We'd like to thank Hot Copper (HC) participants for their questions. We received over 100 questions on a range of topics. Many doubled up, so we consolidated them to 49. Some with sub-questions.
Many of the questions received were from HC participants that haven't taken the opportunity to seek clarification directly with the Company in the past, so we’re pleased this exercise has encouraged direct engagement.
Understandably, we recommend investors seek clarification directly from the Company rather than relying on anonymous opinion.
The Q&A is segmented below as follows:
Some questions have been paraphrased for clarity.
Holding a Q&A via Hot Copper (HC) is a nice initiative; however, it appears to privilege HC users. Would it be more appropriate to make an ASX announcement to give all shareholder the opportunity to ask questions?
We noted this question early and provided an answer within the HC thread:
Following an announcement, we usually receive emails and phone calls from a range of shareholders. The communications range from notes of congratulations and questions seeking to confirm understanding. This indicates a clear understanding by most shareholders, most of the time.
In the context of HC, confusion seems concentrated compared to direct contacts.
Many calls for clarification come from shareholders who understand the announcement but wish the Company to address the misinformation on Hot Copper.
Shareholders will be aware that Listing Rule 3.1 requires that if there is a rumour or misinformation that may lead to a false market, the Company is required to correct it.
PR is an important component and is a challenge for a pre-revenue Company. PR will be consistently pursued; however, shareholders have made it very clear that they do not want PR spend at the expense of engineering prior to achieving appropriate revenues.
It seems from some shareholder’s perspective that the Company has spent its exertions on activities that have been rendered unnecessary. For example, the financing of ECT’s originally intended one-third contribution to the India project seems to have occupied a large amount of time, with the brevet capital loan facility and other financing options.
This funding now seems to be unnecessary as surrendering royalty rights allowing the Indian partners a further 26% giving the Indian Partners a total of 51% of future royalties. This increase appears to be in exchange of the Company’s originally planned 10 million contribution, roughly the amount secured in the Brevet loan facility.
In building financing solutions for ECT's projects and operations, contingency planning is required to ensure that solutions are not single point sensitive.
To this end, ECT built a financing solution in anticipation of funding our one-third contribution with little or no dilution to shareholders.
This self-empowered financing solution allowed us to negotiate from a position of strength and likely influenced the final outcome of the deal structure. To that extent, this financing solution was a necessary part of capital management planning but, following the offer by the Indian partners to fund the project, was not needed.
a. If so was Greenard Willing Structured Products compensated for facilitating these agreements?
b. How many other funding sources seriously considered?
b. Five providers submitted a quote to the RFP.
Previous announcements illustrated that Glenn Fozard intended to resign from Greenard Willing Structured Products.
However, on searching the ASIC database earlier in the year it was found that Glenn Fozard was still a director of the Company and still seems to be listed on the Greenard Willing Structured Products website.
Has the Company given any thought to bringing on new blood to the board to take the Company to the next level with those that are experienced and specialists in what they do? i.e. a proven track record in their field of expertise?
The ECT board continues to evaluate the need for new and additional resources, across a growing spectrum of required skills, in line with the company’s growth and future strategy.
It is certainly fair to say that the company’s needs in this regard are becoming more demanding and complex.
Whilst it is desirable to have the broadest, most experienced range resources available at any one time, we remain conscious that this also comes at an increased cost to the business, inclusive of both remuneration but also the resources required to administer and service a larger board.
Renewal of Director's tenure, together with a mix of gender and independent v executive director appointments are equally important concepts which the current Board is aware of and alert to.
Finally, the company must also consider the timing of any renewal or expansion process at Board. Both the loss of critical corporate knowledge and time taken for new Director’s to get up to speed may add significant risk to the company.
Will the revenue model ECT intend on releasing indicate how much they will make from the India R&D project or is it only ever going to be a % disclosure and not a $X per tonne value?
The Company intends to release information on its revenue model in due course.
It’s not just about royalty (trailing revenue) per tonne of output, there are also potential licence fees (upfront revenue) and, depending on the project, potential equipment margin and O&M revenues.
We understand investors would like a simple way to begin to fundamentally value a project, but the following should be considered:
What price would the Company see as fair value if a hostile takeover was to take place with current status quo?
The Board firmly believe that the current share price does not reflect future value. Beyond that, we are precluded under law to advise of our view of present value without an independent valuation. That being said, if a hostile takeover did occur, we would expect that the price being offered would need to reflect a substantial price premium to win the support of the majority of shareholders required to approve such an offer.
Regarding the recent signing of the project agreement and future global expansion, what is being done to keep the global iron making industry informed of the future progress and expected success of this project?
Global expansion will be best promoted through the successful completion of the India project and overcoming some of the key technical risks inherent in scale-up.
In the meantime, the Company is developing relationships with journalists and industry bodies in the lead up to financial close to promote coverage through each milestone over the project timeline.
The Company will embark on a targeted media strategy, briefing relevant journalists, developing supportive collateral and pursuing relevant presentation opportunities.
Will India try to keep Matmor for itself? Can it do so under the agreements?
The project agreement laid out the framework for the partnership and project, including access to the intellectual property (IP). One of the detailed sub-agreements is the Master Technology License Agreement. This includes ‘use it or lose it’ provisions.
Does this agreement with India include any further development of Hydromor and COHgen development or does ECT retain that technology?
The project agreement does not cover COHgen development. See Q49 for more about Hydromor.
Who will be responsible for site ownership and what will be the order of precedence? For example; Thermax, ECT, The JV, NLCIL.
NLCIL is the host and therefore their policies and procedures will take precedence. The parties will form a project committee and appoint a project manager.
Will the site have restricted access; with access restricted by the Project Manager?
Yes. The site is subject to existing access protocols imposed by NLCIL which restrict access to relevant personnel.
When will the for-construction drawings be completed?
A timeline of activities will be provided following financial close.
How many tonnes of structural steel are required for the plant?
Approx. 1800 tonnes.
What are the approximate dimensions of the plant?
The site for the plant covers an area of ~19 acres. This allows for the subsequent commercial phase aimed at delivering 500,000 tonnes per annum of metal output.
The layout for the R&D phase will occupy a portion of the area and has been designed to allow for expansion of expandable components, e.g. extending the length of the Coldry drying systems.
The approximate dimensions of the Coldry and Matmor components are:
Has the onsite Project Manager been shortlisted?
Yes. Candidates are currently being assessed.
Will details of the MPA/MOU & sub-agreements be made available for shareholders to view once all signings have been completed?
While the sub-agreements are subject to confidentiality, the Company intends to release a summary articulating the objectives and the key terms.
The answer to this question was largely provided in our announcement of 31 May.
It's important to understand that the content and intent of the project agreement remained unchanged, therefore there was no material change.
The Company has engaged legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth to lead the drafting of the agreements.
As with all material matters, probity and governance matters related to our activity in India are reviewed by the executive team, often based on external advice if required, and approved by the Board.
A sunset date is a typical feature of legal agreements where there is a finite date for completion of an agreement.
This documentation feature ensures that agreements naturally close-off to ensure no lingering obligations exist beyond the effective dates of the agreement.
Large companies and Government institutions regularly use this feature to ensure that legal obligations are continually closed off when no longer relevant or needed.
In the case of the sunset clause for the MPA/MOU, it was originally drafted to occur on the targeted date for completion, being 31st of July but allowing the sunset date to occur on the exact date the partners were targeting financial close wasn't considered prudent and so the sunset date was extended an arbitrary one month past the target date of 31st of July.
The sunset date once triggered, will have the effect of terminating all obligations in the MPA/MOU in favour of the final sub-agreements which constitute the document suite for financial close.
As described in past announcements, the MPA/MOU provides the framework for the partnership, project and detailed sub-agreements.
It’s not unusual for first-of-a-kind (FOAK) technology projects to experience shifting timelines.
This doesn’t mean we don’t strive to avoid delays, we certainly do work toward stated targets.
When one considers the further complexity of this project occurring overseas and having 3 parties to the agreements, some uncertainty around targets is to be expected.
In the last 12 months, the Company has aimed to act as the "pace-setter" to timelines to reflect the urgent nature of technology commercialisation and our shareholders’ appetite.
We manage the uncertainty inherent in pre-commercial FOAK R&D activity by providing timeline guidance to the market and subsequent updates when there is a material change, in accordance with continuous disclosure rules.
The Company announced that Australian Ministers would be invited to attend the MPA/MOU signing, subject to availability.
Engagement with Government is an important part of our Marketing & Communications strategy and whilst it would have been supportive to have a Minister attend the "signing ceremony", it wasn’t critical.
Initially, Ministers’ offices had made themselves available for the original date of the visit by NLCIL and NMDC on 24 May, but due to the change of dates, the Ministers’ availability couldn’t be guaranteed for 30 May. We worked on a best endeavours basis for their attendance on the new dates.
The Company continued to hold the ceremony in Canberra due to the attendance of the Indian High Commissioner and senior representatives of the Australia-India Business Council and to allow the possibility of the Ministers still being available.
It is also true that there were certain political dynamics behind the scenes that presented a risk of ECT becoming a political 'football'.
Going into details may be taken as criticism by Ministers. It's not in shareholders' interests to alienate relevant Ministers.
PR was released and picked up by some outlets, mainly in India where NLCIL and NMDC are well-known.
The reason why no local coverage was pushed is; (a) the risk was identified that journalists may seize upon any Ministerial absence to infer controversy, resulting in a very different narrative and potential alienation of MPs that we wish to keep on side; (b) without confirmed attendance of a high-profile minister, media tend to follow other stories.
Why wasn't this clarified in the initial announcement? Simply because we did not wish to attract negative attention from MPs or media. There are further opportunities to pitch the story as we step through financial close and ongoing opportunities to gain media traction as we step through project milestones.
We continue to keep relevant MPs updated and continue to receive 'encouragement and support'.
On Thursday 31 May, our Chairman Glenn Fozard, along with members of the Indian delegation, attended meetings at Parliament House for 'private' briefings.
No further questions have been received from the ASX.
The ASX notice was a response to a shareholder query and was drafted without taking into consideration the clarification announcement the prior day.
Every announcement could go into dozens of explanatory pages and still not satisfy everyone.
The Company received calls and emails congratulating it on the announcement and expressing disbelief and frustration at the response of certain forum participants. This indicates that one group has understood the announcement as intended and another hasn’t.
In such a circumstance, those with questions simply need to call or email for clarification.
Announcements are reviewed by the executive team and Board prior to release.
What was the outcome with NITI Aayog?
NLC and NMDC, as Indian Public Sector Undertakings (PSU), are ultimately responsible to their respective Indian Government Ministries: NLC to the Ministry of Coal, and NMDC to the Ministry of Steel.
As previously reported by ECT, the referral of the project to NA by the Secretary for the Ministry of Coal stemmed from ministerial administrative rules requiring review all JV’s between PSU’s (in the case NLC and NMDC) and non-PSU’s (ECT).
A positive implication of this was the resultant lifting of the profile and visibility of the project within the Indian government.
The exercise in preparing to submit to NA has been highly valuable, entailing an extensive Independent Financial Review, which further refined the approach of the partners to this project.
One of the outcomes of the Independent Financial Review, prepared for submission to NA, was a change to the project structure, delineating the R&D and commercial phases, to accommodate differences in the regulatory framework between R&D and commercial activities.
The R&D phase, from a structural perspective, became similar to an unincorporated JV, which does not require NA approval. Following successful R&D outcomes, the formation of the SPV will be triggered, and may subsequently require review by NA.
Importantly, preparation and completion of this review can now occur after or in parallel to the Pilot Plant Project as a sperate process. As such it will not impact on the timeframe for completion of the Project.
Why have the agreements been broken up into components i.e. MOU & MOA’s?
The decisions to structure the agreements by splitting them into MPA/MoU and sub-agreements/MOA's was identified by the parties and confirmed via legal advice as the most appropriate and efficient approach to framing, developing and implementing the necessary legal, financial and technical requirements of the contracting process.
In making this decision, the teams and their respective advisers considered many factors, including, but not limited to the following:
The 49% ownership stake refers to the future royalty splits and SPV ownership.
The Master Licence Agreement (one of the sub-agreements) outlines the terms and conditions for the use of the technology licences and amongst other things, ultimately protects ECT's interests in the technology.
The revenue model will be based on the commercial terms of the sub-agreements and a summary released to the market in due course. This is intended to help the market understand the future commercial implications.
Per the Techno-economic Feasibility study released in July 2016, the project contemplates a 500,000 tonne per annum (metal output) plant following successful R&D outcomes.
The scope of Coldry deployment will be based on market assessments of the thermal coal market and NLC power generation plans following R&D outcomes.
In addition to potential commercial deployment by NLC & NMDC, licensing of the technologies globally will be pursued by the SPV.
Will a project timeline be released once the sub-agreements are signed?
Yes, the Company will initially release a broad timeline, then provide regular project updates.
What is the difference between the 2016 TPA and the recent MPA/MOU?
The announcement of 27 Jan 2016 provides an overview of the Tripartite Agreement and the project pathway.
That agreement paved the way for the development and joint financing of an integrated Coldry Demonstration Plant and Matmor Pilot Plant at India’s largest lignite mine.
The announcement provided an overview of the Tripartite Agreement as follows:
The Tripartite Agreement is binding and establishes the collaborative framework to deliver an integrated Coldry and Matmor facility, providing high-level milestones and pivotal decision points along the development pathway.
The framework provides agreed pathways for key activities, broadly including:
Successful progression through the activities will lead to a series of subsequent steps under the framework:
1. Commercial structure agreements
2. Financial Close
3. Project construction
5. Validation & optimisation activities
The Company will continue to own its Coldry and Matmor intellectual property, which will be licensed into the India project.
Point 1 above includes the Project Agreement (MOU), signed on 30 May 2018 and the associated sub-agreements.
The Project Agreement provides the framework for the sub-agreements: Master Technology Licence Agreement, Tripartite Collaboration Agreement and NLCIL, NMDC and ECT Services Agreements.
It also frames the mechanisms necessary to articulate from the R&D phase to the commercial phase. This is important in terms of managing the structural, financial and regulatory aspects of such a JV.
Shareholders will appreciate that this type of collaborative venture between an Australian company and two Indian PSU’s is unprecedented, necessitating a bespoke framework.
The ask: a foreign company (ECT) was asking two Indian government-owned companies (NLCIL and NMDC) to make their largest R & D investment in a single R&D project (~AUD35) for the ‘opportunity’ of investing another ~AUD300m.
With this context in mind, early in our engagement with NLCIL and NMDC, it became apparent that the traditional Australian approach to framing agreements was not working. The fact that the project consists of so many ‘firsts’, combined with the inherent risk of R&D activity, was a recipe to ‘do nothing’, despite the clear drivers for all parties to participate.
ECT adopted a project development strategy focused on building the relationship, keeping the parties closely engaged and driving toward building a suitable legal and commercial framework for this first-of-a-kind project. This involved a stepwise approach to agreements and activities, building confidence, buy-in and momentum.
The Tripartite Agreement brought representatives of NLCIL and NMDC into the project (working group ann. 8 Feb 2016), changing the dynamic from a traditional seller-buyer (us-them) scenario to a collaborative scenario, generating increased understanding, shared ownership and building goodwill at NLCIL and NMDC to champion the project from within.
The fact we are now poised to complete the sub-agreements and step forward on a historic project indicates this approach has delivered the desired outcome.
Will the Company release the Coldry-Matmor Basic Design package?
An overview will be provided. The basic and subsequent detailed design package constitutes valuable IP, so won’t be publicly released in full.
The Company plans on releasing more information regarding its revenue model during July.
ECT’s 17 May 2018 announcement refers to an ~AUD35 million investment by the Indian partners for the R&D phase.
It also mentions stage 3 upgrades of the HVTF of ~AUD1.5 million.
Is the AUD1.5 million for stage 3 HVTF upgrades coming from the ~AUD35 million India budget?
No. The decision for investing in stage 3 upgrades at the HVTF will essentially be separate from the Indian project but may be influenced by the activity at the HVTF required by the Indian project as well as other local projects.
ECT’s 17 May 2018 announcement stated, “Each party will make the following up-front contribution in consideration for its respective deferred equity”.
Does this mean the Indian partners will provide the full ~AUD35 million up-front?
Following financial close the funding commitments by our Indian partners are binding, with funds drawn down in accordance with the needs of the project execution plan's budget.
Post financial close, will a broad project/timing plan be publicly released, inclusive of site works commencement?
The Company’s 29 May 2018 announcement states, “The Collaboration Agreement has taken the legal and financial structures from the Project Agreement and complemented these with the necessary detailed terms and conditions to be executed as a Deed between the parties (Tripartite Collaboration Agreement). This document will form the central contract around which the other agreements can then operate.”
The TCA will be executed as a DEED. Will it be considered binding by all parties?
The Company’s 31 May 2018 announcement stated, “Indian Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) undertaking significant collaboration projects are required to follow naming conventions which essentially allow for two types of legal titles: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).”
We've frequently mentioned the first-of-a-kind nature of the partnership, project and technologies. This combination of firsts required a unique approach to developing the framework. By breaking down the legal documentation into targeted components we've been able to achieve the formulation of a framework and method of engagement conducive to advancing the largest ever R&D project between Australia and India and the largest R&D endeavour ever undertaken by either party.
Shareholders also have concerns in relation to whether any document signed thus far is legally binding. The most pressing issue for shareholders is whether or not they are strongly legally binding. One example of strong legal conditions is a break fee if either party should choose to withdraw from the conditions of the signed document.
The announcement of 31 May 2018 states, “Under Australian nomenclature, the MPA may be described as a Heads of Agreement, as it outlines the key terms of the sub-agreements largely in commercial language.”
Why was Australian nomenclature not revealed prior to signing?
In the past, we've received feedback from shareholders that they have trouble with jargon. As such, we attempt to use terms to describe the intent of each agreement. These descriptions are accurate. This question builds on the false notion that a change in label constitutes a change in content or intent.
The referral to NITI Aayog appeared to have some regulatory approval role.
Is this still relevant?
Please see Q24.
Further, we remind shareholders that the first-of-a-kind nature of this project has required agility in navigating India's complex laws and requirements.
Where some investors see revised guidance as delays, the likes of Austrade in India and the Australia-India Business Council (AIBC) note how we've managed to pull together such a complex deal, in a relatively short timeframe, given the history of failures by various companies to establish a presence in the Indian market.
NITI Aayog is an important committee for the Government of India and our project represents an important outcome with aligned purposes for all of ECT, NLCIL, NMDC and the policy objectives of the Government of India.
The new Memorandum of Agreement and sub-agreements to be worked out by both the Company and Indian partners with a “sunset date” of August 31 leads to some further questions. The usage of “Memorandum of Agreement” has given some shareholders the impression will contain strong binding commercial terms different from any prior agreement and appears, from a shareholder’s perspective, the most important and price sensitive document.
There is no 'new' MOA. There is the project agreement, designated as an MOU and formerly labelled MPA. There are several sub-agreements which are designated as MOA's. These were outlined in previous announcements.
Previous documents have not been scrutinised in an ad hoc fashion. Thorough scrutiny of material agreements is a certainty and a requirement within any business. The parties have been drafting the sub-agreements since April 2018. There is always a chance that delays can occur, however, there is currently no indication of such a delay.
Unknown unknowns by their nature cannot be predicted, only managed if they eventuate. However, there is no indication of divergence from the current path at present.
The Company has commented on the recent confusion experienced by shareholders but this has only arisen because of the obfuscation of information behind commercial confidentiality. This confidentiality has given shareholders little oversight or understanding of the true situation of current events. Here are some general questions that I would think would allow shareholders to make better judgements.
Will the R&D plant be capable of making both Coldry pellets and Matmor composite pellets?
Is the proposed 500,000-tonne per annum (metal output) commercial-scale plant outlined in the TEF just for Matmor?
The design of the integrated plant allows for the Coldry component to produce both Coldry and Matmor pellets.
The ~AUD300 mill plant contemplated by the TEF states a notional 500,000 tonne per annum steel output.
The scoping of future commercial-scale Coldry-only facilities by the parties will be the subject of a project feasibility study following the R&D phase. This will allow prevailing thermal coal demand and prices to be considered.
It may be helpful to elaborate on our approach to R&D. ECT have adopted a 'frugal innovation' approach. Looking for efficiencies in the allocation of time and capital where possible.
It's helpful to understand the concept of commercialising a new iron-making technology. Furnace engineering consultants HATCH state that it takes around 10 years and about $100 million to commercialise a new iron making process.
We've seen vast sums invested in the development of Hi-smelt, without commercial success.
BHP's ~$2.4 billion loss on the HBI plant in WA is another example of spectacular failure.
The goal of an R&D program should be to fail as early and cheaply as possible.
Recently, a Swedish government-backed project was announced, seeking to commercialise a hydrogen-based iron making process. That project will aim to deliver a pilot plant capable of outputting 1-2 tonnes per hour by 2022, at a cost of $190 million. Our India project, by contrast, is seeking to demonstrate at the same scale of 2t per hour within 2 years at a cost of ~AUD35 million.
Shareholders who understand this background will appreciate the relatively rapid and cost-effective approach we've adopted.
When will local sales volumes and revenue guidance be provided?
The local sales initiatives hold a strategic purpose that isn't solely to generate earnings, although sales margin is a guiding principle behind these sales. The local sales aim to attend to many important aspects in the full commercialisation of Coldry:
In your announcement on 29 June, you stated, "These details remain commercial-in-confidence given the emerging interest in the market from parties that may seek to market alternate products to the same consumers.” What are the emerging interests and what are the alternate products?
We are aware of at least two potential entrants to the solid fuel market. Both appear to intend to make briquetted char or coking coal. Of interest to shareholders is the policy by the Victorian government to limit lignite access to 27,000 tonnes per annum for new processes that emit CO2 greater than 0.3 t CO2-e / t coal or 0.45 t CO2-e / MWh (http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources/victorias-earth-resources/coal/policy-reviews/statement-on-future-uses-of-brown-coal ).
Typical charring and briquetting processes generate heat via combustion of coal or gas. If they use coal, CO2 emissions will be greater than the caps, limiting them to 27,000 tonnes a year. This is enough to make around 12,000 tonnes of briquettes. If they use gas their operating costs will likely be higher due to the increase in local gas costs. At commercial scale, Coldry is designed to utilise waste heat, making it a zero-CO2 process and therefore unaffected by the 27,000 tonnes per annum cap.
Previous announcements the impression that the “fast track in India” approach was necessitated because of domestic political resistance or the prohibitive costs of labour for building or developing an Australian plant among other reasons.
With regard to the question's specific reference to political aspects of the signing ceremony, the writer starts from an incorrect assumption; The lack of Ministerial presence was not due to the Company or its activities to do with coal.
Projections of profits have further been tempered by admissions that the site was never intended to be commercial but only a test facility. This is an unclear narrative and it could give the impression that the Company is hedging its bets on both success and failure of commercial sales. What is the Company's realistic outlook on the HVTF?
This question is built on incorrect assumptions.
The Company has not made profit projections.
Further, the question claims that an 'admission' of non-commerciality has been made. This claim only makes sense if the Company intended the pilot plant to be commercial but chose to keep that secret. This is incorrect.
The Coldry pilot plant has always been an R&D facility. It's function as a pilot plant has been to develop the process as part of the step-wise incremental scale up through to commercial scale.
The question ignores the framework under which the Company operates; the R&D Tax Incentive program, and the function of a pilot plant in the context of a scaleup pathway.
The fact that the Coldry pilot plant is an R&D facility has always been overt. There was never an intention in the design of the pilot plant or its upgrades, to make Coldry in a commercial sense. The scale is insufficient.
However, per our announcements, the local market has seen such recent growth in the cost of electricity and gas that the price consumers are willing to pay for solid fuel are greater than our cost to produce test output from the pilot plant, making it potentially profitable.
It is also necessary, as shareholders will understand, to ensure activity is eligible for R&D Tax Incentive rebates, hence the overt narrative that the plant is not commercial, but rather is selling output from eligible R&D activity, which is permissible under the R&D Tax Incentive rules.
Bacchus Marsh upgrades have been scheduled on different dates for some time.
The stage 3 upgrades to the HVTF have been delayed for a number of reasons.
Foremost is the focus of Company resources allocated to the development of the India project, a priority commitment given to shareholders in previous updates.
Secondarily, the Company has also been conducting Coldry R&D at the plant in support of the India project as well as developing working relationships with end users of solid fuel to trial the pellets produced from the R&D.
The current plant configuration and R&D work plan aren’t prioritising volume of throughput for sales, instead, it is focusing on R&D process and product improvements, end-user trials, operational rigour and development of process and procedural discipline. This focus will place the plant operations on a stable footing for an increase in volume when required.
The stage 3 upgrades will proceed in due course and the Company has all the planning in place. However, it will not be adopting a "build it and they will come" strategy.
Finally, the Company has also been trialling a packaged offering to end users, which combine fuel, boiler operations and maintenance and on-site capital improvements to ensure that when we do increase our sales drive, it’s against sales that are commercial and deliver a unique value proposition.
Does ECT have any other technologies that are being developed that may represent similar breakthrough as MATMOR in other areas?
Hydromor and COHgen are the two other technologies under development.
Hydromor (hydrogen metal oxide reduction) is a result of new findings during the development of Matmor, allowing the application for a new patent. In essence, the integrated Coldry-Matmor plant will be an integrated Coldry-Hydromor plant.
The India project agreement structure provides for such IP development and provides a distinction between pre-existing IP and new IP developed under the project.
Hydromor will eventually replace Matmor. Changing the use of the name from Matmor, which is relatively familiar, to Hydromor will occur in due course. The Matmor process patent 703821 expired in January 2016. The Matmor apparatus (retort) patent 767268 will expire in 2020. The Hydromor patent application PCT/AU2017/051281 is on foot and progressing through the patent process.
COHgen (Catalytic Organic Hydrogen generation) research is still at an early stage, testing hypotheses on laboratory scale apparatus. COHgen research stemmed from Matmor and Hydromor research. If hypothesised COHgen process parameters can be validated and subsequently prove to be scalable, it may be an ideal lignite-based hydrogen production process capable of replacing the ‘standard’ gasification-steam reforming process earmarked for adoption in places like Victoria.
Environmental Clean Technologies Limited (ASX: ESI) (ECT or Company) is pleased to provide the following general update on its activities in India and Australia.
On 30 May 2018, the Company signed a project agreement for the largest ever (~AUD35 million) R&D collaboration between Australia and India for the joint development of its two leading technologies: Matmor and Coldry.
ECT’s partners, NLC India Limited (NLCIL) and NMDC Limited (NMDC), majority Indian government-owned enterprises and India’s largest lignite (brown coal) and iron ore miners respectively, will fund the project in return for a 25.5% share each of the ensuing joint-venture entity.
The first order of business under the project agreement is the finalisation and execution of a set of detailed sub-agreements, which form the condition precedent to financial close, and are targeted for completion by 31 July.
ECT India Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Ashley Moore commented, “Following the signing ceremony for the project agreement we moved straight into the review and finalisation of the draft sub-agreements.
“I’m pleased to report the drafting process has continued its momentum over the past few weeks and is currently on track to meet our mutually agreed timeframe of 31 July (2018).
“Next steps involve finalisation of the sub-agreements as a package, followed by their signing in India.
“This process includes review by the three key departments within NLCIL and NMDC, being Company Secretariat, Legal and Finance, ahead of conclusion.
“Following the execution of the sub-agreements the engineering, procurement and construction program will commence.”
The Company will continue to provide updates and guidance on this key activity.
The Company is pleased to provide updates on the following activities:
The Company’s previous update on the progress of its Coldry solid fuel trials in the Victorian and Tasmanian markets (6 February 2018) noted:
Under the AusIndustry R&D Tax Incentive program, product generated from eligible experimental activity is permitted to be sold.
ECT is pleased to report that the Coldry solid fuel test product consumed by participants has performed well and as a result, the Company continues to supply these customers with further product generated by our experimental activity, on an ongoing basis.
The Company is now expanding its HVTF test program and will continue to make Coldry solid fuel available for sale to these consumers across Victoria and Tasmania.
ECT COO Jim Blackburn commented, “In addition to the successful initial testing across several consumers and the subsequent ongoing sale of available Coldry solid fuel over recent months, we’ve also assisted customers with the review and scoping of boiler upgrades, with a focus on Coldry handling systems, allowing for progressive scale up as we expand capacity at our Bacchus Marsh site.
“Not surprisingly, we’ve received increased interest from shareholders in recent weeks seeking to know the identity of the customers, how many tonnes we’re supplying and the price. These details remain commercial-in-confidence given the emerging interest in the market from parties that may seek to market alternate products to the same consumers.
“Importantly, the establishment of regular sales of Coldry solid fuel test product supports our planned Stage 3 upgrade of the HVTF to a capacity of up to 35,000 tonnes a year, including development of an expanded raw materials handling and finished product storage capacity.
“The upgrade activity at the HVTF will further support collection of critical scale-up research data to inform aspects of both the integrated Coldry demonstration and Matmor pilot plant project in India and our proposed Latrobe Valley project here in Australia.”
Latrobe Valley Project
The Company previously announced the commencement of the feasibility study for the proposed establishment of a large-scale Coldry demonstration plant of ~170,000 tonnes per annum capacity (4 September 2017).
The feasibility study scope entailed:
Phase 1 was completed and announced (15 November 2017), highlighting our partnership with Energy Australia for potential site location and coal supply.
The Company’s focus on advancing the India project has taken priority since the conclusion of Phase 1, resulting in a pause in activity around the Latrobe Valley project in recent months.
ECT Chairman Mr Glenn Fozard commented “The initial scoping and site selection provided a solid foundation to proceed to pre-feasibility and we look forward to progressing this program in coming months.
“This proposed project holds significant short-term interest in providing increased energy security and affordability through diversification of Victoria’s energy solutions and longer-term interest as a gateway enabler to the deployment of High-Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) electricity production and low emission chemical production, including hydrogen, from Victoria’s world-class lignite assets.
“HELE power stations, hydrogen production and fertilizer production are all industries of the future for the Latrobe Valley and they all share the common need to dry brown coal. Following successful scale-up, Coldry has the potential to deliver this outcome economically and with zero-emissions when integrated with a waste heat source. A claim unmatched by any other process.”
Background – India Project
The project entails the development of ECT’s two leading technologies:
Commencing with an ~AUD35 million R&D phase, the project aims to scale up ECT’s Matmor and Coldry technologies to deliver an integrated Coldry demonstration and Matmor pilot plant to validate their technical and economic feasibility at a capacity of ~2 tonnes of metal per hour.
Following successful phase one R&D outcomes, the project agreement provides the framework to proceed with a commercial-scale integrated steelmaking facility. The parties have previously contemplated the potential scope for the commercial phase via the techno-economic feasibility study completed in July 2016, which includes a notional capacity of 500,000 tonnes per annum steel output and an estimated AUD300 million capital investment. The site for the R&D plant at NLCIL has been chosen to allow room for expansion into a commercial-scale facility.
Matmor is the world’s first and only lignite-based primary iron making technology capable of replacing metallurgical coal and high-grade lump iron ore with lower-cost alternative raw materials thanks to its unique chemistry and furnace design.
The process is built on a unique chemical pathway that utilises hydrogen, enabling lower operating temperatures and shorter process times than the traditional blast furnace route.
Coldry is a unique, zero-emission, lignite upgrading technology capable of producing a solid fuel for use in power generation, industrial thermal applications and as a feedstock to higher-value downstream applications such as coal to liquids, gas, fertiliser, chemicals, chars, activated carbon, hydrogen and steelmaking (via the Matmor technology). Coldry solid fuel is significantly less CO2 intensive than lignite.
The anticipated lower cost of the integrated Coldry-Matmor technologies when commercialised provides a realistic basis for achieving zero-net CO2 emissions from primary iron production, a goal which has eluded the commercial world of steel making despite many attempts.
For further information, contact:
Glenn Fozard – Chairman [email protected]
Environmental Clean Technologies Limited (ASX: ESI) (ECT or Company) is pleased to provide the following update on the progress of Coldry solid fuel commercial trial activities in the Victorian and Tasmanian markets.
Further to the Company's previous updates on its local market business development activities (1 & 15 Nov 2017), several trial participants have indicated their intention to enter supply contracts for Coldry solid fuel volumes if further solid fuel trials also prove successful. Confirmation of these contracts are expected to justify the next stage of upgrades at the Bacchus Marsh High Volume Test Facility.
The Company’s maiden shipment of test product for a Tasmanian solid fuel trial customer has just been loaded, ready to transport.
ECT Chief Operating Officer, Jim Blackburn commented "The prospects for generation of revenues from our HVTF is an important element to our broader commercialisation strategy that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago. The local market pricing would not have supported test product sales, due to the higher cost of production associated with an R&D scale facility, which are typically non-commercial.
"However, the local market dynamics, inclusive of high gas prices, combined with the Stage 1 and Stage 2 upgrades at our Bacchus Marsh facility which have reduced our average production costs, present a strong opportunity for test product sales.
"Our team have worked in conjunction with logistics support partner Jebsens to develop leads. Several leads have progressed through testing, boiler system assessment and cost-benefit analysis, resulting in orders for live trials. We're now in the process of preparing to gear up production to service these customers.
"We have also partnered with independent boiler system specialist Paul Hoffman to assess and configure customers' existing systems for use with Coldry, in addition to helping end users specify, source, install and commission new boiler systems.
"Rounding off the turnkey approach is the ability to offer equipment finance through our subsidiary, ECT Finance Ltd."
Potential customers include large abattoirs as well as hydroponic and aeroponic facilities.
ECT currently plans to limit upgrades to the HVTF to a maximum 30,000-35,000 tonnes per annum capacity. Given the level of interest received to date, the Company is confident a sustainable market exists for a solid fuel here in Victoria and interstate, to supply energy-intensive industries currently having to manage increasing gas prices and/or limited or irregular supply of alternative solid fuels. As such the Company continues to develop its feasibility study for the establishment of a large-scale Coldry demonstration plant in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, the scoping study component of which is anticipated to conclude in February 2018.
Importantly, the proposed large-scale Coldry demonstration plant will leverage existing resources and infrastructure, with site selection at Yallourn power station announced on 15 November 2017.
The Victorian demonstration plant will be designed to an output capacity of ~170,000 tonnes per annum and will feature a zero CO2 footprint, having no direct emissions itself.
ECT Chairman Glenn Fozard commented, "Coldry solid fuel is an ideal solution to industries requiring large volumes of process heat.
"Further, it doesn't conflict with the Victorian government's renewable energy target, as neither wind nor solar are suitable for generating reliable, affordable process heat to such industries.
"In this respect, we are competing directly with the prices of natural gas and biomass alternatives, which given the current supply-demand profile, look like remaining high, and possibly escalating, well into the future.
"Beyond supplying these energy-intensive industries, we see potential to grow our Coldry capacity in Victoria over time to support any number of high value applications, including high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) power generation to deliver reliable, affordable electricity, through to hydrogen production, and upgraded coal products such as activated carbon, PCI (pulverised coal injection) coal, and hydrocarbon liquids and gases.
"All these high-value applications can generate jobs while bringing down the emissions intensity of Victoria's world-class brown coal resource."
The Company will continue to provide further updates on the above activities as they progress.
For further information, contact:
Glenn Fozard – Chairman [email protected]
Environmental Clean Technologies Limited (ASX:ESI) (ECT or Company) is pleased to provide the following update on its research, development and commercialisation activities in Victoria.
Boiler trials completed
The Company previously announced (21 July 2017) research and development (R&D) trial activities with a large consumer of solid fuel in southwestern Victoria as part of its broader Coldry commercialisation strategy.
This activity, pursued with AKD Softwoods in Colac, is now complete, having delivered valuable outcomes.
Coldry Commercialisation Strategy
Through FY2017 and into the first quarter of FY2018, ECT has continued to develop its strategy for offering a cost-effective solid fuel (i.e. Coldry pellets) for use in steam and hot water boiler systems across Victoria, and potentially to markets interstate and overseas.
The cost-effectiveness of the Company’s solid fuel sits in contrast to the rising costs and falling security of supply of other energy sources, including:
Coldry solid fuel pellets using lignite sourced from the Yallourn open-cut mine, have a distinct cost advantage against all the above options.
ECT Chairman, Glenn Fozard commented, “This advantage is not surprising given the readily available abundance of lignite inside the pre-existing infrastructure. Economies of scale already exist in the natural resource and the relatively low-cost means of extraction.
“The rapidly changing face of Victoria’s fuel supply mix, resulting in increased reliance on higher-priced gas, will continue to place pressure on local industries reliant on reasonably priced fuel inputs to remain competitive. Without a choice of fuel that helps maintain Victorian industry’s competitive advantage, the state may continue to see an accelerated contraction of important sectors such as manufacturing, food processing and other energy-intensive employers.
“Our proposition for commercialisation, therefore, remains clear and concise.
“And while these market opportunities are a clear signal for commercialisation, on their own they don’t make a commercial ready proposition certain. As such, we continue to improve this certainty through effective R&D programming to test and refine variables expected at a larger scale, under a continuous processing environment. This is consistent with our commercialisation strategy where a broad range of demand factors result in market ‘Pull’ as we ‘Push’ with R&D programs that increase technology options (see diagram, below).
“Our goal in Victoria is to deliver a zero-emissions gateway fuel plant. We believe this will help ‘future-proof’ Victoria’s energy prices while establishing a scalable access point for the improved utilisation of Victoria’s brown coal reserves, including high efficiency, low emission (HELE) power stations, hydrogen production and fertiliser production, to name but a few.”
Over this last 12 months, the Company has set its strategy, which comprises three targeted programs aimed at testing our alternative solid fuel, produced using our Coldry technology, under commercial conditions. These programs include:
800-tonne Boiler trial – AKD Softwoods, Colac
With planning taking place through May and early June 2017, ECT undertook an extensive trial of Coldry solid fuel produced at the Bacchus Marsh High Volume Test Facility (HVTF) in a 4.2MW (thermal) fluidised bed steam boiler system located in Colac, Western Victoria.
This trial was undertaken in parallel with the stage 2 upgrades at the HVTF, which targeted improvements to storage, drying efficiency, inventory and logistics management and product handling.
After three months, the trial has now been completed and the data processed, ahead of moving into the next phase of a drying simulation program at Bacchus Marsh. The boiler trial, conducted in collaboration with industry partners, AKD, Mecrus, Calleja Transport and Geelong Boiler Systems, assessed all points of the commercial supply chain in producing, transporting and combusting Coldry solid fuel pellets.
Outcomes and learnings from the trials include the following:
Product specification is critical to efficient performance outcomes
Logistics and inventory management are critical elements of a solid fuel business
Identified opportunity for product enhancements through targeted research and development
Support for the commercialisation pathway and test product sales
As mentioned, the data generated via the trial with AKD has proved highly valuable, both in what it has confirmed and in highlighting remaining challenges.
In this respect, and as can be anticipated in a commercialisation program of this scale, the trial presented several key learning opportunities, which provided important feedback to the research team and have driven a number of fundamental changes to the Coldry development program including:
The completion of stage 2 upgrades to the HVTF has provided some significant changes to plant operations, which in turn provided unexpected challenges under high volume production. These included:
Having settled the Latrobe Valley logistics arrangements and progressed the next stage of drying simulation trials, the majority of these issues have been addressed.
Notwithstanding the R&D nature of this project, the Company generated $162,000 in revenues from the project.
Jim Blackburn, ECT Chief Operating Officer and executive sponsor of the R&D trial commented, “The trial was an important next step in commercialising Coldry. We had previously shown success in small boiler systems and to take on a system with substantial daily consumption volumes, allowed us to test our operational capability as well as the technical capability of Coldry.”
“We will now incorporate our substantial learnings from this trial into the next phase of our strategy. The interim aim here is to provide a sound basis for stage 3 upgrades at the High-Volume Test Facility and deliver a facility readily able to support ongoing large trials and sales of Coldry pellets.”
One of the key outcomes of the AKD trial was to identify areas of improvement and efficiencies within the logistics chain as well as support further sales and distribution of our Coldry product.
Next Coldry Trial Program – 3000 tonnes
Upon completion of the Drying Simulation Program at Bacchus Marsh, ECT intends to undertake a trial of Coldry solid fuel pellets which will incorporate the benefits of the improvements realised through prior trials and R&D programs.
In addition to its R&D focus, the next trial intends to support the identification and development of contracts for off-take to help underpin the feasibility of the Latrobe Valley Coldry project as well as other commercial sales.
Given the synergies between the Latrobe Valley project and the 3000-tonne trial, the Company has prioritised site selection and market analysis within the feasibility plan. Early determination of a site partner, which will also drive coal feedstock selection, is important to ensure the greatest alignment between the next trial program and the feasibility study for the Latrobe Valley Coldry project.
Further updates will be provided as they become available.
Logistics, Yard Management and Sales Agreement - Jebsens
ECT is pleased to announce it has entered an agreement with Jebsens, for logistics and yard management at its Bacchus Marsh High-Volume Test Facility.
Jebsens are well experienced with the logistical challenges presented by the storage and transport of solid fuel having been the logistics manager for IEPL (the “Morwell Briquette Factory”).
The agreement will see Jebsens manage the logistics chain, including yard management, at Bacchus Marsh and into other plants that are built across Victoria, including the Latrobe Valley Coldry project currently under feasibility.
Jebsens also has strong existing relationships with solid fuel users in Victoria and Tasmania. As a result, ECT has agreed to offer them an exclusive sales services and distribution agreement for the capacity of Bacchus Marsh as well as a further 100,000 tonnes.
Jebsens' role will be to originate and support sales leads, utilising their extensive network of relationships with end users.
The agreement allows ECT to develop sales leads ahead of incurring the costs of the yard management and third-party logistics services. These obligations will only come into effect if the business case is approved by ECT's Board, with sales being a major influence on the approval.
ECT Chairman, Glenn Fozard commented “As a key outcome of the recently completed trial program, we are delighted to add Jebsens to our list of strategic partners. With their knowledge of key markets and customers for this type of fuel, we have been able to establish an agreement which provides both the critical logistics management services, and access to Jebsens' customer relationships. This underpins our Coldry commercialisation strategy in providing potential sales for the full future capacity of the Bacchus Marsh facility (up to 35,000 tonnes per annum) as well as scope for a further 100,000 tonnes per annum from the Latrobe Valley plant, which is currently the subject of feasibility planning.”
“Having an experienced logistics expert who also supports sales of Coldry solid fuel will now allow ECT to focus on technical improvements of the product and operational rigour in running the plant.”
For further information, contact:
Glenn Fozard – Chairman [email protected]
Environmental Clean Technologies Limited (ECT of Company) (ASX:ESI) is pleased to provide the following update on the status of its Integrated Demonstration project and supporting activities in India.
Status of Independent Financial Review of the Master Project Agreement (MPA)
The Master Project Agreement (MPA) is currently the subject of an independent financial review as a requirement under the broader project review by the Indian governments peak strategic planning committee, NITI Aayog.
The Company has worked closely with India’s national iron ore and lignite authorities, NMDC and NLC India over several years to develop an integrated demonstration project aimed at scaling up our first-of-a-kind Coldry and Matmor technologies ahead of broader commercial rollout.
Key to establishing the project is the development of the Master Project Agreement (MPA), which provides the project framework, investment scope, structuring and defines the roles and responsibilities of the parties. The MPA is binding and this investment is significant, triggering an independent, external financial review. The review was put to tender per Indian Government processes (see announcements 26 & 29 May 2017).
ECT’s Mr Ashley Moore commented “Due to probity requirements around such reviews, the Company must necessarily remain at arm’s length while the process runs its course.
“However, both NMDC and NLC remain highly motivated to proceed and we look forward to working closely with them to progress through this review and finalise the MPA, and expressed as much in our recent meetings, reported on later in this update.
“In anticipation of that progress, and in an effort to hit the ground running, we’ve commenced activities around the mobilisation of engineering resources at Thermax and MN Dastur, laying the groundwork for our increased presence leading the project under our subsidiary, ECT India, and continued support work via R&D activities at our Bacchus Marsh High Volume Test Facility.
“This recently kicked off with my appointment as Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) of ECT India and a restructure of ECT, to support our transition toward project commencement and execution.”
The independent financial review process currently remains in progress and the Company will provide further updates on timing and outcomes as information comes to hand.
ECT India – Operational update
In his first act as the CMD of ECT India, Mr Moore has commenced the selection process for an additional resident Director, as well as staff to support the increased operational tempo. These appointments are expected to occur over the coming months.
The establishment of a project office has advanced, with options in close proximity to NLC headquarters in Chennai being reviewed. Additionally, the search for local corporate services providers (accounting, taxation & legal) has commenced, to support the range of additional compliance requirements present in India as the project moves to operational status.
Senior changes to drive progress
Key relationships essential for progress on the Company’s integrated demonstration project are with our partners, NLC and NMDC.
Each being a ‘Public Sector Undertaking’ (PSUs – Government owned enterprises), the relationships necessarily extend to their supervising Ministries; the Ministry of Coal and the Ministry of Steel, respectively.
The Ministry of Coal has been led by rising star, Minister Piyush Goyal.
Minister Goyal assumed his duties in 2014, progressively expanding his responsibilities to include the Ministries of Coal, Power, New & Renewable Energy, and Mines.
In Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet re-shuffle of 3rd September, Minister Goyal was rewarded for his performance with the expansion of Ministerial responsibilities to include the challenging, yet prestigious Ministry of Railways, while relinquishing duties associated with Power, New and Renewable Energy and Mines.
In addition to being appointed to oversee one of the most significant of all Indian national Ministries (Indian Railways is one of the largest employers in the world with staff numbers in excess of 1.4 million), Minister Goyal was also promoted to Cabinet rank.
Minister Goyal remains at the helm of the Ministry of Coal, lending welcome continuity and ongoing support to the project.
Additionally, project partner NMDC has appointed a new Chairman and Managing Director, Mr. N. Baijendra Kumar.
Mr Kumar’s background features very senior administrative and technical roles within the state of Chhattisgarh, where NMDC operates iron ore mines and is constructing its new 3 million tonne per annum steel plant.
The Company welcomes Mr Kumar’s appointment, and looks forward to providing him a project briefing in the near future.
ABWI – Australia Business Week India 2017
ECT recently attended the ABWI 2017, at the invitation of Austrade.
The trade mission, led by Australia’s Trade Minister Steve Ciobo is aimed at promoting a range of industry sectors, and fostering Australian business activity with and in India.
ECT joined the ‘METS’ delegation (Mining Equipment, Technology and Services), supported by Minister Ciobo’s deputy, Assistant Minister for Trade, Keith Pitt.
ECT India CMD, Mr Ashley Moore commented, “In joining the mission, we recognised the strong alignment with our business, and additionally, the synergistic opportunity to meet with key partners, supporters, and a broad range of relevant, interested groups.
“The locations of the sessions for the METS delegation were ideal, enabling us to attend important presentations, meet with Ministry officials and, in Kolkata, meet with MN Dastur, our Matmor engineering partner. The final stage of the mission was in Hyderabad, where we were able to schedule a joint meeting with NMDC and NLC.”
“ABWI 2017 represented a great opportunity to engage with other companies setting up in India, as well as ECT partners and supporters.”
During the visit to Hyderabad Mr Moore met with NMDC’s Director Technical NK Nanda, NMDC’s General Manager R&D Rajan Kumar, and NLC’s General Manager R&D V Manoharan where the parties reinforced their continued shared commitment to the Company’s integrated demonstration project.
Further updates will be made when the next progress threshold is crossed.
Testing of new key equipment
While awaiting the NITI Aayog process to run its course the Company continues to forge ahead with preparations for the integrated demonstration plant.
Recently, the Company finalised the scoping and purchase of a new, larger extruder system to support the evaluation of new equipment and designs in the High Volume Test Facility (HVTF) at its Research and Development (R&D) facility in Bacchus Marsh.
The evaluation programs are aimed at exploring a range of scale up parameters, through operations which cover both ‘lignite only’ (Coldry) as well as ‘composite’ (Matmor) pellets, using several benchmark formulations applicable to the Indian project.
Regarding Matmor Test Plant activity, the engineering team have undertaken refurbishments and design modifications aimed at enhanced gas flow management and improved combustion operations. Modifications to feed and discharge systems are now under evaluation to test concepts intended for the Indian project.
The Company will continue preparatory activity at its R&D Facility in support of the anticipated commencement of the project in India. Further updates will be provided as activities progress.
For further information, contact:
Ashley Moore – [email protected]