionally, the project was designed to accommodate a second 1.1 mtpa blue ammonia production line, which would be easier to build given existing utilities and infrastructure, El-Hoshy said, allowing for an opportunity to capitalize on additional clean ammonia demand at low development costs.

“Line 2 probably has the biggest advantage, we think, in North America in terms of building a plant where a lot of the existing outside the battery limits items and utilities are already in place,” he said, emphasizing that by moving early on the first phase, they avoided some of the inflationary EPC pressures of recent years. 

At the facility OCI will buy clean hydrogen and nitrogen over the fence from Linde, and Linde, in turn, will capture and sequester CO2 via an agreement with ExxonMobil.

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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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Exclusive: Biomethane firm planning funding round

A biomethane solutions provider with projects in Europe and the US is planning a fifth round of funding to launch early next year, with a need to raise additional project debt.

Electrochaea, the US- and Europe-based biomethane developer, will go to market in 1Q24 for a new round of equity funding, with a near term need for project debt as well, two executives told ReSource.

The company, which was spun out from an incubator at The University of Chicago with offices in Denmark, has projects in Denmark, Colorado, New York and Switzerland. It is backed by Baker Hughes and, from early fundraising efforts, Munich Venture Partners, senior director Aafko Scheringa said. The former investor participated in its most recent (fourth) $40m funding round.

Electrochaea uses a patented biocatalyst that converts green hydrogen and carbon dioxide into BioCat Methane, a pipeline-grade renewable gas.

The average size of a project is roughly $25m, Scheringa said.

Funds from the next round will provide three years of working capital, CEO Mitch Hein added.

Electrochaea has not worked with a financial advisor to date, Hein said, adding that he may have need for one for new processes but has not engaged with anyone.

Scheringa said he is working to achieve commercialization on a pipeline of projects, with a 10 MWe bio-methanation plant in Denmark being farthest along with a mandatory start date before 2026.

Electrochaea has a bio-methanation reactor system in partnership with SoCalGas at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy System Integration Facility in Golden, Colorado, though Hein said a project in New York is as advanced in its development.

Bio-methane can be burned in place of natural gas with no systems degradation issues, so gas offtakers are a natural fit for Electrochaea, Scheringa said. Cheap clean electricity paired with available CO2 is critical, so the company will look to places like Texas, Spain, Scandinavia, Quebec and the “corn states” of the US Midwest, for new projects.

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