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New energy storage project, Houston report on EV impact, and more trending energy transition news

Here's what Houston energy transition news trended this week on EnergyCapital. Photo via Getty Images

Editor'snote: From new a Houston company's new energy storage project to the city's progress as the world electrifies, these are the top headlines that resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter this week.

Energy storage facility just outside of Texas gets funding from global investor with Houston presence

Black Bayou Energy Hub is developing an underground energy storage facility near the Louisiana/Texas border on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Photo courtesy of Mercuria

A global independent energy and commodities group with its United States office in Houston has announced an investment in a Gulf Coast salt dome energy storage project.

Mercuria did not disclose its financial contribution into Lafayette, Louisiana-based Black Bayou Energy Hub LLC, but the company's support will go toward the development of the energy infrastructure of the large-scale, underground energy storage facility in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana, which is alongside the Texas border.

"Mercuria's investment in Black Bayou Energy Hub represents a significant step towards enhancing the resilience and flexibility of our energy infrastructure. This partnership leverages Mercuria's robust financial capabilities and extensive expertise in commodity markets, aligning with Black Bayou's strategic location and development potential," Boris Bystrov, managing director of investments at Mercuria, says in a news release. Continue reading.

New Houston study shows health impacts of full vehicle electrification in major U.S. cities

Switching fully to electric vehicles could prevent 157 premature deaths each month in Houston. Photo courtesy

A new study from the University of Houston shows that there's no one-size-fits-all strategy for full vehicle electrification in America's largest U.S. cities.

The study by Ali Mousavinezhad and Yunsoo Choi considered changes in air pollution, specifically PM2.5 and ozone levels, in Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago under different electrification scenarios and how the changes could impact public health.

“Our findings indicate vehicle electrification generally contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and lowering the mortality rate associated with exposure to toxic air pollutants,” Mousavinezhad says. Continue reading.

Houston clean fuels producer reaches milestone on South Texas hydrogen-powered refinery

Element Fuels has designed the plant to produce and recycle hydrogen that will generate and deliver cleaner, higher-quality fuels. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Element Fuels has completed the pre-construction phase of its hydrogen-powered clean fuels refinery and combined-cycle power plant in the Port of Brownsville.

Element Fuels, which has contracted with Houston-based McDermott to provide front-end engineering design services for the project, has designed the plant to produce and recycle hydrogen that will generate and deliver cleaner, higher-quality fuels, including much-needed high-octane gasoline and electricity for commercial and consumer consumption.

“Element Fuels has received the necessary permitting to construct and operate a refinery capable of producing in excess of 160,000 barrels, or approximately 6.7 million gallons, per day of finished gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel,” Founder and Co-CEO of Element Fuels John Calce says in a news release. “A permit for a greenfield refinery of this size, scope, and functionality has not been granted in the United States since the 1970s. This speaks to the innovative approaches we are taking to address climate and sustainability concerns in cleaner, greener ways that are new to the refinery space.” Continue reading.

2 sustainability-focused student startups named to Houston accelerator

The 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has named eight teams to the second cohort of the Lilie Summer Venture Studio, and two have sustainability as a goal.

According to Rice, the 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest and excitement from Rice students for a high-growth venture accelerator,” Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, said in a statement. “The diversity and creativity in this year's applications were truly inspiring, and we’re excited to support these promising ventures with the resources and mentorship they need to hit escape velocity and create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.” Continue reading.

Texas hydrogen research hub brings on new corporate partner

Overall, the project is one of the largest collections of renewable hydrogen production, onsite storage, and end-use technologies that are all located at the same site. Photo via utexas.edu

A Texas US Department of Energy initiative has added a new corporate player.

Hitachi Energy has joined the DOE's H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond initiative with GTI Energy, Frontier Energy, The University of Texas Austin, and others. The initiative, which opened earlier this year, plans to assist in “integrating utility-scale renewable energy sources with power grids and managing and orchestrating a variety of energy sources” according to a news release.

Most of the H2@Scale project’s activities take place at University of Texas JJ Pickle Research Center in Austin. The project is part of a larger one to expand hydrogen’s role and help to decarbonize Texas. The H2@Scale project consists of multiple hydrogen production options like a vehicle refueling station alongside a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Continue reading.

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A View From HETI

Nádia Skorupa Parachin joined Cemvita as vice president of industrial biotechnology. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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