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Verdagy opens electrolyzer facility in Silicon Valley

The facility launch comes on the heals of a $73m funding round closed last month.

Verdagy, a pioneer in advanced water electrolysis electrolyzer technologies for large-scale industrial applications, today announced its new facility opening in Newark, California, with more than 100,000 sq. ft. of advanced manufacturing space.

The Silicon Valley factory will be the first to manufacture advanced water electrolyzers in large volumes in the United States. The commencement of operations at Verdagy’s highly-automated manufacturing facility will start in Q1 2024. Verdagy expects to double the total number of its employees by next summer to support its expansion and the operation of this new, state-of-the-art facility.

Verdagy’s customers are in heavy industries such as chemicals, ammonia/fertilizer, steel,  and e-fuels which all require large amounts of green hydrogen. “Our new Silicon Valley manufacturing facility will accelerate the production and cost reduction of our eDynamic® 20 megawatt electrolyzer module, which is the basic building block for delivering larger, gigawatt-scale plants,” said Marty Neese, Verdagy CEO.

The decision to expand Verdagy’s manufacturing capabilities in California comes at a time when the state is prioritizing the development of its hydrogen economy and becoming a federally funded hydrogen hub, as outlined in Governor Newsom’s Hydrogen Market Development Strategy.

“We are focused on building an entire renewable hydrogen ecosystem in California to achieve our climate goals – including the crucial step of manufacturing electrolyzers,” said Dee Dee Myers, Senior Advisor to Governor Newsom and Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. “Verdagy’s decision to expand their footprint here reflects California’s unique strength in creating new markets, enabling the creation of clean energy jobs while solving our most existential challenges with the technology of the future.”

Last month, Verdagy closed a $73m Series B funding round, co-led by Temasek and Shell Ventures. The new funding enables Verdagy to accelerate the launch and commercialization of its eDynamic 20 MW electrolyzer module, which will serve as a fundamental unit to future systems at the 200 MW scale and beyond.

The company’s goal is to design a factory that will serve as the basis for even larger scale production facilities that will be developed in other locations to support Verdagy’s rapid expansion. The company’s existing Moss Landing, CA location will remain focused on advanced research and development, and commercial pilot-plant operations to support Verdagy’s customer needs in the future and continue to deliver technology that produces green hydrogen at the industry’s lowest cost.

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ZeroAvia acquires fuel cell innovator HyPoint

ZeroAvia, the American and British provider of zero-emission solutions for commercial aviation, has acquired California-based HyPoint in a bid to advance hydrogen-electric flight.

ZeroAvia, the American and British provider of zero-emission solutions for commercial aviation, has acquired California-based fuel cell stack innovator HyPoint, according to a press release.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition adds HyPoint’s high-temperature fuel cell technology – an avenue for increasing power output and energy density of aviation fuel cell powertrains – to ZeroAvia’s expertise in developing the full powertrain to enable hydrogen-electric flight.

All 40 HyPoint team members will be integrated into ZeroAvia, working across the R&D locations in Kemble, Gloucestershire and HyPoint’s location in Sandwich, Kent.

HyPoint’s CEO Alex Ivanenko joins ZeroAvia as GM for VTOL and New Segments, to develop ZeroAvia’s rotorcraft business applications, and to explore other applications outside of ZeroAvia’s core focus on fixed-wing commercial aviation.

The two companies have worked together on co-developing and testing HTPEM fuel cell technology as part of ZeroAvia’s powertrain development over the last couple of years, with HyPoint relocating the bulk of its R&D into the UK in February 2022 to support the partnership.

This new development comes on the heels of the announcement of a deal with ZeroAvia’s long-term fuel cell partner PowerCell which will see the serial delivery of hydrogen fuel stacks beginning in 2024.

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Swiss firm reaches financial close on $1.5bn ammonia plant in Mexico

KfW IPEX was lead arranger of project financing, putting together a banking consortium of seven lenders and ECA coverage with Euler Hermes.

Proman, a global leader in natural gas derived products, has reached financial close on a $1.5bn investment for the financing of its 2,220 MT/day anhydrous ammonia plant in Topolobampo, Mexico, the company said earlier this month.

KfW IPEX was lead arranger of project financing, putting together a banking consortium of seven lenders and ECA coverage with Euler Hermes.

A 2020 announcement from KfW noted a total investment volume of $1.25bn, with the bank consortium contributing a total of $860m in debt capital. A considerable portion of the financing was secured by an export credit guarantee from the German government (Hermes cover).

Speaking on the announcement, David Cassidy, Chief Executive of Proman, said of the company’s presence in Mexico, “We are already a significant producer of ammonia, and this new plant will increase our annual production capacity to 2.8 million tonnes at a time when fertilizers have a critical role to play in the agricultural sector in Mexico and for global food security. We have built strong relationships with local stakeholders and communities and look forward to a long-term future in Mexico.”

Construction of the petrochemical complex will begin immediately.

Local news reports note that the project, which was initiated in 2018, faced several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the revocation of its environmental authorization due to a failure by the federal Environment Ministry to consult with local indigenous communities.

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US fuel cell developer garners tax equity investments

Connecticut-based fuel cell developer FuelCell Energy has closed on tax equity financings supporting at least three fuel cell projects in the US.

Connecticut-based fuel cell developer FuelCell Energy has closed on tax equity financings supporting at least three fuel cell projects in the US.

The company closed on a tax equity financing transaction with East West Bank for the 7.4 MW fuel cell project located on the US Navy Submarine Base in Groton, CT, also known as the Submarine Force. East West Bank’s tax equity commitment, closed in August 2021, totals $15m.

FuelCell Energy installed 7.4 MW of SureSource™ power platforms at the U.S. Navy Submarine Base in Groton, CT to provide a long-term supply of power to an existing electrical substation, according to a news release. The fuel cell plant is part of a multifaceted plan by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative to provide new power resources and support the desire of the Department of Defense to add resiliency and grid independence to key military installations. The highly efficient fuel cell power generation project minimizes carbon output while providing continuous power to the strategic military base. The U.S. Navy continues to purchase power from CMEEC and Groton Utilities, who in turn purchase the power from FuelCell Energy under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

This pay-as-you-go structure enables CMEEC and the Navy to avoid a direct investment in owning the power plant which will be operated and maintained by the company.

The company also closed on a tax equity sale-leaseback financing transaction for the 1.4 MW SureSource 1500™ biofuels fuel cell project with the City of San Bernardino Municipal Water Department in California with Crestmark Equipment Finance, a division of MetaBank®. Crestmark’s commitment totals $10.2m through a ten-year sale-leaseback structure and further demonstrates the market’s interest in FuelCell Energy’s differentiated ability to use on-site biofuels, to eliminate flaring and deliver carbon neutral decarbonization energy platforms.

A third tax equity investment in 2021 came from Franklin Park for the 7.4  MW fuel cell project located in Yaphank, Long Island, in New York. Franklin Park’s tax equity commitment totals $12.7m following the declaration of mechanical completion of the project.

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Green hydrogen developer in exclusivity with new investor

New York-based green hydrogen developer Ambient Fuels is in exclusivity with a new investor, with proceeds from the capital raise slated to fund project development and acquisitions.

Ambient Fuels, the New York-based green hydrogen developer, is in exclusivity with a new investor for a bilateral capital raise, CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview.

Susman declined to name the private equity provider but said the backing will allow Ambient to develop several projects, as well as acquire projects from other developers. The deal is proceeding without the help of a financial advisor.

Once the company reaches its run rate, Ambient plans to complete three to four projects per year costing $50m and up, Susman said, with the first expected to reach operation in 2025.

The company’s initial geographic focus is on the Gulf Coast, centered on the Port of Corpus Christi, Susman said. New York, California, the Pacific Northwest and traditional wind energy states in the Midwest and West are areas of additional work.

Hydrogen hubs

Ambient is closely following the DOE hydrogen hub applications process, Susman said. Which regions are awarded funding could make a difference for where the company locates new projects.

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.

Open for offtake business  

Ambient is looking for offtakers in industries that use the molecules for feedstock and energy but need to meet decarbonization targets.

The company is working to provide hydrogen as an industrial feedstock and energy source to sectors including transportation, oil and gas, mining, glass and steel production and automobile manufacturing. Supplying hydrogen for ammonia fertilizer is another target market.

Advisors with clients in those industries should reach out to Ambient, Susman said.

M&A strategy

Ambient strives to be a fully integrated devco with the resources, capital and expertise to take a project to fruition, Susman said. Projects developed by smaller companies can look to Ambient as a buyer for their projects.

“We want to be a home for those great projects that are being developed independently,” Susman said. “Absolutely we will be acquiring projects.”

Smaller developers with good projects could also be targets for takeover with the backing from the new investor, Susman said. The firm could also make a technology buy in software for project development, operations, or possibly the equipment side, though Susman said there’s a low probability of that.

Financial advisors that have leads on good projects Ambient can acquire are welcome to pitch, Susman said.

Susman said he is not in a hurry to exit Ambient and can see the company being independently financed for years to come.

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Exclusive: World Energy GH2 targeting early 2025 FID

World Energy GH2 is aiming to reach FID early next year – and advancing project financing discussions with a pair of advisors – on the $5bn phase 1 green ammonia development in Newfoundland and Labrador known as Project Nujio’qonik. We spoke to Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet in detail about the project.

World Energy GH2, the developer of a green ammonia export project in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is aiming to reach FID in early 2025 on phase 1 of Project Nujio’qonik, Managing Director and CEO Sean Leet said in an interview.

Phase 1 of the project entails the construction of a 1 GW wind facility and 600 MW of electrolysis for an estimated cost of $5bn, Leet said. Once complete, the first phase of Project Nujio’qonik is expected to produce approximately 400,000 tonnes of green ammonia for export.

The developer is working with Green Giraffe and RBC Capital Markets to advance a project financing deal, the same advisors that assisted World Energy GH2 on a $95m loan from Export Development Canada, announced last week.

The debt-to-equity split for the $5bn capital raise is still being iterated as the company looks at financing options with the available government subsidies and potential support from export agencies, Leet said. The company has not yet lined up an arranger for debt financing and expects to make a decision on that role at a later date, he added.

A schedule update is in progress as part of the project’s FEED readiness assessment. This update, considering factors such as long lead item availability and offtaker delivery requirements, is a required step before the start of FEED and is expected to be released around April 15. 

The FEED readiness assessment, Leet said, “is a process that we’ve undertaken with some value engineering due to some learnings from the pre-FEED deliverables and some other aspects of just making sure we’re well prepared for FEED so we can execute flawlessly on that.”

Leet expects the FEED process will take between nine and 12 months, setting the developer up for an FID in early 2025. As part of a competitive bidding process, World Energy GH2 was awarded four different Crown land sites, each capable of producing 1 GW of wind power, allowing for additional phases up to 4 GW of renewables.

Newfoundland, the distant Canadian island where Project Nujio’qonik is located, has become a hotbed of green ammonia project activity due to its exceptional wind resource, with as many eight major projects springing up (see, and zoom, on map).

Investment outlook

The Canadian government has promulgated a clean hydrogen investment tax credit of up to 40% on certain expenses, available until 2035. And in its most recent budget, the government floated the idea of providing contracts for difference to help de-risk emission-reducing projects. 

Leet believes that the CfD arrangement, which will be administered by the Canada Growth Fund, will be tied to the Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance, an agreement that promotes clean hydrogen trade ties between the two nations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed the accord at World Energy GH2’s site in Stephenville, with the aim of shipping hydrogen or ammonia by 2025 – a timeline that looks increasingly stretched. And World Energy GH2 earlier this year became the first North American member of Germany’s Port of Wilhelmshaven's energy hub.

“Those details haven’t been announced yet but we’re hopeful that the CfD mechanism is there to work alongside the ITC,” Leet said.

Additional financing could come from more export credit agencies “in the countries you would expect” that would support local companies providing equipment to Project Nujio’qonik. “That will be a very likely piece of our financing arrangement.”

World Energy GH2 is in discussions with various offtakers, but will be able to engage in greater detail once the ITC and CfD subsidies are clarified, and once the project receives its environmental permit, Leets said. 

World Energy GH2 was set up as a standalone Canadian company with the sole purpose of executing on Project Nujio’qonik. It is owned by its founders along with SK ecoplant, the environment and energy arm of Korea’s SK Group, which took a 20% stake in the company – and also the project – for $50m.

Gene Gebolys, the founder and CEO of World Energy LLC, a provider of low-carbon fuels, is also a founder of Project Nujio’qonik. And John Risley, another partner of the Canadian project, is a co-owner of World Energy LLC.

Support from existing investors along with the Export Development Canada facility announced last week make the project entity well capitalized to move “expeditiously” through FEED to FID, Leet said.

Canada to Europe

World Energy GH2 is talking to the major ammonia players about a scale-up of import capacity on European shores.

Leet noted specifically that the Antwerp-Bruges port has plans to scale up to handle the increased amounts of ammonia imports, for use in the various industries located in Belgium and potentially on to Germany from there.

Three companies – Fluxys, Advario Stolthaven Antwerp, and Advario Gas Terminal – have said they are considering constructing an open-access ammonia import terminal at the port of Antwerp-Bruges. Air Liquide also said it will build an ammonia cracking facility there.

The Port of Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where World Energy GH2 is a member of the energy hub, has similar plans to scale up, with various companies evaluating ammonia import terminals and cracking facilities.

Meanwhile, Leet said the ammonia product that it ships to Europe, in addition to benefiting from Canadian subsidies and tax credits, will also comply with the EU’s RFNBO standards.

The project has existing grid and water connections already at the Port of Stephenville, since the hydrogen plant will be built on top of a former paper mill which consumed both water and electricity. 

“So we're fortunate to have that grid connection available to us and the power in the Newfoundland grid is well over 90% existing hydro,” Leet said. “So between that and our wind power, we will have no issue meeting the standard set by the EU for green hydrogen and it will be 100% RFNBO compliant.”

The company is working on regulatory certification with multiple bodies but has not finalized a provider.

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Interview: Vinson & Elkins’ Alan Alexander on the emerging hydrogen project development landscape

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

Vinson & Elkins Partner Alan Alexander, whose clients include OCI and Lotus Infrastructure, has watched the hydrogen project development space evolve from a fledgling idea to one that is ready for actionable projects.

In the meantime, a number of novel legal and commercial issues facing hydrogen project developers have come to the forefront, as outlined in a paper from the law firm this week, which serves as a guide for thinking through major development questions that can snag projects.

In an interview, Alexander, a Houston-based project development and finance lawyer, says that, although some of the issues are unique – like the potential for a clean fuels pricing premium, ownership of environmental attributes, or carbon leaking from a sequestration site – addressing them is built on decades of practice.

“The way I like to put it is, yes, there are new issues being addressed using traditional tools, but there’s not yet a consensus around what constitutes ‘market terms’ for a number of them, so we are having to figure that out as we go,” he says.

Green hydrogen projects, for example, are “quite possibly” the most complex project type he has seen, given that they sit at the nexus between renewable electricity and downstream fuels applications, subjecting them to the commercial and permitting issues inherent in both verticals.

But even given the challenges, Alexander believes the market has reached commercial take-off for certain types of projects.

“When the hydrogen rush started, first it was renewables developers who knew a lot about how to develop renewables but nothing about how to market and sell hydrogen,” he says. “Then you got the people who were very enthusiastic about developing hydrogen projects but didn’t know exactly what to do with it. And now we’re beginning to see end-use cases develop and actionable projects that are very exciting, in some cases where renewables developers and hydrogen developers have teamed up to focus on their core competencies.”

A pricing premium?

In the article, Vinson & Elkins lawyers note that commodities pricing indices are not yet distinguishing between low-carbon and traditional fuels, even though a clean fuel has more value due to its low-carbon attributes. The observation echoes the conclusion of a group of offtakers who viewed the prospect of paying a premium for clean fuels as unrealistic, as they would need to pass on the higher costs to customers.

Eventually, Alexander says, the offtake market should price in a premium for clean products, but that might depend in the near term on incentives for clean fuels demand, such as carbon offsets and levies, like the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.

“Ultimately what we need is for the market to say, ‘I will pay more for low-carbon products,’” he says. “The mindset of being willing to pay more for low-carbon products is going to need to begin to permeate into other sectors. 30 or 40 years ago the notion of paying a premium for an organic food didn’t exist. But today there are whole grocery store chains built around the idea. When the consumer is willing to pay a premium for low-carbon food, that will incentivize a farmer to pay a premium for low carbon fertilizer and ammonia, which will ultimately incentivize the payment of a premium for low-carbon hydrogen. The same needs to repeat itself across other sectors, such as fuels and anything made from steel.”

The law firm writes that US projects seeking to export to Europe or Asia need to take into account the greenhouse gas emissions and other requirements of the destination market when designing projects.

In the agreements that V&E is working on, for example, clients were first focused on structuring to make sure they met requirements for IRA tax credits and other domestic incentives, Alexander says. Meanwhile, as those clean fuels made their way to export markets, customers were coming back with a long list of requirements, “so what we’re seeing is this very interesting influx” of sustainability considerations into the hydrogen space, many of which are driven by requirements of the end-use market, such as the EU or Japan.

The more stringent requirements have existed for products like biofuels for some time, he adds, “but we’re beginning to see it in hydrogen and non-biogenic fuels.”

Sharing risk

Hydrogen projects are encountering other novel commercial and legal issues for which a “market” has not yet been developed, the law firm says, especially given the entry of a raft of new players and the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In the case of a blue hydrogen or ammonia project where carbon is captured and sequestered but eventually leaks from a geological formation, for example, no one knows what the risk truly is, and the market is waiting for an insurance product to provide protection, Alexander says. But until it does, project parties can implement a risk-sharing mechanism in the form of a cap on liabilities – a traditional project development tool.

“If you’re a sequestration party you say, ‘Yeah, I get it, there is a risk of recapture and you’re relying on me to make sure that it doesn’t happen. But if something catastrophic does happen and the government were to reclaim your tax credits, it would bankrupt me if I were to fully indemnify you. So I simply can’t take the full amount of that risk.’”

What ends up getting negotiated is a cap on the liability, Alexander says, or the limit up to which the sequestration party is willing to absorb the liability through an indemnity.

The market is also evolving to take into account project-on-project risk for hydrogen, where an electrolyzer facility depends on the availability of, for example, clean electricity from a newly built wind farm.

“For most of my career, having a project up and reaching commercial operations by a certain date is addressed through no-fault termination rights,” he says. “But given the number of players in the hydrogen space and the amount of dollars involved, you’re beginning to see delay liquidated damages – which are typically an EPC concept – creep into supply and offtake agreements.”

If a developer is building an electrolyzer facility, and the renewables partner doesn’t have the wind farm up and running on time, it’s not in the hydrogen developer’s interest to terminate through a no-fault clause, given that they would then have a stranded asset and need to start over with another renewable power provider. Instead, Alexander says, the renewables partner can offset the losses by paying liquidated damages.

Commercial watch list

In terms of interesting commercial models for hydrogen, Alexander says he is watching the onsite modular hydrogen development space as well as power-to-fuels (natural gas, diesel, SAF), ammonia and methanol, given the challenges of transporting hydrogen.

“If you’re going to produce hydrogen, you need to produce it close to the place where it’s going to be consumed, because transporting it is hard. Or you need to turn it into something else that we already know how to transport – natural gas, renewable diesel, naphtha, ammonia.”

Alexander believes power-to-fuels projects and developers that are focused on smaller, on-site modular low-carbon hydrogen production are some of the most interesting to watch right now. Emitters are starting to realize they can lower their overall carbon footprint, he says, with a relatively small amount of low-carbon fuels and inputs.

“The argument there is to not completely replace an industrial gas supplier but to displace a little bit of it.”

At the same time, the mobility market may take off with help from US government incentives for hydrogen production and the growing realization that EVs might not provide a silver-bullet solution for decarbonizing transport, Alexander adds. However, hydrogen project developers targeting the mobility market are still competing with the cost of diesel, the current “bogey” for the hydrogen heavy mobility space, Alexander says.

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