bugging out

Newly named CEO to lead Houston gold hydrogen biotech co. into high-growth phase

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.'"

Sekhon shares on the show how his previous roles at NextEra Energy Resources and Hess have prepared him for Gold H2. Specifically, as a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team, he says he was tasked with figuring out what the energy industry looks like in the next five, 10, and 20 years.

"Green hydrogen was a huge buzz, but one of the things I realized when I started looking at green hydrogen was that it's very expensive," Sekhon says. "I wanted to look at alternatives."

This journey led him to what Cemvita was doing with gold hydrogen, Sekhon says, explaining that the ability to use biotechnology to provide a new revenue stream from the mostly used up wells struck him as something with major potential.

"The idea of repurposing existing oil and gas assets to become hydrogen assets, leveraging current infrastructure to drive down overall deliver costs — to me I thought, 'wow, if they can make this works, that's brilliant,'" he says.

Now, as CEO, Sekhon gets to lead the company toward these goals, which include expanding internationally. He explains on the show that Gold H2 is interested in expanding to any part of the world where there's interest in implementing their biotech. In order to support the growth, Sekhon says they are looking to raise funding this year with plans for an additional round, if needed, in 2025.

"When we compare our tech to the rest of the stack, I think we blow the competition out of the water," Sekhon says, explaining that Gold H2's approach to gold hydrogen development is novel when you look at emerging technology in the space. "We're using a biological process — cheap bugs that eat oil for a living."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, a hybrid program based out of the Ion, has named its latest cohort. Photo courtesy of the Ion

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator has named 12 early-stage energy technology companies to its latest cohort.

The companies, which hail from six states and two countries, are providing solutions across carbon management, advanced materials, hydrogen, solar, and more. The program, which operates in a hybrid capacity based out of the Ion, will run for 10 weeks beginning July 9 and culminating in a demo day alongside the 21st Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum on September 12. Throughout the duration, the companies will come to Houston three times.

"As Houston’s preeminent energy startup accelerator, this is an open door to the region’s energy ecosystem for ventures from around the world and puts them through a rigorous curriculum to bolster their fundraising efforts, prepare them for accelerated adoption into the marketplace and expand their connections for potential pilots, partnerships and sales," per a Rice Alliance news release.

This cohort's executives-in-residence, or XiRs, include Tim Franklin-Hensler, John Jeffers, Ritu Sachdeva and Nick Tillmann. In addition to these innovators — who bring their expertise, mentorship, and strategic growth planning — the program is ed by the Rice Alliance’s Kerri Smith and Matt Peña.

Class 4 for the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator includes:

  • 1s1 Energy, based in Portola Valley, California, develops electrolyzers with boron-based materials so that utilities and heavy industry can produce low-cost green hydrogen to decarbonize existing and future businesses.
  • Houston-based Capwell provides a cost-effective, modular, and easily transportable system that eliminates methane emissions from wells for state governments and oil and as companies.
  • CarboMat, from Calgary, Alberta, provides a clean technology that produces low-cost, sustainable, and mid-tier grade carbon fibers at a 60 percent reduced production cost and 50 percent reduced GHG emissions to composite manufacturers in industries that require large volumes of inexpensive carbon fibers for production of commodity grade products.
  • Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered Corrolytics offers cutting-edge technology that detects corrosion on-site and in near real-time, providing accurate insights into microbial corrosion and general corrosion.
  • Geolabe, from Los Almos, New Mexico, provides an automated methane monitoring system that helps organizations measure environmental performance and introduce and prioritize remedial actions.
  • Kaizen, which operates in Tomball just outside of Houston, provides hydrogen based microgrids that enable fleet electrification at sites that are grid constrained or off grid. The solutions emit no local emissions and reduce global emissions.
  • Los Angeles-based Mitico offers services and equipment to capture carbon dioxide with a patent-pending granulated metal carbonate sorption technology captures over 95 percent of the CO2 emitted from post-combustion point sources.
  • OceanBit, headquartered in Honolulu, provides ocean thermal energy technologies and power plants that delivers abundant, affordable, base load power to utilities and companies who need a firm, dispatchable, and 24/7 carbon-free source of electricity.
  • From Ontario, Canada, QEA Tech provides detailed building envelope energy audits using drones, thermography, and proprietary AI based software.
  • Houston-based Sensytec offers patented sensors, delivering real-time, accurate material performance data of concrete and advanced building materials.
  • Vroom Solar, based in Springfield, Missouri, provides Smart Solar Management technology that optimizes solar and optional AC power differently at a lower cost and smaller footprint for solar customers who need affordable, efficient, and user-friendly power anywhere.
  • VulcanX, from Vancouver, Canada, provides hydrogen and solid carbon to gas utilities, steel manufacturers and ammonia producers who require low-cost and low-emission hydrogen.

Since launching in 2021, the Clean Energy Accelerator has accelerated 43 ventures that have raised more than $166 million in funding. According to the program, these companies have piloted their technologies, connected with investors, created jobs, and many relocated to Houston.

The 2023 cohort included 15 clean energy companies.

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