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US hydrogen developer auditioning bankers

A US-based clean fuels developer has large capital needs for unannounced green hydrogen projects in California and Illinois, as well as an ammonia facility in Texas.

A US-based clean fuels developer has large capital needs for unannounced green hydrogen projects in California and Illinois, as well as an ammonia facility in Texas.

Avina Clean Hydrogen has yet to formally engage an investment banker to raise the equity and debt needed for a trio of projects under development in the US, CEO Vishal Shah said in an interview.

The company, which recently announced the formation of a strategic advisory board composed of executives from companies like Cummins, bp and Rolls Royce, will need $600m or more of debt and between $200m and $300m of equity, as previously reported by ReSource. Capital raising talks are focused on the operating company and project level.

Capital raises for Avina’s 700,000 mtpa green ammonia project in the Texas Gulf Coast and a larger operating company raise will launch next month, Shah said.

“The amounts that we are going to need to raise have gone up,” Shah said. “We are working with a number of banks but we’ve not engaged anyone formally.”

Buildout of the Texas project has been accelerated. The company recently announced an agreement with KBR for that project, which is scheduled to come online next year.

Project level capital has been raised for Texas and a green hydrogen project in Southern California, Shah said. An additional green hydrogen project in Illinois is in development as well.

Finding the renewable power

Renewable power needs for these facilities are big, but Shah said the company doesn’t see a shortage of power. Instead, developers are facing interconnection issues and subsequent cost increases.

Hydrogen developers in California are in many cases offering higher prices for renewable energy than other buyers, Shah said. The issue is that credit-worthy investment counterparties are often seen as more attractive offtakers regardless of the higher price offers from aspiring hydrogen producers.

“I would say California is different,” Shah said. “The offtake market is a challenge.”

There are renewables developers with a genuine interest in hydrogen looking at the sector as a long-term play, Shah said. But for some without a strategic interest in hydrogen, a community choice aggregator offering a 15-year offtake is more certain than a hydrogen developer offering a 10-year offtake; higher price can be seen as a trade-off.

“That’s the nature of the beast, right now.”

Regulatory uncertainty

Investors looking into the space are hesitating to deploy capital in some cases because of uncertainty around IRA clarifications, particularly with regards to the PTC qualifications, Vishal said.

“A lot of the customers, lenders, everybody’s waiting to make decisions,” Vishal said. Offtakers also have hesitations. “Nobody wants to sign long-term contracts in an environment where pricing is not clear.”

Shah said investors should look for offtake when investing in projects. Avina has two of three contracts signed for each of its projects.

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Avangrid and Vitol reach tax credit transfer deal

The agreement marks one of the largest publicly announced PTC transfer deals to-date since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Avangrid, Inc., a sustainable energy company and member of the Iberdrola Group, and Vitol Inc. have reached a landmark transfer agreement for an estimated $100m of 2023 production tax credits (PTCs) from eight operating wind farms, totaling 1,134 MW of generating capacity, according to a news release.

Basis Climate served as advisor to Avangrid in the transfer, according to a separate press release.

The IRA created a new transferable credit framework to help developers monetize PTCs. Under the IRA, renewable energy owners like Avangrid who qualify for tax credits but are not able to use them immediately can transfer credits to a third-party investor, such as Vitol. Prior to the IRA, this was only possible through a tax equity partnership, which requires a lengthy diligence and negotiation process as well as significant transaction costs.

“The Inflation Reduction Act offers an unprecedented stable framework, enhancing the attractiveness of renewables,” said Pedro Azagra, Avangrid CEO. “It has created a tax credit transfer process that is streamlined and removes the bottleneck that existed with the tax equity investment structure. We expect this transaction to serve as a reference point in this rapidly expanding market. The transfer ensures that we receive greater value from our renewable energy projects, and it will allow us to pay down debt and make further capital investments to benefit our customers.”

“We are delighted to partner with Avangrid through this tax credit investment, part of Vitol’s broader strategic investment in renewable resources and the energy transition,” said Rick Evans, CFO of Vitol Inc. “This new tax credit transfer mechanism promises to unlock significant pools of new capital to support investment in renewable resources.”

In its press release, Basis Climate noted that the seller had multiple potential buyers, while a simple 10-page contract reduced friction and costs.

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Vertex Energy appoints advisor for renewable fuels strategy

NASDAQ-listed Vertex has engaged BofA as strategic financial advisor.

Vertex Energy, Inc., a specialty refiner and marketer of refined products, has named BofA Securities as strategic financial advisor to assist with its renewable fuels and sustainable products growth strategy.

During this engagement, the company expects to review various potential strategic transaction opportunities aimed at strengthening the balance sheet to support growth acceleration and asset development in line with the company’s forward trajectory as an energy transition company, it said in a statement.

Vertex has not set a timetable for the completion of this process and does not intend to comment further unless or until the Board of Directors has approved a definitive course of action, or it is determined that other disclosure is necessary or appropriate.

Benjamin P. Cowart, President and CEO of Vertex, stated, “Scaling our renewable fuels and sustainable products strategy is a top priority for us. As such, we are tightening our focus on strategic initiatives and considering options that optimally support our long-term vision. We believe BofA has the right tools and expertise to help us transition into this next phase of development for the company.”

Vertex Energy commissioned its first renewable diesel facility at the company’s Mobile refinery and the first renewable diesel facility in Alabama in. May.

In 2022, Vertex acquired a conventional fuels refinery from Shell plc, immediately launching a $115m conversion project. The primary aim of the project was to convert a standalone unit within the refinery to facilitate the production of renewable diesel, a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to petroleum diesel fuel.

The project reached mechanical completion on March 31st of this year.

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Chrysalix Venture Capital closes fifth fund

The 120m fund will deploy into technologies supporting carbon neutrality in energy, mining, transport, chemicals, steel and cement, and forestry.

Chrysalix Venture Capital, an industrial sustainability investor with offices in Holland and Canada, has closed its fifth fund at $120m to invest in early-stage companies across the globe, according to a news release.

The Carbon Neutrality Fund is dedicated to developing technologies enabling carbon neutrality in energy, mining, transport, chemicals, steel and cement, and forestry. It will focus on technologies that include resource efficiency solutions, alternative fuels, materials substitution and circularity, carbon as a resource, negative emission technologies, carbon analytics and markets and will primarily invest across Canada, the US and Europe.

Investors in the fund include Evonik, LyondellBasell and Siam Cement Group (SCG).

“With this first close, the Fund is on its way to raising its target size of [$120m] and is supported by Chrysalix’s expanded presence in Europe, as well as the Chrysalix  ecosystem which includes many of the leading global industrial companies, top universities from Europe, North America and Asia, partnerships with climate technology accelerators and providers of non dilutive and growth capital,” the release states.

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Houston ammonia and hydrogen terminal on the block

The owners of a recently developed Houston terminal with proximity to ammonia, hydrogen, and nitrogen pipelines are working with an advisor on a sale process.

The owners of Vopak Moda Houston, a Gulf Coast hydrogen and ammonia terminaling asset, have hired an investment bank to run a sale process, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Intrepid Investment Bankers has been retained to run the process, the sources said.

Vopak Moda and Intrepid did not respond to requests for comment.

Formed in 2016, Vopak Moda Houston is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal Vopak and Moda Midstream. Moda Midstream is a portfolio company of EnCap Flatrock Midstream, which did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2021 the JV commissioned its deepwater dock at the Port of Houston. It has constructed storage and terminal infrastructure for industrial gas product lines, with the stated intention of becoming a premier hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia terminaling hub in the Gulf Coast.

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Exclusive: Hydrogen adoption and production firm prepping capital raise

A decarbonization services provider is in development on multiple utility-owned hydrogen adoption projects in the Northeast, Texas and Georgia and is preparing to launch a capital raise in 3Q24.

Celadyne, a Chicago-based decarbonization and hydrogen solutions company, will launch a Series A this year as it continues its role in the development of several utility-owned hydrogen adoption projects in the US, founder and CEO Gary Ong told ReSource.

A $20m to $30m capital raise will likely launch in 3Q24, Ong said. The company is relying on existing investors from its recent seed round to advise, and the amount could change based on grants.

While the $4.5m seed round allowed the company to focus on transportation mobility, the Series A will be used to do more work on hydrogen production, so the company will be looking for strategics in oil and gas, renewable energy, and utilities.

DLA Piper is the company’s legal advisor, Ong said.

Celadyne has a contract signed with a utility in the Northeast for a small electrolysis demonstration and, following that, a multimillion-dollar project. Discussions on how to finance that latter project are underway.

Additional electrolysis projects in Texas and Georgia are in later discussions, while less mature deals are taking shape with a nuclear customer in Illinois and another project in Southern California, Ong said.

Fuel cell customers (typically OEMs that use hydrogen) to which Celadyne ships equipment are clustered mostly in Vancouver, Michigan and California.

Meanwhile, Celadyne has generated revenues from military contracts of about $1m, Ong said, a source of non-recurring revenue that has prodded the company to look for a fuel cell integration partner specific to the defense application.

‘Blocking hydrogen’

The company, founded in 2019, is focused on solving for the demand and supply issues for which the fledgling US hydrogen market is notorious. Thus, it is split-focused between hydrogen adoption and production.

Celadyne has developed a nanoparticle coating that can be applied to existing fuel cell and electrolyzer membranes.

On the heavy-duty side, such as diesel generators or back-up power, the company improves durability of engines between 3X and 5X, Ong said.

On the electrolysis side, the technology improves rote efficiency by 15%. In production, Celadyne is looking for pilot projects and verification studies.

“We’re very good at blocking hydrogen,” he said. “In a fuel cell or electrolyzer, when you have hydrogen on one side and oxygen on the other side, you need something to make sure the hydrogen never sees the oxygen,” noting that it improves safety, reduces side reaction chemistry and improves efficiency.

Hydrogen adoption now will lead to green proliferation later should the economics prove out, according to Ong. If not, blue hydrogen and other decarbonized sources will still pave the way to climate stability.

The only negative for that is the apparent cost-floor for blue hydrogen in fuel cell technologies, Ong said, as carbon capture can only be so cost efficient.

“So, if the price floor is say, $3.25 or $3.50 per kg, it doesn’t mean that you cannot use it for things like transportation, it just means that it might be hard to use it for things like shipping, where the fuel just has to be cheaper,” Ong said.

Three companies

Celadyne is split into three focus applications: defense, materials, and production. If only one of those wings works, Ong said he could see selling to a strategic at some point.

“If any of those things work out, we ought to become a billion-dollar company,” he said.

If all three work out, Ong will likely seek to do an IPO.

An acquisition could be driven by an acquiror that can help Celadyne commercialize its products faster, he said.

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Brookfield-owned renewables developer planning hydrogen co-location

An IPP and developer of wind, solar and storage projects is in early discussions with potential partners to co-locate electrolysis with its operating assets and projects in development.

Scout Clean Energy, the Boulder, Colorado-based IPP and renewables developer, is laying the groundwork to co-locate electrolysis for green hydrogen with its wind and solar assets, CEO Michael Rucker said in an interview.

The company’s Power2X team is charged with looking for alternative strategies, Rucker said.

“We are actively trying to match project opportunities with the future hydrogen economy,” he said, noting that the company’s operating wind portfolio provides a crucial piece of that. “Wind is an especially good fit for hydrogen production just in terms of pricing.”

Scout, which is owned by Brookfield Renewable, sees itself as producing green electrons and doesn’t want to get into marketing and distribution of hydrogen, Rucker said.

Brookfield acquired Scout in 2022 for $1bn, with the potential to invest an additional $350m to support development activities.

Scout has its first solar project in development in ERCOT, a market where shipping of hydrogen would make for a promising project, Rucker said. The company has also looked at the Midwest, where a robust SAF production ecosystem is forming, as well as the Pacific Northwest.

The company is already working with one hydrogen developer to match production to one of its wind farms, Rucker said. An exact location has not been selected.

Pricing diligence has been promising, Rucker said. But the offtake market in the US remains slow to develop despite regulatory encouragement.

“The IRA has given us maybe the most subsidized hydrogen production market in the world but it’s really being production-driven not demand-driven, so we really need to see more of the economy using hydrogen,” Rucker said. “I trust that will come, it’s just going to take longer than we think.”

Scout is not ready to take anything to market related to hydrogen, but ultimately there will be a need for financial advisory, Rucker said.
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