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New hydrogen lab unveiled, Houston ranks as top green jobs hub, and more trending news

A new lab focused on hydrogen transport was announced — plus more top EnergyCapital headlines from the week. Photo courtesy of Oceanit

Editor's note: It's been a busy week for energy transition news in Houston, and some of this week's headlines resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter. Trending news included a report on green jobs in Houston, a panel of experts discuss challenges within hydrogen, and more.


New lab opens in Houston to help make pipelines safer for hydrogen transport

Oceanit's lab, H2XCEL — short for “Hydrogen Accelerator” — aims to integrate hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure, a serious cost-saver for companies looking to make the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

An innovative Hawaii-based technology company is saying aloha to Houston with the opening of a unique test laboratory that aims to increase hydrogen pipeline safety. It is the latest sign that Houston is at the forefront of the movement to hydrogen energy.

The lab, H2XCEL — short for “Hydrogen Accelerator” — aims to integrate hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure, a serious cost-saver for companies looking to make the energy transition. Oceanit, a Honolulu-based technology company, is behind the lab.

H2XCEL will be the only lab in the U.S. capable of testing hydrogen and methane mixtures at high temperatures and pressures. Its aim is to protect pipelines from hydrogen embrittlement — when small hydrogen molecules penetrate pipe walls and damage the metal, potentially causing cracks, leaks, and failures. Continue reading.

Report: Houston recognized in the top 5 cities for green jobs

Houston ranks in the top five cities for green jobs, which pay on average 21 percent more than other jobs. Photo via Getty Images

Green jobs are generating more green — aka money — for workers in the Houston area.

Personal finance website SmartAsset recently ranked the Houston metro area as the fifth best place in the U.S. for green jobs, which pay an average of 21 percent more than other jobs. The SmartAsset study found that 2.23 percent of workers in the Houston area hold down jobs classified as “green.”

“Houston is known as being an energy hub, especially for oil. So this metro area ranking fifth may surprise some people. However, the green industry is pretty big around Houston, too,” says SmartAsset. Continue reading.

Panel: Experts weigh in on what's holding hydrogen development back​ in Houston and beyond

It's all about the money — or lack thereof. Photo by Natalie Harms/EnergyCapital

Houston has a ton of potential to be a major hub for hydrogen — but who's to pick up the tab on the progress that is needed to advance the alternative energy source? A panel at a recent event sat down to talk it out.

The Hydrogen Technology Expo, a two-day conference at NRG Center last week, brought in dozens of companies and hundreds of attendees to Houston to discuss the most pressing topics of the energy transition. One panel — moderated by Brett Perlman, CEO of the Center for Houston's Future — looked specifically at the challenges for the hydrogen economy.

The biggest challenge: Money. Perlman starts the conversation asking panelists if Wall Street is showing up to back hydrogen projects.

"Everyone talks about investing in hydrogen, and very few people actually do it," says Sean Shafer, managing partner of Energy and Industrial Advisor Partners, "outside of the big strategics and some technology plays — electrolyzers, fuel cells, and stuff like that." Continue reading.

Houston expert: When it comes to the future of energy and climate, think 'all of the above'

There's no silver bullet for clean energy. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach, writes Scott Nyquist. Photo via Getty Images

People in the energy industry don’t have the Oscars. For us, the big event of the year is CERAWeek — a conference stuffed with CEOs, top policymakers, and environmental and energy wonks held annually in March.

CERAWeek 2022, with the theme “Pace of Change: Energy, Climate, and Innovation," meant the return of in-person activations, panels, and networking. Walking and talking between sessions and around the coffee table, it occurred to me that the unofficial theme of the event was “Maybe now we can find middle ground on energy.” This idea came up time and time again, from all kinds of people.

As with too many other issues, the discussion of the future of US energy has become polarized. On one end of the spectrum are those who want everything renewable and/or electrified by ….. last week, whatever the cost. Their mantra for fossil fuels: “Keep them in the ground.” Continue reading.

California energy services company expands to Houston area

Upwing Energy has expanded and opened an office in Katy. Photo via upwingenergy.com

Southern California-based startup Upwing Energy is establishing an outpost in Katy.

Upwing says it already has four full-time employees assigned to its Katy location, which features 1,000 square feet of office space and 2,500 square feet of warehouse space. The company’s new digs are at Nelson Way Business Park, near Katy Freeway and Pin Oak Road.

Herman Artinian, president and CEO of Upwing, says the company plans to employ 10 people in Katy by the end of this year. Altogether, Upwing employs 50 people.

“As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston provides an ideal location for our new facilities, positioning our personnel and materials closer to wells we’re servicing and at the center for innovation in the industry,” Artinian tells EnergyCapital. Continue reading.

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A View From HETI

HEXASpec was founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program. Photo courtesy of Rice

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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