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Things to know: New lithium-focused JV, events not to miss, and more in Houston energy

Houston energy transition folks — here's what to know to start your week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a podcast episode with a biotech leader, a big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.

Podcast to stream: Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Photo courtesy of Gold H2

Using microbes to sustainably unlock low-cost hydrogen sounds like the work of science fiction, but one Houston company is doing just that.

Gold H2, a spin-off company from Cemvita, has bioengineered subsurface microbes to use in wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen. The technology was piloted two years ago by Cemvita, and now, as its own company with a new CEO, it's safe to say Gold H2's on its way.

"First of all, that was groundbreaking," Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, says of the 2022 pilot in the Permian Basin, "to be able to use bugs to produce hydrogen within a couple of days."

"2024 is supposed to be the year where Gold H2 takes off," Sekhon, who joined the company in April, tells the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It was one of those opportunities that I couldn't turn down. I had been following the company. I thought, 'here is this innovative tech that's on the verge of providing a ground-breaking solution to the energy transition — what better time to join the team.'" Read more.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.
  • CCS/Decarbonization Project Development, Finance and Investment, taking place July 23 to 25, is the deepest dive into the economic and regulatory factors driving the success of the CCS/CCUS project development landscape. Register now.

Big deal: Oxy launches JV to demonstrate, deploy promising lithium technology

Houston-based Oxy has opted into a joint venture with BHE Renewables, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. The partnership will demonstrate and deploy direct lithium extraction technology from TerraLithium, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oxy.

TerraLithium's DLE technology extracts and commercially sustainably produces lithium compounds from geothermal brine. Lithium has been a vital part of batteries for electric vehicles, and energy grid storage, which both areas have seen continued demand. The battery lithium demand is expected to increase tenfold over 2020–2030 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency

“Creating a secure, reliable and domestic supply of high-purity lithium products to help meet growing global lithium demand is essential for the energy transition,” President and General Manager of TerraLithium Jeff Alvare says in a news release. “The partnership with BHE Renewables will enable the joint venture to accelerate the development of our Direct Lithium Extraction and associated technologies and advance them toward commercial lithium production.” Read more.

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A View From HETI

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.”

The project is expected to go online in 2027 and will produce enough low-carbon hydrogen to supply approximately 100 percent of the refinery’s fuel requirements, essentially eliminating CO2 emissions, per the news release. More than 100 megawatts of excess electricity generated from the power plant will be provided to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas for the surrounding community’s needs.

“Element Fuels is not only ushering in the next generation of clean fuels, we’re also proving that, without a doubt, there is a way to produce higher quality, cleaner, higher-octane fuels that significantly advance the energy transition," Calce continues. "This changes everything – for the industry, for consumers, and for the well-being of the planet.”

The plant is located in South Texas and built on more than 240 acres within the Port of Brownsville. Element Fuels is reportedly collaborating with local and Port officials "to advance the Justice40 initiative established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to contribute to a climate-positive environment that provides residents of the Brownsville area and Rio Grande Valley with clean energy and affordable and sustainable housing," per the release.

“Building on our successful collaboration during early project phases, we believe we are uniquely positioned to leverage our expertise and knowledge to further support Element Fuels throughout the next stages of this unique project,” adds Rob Shaul, senior vice president at Low Carbon Solutions at McDermott. “We remain focused on the delivery of low carbon pathway projects and are committed to advancing the landscape of energy production.”

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