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US salt cavern developer selling hydrogen storage project

A US-based developer of salt cavern projects for hydrogen storage has retained a financial advisor to sell its first project and is informally seeking an equity investor.

Phoenix Hydrogen, a salt cavern storage developer based in Berkeley, California, has hired a financial advisor to run a sale of its primary project in Arizona, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Scotiabank is leading the process, which will launch next week, the sources said. The sale is for 100% of the company’s first project near Kingman, Arizona. The project is expected to reach FID in the next 18 months.

Phoenix CEO Shawn Drost said in an interview that the company is informally seeking a platform equity investment as well but is only willing to take on a minority partner. An equity sale would need to raise an amount in the “low-tens” of millions, he said. It’s a difficult proposition, as equity providers in the space tend to demand majority positions.

The company wants to bankroll projects from beginning to end as an owner operator, he said, but requires capital to do so.

Phoenix, a six-person team, has a relationship with GHD Group for EPC, he said. The company is seeking relationships with production-side developers to sign site and storage leases.

Scotiabank did not respond to requests for comment.

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Superior Plus establishes low carbon fuels distribution platform with CAD 1.05bn Certarus acquisition

Superior Plus Corp. and Certarus Ltd. have entered into a definitive agreement for Superior to acquire Certarus, a North American distributor of over-the-road low carbon fuels, including CNG, RNG and hydrogen.

Superior Plus Corp. and Certarus Ltd. have entered into a definitive agreement for Superior to acquire Certarus, a North American low carbon energy solutions provider for a total acquisition value of CAD 1.05bn, representing 8.5x 2022E EBITDA, according to a news release.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Superior will acquire all the outstanding common shares of Certarus, representing an equity value of CAD 853m and assume Certarus’ outstanding senior bank credit and leases with a total value of CAD 196m. The Certarus shareholders will receive CAD 353m in cash and CAD 500m of Superior common shares priced at $10.25 per share, representing approximately 17% pro forma ownership. The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of both Superior and Certarus and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions.

Certarus is a rapidly growing North American distributor of over-the-road low carbon fuels, including CNG, RNG and hydrogen. Through the use of mobile storage units (MSUs), Certarus delivers low cost and low carbon intensity energy alternatives to its customers. Certarus’ MSUs are interchangeable between CNG, RNG and hydrogen giving Certarus flexibility to service its customers across North America as they transition away from diesel and other distillates. Certarus provides a virtual pipeline to its customers that do not have infrastructure in place or are in need of supplemental infrastructure. Revenue is generated from fees for service to provide its lower cost and lower CI fuels, directly passing on changes in the commodity cost of its fuels to customers.

Certarus has 18 hubs throughout Canada and the U.S. and expects to have 640 MSUs by year end, making it the largest on-road low carbon fuels distributor in North America with approximately 85% of its revenue generated in the U.S. From 2020 to 2022E, Certarus has grown the number of MSUs by 37%, the volume of low carbon fuels delivered by approximately 76% to 57,000 MMBtu/d and is expected to maintain substantial growth as the demand for its products continues to increase. Over the same period, Certarus has more than doubled its Adjusted EBITDA2, with expected 2022 Adjusted EBITDA of $124 million, driven by continued volume and efficiency improvements.

Certarus’ rapid growth is the result of increasing customer demands to transition from higher cost and higher carbon intensity fuels such as diesel and other distillates to lower cost and lower carbon energy alternatives. The acquisition of Certarus accelerates Superior’s energy transition path with a business that is both rapidly growing and accretive to Superior’s financial results.

“The acquisition of Certarus is a highly strategic and transformative transaction for Superior as it represents an exciting opportunity for significant organic growth and provides our existing and new customers with the ability to meet their ESG goals through our low carbon energy distribution platform,” said Luc Desjardins, Superior’s president and CEO. “With our execution on the Superior Way Forward strategic initiatives in the past 24 months, we are ahead of our timing to achieve CAD 700m to CAD 750m in EBITDA from operations as we now expect to reach the lower end of the target by 2024.”

Curtis Philippon, Certarus’ President and CEO stated, “we are excited to be joining the Superior team. Certarus will benefit from Superior’s scale, portable fuel distribution expertise, and a shared commitment to safety. The joining of our businesses creates a strong platform upon which we can continue to grow and provide decarbonization solutions, including RNG and hydrogen.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Curtis and the team at Certarus,” said Angelo Rufino, Brookfield’s nominee on Superior’s board of directors and a member of Superior’s ad hoc Committee to evaluate Certarus. “Certarus’ low carbon and alternative fuel distribution platform provides an exciting new organic avenue of growth for Superior Plus and will further assist our core customers as they transition to a lower carbon future.”

Brookfield Asset Management made a USD 260m equity investment in Superior in 2020.

Superior intends to finance the Acquisition and related transaction expenses using a combination of approximately 48.8 million Superior common shares issued directly to Certarus shareholders valued at CAD 500m and incremental drawings from its expanded senior credit facilities.

The expanded senior credit facilities will increase to CAD 1.3bn from the current size of CAD 750m via the addition of a new CAD 550m senior secured credit facility with a three-year term. The New Credit Facility is fully committed with the CAD 550m provided by a group of lenders including Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, The Bank of Nova Scotia, The Toronto-Dominion Bank and National Bank of Canada.

CIBC Capital Markets is acting as exclusive financial advisor to Superior. Torys LLP is acting as Canadian legal counsel to Superior.

J.P. Morgan and National Bank Financial Inc. are acting as financial advisors to Certarus. TD Securities Inc. is acting as strategic advisor to Certarus. Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP is acting as legal counsel to Certarus.

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Hyzon promotes from within for key executive roles

The heavy-duty fuel cell vehicle maker is in the midst of a search for a permanent CFO.

Hyzon Motors has promoted two members on its senior leadership team to execute a strategy of developing and manufacturing hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems and the deployment of fuel cell electric vehicles, according to a news release.

Jiajia Wu has been named interim Chief Financial Officer, responsible for overseeing all financial operations including financial planning and analysis, accounting, and reporting.

Before joining Hyzon in 2021 as Chief Accounting Officer, Wu served as the Global Director of Cost & Technical Accounting and Reporting at UL Solutions. Prior to that role, she held various positions at EY.

Hyzon has launched a search for permanent CFO.

Pat Griffin, formerly President of Vehicle Operations, has been named President of North America and will oversee and manage Hyzon’s North America business regions, including full commercial, operational, and financial responsibilities. He will continue leading Hyzon’s global engineering, procurement, and operation efforts, and overseeing fuel cell production, US-based vehicle development and production, and US operations.

Griffin previously held leadership roles at multiple transport companies, including as CEO at Crane Carrier Company and President of Light Duty Truck & EV Solutions at Fontaine Modification.

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C-Zero closes financing round for gas decarbonization pilot

The company has closed a $34m dollar financing round led by SK Gas.

C-Zero Inc., a clean energy company that has developed a technology for natural gas decarbonization, has closed a $34m dollar financing round led by SK Gas, a subsidiary of South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate, the SK Group.

SK Gas was joined by two other new investors – Engie New Ventures and Trafigura, one of the world’s largest physical commodities trading companies – in addition to participation from all existing investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Eni Next, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AP Ventures, according to a news release.

The funding will be used to build C-Zero’s first pilot plant, which is expected to be online in Q1 2023. The plant will be capable of producing up to 400kg of hydrogen per day from natural gas with no CO2 emissions.

“We are excited to be scaling up our innovative technology with experienced investors and partners who recognize the need to decarbonize natural gas and the opportunity that turquoise hydrogen production represents,” said Eric McFarland, CTO of C-Zero. “Natural gas provides a quarter of the world’s energy, so the scale of the opportunity ahead of us is enormous. But we cannot do it alone.”

“We are eager to bring C-Zero’s technology to Korea, where we see great synergies with our plans to build a hydrogen value chain complex in Ulsan,” said Brian (Byung Suk) Yoon, CEO of SK Gas. “SK Gas strongly believes in the potential of methane pyrolysis and its ability to help countries like Korea in their decarbonization efforts by producing low-cost, clean hydrogen.”

“We see significant applications for low-carbon hydrogen production through methane pyrolysis which complement ENGIE’s existing activities and skill sets. Investing early on in C-Zero’s journey brings us familiarity with the technology, and could help ENGIE achieve its goal of Net Zero by 2045” said Johann Boukhors, Managing Director of ENGIE New Ventures.

“Trafigura is backing C-Zero as part of a series of investments in clean energy technologies, including low-carbon fuels needed for the energy transition. C-Zero is reaching a critical stage with the construction of its first pilot plant to successfully demonstrate the production of low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas,” said Julien Rolland, Head of Power and Renewables for Trafigura.

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Siemens Energy planning new US electrolyzer capacity

The company is targeting expansion in the U.S. given the favorable policy environment following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Siemens Energy North America is laying the groundwork for new electrolyzer manufacturing capacity in the United States, President Richard Voorberg said during a panel discussion recently.

Siemens Energy, a global energy technology company, makes an 18 MW PEM electrolyzer, one of the largest in the world, and is targeting expansion in the U.S. given the favorable policy environment following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Voorberg said.

The company is building its first gigawatt factory in Berlin, Germany via a joint venture with France’s Air Liquide. The Berlin factory is expected to produce 1 GW of PEM electrolyzers per year starting in mid-2023.

“As soon as we get that first one up and running… I’ve got a plan already to put a 1,000 MW line in the US,” Voorberg said, speaking during an event at the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Washington D.C. last month.

Siemens’ existing manufacturing capacity in the US could expand to accommodate that new line, or the company could look to build an entirely new facility, Voorberg said. He added that the recently passed IRA helps makes the business case to do so.

Following the IRA, customers went from asking for fractions of a megawatt to seeking 2 GW in a single order, Voorberg said. His 18 MW line is now insufficient.

“We’ve got to scale up,” he said. “Scale is everything.”

Voorberg said his company sees hydrogen being used in electricity production around 2035, but mobility can use it now.

The planned move by Siemens underscores the extent to which the IRA legislation has trained the hydrogen industry’s focus on the U.S. Norway-based electrolyzer producer Nel is speeding efforts to expand electrolyzer capacity in the U.S. And Cummins announced last month that it would add electrolyzer production space at its existing facility in Fridley, Minnesota.

Siemens Energy is independent of Siemens AG, having spun off in 2020. The company has about 10,000 employees in the US and roughly 2,000 in Canada.

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California biomass-to-hydrogen firm in Series A

A woody biomass-to-hydrogen firm in California is conducting an in-house Series A for engineering and design on its first project, one that will need more than $800m of debt and equity in the future.

Mote Inc. is aiming to finish a Series A round, raising between $12m and $15m, by the end of the year, CEO Joshuah Stolaroff said in an interview.

The company does not have a relationship with a financial advisor and has been conducting the raise in-house, he said. Moving forward the company will need a financial advisor.

The Series A will provide some 18 months of technology development runway, plus engineering and design on the first project in Bakersfield, Kern County. That will require some $800m in debt and project equity to start in the next year.

A second project in Sacramento is in the pre-Feed stage. That development is the subject of a recently secured grant from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

“We need big partners to do it on any meaningful scale,” Stolaroff said of biomass-to-hydrogen. Investors tend to be technology VCs with little or no knowledge of project finance, and infra funds looking for no-risk projects. “We fall somewhere in between.”

Part of the Arches H2 hub in California, Mote has ambitions to expand to other areas of the US with good biomass supply and CO2 storage, like the southeast and Gulf Coast, Stolaroff said. The company would also like to expand internationally.

“We are a great deal right now,” he said of the Series A,” adding that a Series B or project equity round will follow shortly.

Majority equity is held by the company’s six employees, Stolaroff said. There are also seed investors that hold equity.

Abundant feedstock and a growing offtake market

Mote’s three primary feedstocks are agricultural and forestry reside and urban green waste. California produces some 45m tons of it per year and the number nationwide is about half-a-billion, Stolaroff said.

Mote is confident for demand from hydrogen customers, Stoaroff said. Transportation is expected to be a strong demand source by the time Mote is operational. The Arches hub also has connections with municipal users, filling stations and the ports of LA and Long Beach.

“We are all planning for growth,” he said.

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Exclusive: Monarch Energy targeting green hydrogen FID in 2024

Monarch is moving forward with several green hydrogen projects in the Gulf Coast region, most notably a 500 MW project near Beaumont, Texas and a 300 MW project near Geismar, Louisiana.

Green hydrogen developer Monarch Energy aims to take its first final investment decision as soon as next year, CEO Ben Alingh said in an interview.

Monarch is moving forward with several green hydrogen projects in the Gulf Coast region, most notably a 500 MW project near Beaumont, Texas and a 300 MW project near Geismar, Louisiana.

Alingh said the company is seeking to advance the projects to FID by late 2024 and early 2025. Monarch has not engaged a project finance banker yet, he said.

The company recently announced a $25m preferred equity investment and $400m project equity commitment from LS Power.

The proceeds of the preferred equity raise will fund pre-FID aspects of Monarch’s 4.5 GW green hydrogen development platform: overhead, project development, interconnection, land, permitting, and engineering.

The $400m commitment, meanwhile, is earmarked for project equity investments in Monarch’s pipeline of projects. Under the arrangement, the projects will be dropped into a new entity, Clean Hydrogen Fuels, LLC, where LS Power provides the capital and Monarch provides the project, Alingh said.

“On a project-by-project basis the projects will be transferred to Clean Hydrogen Fuels if they are selected,” he said. The Clean Hydrogen Fuels entity is jointly owned by Monarch and LS Power.

Monarch did not use a financial advisor for the capital raise. Clean Energy Counsel served as Monarch’s law firm.

For both the Beaumont and Geismar facilities, Monarch has signed MoUs with Entergy to supply long-term renewable power. Monarch is engaged with industrial users of hydrogen in each location as potential offtakers. It plans to deliver hydrogen via local Monarch-developed hydrogen pipelines that it is developing with EPC partners, he said.

“We endeavor to be as close to our end user as possible with our electrolyzer project, to limit development and execution risk on delivery,” he said. For the volumes of Monarch’s projects, trucking solutions are not on the table, he said, as it would simply require too many trucks.

The company has additional production facilities under development in Freeport, Texas, as well as four other locations in Texas, according to the ReSource project database.

Monarch is also interested in end markets for hydrogen derivatives like methanol and ammonia, but Alingh notes that every project “starts with one core focus, and that is making the cheapest green hydrogen possible.”

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