fresh funding

DOE deploys $6B into decarbonization projects — including 4 on the Gulf Coast

Four decarbonization projects in the region have received federal support. Photo via Getty Images

Four projects along the Gulf Coast will receive a share of up to $6 billion in federal funding for decarbonization initiatives.

The $6 billion in funding was announced March 25 by the U.S. Department of Energy. The federal agency and the award recipients still must hammer out details.

“Spurring on the next generation of decarbonization technologies in key industries like steel, paper, concrete, and glass will keep America the most competitive nation on Earth,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says in a news release.

Below are details about the four projects.

Baytown Olefins Plant Carbon Reduction Project

The Baytown Olefins Plant Carbon Reduction Project, led by Spring-based ExxonMobil, will receive up to $331.9 million in federal funding.

Officials say the project will enable the use of hydrogen in place of natural gas for heat-fired equipment using new burner technologies for ethylene production in Baytown. Ethylene is a chemical feedstock used in the production of textiles, synthetic rubbers, and plastic resins.

The equipment modification is aimed at generating 95 percent clean hydrogen fuel and eliminating 2.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

The Baytown project is expected to employ about 400 construction workers. Furthermore, an estimated 140 current Baytown workers will be trained in the use of hydrogen.

Sustainable Ethylene from CO2 Utilization with Renewable Energy (SECURE)

The federal government will supply as much as $200 million for the SECURE project, which will be located along the Gulf Coast. T.EN Stone & Webster Process Technology in Houston is leading the project in partnership with Illinois-based LanzaTech.

The project seeks to capture carbon dioxide from ethylene production — an important building block for many products — by applying a biotech-based process and green hydrogen to create clean ethanol and ethylene.

SECURE is expected to generate 200 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs.

Star e-Methanol

The Star e-Methanol project, which will be located along the Texas Gulf Coast, will collect up to $100 million in federal funding. A subsidiary of Denmark-based clean energy developer Ørsted, which recently opened an office in Houston, is leading the project.

The project seeks to capture carbon dioxide from an industrial facility to produce e-methanol, helping reduce the carbon footprint for hard-to-electrify sectors like shipping. Ørsted’s facility will produce up to 300,000 metric tons of e-methanol per year.

Star e-Methanol is projected to create 300 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.

Ørsted is collaborating with the University of Houston to develop a curriculum covering zero-carbon fuels and the hydrogen economy.

Syngas Production from Recycled Chemical Byproduct Streams project

The Syngas Production from Recycled Chemical Byproduct Streams project, led by chemical giant BASF, will secure up to $75 million in federal funding.

The project aims to recycle liquid byproducts into synthesis gas. That gas will be used as low-carbon feedstock for BASF’s manufacturing plant in Freeport.

BASF plans to use plasma gasification and renewable power to replace natural gas-fired incineration, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions at the Freeport site by as much as 90 percent.

About 1,600 employees and contractors work at BASF’s Freeport facility.

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A View From HETI

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now."

And, predictably, some of those waves are caused by new momentum within the energy transition.

"The energy transition has thrown up a lot of questions for everyone in the maritime industry," Costello says. "The regulations create a lot of questions around cost primarily. ... And that has created a huge number of opportunities for technology."

Fuel as a primary cost for the maritime industry. These cargo ships are traversing the world 24/7 and burning fuel at all times. Costello says there's an increased focus on the fuel process — "all with a goal of essentially reducing carbon intensity usage."

One of the ways to move the needle on reducing the carbon footprint of these ships is optimizing the time spent in port, and specifically the delays associated. Demurrage are charges associated with delays in loading and unloading cargo within maritime shipping, and Costello estimates that the total paid globally in demurrage fees is around $10 billion to $20 billion a year.

"These fees can be huge," Costello says. "What technology has really enabled with this problem of demurrage is helping companies drill down to the true root cause of what something is happening."

All this progress is thanks to the enhancement — and wider range of acceptance — of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Costello, who says Voyager has been improving its profitability every quarter for the last year, has grown the business to around 40 employees in its headquarters of Houston and three remote offices in Brazil, London, and Singapore. The company's last round of funding was a series A in 2021. Costello says the next round, if needed, would be next year.

In the meantime, Voyager is laser focused on providing optimized, cost-saving, and sustainable solutions for its customers — around half of which are headquartered or have a significant presence in Houston. For Costello, that's all about putting the control back into the hands of his customers.

"If we think back to the real problems the industry faces, a lot of them are controlled by different groups and parties. The fact that a ship cannot get in and out of a port quickly is not necessarily a function of one party's issue — it's a multitude of issues, and there's no one factor," Costello says on the show. "To really make the whole process efficient end-to-end you need to provide the customer to access and options for different means of getting cargo from A to B — and you need to have a sense of control in that process."


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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