fresh funding

Houston microgrid company scores $2.1M grant for hydrogen blending tech research

Enchanted Rock specializes in electrical-resiliency-as-a-service for sectors such as health care, manufacturing, and government infrastructure. Photo via enchantedrock.com

A Houston-based provider of electric microgrids has scooped up a $2.1 million grant from the California Energy Commission for development of technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses and other natural gas emissions.

Enchanted Rock shares the grant with the University of California Riverside, or UCR.

“This is an exciting opportunity to further advance the potential use of hydrogen fuel blends for commercialization and market adoption,” Thomas McAndrew, founder and CEO of Enchanted Rock, says in a news release. “We believe in using the cleanest fuel available without compromising on reliability or performance for our customers and are dedicated to helping California, and the nation, achieve its climate and energy goals.”

The use of a hydrogen and natural gas blend for fueling generators shows promise for reducing emissions and improving efficiency, according to Enchanted Rock. The company says the funding will enable it to identify the ideal blend of natural gas and hydrogen for operating a natural generator while improving performance and minimizing emissions.

As part of the grant, UCR’s College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) will play a key role in measuring emissions and combustion performance. Meanwhile, Palomar College in San Marcos, California, will host a field demonstration site.

”Hydrogen is one of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ solutions to decarbonize our transportation system and other sectors where emissions are hard to abate, and it can serve as a zero-carbon green fuel for internal combustion off-road and highway engines,” says UCR professor Georgios Karavalakis.

Founded in 2006, Enchanted Rock specializes in electrical-resiliency-as-a-service for sectors such as health care, manufacturing, and government infrastructure. The company’s dual-purpose microgrids rely on natural gas and renewable natural gas to produce lower carbon emissions and air pollutants than diesel generators.

In December, Enchanted Rock said it had teamed up with U.S. Energy to supply renewable natural gas for Microsoft’s new data center in San Jose, California, during grid outages and when businesses are directed to reduce power usage.

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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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