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XPRIZE competitors to pilot solutions at Deep Sky project

The carbon removal teams competing in XPRIZE will pilot their solutions at Deep Sky's commercialization project in Quebec.

Deep Sky, a Montreal-based venture commercializing carbon removal and storage solutions, is partnering with XPRIZE to develop CO2 removal solutions, according to a news release.

The carbon removal teams competing in XPRIZE will pilot their solutions at Deep Sky’s commercialization project Alpha in Quebec, as well as prototyping and licensing deals worth at least $1m each.

“This offer is open to all competing teams who submit to the final round of the prize, regardless of whether they are named a finalist,” the release states.

The $100m XPRIZE Carbon Removal, funded by the Musk Foundation, is a four-year global competition to incentivize break through carbon removal solutions across four tracks: air, oceans, land, and rocks.

To win, teams must remove and durably sequester 1000 tonnes of CO2 per year and demonstrate the ability to scale to gigaton level by 2050.

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NuScale Power, Shell to research hydrogen production from modular nuclear reactor

NuScale, Shell, and industry participants will assess a concept for an energy system for hydrogen production using small modular reactor technology.

Portland, Oregon-based NuScale Power, LLC (NuScale) along with Shell Global Solutions (Shell) and industry participants will develop and assess a concept for an economically optimized Integrated Energy System (IES) for hydrogen production using electricity and process heat from a NuScale VOYGR™ small modular reactor (SMR) power plant, according to a press release.

The project, entitled, “Development and Demonstration of a Concept for an Economically Optimized IES,” will be completed in two phases. Additional research participants include Idaho National Laboratory, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), Fuel Cell Energy, FPoliSolutions, and GSE Solutions.

NuScale’s flexible SMR technology holds the potential to balance and stabilize power grids dominated by renewable energies through hydrogen production, the release states. Energy markets present reliability concerns at times when energy demand is high and renewable energy production is low. In these markets, hydrogen would be used as an end-product or as a stored energy source to be processed through a Reversible Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (RSOFC) for electricity generation.

“Hydrogen has been identified as a pathway for global decarbonization and NuScale’s SMR technology complements this goal through low carbon hydrogen production,” said John Hopkins, NuScale Power president and chief executive officer.

A NuScale control room simulator will be modified to evaluate the dynamics of the IES and will include models for the Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) system for hydrogen production, in addition to a RSOFC for electricity production. The research will consider the number of NuScale Power Modules™ needed for use in SOEC hydrogen production and the quantity of hydrogen stored for subsequent electricity production. Further, local economic factors from the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project will be assessed, such as the impact in the Western Energy Imbalance Market, resource adequacy programs, and other local market factors to be defined.

“We are pleased to join this collaboration, which is in line with our efforts to explore technologies that have the potential to enable decarbonization and support the energy transition,” said Dirk Smit, vice president of research strategy at Shell.

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Trafigura takes majority stake in hydrogen subsidiary

Trafigura Group will increase its shareholding in H2 Energy Europe AG to become majority owners. The firm is developing a 1 GW green hydrogen facility in Denmark, among others.

Trafigura Group Pte has agreed with H2 Energy Holding AG founders to increase its shareholding in H2 Energy Europe AG to become majority owners, as development plans ramp up for large-scale green hydrogen production projects and mid- and downstream hydrogen supply and distribution infrastructure in Europe.

H2 Energy Holding AG’s founders retain a minority ownership and will continue to contribute their extensive knowledge and expertise to the company.

In addition, Trafigura retains its support for and minority equity interest in H2 Energy Holding AG, which will continue to focus on developing green hydrogen eco-systems and green hydrogen technologies, according to a news release.

Rolf Huber, Founder of H2 Energy remarked: “This is a welcome development that strategically positions both companies for future growth and investment. As we move forward, our primary objective is to fortify our green hydrogen eco-system, focusing on infrastructural engineering projects, the development of fuel cell applications, and the development and commercialization of key hydrogen equipment. Collaborating closely with Trafigura, we aim to leverage each other’s expertise to advance our shared goal of making green hydrogen a cornerstone of the energy system.”

Julien Rolland, Head of Strategic Projects and Investments for Trafigura said: “Today’s announcement allows H2 Energy Europe to focus on developing large-scale green hydrogen projects and distribution networks across Europe, while H2 Energy Holding AG will focus on its core business and technology development. Trafigura and H2 Energy Holding AG will continue to co-operate closely and benefit from each partner’s respective expertise.”

Plans to build a 1 GW green hydrogen facility in Esbjerg, Denmark are progressing, with COWI commissioned in June this year to conduct the front-end engineering design (FEED) for the production plant. A final investment decision is expected in 2024.

In South Wales, H2 Energy Europe has recently submitted a formal planning application to construct a 20 MW green hydrogen production facility within the port of Milford Haven in South Wales, with local company InSite Technical Services Ltd currently undertaking the FEED study. The project has reached the final negotiation stage for funding under the UK government’s Hydrogen Business Model and Net Zero Hydrogen Fund: Electrolytic Allocation Round 2022, with final projects expected to be announced this year. Subject to government support, the facility should be commissioned within two years, using domestic renewable energy to produce green hydrogen for shipping and road transport, as a chemical feedstock and to provide power for industrial use across the South Wales Industrial Cluster.

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Heliogen appoints new CEO

Heliogen CFO Christie Obiaya will take over as CEO after Bill Gross was removed.

Heliogen, Inc., a provider of AI-enabled concentrating solar energy technology, yesterday announced that its board of directors has appointed Christie Obiaya as chief executive officer and added Obiaya to the board of directors, effective immediately.

Obiaya, head of Heliogen’s executive committee and formerly its chief financial officer, replaces Bill Gross, who was removed as CEO and has resigned from the board of directors, according to a news release.

The company, which trades on the NYSE, has been working to advance a hydrogen project in Lancaster, California, and another in Arizona.

“As Heliogen moves forward on commercial projects, Christie brings almost two decades of operational and financial experience, with degrees and a working background in both business and engineering,” said Robert Kavner, Heliogen’s lead independent director. “Having served as chief financial officer of Heliogen and chair of the executive committee, she is intimately familiar with our innovative renewable energy technology, our customers, and the priorities to drive our future success. This knowledge, together with her experience growing and managing energy and infrastructure development and sustainable technologies, make her the right person to take on these additional responsibilities. Christie, together with the rest of Heliogen’s management team, will focus on and advance the company’s strategic plan.”

Obiaya joined Heliogen in March 2021 as CFO and has worked closely with the company’s management team on commercializing its solar energy and thermal storage systems technology. Prior to joining Heliogen, Obiaya served as the head of strategy and chief financial officer for Bechtel Energy’s multi-billion-dollar, global energy business unit from 2017 to 2021. She also held various leadership roles at Bechtel in finance, strategy, project development, investment, and execution from 2010 to 2017. Prior to Bechtel, Obiaya worked on renewable energy projects in Kenya and India from 2008 to 2009.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the company as we bring Heliogen’s renewable energy technology to customers looking to decarbonize their operations,” said Obiaya. “I look forward to bringing together Heliogen’s exceptional talent with our industry partners, and to delivering with excellence for our customers, employees, and stockholders.”

As part of the leadership transition, Kelly Rosser has been appointed interim CFO. Rosser has served as Heliogen’s chief accounting officer since August 2022.

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Pharma and fuels tech provider could be ready for public listing

International biotechnology firm Insilico Medicine is applying the algorithms that produce novel drugs to synthesizing more sustainable petrochemical fuels and materials.

Insilico Medicine, a global biotechnology firm serving the pharmaceutical and carbon-based energy industries, could be ready for a public listing in the next phase of its corporate evolution.

Insilico, founded in Baltimore and now based in Hong Kong, has raised about $400m in private capital to date and is in the position of a company that would be exploring a public listing in the US and Hong Kong, CEO Alex Zhavoronkov said in an interview. He declined to say if he has hired a financial advisor to run such a process but said a similar company in his position would have.

The generative AI platform that the company uses to produce novel drugs can be applied to produce more sustainable carbon-based fuels, Zhavoronkov said. The objective is to maximize btu and minimize CO2, making the fuels burn longer and cleaner.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco is a user of the technology and participated in Insilico’s $95m Series D (oversubscribed and split between two sub-rounds) last year through its investment arm Prosperity7.

Petrochemistry is going to be needed well into the future, Zhavoronkov said. In addition to renewable energy and other ESG efforts, the efficiency of petrochemicals should be a top priority.

“If you burn certain petrochemicals in certain combinations, you can achieve a reasonably clean burn and an energy efficient burn,” he said. For specific tasks like space travel or Formula 1 racing, combined fuels produce the necessary torque, and generative chemistry can achieve those objectives in a more sustainable way. “I think that we can make the world significantly cleaner just by modifying petrochemical products.”

The technology can also be used to make organic matter in petrochemical products degrade more quickly, which is useful in the case of plastics, Zhavoronkov said.

The company’s AI is primarily based in Montreal and in the drug discovery business in China, but fuel research takes place in Abu Dhabi. Zhavoronkov said he has hired a lot of “AI refugees” from Russia and Ukraine to work at the latter location. The company has 40 employees in the UAE and will likely scale to 70.

Insilico is capitalized for the next two years or so, he said. That doesn’t account for revenue, which closed at just under $30m in 2022. The petrochemical and materials business is under the AI research arm of the business, which is covered by funds raised to date.

“Our board would probably not allow me to reinvent myself as an energy play,” Zhavoronkov said. But the board does not object to applying resources to petrochemical products.

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Waste-to-energy company interviewing advisors for strategic capital raise

Vancouver-based Klean Industries plans to run a process to raise between $250m – $500m of capital to deploy into projects, some of which would use green hydrogen to upgrade recovered fuel and pyrolysis oils.

Waste-to-energy specialist Klean Industries is interviewing financial advisors and planning to run a process to find investors for a strategic capital raise.

The Vancouver-based company is seeking to raise between $250m – $500m in a minority stake sale that would value the company around $1bn, Klean CEO Jesse Klinkhamer said in an interview.

Klean had previously intended to list on the NASDAQ exchange but those plans were nixed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. The company still plans to list publicly in 2024 or 2025.

Proceeds from a capital raise now would be used to “rapidly deploy” into the projects that Klean is advancing around the globe, Klinkhamer said.

For one of those projects – a flagship tire pyrolysis plant in Boardman, Oregon – Klean is raising non-recourse debt to finance construction, the executive said. Klinkhammer declined to name the advisor for the project financing but said news would be out soon and added that the company has aligned itself with infrastructure funds willing to provide non-recourse debt for the facility.

The Boardman project, which is expected to cost roughly $135m, is an expansion of an existing site where Klean will use its advanced thermal conversion technology to recover fuel oil, steel, and refined carbon black from recycled tires. The end products are comparable to virgin commodities with the exception of being more cost-effective with a lower carbon footprint.

“A lot of what we do is of paramount interest to a lot of the ESG-focused infrastructure investors that are focused on assets that tick all the boxes,” Klinkhamer said, noting the consistent output of the waste-to-energy plants that Klean is building along with predictable prices for energy sourced from renewable power.

Klean has also partnered with H2Core Systems, a maker of containerized green hydrogen production plants, and Enapter, an electrolyzer manufacturer. The company will install a 1 MW electrolyzer unit at the Boardman facility, with the green hydrogen used to upgrade recovered fuel oil and pyrolysis oil into e-fuels that meet California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standards.

“We were exploring how we could improve the quality of the tire pyrolysis oil so that it could enter the LCFS market in California,” he said, “because there are significant carbon credits and tax incentives associated with the improved product.”

The company received proposals from industrial gas companies to bring hydrogen to the Boardman facility that were not feasible, and Klean opted for producing electrolytic hydrogen on site in part due to the abundance of low-cost hydroelectric power and water from the nearby Columbia River.

Addressable market

Discussing Klean’s addressable market for waste-to-energy projects, Klinkhamer points to Japan as an example of a comparable “mature” market.

Japan, an island nation of 126 million people, has built roughly 5,000 resource recovery, waste-to-energy plants of various scopes and designations, he notes. For comparison, the United Kingdom – another island nation of 67 million people – has just 20 waste-to-energy plants.

“The opportunity for waste-to-energy in the UK alone is mind boggling,” he said. “There are a thousand opportunities of scope and scale. Nevermind you’ve got an aging, outdated electrical infrastructure, limited landfills, landfill taxes rising – a tsunami of issues, plus the ESG advent.”

A similar opportunity exists in North America, he noted, where there are around 100 waste-to-energy plants for 580 million people. The company is working on additional tire, plastic, and waste-to-energy projects in North America, and also has projects in Australia and Europe.

Hydrogen could be the key to advancing more projects: waste-to-energy plants have typically been hamstrung by a reliance on large utilities to convert energy generated from waste into electricity, which is in turn dependent on transmission. But the plants could instead produce hydrogen, which can be more easily and cost effectively distributed, Klinkhamer said.

“There is now an opportunity to build these same plants, but rather than rely on the electrical side of things where you’re dealing with a utility, to convert that energy into hydrogen and distribute it to the marketplace,” he added.

Hydrogen infrastructure

Klinkhamer says the company is also examining options for participating in a network of companies that could transform the logistics for bringing feedstock to the Boardman facility and taking away the resulting products.

The company has engaged in talks with long-haul truckers as well as refining companies and industrial gas providers about creating a network of hydrogen hubs – akin to a “Tesla network” – that would support transportation logistics.

“It made sense for us to look at opportunities for moving our feedstock via hydrogen-powered vehicles, and also have refueling stations and hydrogen production plants that we build in North America,” he said.

Klean would need seven to 12 different hubs to supply its transportation network, Klinkhamer estimates, while the $350m price tag for the infrastructure stems from the geographic reach of the hubs as well as the sheer volume of hydrogen required for fueling needs.

“With the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. has set itself up to be the lowest-cost producer of hydrogen in the world, which will really spur the development of hydrogen logistics for getting hydrogen out,” he said. “And to get to scale, it’s going to require some big investments.”

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Exclusive: Seattle biomass-to-chemical firm planning equity round

A firm with plans for a biorefinery in Washington state will raise its first large equity round early next year.

Planted Materials, a Seattle-based biomass-to-chemicals company, is in early design stages for its first biorefinery in eastern Washington state and planning to raise an equity round in early 2025, co-founders Noah Belkhous and Greg Jenson said in an interview.

The company will seek to raise between $10m and $20m ahead of FID on the biorefinery, Belkhous said. The four-year-old company has raised $500k from angel investors to date and is currently raising another $1m from high net worth individuals in the Seattle region.

Planted Materials does not have a relationship with a financial advisor but is open to one, Belkhous said.

The company’s recycling model takes municipal landfill waste and converts it to chemical materials for pharmaceutical, paper, plastic and other manufacturing industries.

The proprietary recycling process is something the company would like to license to municipalities in the US and abroad, in addition to building biorefineries in the Pacific Northwest, Belkhous said. The company’s lab is currently based in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Early design work on the first biorefinery is underway. The duo expects CapEx to cap at $50m, reaching FID in 2026 and beginning construction that year.

While the majority of the company’s feedstock will likely come from the major metropolitan regions in the western PNW, refining capacity is more attractive in the east for reasons of space and existing waste management infrastructure. Jenson noted the presence of the relevant research campus of Washington State University in Pullman, as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Recently, the team accompanied Washington Governor Jay Inslee and members of the Washington State Department of Commerce on a trip to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. The company has applied to a pair of $350k grants from the state.
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