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Visolis and Ginko Bioworks team up on synthetic rubber and SAF ingredient production

The two companies are leveraging each other to achieve commercial development of a monomer used in the production of synthetic rubber and SAF.

Visolis, a California-based sustainable materials company, has formed a partnership with cell programming and biosecurity firm Ginkgo Bioworks to reach commercial production of a key feedstock ingredient used to make bio-based isoprene and SAF, according to a news release.

Isoprene is a monomer used for commercial scale synthetic rubber production.

“Achieving the production of bio-based isoprene at scale represents a significant step toward decarbonizing tire manufacturing,” the release states. “Isoprene can also be used as an intermediate for high performance, lower carbon intensity sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production.”

Achieving bio-based isoprene production at scale is difficult because the molecule is highly volatile and combustible.

“Visolis has developed a novel process by using a more stable intermediate, making isoprene through a two-step manufacturing process and enabling more efficient and reliable production,” the release states. “Through the partnership with Ginkgo, the two companies are working to further optimize the efficiency of this biomanufacturing process.”

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Deutsche Bahn and Fortescue developing ammonia-hydrogen engine

Deutsche Bahn and Fortescue Future Industries are working on modifying diesel engines for locomotives and traction vehicles for ammonia and hydrogen.

Deutsche Bahn and Fortescue Future Industries are working on modifying diesel engines for locomotives and traction vehicles so that they can be operated with ammonia and hydrogen, according to a press release.

Both sides have signed a corresponding Letter of Intent. In addition to the development of emission-free propulsion technologies, the agreement also provides for cooperation in logistics and supply chains for green fuels.

Deutche Bahn and Siemens Mobility recently developed a hydrogen system for rail through the EUR 13.74m (USD 14.47m) H2goesRail project, funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) as part of the country’s National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology.

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Raven SR raises $15m, makes board appointments

Ascent Funds led the latest $15m investment into the renewable fuels firm, with contributions from existing investors Chevron New Energies, ITOCHU Corp. and Stellar J Corp.

Raven SR Inc., a renewable fuels company, has board additions and an executive promotion, coupled with securing $15m in new investments.

The company said the latest fundraising underscores the confidence in Raven SR’s proprietary Steam/CO2 Reforming technology that converts various waste streams into renewable transportation fuels like hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The process outperforms all known alternatives in efficiency, producing more hydrogen and SAF per ton of waste, according to the company.

In August, 2021, Raven closed on a $20m strategic investment from Chevron U.S.A., ITOCHU Corporation, Hyzon Motors Inc. and Ascent Hydrogen Fund. Samsung Ventures made a strategic investment earlier this year, allowing the company to expand into the Asia-Pacific market.

In 2022 it launched a Series C funding round led by Barclays and BofA Securities.

In addition to today’s funding milestone, Raven SR said Stuart McFarland, former CFO of Fannie Mae, has been appointed chairman of the Board of Directors, with Mark Gordon, chief investment officer of Ascent Funds, as vice chairman.

Named as new board members: Justin Heyman, managing director of RockCreek Group, and Robert Kinghorn, founder and CEO of Stellar J Corp. Matt Scanlon, the current CFO, has been promoted to president and interim CFO.

Ascent Funds, a venture capital fund dedicated to advancing the energy transition, led the latest $15m investment, with contributions from existing investors Chevron New Energies, ITOCHU Corp. and Stellar J Corp., the engineering, procurement and construction company managing construction of Raven SR’s hydrogen project in Richmond, California.

“Raven SR is pleased to have the continued and enhanced support of our investors as we move toward construction of our organic waste-to-hydrogen facility,” said Matt Murdock, founder and CEO of Raven SR. “This funding is crucial for finalizing our production setup, and the expanded board strengthens our team for the next phase.”

McFarland said he was honored by the board’s trust in his leadership and is looking forward to teaming with Murdock as they move the company ahead. McFarland also acknowledged the support from shareholders and the dedicated project team, emphasizing their importance in Raven SR’s journey.

“With this solid foundation, 2024 is shaping up to be a landmark year for Raven SR as it commercializes its Steam/CO2 Reforming technology to bring clean and sustainable fuel to the world,” said McFarland.

Raven SR’s unique process is non-combustion and catalyst-free as verified by the California EPA. The Richmond project is the first and only California Environmental Quality Act-permitted biomass-to-hydrogen facility in the state.

The Steam/CO2 Reforming technology diverts waste from landfills, produces a carbon-negative fuel and ensures a low carbon footprint compared to traditional hydrogen production methods, placing Raven at the forefront of the waste-to-hydrogen sector.

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Group to bring zero-emissions passenger flights to Denmark

DAT, Everfuel, and Universal Hydrogen Co. will collaborate on regional aviation by enabling zero-emissions flight using clean hydrogen by the end of 2025.

DAT, Everfuel, and Universal Hydrogen Co. will collaborate on regional aviation in Denmark by enabling zero-emissions flight using clean hydrogen by the end of 2025.

The three companies will combine their expertise in flight operations, hydrogen fuel production, and hydrogen logistics and aircraft propulsion to bring into service hydrogen-powered ATR 72-600 regional aircraft on DAT routes in Denmark, with the goal of converting all of DAT’s domestic flights to true zero-emission flights by 2030, according to a press release.

DAT plans to use ATR 72s converted using Universal Hydrogen technology. These aircraft will accommodate 56 passengers following conversion to hydrogen. Universal Hydrogen will also provide fuel services to supply green hydrogen using modular capsules, without the need for changes to existing airport infrastructure.

The green hydrogen will be produced at Everfuel’s first Power-to-X (PtX) plant in Fredericia, the release states.

The collaborative effort between the three companies follows the Government of Denmark’s request for tender to develop zero-emission commercial flights in Denmark.

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Exclusive: Tenaska advancing 10 CCS projects

Independent power development company Tenaska is advancing a portfolio of more than 10 carbon capture and sequestration hubs across the US. We spoke with Bret Estep, who heads up the CCS strategy for the firm.

Tenaska, a Nebraska-based energy company, is advancing a portfolio of more than 10 carbon capture and sequestration projects in the US, Vice President Bret Estep said in an interview.

The portfolio includes three previously announced projects that are highly developed along with seven others that have not been publicly disclosed, Estep added. Tenaska is focused on the transport and storage aspects of the CCS value chain.

“Our base facility is 5 million metric tons per year of storage capacity, and then the necessary pipeline infrastructure to bring those emissions in,” he said.

The base facility design will cost approximately $500m to build, but varies depending on the land position, site geology, and required pipeline miles, Estep said.

“For us, as we plan, I generally use a big rule of thumb to say these are around $500m overnight cost projects,” he said. “Just the storage facility itself, you might be in the $250m to $400m range. And then in really difficult places where there are a lot of pipeline miles, and those are expensive pipeline miles, it might be another $200m or $300m of just pipe.”

Estep says that Tenaska, as a private company, has flexibility on the eventual financing structure for projects, but that project financing is an option. He said the company has held discussions with potential financial advisors but declined to comment further.

Tenaska’s three announced projects are the Longleaf CCS Hub in Mobile, Alabama; the Pineywoods CCS Hub in Houston; and the Tri-State CCS Hub in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

According to Estep, additional projects are going forward in Corpus Christi, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, and Central Florida. Further inland, Tenaska has two projects in Dallas, another in Oklahoma and another in Indiana.

Finding emitters

The projects “are not all easy – there’s a lot of competition out there,” Estep said. “In some places like let’s say Houston, there are a lot of other folks around, but there’s also a lot of emissions around. So I think there’s room for many people to be successful here.”

In other places like Mobile, Alabama or the Tri-State project, which are harder to develop, Tenaska is the only CCS developer, he added. 

As an example, the West Virginia project will likely be more costly to develop, given the suboptimal geology of the region. Still, the project benefits from a $69m DOE grant to support geologic characterization and permitting for the site.

For its CCS business, Tenaska makes money through what Estep calls a “plain vanilla” version of transport and storage: the take-or-pay contract.

“The emitter installs the capture equipment, they’re the taxpayer of record – they have whatever commodity uplift or green premium they can get on their product,” he said. “And they simply need someone to transport and store that CO2 long term really to qualify for that 45Q” tax credit.

For the Longleaf CCS project in Mobile, Estep places potential customers into four quadrants. The first is existing emitters like steelmakers, power plants, gas processing and pharmaceutical companies. “There’s less project-on-project risk in that way.”

The second is blue molecules. “There’s a growing blue molecule effort in that part of the world,” he said. Quadrant three is combined cycle with capture (though Tenaska is not pursuing a combined cycle for Longleaf) and quadrant four is direct air capture.

Tenaska is a participant in the Southeast DAC Hub, led by Southern States Energy Board, which received a grant of over $10m from the DOE.

“We see many emitters across industries from gas processing to cement, steel, power gen, you name it,” Estep said. “They want to do their own capture, or they want to deal straight with a capture technology, an EPC, or a standalone capture-as-a-service provider. And then what they really want is someone to come to their fence line and take the CO2 and store it long term, durably, safely,” he added. “That’s what we do.”

‘Intercept problem’

Tenaska is still about a year away from beginning to order long lead time items like specialized metallurgy or pipe, but will begin putting in orders once it has more visibility on matching up its development timeline with that of its customers.

Early on, Estep and his teams were sprinting to acquire land positions and submit permits, including some Class VI permits from the EPA, which are under review. But “the script almost totally flips” at that point, because under Tenaska’s hub and spoke model, “we want to be optimized for customers,” he said.

The firm looks at permitting timelines and the earliest likelihood of construction and injection versus when the emitter will likely take FID and begin capturing, “which we call the intercept problem,” Estep said.

Tenaska is the 100% owner of the projects at this point, and Estep believes they have put together a unique portfolio, “in that it’s diversified by customer, it’s diversified by EPA region, it’s diversified by geology and state.”

Estep added: “These kind of assets where there’s geology and storage, they can go the power gen route, they can go the hard-to-decarbonize route, cement and steel, they can go the new power gen route that’s advanced, they can go direct air capture, they can go to the molecule.”

“It’s a really interesting set of infrastructure projects that we are very bullish on for that reason.”

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Exclusive: New sustainability hedge fund to raise up to $2bn

A new hedge fund founded by a clean fuels industry veteran is gathering partners to raise up to $2bn initially for deployment into ammonia and other climate-transition technologies.

New Waters Capital, an emerging hedge fund based in New York City, is gathering its primary partners for its first fundraise of between $1bn and $2bn, founder Bill Brown said in an interview.

Brown formerly spent 15 years at North Carolina-based 8 Rivers Capital, which recently announced an ammonia project in Texas. Brown, a co-founder, sold his shares to South Korea’s SK, Inc. in that company’s majority takeover of 8 Rivers last year.

Brown recently created New Waters as a multi-strategy fund manager to invest in publicly traded companies in sustainability, AI, and clean fuels.

“The molecule-based economy is really important, and there’s some companies that have been in the molecule-based economy that are not really sure what they’re doing,” Brown said.

This creates an environment ripe for disruption, he said.

The firm is in the process of selecting its prime brokers, which will help determine the size of New Waters’ fundraises, Brown said. The first raise will be conducted in the next six months, and likely not be larger than $2bn to start.

New Waters’ law firm is Seward & Kissel.
The Wild West of molecules

Of all hydrogen produced in the US, about 65% is used for fertilizer production, Brown said. In Japan, where hydrogen is being co-fired with coal, replacing all coal-fired generation with ammonia would require 10 times the current ammonia production of the US.

“The market for molecules is so big, and yet the largest producer in the US of ammonia is CF Industries.” That company has one plant in Louisiana that represents roughly one third of total US ammonia production. “So CF is tiny compared to the opportunities out there.”

Brown said he is looking for the companies that are going to be the Valero and Phillips 66 of ammonia refining. He believes 8 Rivers is on track for something like that.

“We look at companies like that,” he said. “I think that entire market is up for grabs right now; it’s a whole new market.”

 Companies that can seize that market are the companies that are going to be part of the energy system of the future.

“In many respects right now, we’re in the Wild West, if you will, of the molecules of the future,” Brown said.

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Exclusive: Midwest renewables developer launches capital raise

A Midwest renewables developer has launched a $340m capital raise for a wind-to-hydrogen operation in the US heartland.

Zero6, the Minneapolis-based renewables developer, owner and operator, recently launched a process to raise $340m in project capital for its portion of the Lake Preston Biofuels Project in South Dakota, senior managing director Howard Stern said in an interview. The company, previously known as Juhl Energy, is partnered with Colorado-based Gevo, which plans to produce SAF on 240 acres at Lake Preston in a project dubbed Net-Zero 1. Zero6 will develop 20 MW of green hydrogen production adjacent to Net-Zero 1 powered by a 99 MW wind farm located 10 miles from the SAF site, Stern said. Plans call for FID late this year, he said. Zero6 met with several financial advisors for the raise, but decided to try and conduct it in-house, Stern said. The company has not ruled out help from an advisor for this raise and could need those services in the future. The goal is to have an anchor investor in place by May, Stern said. The company is open to strategic or financial investors. Zero6’s strategy is akin to a traditional private equity play, holding a project for five to ten years of operation, Stern said. That could change depending on new investors’ outlook. According to the ReSource database, Gevo has additional projects in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Stern said Zero6 sees opportunities to replicate the Lake Preston strategy in other parts of the country. The Lake Preston project has been tied to the development of carbon capture pipelines through South Dakota, namely the Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 pipeline. Gevo officials have made public comments noting that if the Summit pipeline does not get built, it would disadvantage the Lake Preston project on the basis of its carbon intensity score, and the company may seek options elsewhere.
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