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ExxonMobil's $20B plan, a $700M SPAC merger, and more trending Houston energy transition news

ExxonMobil's plans for decarbonization — and more trending news from the week. Photo via ExxonMobil.com

Editor's note: It's been a busy news week for energy transition in Houston, and some of this week's headlines resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter. Trending news included a SPAC merger, ExxonMobil's plans, and more.

Former Houston energy services CEO's SPAC announces $700M merger with energy transition materials company

A Houston-based SPAC run by the former Weatherford CEO has agreed to merge with a company that's sustainably producing a material required by several energy transition technologies. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Pyrophyte Acquisition Corp., a “blank check” SPAC, plans to merge with Canadian quartz silica producer Sio Silica Corp. in a deal valued at more than $700 million.

The companies say the deal carries an enterprise value of $708 million and an equity value of $758 million.

Sio is sitting on a potential supply of 15.2 billion metric tons of high-purity quartz silica, a material needed to produce energy transition technologies such as photovoltaics, solar panels, semiconductors, batteries, and other electronics. Proceeds from the merger will be earmarked for construction of the first phase of Sio’s silica extraction and processing facility near Winnipeg, Manitoba.Continue reading.

ExxonMobil updates corporate plan that aims to lower emissions

ExxonMobil has annouonced how it plans to reduce its carbon footprint. Photo via exxonmobil.com

ExxonMobil has updated its corporate plan through 2027, which will reflect their continued strategy to provide the products that work towards lowering emissions.

ExxonMobil is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027. The $20 billion request represents the third increase in the last three years, and is in addition to the company’s recent $5 billion all-stock acquisition of Denbury. Denbury helped expand carbon capture and storage opportunities through access to the largest CO2 pipeline network in the United States.

The portfolio will include opportunities in lithium, hydrogen, biofuels, and carbon capture and storage. The company is expecting that in aggregate it is expected to generate returns of approximately 15 percent and could potentially reduce third-party emissions by more than 50 million tons per annum (MTA) by 2030, which aligns with the company’s goals to combat climate change. Continue reading.

Houston founder on why geothermal is a 'cornerstone' tech for energy transition

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology. Photo courtesy of Sage

Geothermal energy is an integral part of decarbonizing the energy industry, and Sage Geosystems CEO Cindy Taff believes her company's tech has what it takes to lead the way.

Founded in Houston in 2020, Sage Geosystems is focused on two business lines — energy storage and geothermal. In addition to developing these technologies, Taff says Sage has "cracked the code" on both reducing costs and maximizing electricity output. Sage has customers ranging from Nabors, the world’s largest land-based drilling company, and Virya LLC, an investor in climate ventures with high impact of eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering CO2

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, she explains why she's so optimistic about geothermal and her company's technology. Continue reading.

Proposed Texas high-speed Houston-Dallas rail lands $500K in federal funds

Texas high-speed bullet train has some fresh financial fuel. Photo of the N700 courtesy of © JR Central

Amtrak and its partners will receive more than $2.1 billion in a federal program to improve existing routes and expand Amtrak service across the U.S.

That includes $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration awarded to the long-in-the-works high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas, as well as another $500,000 awarded to the I-20 Corridor Long-Distance Passenger Rail Project.

The funding is via the newly-passed Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and includes multiple grants that will go to Amtrak and partners. Continue reading.

Halliburton names 7 energy startups to latest incubator cohort

Halliburton has named its latest cohort. Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Seven companies from around the world have been invited to join Halliburton Labs, the company announced today.

Halliburton Labs is an incubator program that helps early-stage energy tech companies through connections, access to facilities, and more.

"We are pleased to welcome these promising energy startups and provide customized support to help them achieve their specific priorities, accelerate commercialization, and increase valuation," says Dale Winger, managing director of the program, in a news release. "Our experienced practitioners and network will help these companies use their time and capital efficiently." Continue reading.

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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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