M&A moves

Houston chemical company divests new tech arm to PE

Merichem Company has created a new business unit that's been acquired by a private equity firm. Photo via Getty Images

A New Orleans-based private equity firm has announced the acquisition of a Houston chemical company's technology business unit, the business announced today.

Black Bay Energy Capital acquired a portion of Merichem Company’s business — including its Merichem Process Technologies and Merichem Catalyst Products, which will collectively be renamed Merichem Technologies. Merichem's caustic services business, which handles spent caustic for beneficial reuse, will be maintained by the company.

Cyndie Fredrick has been promoted to CEO of Merichem Technologies. She previously served as Merichem's senior vice president and general manager of Merichem Process Technologies. She's joined by CFO Rene Campos, Senior Vice President of Technology Jeff Gomach, and Senior Vice President of Catalysts William Rouleau, who are all former managers within Merichem.

“The Merichem Technologies team has successfully deployed highly engineered and patented technologies, chemical catalysts, and mechanical solutions to various end markets including liquified natural gas, midstream oil and gas, refining of traditional crude and renewable feedstocks, biogas/landfill/RNG production, geothermal energy production, and chemical manufacturing," Fredrick says in a news release. "Merichem Company has been a fantastic steward of this business for decades, and the entire Merichem Technologies team is excited about our new partnership with Black Bay and the ability to pursue new avenues for growth.”

Additionally, Merichem Company's CEO Kendra Lee will join the Merichem Technologies board. Lee's grandfather founded the company in 1945, and she told EnergyCapital last year that she hopes to continue the legacy of the company, which designs and fabricates equipment for sulfur removal.

“Our reputation has always stood on the principles of proven performance, unsurpassed expertise, and an uncommon commitment to our customers," Lee says in the release. "This divesture is a major milestone for Merichem Company as we continue to execute on our strategic vision, further cementing our leadership position in caustic services.”

Black Bay focuses on the energy and specialty chemical sectors, but the Merichem Technologies acquisition brings a new sulfur-treating platform to the firm.

“Sulfur treatment is a critical path item across many industrial applications around the world. Hydrogen sulfide, mercaptans, carbon dioxide, and other related impurities must be dealt with to ensure environmental compliance, sustainable operations, and a saleable end product," Tom Ambrose, partner of Black Bay, says in the release.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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