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Bill Gates-backed fund buys into Europe's largest green hydrogen-to-methanol Project

Bill Gates-backed fund buys into Europe's largest green hydrogen-to-methanol Project

Baku, December 2, AZERTAC

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a climate fund founded by billionaire Bill Gates has, together with the EU, on Friday given Orsted’s FlagshipONE green methanol project in Sweden a major cash boost — that the Danish developer says was not necessary for the project’s completion, according to HydrogenInsight.

Orsted took a final investment decision (FID) on FlagshipONE in December last year and broke ground in May, choosing to draw on its own balance sheet to build the plant rather than financing the project through debt.

However, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst has now bought a 15% equity interest in the facility, while the European Investment Bank has taken a “quasi-equity” investment — ie, a loan where the repayment terms are scaled to performance rather than a set rate during the payback period. FlagshipONE is also set to receive a grant from Horizon Europe.

However, the total sum Orsted has received from these three avenues has not been disclosed, although the European Commission said in a separate announcement that a combined €240m in grants, equity and venture debt had been made available to FlagshipONE and an energy storage project in Italy.

“This collaboration helps advance FlagshipONE – from finalising development, commencing construction, and, ultimately, achieving operations,” said Rodi Guidero, executive director of Breakthrough Energy.

“Together, we’re providing a blueprint for accelerating first-of-a-kind solutions that will help Europe meet its decarbonisation goals,” he added.

However, spokesperson for Orsted told Hydrogen Insight that “this partnership has no impact on the construction” and is “out of choice not necessity”.

FlagshipONE, sited on the grounds of a Swedish biomass-fired combined heat and power plant in Örnsköldsvik, is set to produce 55,000 tonnes of methanol a year from start-up in 2025, with an eye to supplying zero-emission fuel to ships.

The plant will use a 70MW electrolyser supplied by fellow Danish firm Topsoe to generate hydrogen feedstock, while biogenic CO2 will be sourced from the power plant.

FlagshipONE will also draw on water and steam from the co-located thermal plant, while delivering back waste heat from the e-methanol production process for use in district heating networks.

Orsted is also developing an even larger, 300,000 tonnes-a-year green methanol project on the US Gulf Coast as part of the HyVelocity hub, which was allocated up to $1.2bn in grants from the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs programme.

However, the Danish developer has also pulled back on other projects in Europe.

It was one of the partners on the Westküste 100 consortium, which scrapped a 30MW pilot electrolyser project despite being promised millions in subsidies from the German federal goverment.

And in August, Orsted chose to shelve its 100MW Gigastack green hydrogen project in the UK during negotiations for subsidies under the HAR1 auction.

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