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Texas falls short on clean electricity, Merichem divests tech biz, and more trending Houston energy news

The Lone Star State's clean electricity capacity was found lacking — and more top energy transition news from the week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note:Happy Friday — let's talk about the top news of the week, which included M&A moves, funding, and more. Scroll below for some of the top headlines that resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter this week.


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. Continue reading.

Report: Texas has promising capacity for clean electricity, but still falls behind nationally

In Texas only 38 percent of the state’s electricity capacity comes from clean electricity. Photo via Getty Images

In a new report that looked at states with the cleanest electricity across the country, Texas seems to have some room for improvement.

According to the report from SmartAsset, Texas has the most clean energy capacity at 56,405 megawatts, but continues to trail states with similar geographic characteristics in overall clean energy prevalence.

Texas has the largest wind capacity to help generate clean energy with over three times more than Iowa, which is the second-biggest wind power producer. Continue reading.

Decarbonization tech startup with Houston office scores $20M from United, Microsoft, and others

Among Dimensional Energy's funders are Microsoft and United. Photo via dimensionalenergy.com

Climatech company Dimensional Energy, which operates a Houston office, has scooped up $20 million in series A funding.

Founded in 2014, Ithaca, New York-based Dimensional Energy specializes in producing decarbonization technology, sustainable aviation fuel, and carbon emissions-derived fuels and materials. The company also says it’s working toward becoming a certified B Corporation. Businesses that achieve this certification seek to balance purpose and profit. Continue reading.

Houston oil companies offer $382M for drilling rights in Gulf of Mexico in last offshore sale before 2025

Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids. Photo via Getty Images

Last month, oil companies offered $382 million for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after courts rejected the Biden administration's plans to scale back the sale to protect an endangered whale species.

The auction was the last of several offshore oil and gas lease sales mandated under the 2022 climate law. It comes as President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration tries to navigate between energy companies seeking greater oil and gas production and environmental activists who want to stop new drilling to help combat climate change.

Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids on more than 300 parcels covering 2,700 square miles (7,000 square kilometers), according to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Continue reading.

Houston’s revolutionary energy shift: A personal journey of discovery

"In reflecting upon my journey through Houston’s energy landscape, it’s evident that the city stands on the cusp of a transformative era." Photo via Getty Images

The following was written by Pavan Kumar Medepalli, MBA candidate at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

As I reflect on my past visit to Houston, it’s not the usual sights or activities that linger but the pulse of a city redefining its energy narrative. The vibrant energy, the breakthroughs in innovation, and the spirited conversations with passionate individuals left an indelible mark. To my LinkedIn community, I invite you to join me on this journey into the heart of Houston’s transformative landscape.

Houston, traditionally known as the “Energy Capital of the World,” is now pioneering a new path. My recent trip provided a deep dive into its evolution from a primary energy hub to a beacon of global energy transition. At the forefront of this change are entities like HETI, Ion, Renewable Energy Alliance Houston, and Greentown Labs, each shaping a vibrant ecosystem of innovation.

During my recent three-day trip to Houston, I had the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in some of the city’s most groundbreaking and influential spaces dedicated to energy innovation and sustainability. The experience was nothing short of transformative, and I’m eager to share some of the highlights and personal takeaways from this journey. Continue reading.

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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