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US electrolyzer developer makes senior hires

A pair of clean fuel industry veterans have joined Wisconsin-based Advanced Ionics, an electrolyzer developer that recently completed a Series A.

Advanced Ionics, the Milwaukee-based green hydrogen electrolyzer developer, has added John Jung as President and Chief Operating Officer and Ignacio Bincaz as Chief Commercial Officer to its leadership team, according to a news release.

The new executives will support the global growth of the company, expand manufacturing capabilities, and launch next-generation pilot programs, the release states. These appointments follow the company’s Series A round earlier this year.

In April Resource reported that AI would raise capital to commercialize an electrolyzer. The company closed a $12.5m Series A financing led by bp ventures, with Clean Energy Ventures, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and GVP Climate.

Jung will manage Advanced Ionics’ business operations and oversee growth in the US and globally. Previously, he was the President of Energy Vault Solutions and led Greensmith Energy as founder, president and CEO before its acquisition to Wärtsilä.

Bincaz will be responsible for leading the company’s commercial strategy and initiatives to drive revenue growth. He will work with leaders in ammonia, petrochemical, nuclear and steel. He recently served as the Head of North America for H2Pro and a Senior Vice President at Worley, Inc.

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NextEra leads Series A round for DAC start-up

NextEra has led a $36m Series A funding round for a start-up that’s developing hybrid direct air capture technology.

Avnos, Inc. (Avnos), the Los Angeles-based company developing novel Hybrid Direct Air Capture (HDAC) technology for carbon dioxide removal, has closed $36 million in Series A funding, according to a news release.

Avnos will use the new funds to grow its world-class team, deploy additional HDAC assets across North America and Europe, and open a new, state-of-the-art research and development facility located just outside New York City.

NextEra Energy, one of America’s largest utilities and investors in clean energy infrastructure, led the round. Other investors include Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. The funding supplements Avnos’ previously announced capital raises and strategic commercial agreements with Shell Ventures, ConocoPhilips, JetBlue Ventures and the Grantham Foundation, as well as pilot projects with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Avnos has pioneered HDAC using proprietary materials and processes to capture both carbon dioxide and water simultaneously from the atmosphere, according to a news release. The process eliminates the need for external heat input and produces approximately 5 tons of water for every 1 ton of carbon dioxide captured. Avnos’ resource-intelligent technology means lower impact on and expanded employment opportunities for the communities surrounding HDAC facilities.

“At Avnos, we believe our novel HDAC technology is the world’s best shot at reaching the much-needed gigaton scale of carbon dioxide removal,” said Will Kain, CEO of Avnos. “We feel the urgency to roll out HDAC more broadly so as to deliver on the enormous, positive climate and economic opportunities in front of us. With this substantial funding, Avnos continues to expand its unparalleled roster of partners supporting our rapid acceleration.”

The new, multi-million-dollar research and development facility, equipped with best-in-class equipment and infrastructure, will enable Avnos to accelerate the pace of scaling the company’s HDAC technology while ensuring its systems continue to operate at peak performance. The 20,000 square foot facility will be fully operational in February 2024 and will employ an estimated 20 new employees.

“Our state-of-the-art lab underscores our mission to push the frontiers of innovation and deliver scalable and efficient carbon removal solutions,” said Ben McCool, Senior VP of Technology at Avnos. “As we expand our dynamic technical team, I’m proud to cultivate a collaborative environment that brings together top-notch talent, actively shaping and advancing the cutting-edge technologies driving Avnos towards impactful solutions.”

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LSB signs 5-year blue ammonia offtake agreement

Freeport Minerals Corporation intends to use the low carbon ammonium nitrate solution purchased from LSB for its United States copper mining operations.

LSB Industries, Inc. has entered into a landmark agreement to supply up to 150,000 short tons per annum of low carbon ammonium nitrate solution to Freeport Minerals Corporation, according to a news release.

LSB will supply the ANS from its El Dorado, Arkansas facility for 5 years commencing January 1, 2025, with a phasing in of the low carbon contracted volume.

In an interview earlier this year, LSB CEO Mark Behrman alluded to a blue ammonia offtake deal with one of its mining or nitric acid customers at a premium to the price they were previously paying.

LSB’s low carbon product offering stems from the carbon capture and sequestration project that it currently has underway with its partner, Lapis Energy, who will capture and permanently sequester more than 450,000 metric tons of CO2 produced annually from El Dorado’s ammonia production. The carbon sequestration is expected to result in more than 375,000 tons of low carbon ammonia that LSB can sell or upgrade and sell to customers in the form of other low carbon nitrogen products, such as ANS. The project is expected to commence operations in 2026 pending approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of LSB and Lapis’ Class VI permit application, which the companies expect to receive in the second half of 2025.

“This important agreement validates our belief that our industrial and mining customers will identify the low carbon nitrogen products that we plan to produce as an important part of their decarbonization journeys and value them accordingly,” said Mark Behrman, LSB’s President and CEO. “We view this contract with Freeport as a major step towards attaining our vision of becoming a leader in the global energy transition and look forward to partnering with them as a strategic supplier as they advance toward their net zero aspiration.”

Freeport intends to use the low carbon ANS purchased from LSB for its United States copper mining operations.

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EU-backed Neev Fund invests in India-based hydrogen developer

Green hydrogen developer Hygenco aims to deploy over $300m in green hydrogen projects across India in the next three years.

Hygenco Green Energies Pvt. Ltd (Hygenco), a green hydrogen developer, has received a GBP 22m investment from the Neev II Fund, a climate and sustainability focused fund backed by the UK and EU governments, according to a news release.

The investment will enable Hygenco to commercialize its early pipeline, as it aims to deploy over $300m in green hydrogen projects across India in the next three years.

Hygenco, which deploys scaled-up commercially attractive green hydrogen solutions, will build-own-operate multiple green hydrogen facilities across the country. Founded by professionals having decades of experience in renewable energy, project development and consulting, the investment by Neev will give an impetus to large-scale Green Hydrogen deployment in India.

Neev II Fund along with its predecessor Neev I Fund are managed by SBICAP Ventures, which has backing from the UK government through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). It is also backed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Neev I Fund, launched in 2015, has invested into 10 companies in diverse clean energy, Agri supply chain and social infrastructure sectors. Neev II Fund is the successor fund launched in June 2021 that seeks to provide growth and expansion capital to companies offering solutions for clean energy, electric vehicles, efficient use of raw materials, and water and circular economy projects in the country.

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Ambient Fuels evaluating hydrogen project acquisitions

The company is well capitalized following a $250m equity investment from Generate Capital and is now opportunistically reviewing an initial slate of project M&A offerings.

Following an equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient Fuels has begun to evaluate potential acquisitions of hydrogen projects that are under development, CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview.

“We’ve seen our first project M&A opportunities come through in the last 10 days or so,” Susman said.

Three projects for sale involve land positions, he said. Those that appear most attractive have a clear line of site to offtake or a strong approach to renewable power supply. Two out of three are not on the Gulf Coast.

“In no instance are these brokered deals,” Susman said.

Following the $250m equity investment from Generate Capital, Ambient is capitalized for several years and has no immediate plans to seek debt or tax equity, Susman said. The transaction was done without the help of a financial advisor.

Moving forward Ambient is open to JV formation with a partner that can help access offtake and renewable power, Susman said. Those points will drive future capital investment in the company and were resources that Generate brought to the table besides money.

According to ReSource‘s project tracker, Ambient is involved in at least two of the hubs that were encouraged by the DOE to submit a final application: California’s Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), and the Port of Corpus Christi Green Hydrogen Hub.

In 2021 Ambient completed a funding round led by SJF Ventures. Several other VC funds and angel investors also participated.

In January The Hydrogen Source reported that Ambient was in exclusivity with an equity provider.

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DG Fuels charting path to be SAF powerhouse

The company has retained advisors and is mapping out a plan to build as many as 50 production facilities in North America for a “gigantic” sustainable aviation fuel market.

DG Fuels is charting a plan to build a proprietary network of 30 to 50 sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facilities in North America, CEO Michael Darcy said in an interview.

The Washington, D.C.-based company will pursue a combination of debt and equity on a case-by-case basis to fund the projects, Darcy explained, with financings underway now for the firm’s initial project in Louisiana and a second facility in Maine. The Louisiana facility recently inked a USD 4bn offtake agreement with an undisclosed investment grade industrial buyer.

The company is working with Guggenheim and Stephens as financial advisors, Darcy said. About 60 people hold equity in the company; Darcy and the founding team hold a majority stake.

In the coming months DG Fuels will likely make announcements about more SAF plants in the US and British Columbia, Darcy said. Site negotiations are underway and each project is its own subsidiary of the parent company.

“There’s clearly a good return of what we refer to as the ‘project level,’ and then we have the parent company,” Darcy said. “We have strategic investment at the parent and now we’re looking at strategic investment at the project level.”

Huge demand, low supply

DG Fuels produces SAF from cellulosic biomass feedstock, a technology that does not need sequestration of CO2 because natural gas is not used.

“We like to say it’s the corn cob, not the corn,” Darcy said. The company can also use timber waste, waxes, and renewable power as an important source of energy.

The company gets about 4.5 barrels of SAF for every ton of biomass feedstock, which is roughly three to four times the industry average, Darcy said.

“Practical scale” for a facility is 12,000 to 15,000 barrels a day, Darcy said. That’s big enough to be commercialized without stressing the electrical grid with power demand.

Despite the company’s advantages, there is “plenty of room” for other producers to come into the SAF space, Darcy said.

“Right now, the market for SAF is gigantic and the supply is minimal,” Darcy said. “Companies like us are able to pick and choose high-quality offtakers.”

DG Fuels includes Delta Airlines, Air France and General Electric as committed offtakers.

Multi-tasking

DG Fuels is “always engaged in some level of capital raise for construction of facilities and detailed engineering,” Darcy said. “There’s always more engineering to be done.”

Some of the financing has already been completed, but Darcy declined to go into additional detail. After Louisiana, the company will quickly follow up with Maine.

HydrogenPro AS recently announced that it would join Black & Veatch and Energy Vault in financing the remaining capital requirements of DG Fuels’ project in Louisiana, which is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

Most of the engineering work in Louisiana is transferable to the company’s project in Maine. Darcy likened the facilities’ build-out to a class of ships: once the first is completed, the second and third can be built almost concurrently.

“There will be a point where we won’t be building one at a time,” Darcy said.

The opportunity for funders to participate is broad in the SAF space, Darcy said. There is a crossover of good economics and ESG, so strategics, industrials, private equity and other pure financial players can all be involved.

The broad base of capital eager to participate in companies that are innovative — but not too innovative as to scare investors — is indicative of the industry’s ability to secure offtakers and feedstock.

Storing power

It’s one thing to acknowledge the need for reduction of carbon, but hard work is required ahead, Darcy said.

“The low-hanging fruit has been done,” he said of the renewables industry. “Now it’s not really about the power, it’s about the storage of power.”

DG Fuels is an offtaker of non-peak renewable power to displace fossil fuel energy. But baseload renewable power is becoming available almost anywhere.

The Maine project will use stranded hydroelectric power, Louisiana will use solar, and projects in the Midwest will use wind, Darcy said. Additionally, geothermal power is “starting to become a very real opportunity,” he added.

Deploying broadly with renewable power gets past the issues of variability of renewable power at a reasonable cost, he said.

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