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Why Microsoft is investing in Houston as an energy transition leader

The Energy Transition Center for Excellence is housed out of Microsoft Technology Center in Houston. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Houston is known as the energy capital of the world to many, and major players — from the mayor to corporations — are determined to translate that leadership to the energy transition.

With that in mind, Microsoft has launched its own hub to celebrate the movement — the Energy Transition Center for Excellence, which was announced this spring. The new center, based in the Microsoft Technology Center in Houston, exists to support companies as they evolve their business to be more sustainable and climate-conscious.

“We are proud to have a vast and rich ecosystem of partners that actively co-develop sustainability solutions,” Darryl Willis, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Energy and Resources Industry tells EnergyCapital via email. “Our featured partners demonstrate what is possible across the energy transition value chain from decarbonization to new clean energy solutions.”

Microsoft is behind platforms such as Microsoft Cloud, AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and mixed reality, all of which can help to “power transformation,” as Willis puts it.

According to research provider BloombergNEF, it will take an investment of $5.8 trillion into energy transition to achieve a global net-zero by 2050. Not every company is committed to spending the necessary funds to make the sometimes-massive changes to their operations.

But Willis lists nine partners that have actively been collaborating with Microsoft to achieve net-zero goals. Each boasts an exhibit at the Energy Transition Center for Excellence. There, customers have the opportunity to see precisely how Microsoft and those companies are working to make their operations healthier for the planet, from decarbonization to new, clean energy solutions.

For example, Bentley is working with Microsoft to provide digital solutions in offshore wind power. EY is furthering decarbonization with its Hydrogen Pathways, a molecular accounting platform that creates a “holistic view for hydrogen production.” Terra Praxis is behind REPOWER, a standardized system that is helping to repurpose coal plants to create clean energy.

Customers can make an appointment to experience a new energy future through immersive, interactive exhibits built by Microsoft’s partners.

“Many of the energy customers we support on their decarbonization and sustainability efforts are either headquartered or have significant presence in Houston, making it an ideal location for deeper collaboration as we tackle this significant challenge facing the world,” says Willis.

With the city becoming a hub for the incubation of climate tech, Houston is inching ever closer to becoming the Energy Transition Capital of the World.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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