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United Airlines invests in microalgae-to-SAF startup

The investment comes from the new UAV Sustainable Flight Fund and will support the production of SAF made from algae.

United Airlines has invested $5m in algae biofuel company Viridos, a microalgae-to-fuels startup, according to a news release.

The investment comes from the new UAV Sustainable Flight Fund and will support the production of SAF made from algae.

Viridos has achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to typical wild-type algae, the release states. The company’s algae are grown in vessels containing seawater. This reduces the need for freshwater and eliminates runoff.

“By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land, Oliver Fetzer, Viridos CEO, said in the release.

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ABB launches energy management system for green hydrogen

Software from the Swiss company will help hydrogen production companies reduce electricity-based costs by up to 20%.

ABB has launched its energy management system, called ABB Ability™ OPTIMAX, for the green hydrogen market, to help reduce costs of production by enabling real-time visibility of energy consumption across operations, according to a press release.

ABB’s OPTIMAX supports lowering the cost of the green hydrogen plant lifecycle, from simulation at design and engineering phases to real-time visualization and monitoring when in operation, the release states.

The software measures bi-directional power flows and carbon dioxide emissions providing contextual data which operators can use to determine optimal energy consumption levels required to support plant processes and minimize waste.

The transparency offered by the solution can also be applied to increase the efficiency and safety of each electrolyzer module being operated within the plant, regulating each module’s speed, and ensuring it is only used as and when required.

“Scaling up green hydrogen production requires significant capital investment as well as high operating costs,” said Sleman Saliba, global product manager, Energy Management for ABB Process Automation. “Nearly 70% of the total operating costs to run a hydrogen plant comes from the electricity needed to split the water molecule in the electrolysis process. With OPTIMAX®, for between 1-3% technology investment, operators can run their industrial processes in the most energy efficient way and gain up to 20 percent reduction in electricity-based costs.”

Incorporating intra-day planning, operators can also utilize OPTIMAX® to plan ahead to trade competitively with the grid, developing a circular energy system that is based on forecasts of renewable energy availability against demand, also considering market electricity prices.​

The solution can also be used to optimize green hydrogen integration with existing hydrogen networks and any future infrastructure that may be developed.

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Africa-based PE firm to buy Air Liquide assets in 12 countries

Adenia Partners is acquiring 12 Air Liquide subsidiaries in Africa.

Adenia Partners, a leading private equity firm that has been making responsible and sustainable investments in Africa for over 20 years, has signed an agreement with Air Liquide, world leader in industrial and medical gases, for the acquisition of 12 of its subsidiaries in West and Central Africa and the Indian Ocean.

As part of the agreement, the entities and employees in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Togo will form a new, independent, pan-African industrial gases group, that Adenia intends to strengthen and develop through long-term support and additional investments of up to 30 million euros.

In addition, as part of the transaction, Air Liquide has entered a long-term contract with Adenia for the supply of numerous industrial and specialty gases, according to a news release. These supplies, together with Air Liquide’s support in the transition, notably through a technical assistance contract, will complement future investments.

Christophe Scalbert, Partner at Adenia, commented: “With a presence in 12 countries, sales approaching 60 million euros, and unique expertise and teams, we see the emergence of a continental leader that will benefit from strong infrastructure development, increasing industrial activities and natural resources industries on the African continent. Adenia intends to accelerate the growth of this new group by investing heavily in production and storage capacity to better serve its customers.”

Completion of this transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals.

Acquirer advisors :
– Financial, Tax and IT Due Diligence : Deloitte
– Legal (due diligence and documentation) : Asafo & Co
– Strategic and commercial advisor : Decrop Consulting
– Technical DD : DPGS & Alliance Partners
– ESG Due Diligence : ClassM

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NY awards $12.7m to three hydrogen projects

Governor Kathy Hochul has awarded USD 16.6m for five long duration energy storage projects, including USD 12.7m for three hydrogen plans.

Governor Kathy Hochul has awarded USD 16.6m for five long duration energy storage projects, including USD 12.7m for three hydrogen plans.

The Governor also said that an additional USD 17m in competitive funding is available for projects that advance development and demonstration of scalable innovative long duration energy storage technologies, according to a press release.

The projects will support the current Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to install 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030 while facilitating further development to 6,000 MW.

The USD 12.7m in awards will support the following hydrogen projects:

  • Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, LLC- USD 12.5m – To demonstrate nuclear-hydrogen fueled peak power generation paired with a long duration hydrogen energy storage unit to help reduce emissions from the New York Independent System Operator electric grid.
  • Power to Hydrogen – USD 100,000 – To develop a Reversible Fuel Cell System for Hydrogen Production and Energy Storage called the Clean Energy Bridge and to help facilitate the system’s readiness for demonstration and commercial adoption.
  • ROCCERA, LLC – USD 100,000 – To evaluate and demonstrate a novel commercially viable Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell prototype for clean hydrogen production together with a corresponding scalable, more efficient manufacturing process, the release states.

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Exclusive: Verde Clean Fuels seeking project finance for gas refineries

Publicly listed Verde Clean Fuels plans to seek equity and debt investors for low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US. We spoke to CEO Ernest Miller about the strategy.

Verde Clean Fuels, a publicly listed developer of clean fuels technology and projects, is planning to seek project debt and equity investors to finance a series of low-carbon gasoline refineries it expects to deploy across the US.

Houston-based Verde, which employs syngas-to-gasoline refining technology, recently announced an agreement with Diamondback Energy to construct a facility in the Permian Basin that will utilize stranded natural gas to produce 3,000 barrels per day of gasoline.

The company is also pursuing a carbon-negative gasoline project on the premises of California Resources’ Net Zero Industrial Park in Bakersfield, California. The California project will produce approximately 500 barrels of RBOB renewable gasoline per day from agricultural waste, while capturing and sequestering around 125,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Verde is capitalized following a private investment in public equity (PIPE) injection of $54m as part of a reverse merger last year, allowing the company to take the Bakersfield and West Texas projects through the FEED phase, CEO Ernest Miller said in an interview.

Underpinning Verde’s business model is the view that gasoline will persist as a transportation fuel for many years to come, and that very few parties are working to decarbonize the gasoline supply chain.

“Between renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, and sustainable aviation fuel, there is very little awareness that renewable gasoline is even a thing,” Miller said. “The addressable market is enormous, and the impact that can be made by taking even a sliver of that market is enormous.”

Miller says that many market participants believe that electric vehicles will solve the emissions problem from road transport.

“The fact is that gasoline has a very, very long runway ahead of it,” he said. “Regardless of the assumptions you want to make about EV penetration, the volume of gasoline that we continue to use for the foreseeable future is huge.”

Verde Clean Fuels demo plant.

Verde’s projects are sized in the 500 – 3,000 barrels per day range, making them a unique player at the smaller end of the production range. The only other companies with similar methanol-to-gas technology are ExxonMobil and Danish-based Topsoe, which operate at a much larger scale, according to Miller.

Miller recognizes that low-carbon, or negative-carbon, gasoline operates within a complex ecosystem, with the California project potentially playing in that state’s LCFS and D3 RIN markets, in addition to the market for gasoline.

“What I would like to see us do is have an offtaker that plays in all three of those products – so if I can go to Shell Trading, or bp, or Vitol, and get one of them to say, ‘here’s a price,’ and they take all of that exposure and optionality,” Miller said, “that allows me to finance the project without having to manage a whole bunch of different commodity exposures and risk.”

Bakersfield 

The Bakersfield project, estimated to cost $235m to build, will utilize 450 tons per day of agricultural waste to produce gasoline, and sequester CO2 via California Resources’ carbon management company, Carbon TerraVault, a joint venture with Brookfield Renewable.

Because of the carbon sequestration, the project will qualify for incentives under 45Q, but since it is producing, in Miller’s words, “deeply carbon-negative gasoline,” most of the value for the project will come from California’s LCFS program.

In order to qualify for LCFS credits, the Bakersfield facility goes through the full GREET modeling process – including transport of feedstock, processing and refining, and transport away from the facility – returning a negative 125 grams equivalent per MJ carbon intensity score for the project, according to Miller.

As for investors, Verde “would like to see both California Resources and Brookfield Renewable in the project, either individually or through the Carbon TerraVault JV,” Miller said.

Verde is also in discussions with a handful of financial players, including infrastructure and pension funds that are looking for bond-like cash flow that a project finance model can provide. The company has also explored the municipal bond market in California, which would bring to bear a favorable capital structure for the project, Miller said.

Verde is not currently working with a project finance advisor, Miller said, noting that they have in-house project finance experience. In Texas, Verde is working with Vinson & Elkins as its law firm; and in California Verde is working with Orrick as counsel.

Gasoline runway

For the Diamondback facility in West Texas, which requires roughly $325m of capex, both Verde and Diamondback will take equity stakes in the project, and Verde will seek to bring in debt financing to fund the rest of the project costs in a non-recourse project finance deal, Miller said.

The Permian project seeks to provide a pathway to monetize stranded gas in the basin by taking advantage of and alleviating its lack of takeaway capacity, which causes gas prices at the Waha Hub in West Texas to trade at a significant discount to the Henry Hub price.

“Diamondback would take the position that any gas that’s getting consumed in the Permian Basin is gas that’s not getting flared in the Permian Basin,” Miller said, thus making the project a emissions-mitigating option. “There will never be enough natural gas takeaway capacity out of the Permian Basin,” he added, noting that driller profiles are only going to get gassier as time goes on.

Diamondback, for example, produces more in the Permian than it can take out via pipeline, therefore “finding a use, a different exposure, for that gas by turning it into gasoline, is of value for them,” Miller said.

“It’s the same dynamic in the Marcellus and Bakken and Uinta – all the pipeline-constrained basins,” he added, alluding to possible future expansion to those basins.

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Turnt up about turndown ratios

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down. We asked electrolyzer makers: how low can you go?

Optimizing electrolysis for renewables depends not just on how far you can turn the machine up, but how far you can turn it down.

A consensus is growing around the importance of turndown ratios for electrolyzers, with a variety of use cases for green hydrogen requiring the machines to be run at low levels during periods of high power pricing.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are known for their ability to quickly ramp production up and down, but manufacturers of all stripes have begun to tout their technologies’ turndown ratios, with implications for capital costs and the levelized cost of producing hydrogen from renewable power.

Simply put, some electrolyzer plant operators will likely seek to lower hydrogen production during periods of high power pricing, since the cost of electricity is the largest operating expense. But cycling the electrolyzers completely off and on can lead to added system degradation, giving importance to the ability of the machines to run at low levels.

A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzes a US grid buildout through 2050, noting favorable locations and seasonality for power pricing as something of a guideline for green hydrogen development. The study notes that the lowest achievable turndown ratio is a main factor in minimizing hydrogen levelized cost along with the number of hours a system can operate at that minimum level – something that applies to all types of electrolyzers.

“When you start to look at hourly costs from the data in different locations, you see that all of this renewable buildout is going to create opportunities in given locations where you going to have a lot of renewable generation and not a lot of load on the system and that’s going to drive the cost for that energy down,” said Alex Badgett, an author of the study at NREL.

To be sure, the fast-moving technological environment for electrolysis leaves open the possibility for efficiency gains and disruptive innovation. And a variety of factors – balance of plant, energy efficiency, system degradation – also influence plant economics. But the lowest possible turndown ratios will drive opportunities for green hydrogen developers, Badgett said.

ReSource reviewed available spec sheets for electrolyzer providers and asked every maker of PEM and SOEC systems to detail the turndown capabilities of their machines. Alkaline electrolyzers were left out of the analysis given their more limited load flexibility, as their separators are less effective at preventing potentially dangerous cross-diffusion of gasses. Some manufacturers are fully transparent regarding turndown ranges while others declined to comment or did not reply to inquiries.

‘Not trivial’

In designing projects, developers are analyzing hourly energy supply schedules and pairing the outlook with what is known about available technology options.

“Some electrolyzers like to operate at half power, and others like to operate at full power, and in any given system, you can have between 10 and 50 electrolyzers wired and plumbed in parallel,” said Mike Grunow, who leads the Power-to-X platform at Strata Clean Energy.

“Our thought process even goes down to: let’s say you have to operate the H2 plant at 25% throughput. Do you operate all of the electrolyzers at 25%, or do you turn 75% of the electrolyzers off and only operate 25% at full power?”

The difference in the schemes, he added, is “not trivial as each technology has different efficiency curves and drivers of degradation.”

Different use cases for the hydrogen derivative, meanwhile, lead to different natural selection of technologies, Grunow said, adding that the innovation cycle is now happening every 12 months, requiring a close eye on advances in technology. 

Electrolyzer start-up Electric Hydrogen, a maker of PEM electrolyzers, is commercializing a 100 MW system that can turn down to 10%, according to Jason Mortimer, SVP of global sales at the company.

HyAxium, another start-up, can turn its system down to 10%, according to its materials. Norway-based Hystar, which recently announced plans to build a plant in the US, also promotes a 10% turndown ratio.

A more established PEM electrolyzer provider, Cummins, advertises turndown ratios of 5% for its machines. Sungrow Power, a China-based manufacturer, similarly advertises 5% for PEM electrolyzers.

Siemens Energy has a minimum turndown ratio per stack of 40%, but for a single system it can be less in exceptional cases, according to Claudia Nehring, a company spokesperson.

“We focus on large systems” – greater than 100 MW – “and currently consider this value to be appropriate, taking into account the optimization between efficiency, degradation and dynamics, but are working on an improvement,” she said via email.

ITM Power declined to provide details but said its turndown capabilities are “to be expected” for a market leader in this technology. Materials from German-based H-Tec Systems note a modulation rate down to 10%.

Additional PEM makers Nel, Ohmium, Elogen, H2B2, Hoeller Electrolyzer, Plug Power, Shanghai Electric, and Teledyne Energy Systems did not respond to requests for information.

PEM alternatives

Other forms of electrolysis can also ramp dynamically. And some project developers point to PEM’s use of iridium, part of the platinum metals family, as a drawback due to potential scarcity issues.

Verdagy, for example, has developed an advanced alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) system called eDynamic that it says takes the best of PEM and alkaline technologies while designing out the downsides.

The company’s technology “addresses the barriers that limited traditional AWE adoption by using single-element cells that can operate efficiently at high current densities,” executives said in response to emailed questions. 

“The ability to operate at very high current densities, coupled with a balance of stack and balance of plant optimized for dynamic operation, allow Verdagy’s electrolyzers to operate across a very broad range spanning 0.1-2.0 A/cm2,” they said.

In other words, the machine can turn down to 5%, part of the design that enables operators “to modulate production to take advantage of time-of-day pricing and/or fluctuations in energy production.”

Meanwhile, German-based Thysenkrupp Nucera, another maker of advanced water electrolyzers, advertises a 10% turndown ratio.

SOEC

A relatively new electrolysis technology, the solid oxide electrolyzer cell has also proven to be capable of low turndown ratios. Solid oxide electrolysis is particularly attractive when paired with high-temperature industrial processes, where heat can be captured and fed back into the high-temperature SOEC process, making it more efficient.

Joel Moser, the CEO of First Ammonia, said he chose SOEC from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe in part because the machines can be turned completely off with no degradation, as long as you keep them warm.

“Generally speaking we expect to ramp up and ramp down between 100% and 10%,” he said. “We can turn them off as long as we keep them warm, and then we can turn them right back on.”

Still, SOEC systems are not without challenges.

“Low stack power and high operating temperature, which in turn requires more ancillary equipment to operate the electrolyzer, are widely viewed as the main drawbacks of SOEC technology,” according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, which explores SOEC technology and its commercial prospects. “SOEC systems are also considered to have a shorter operating life due to thermal stress.”

Additional makers of SOEC machines Bloom Energy, Ceres, Elcogen, Genvia, SolydERA, and Toshiba did not respond to inquiries.

At NREL, researchers are watching for more automation and scale in the electrolyzer production process to bring costs down. Increasing efficiency through balance-of-plant improvements is another opportunity to reduce system costs.

In addition, more analysis of how large electrolyzer projects will impact the future electrical grid is required, according to Badgett.

The NREL team modeled the hourly marginal cost at any given time in any location in the US, but the model assumes that the electrolyzer takes energy without impacting the cost of energy.

“When we start to get to gigawatt-scale electrolysis,” he said, “that’s going to significantly impact prices, as well as how the grid is going to build out.”

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