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Exclusive: Houston clean energy accelerator names 4th cohort of early-stage tech companies

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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A View From HETI

TerraLithium's direct lithium extraction technology extracts and commercially sustainably produces lithium compounds from geothermal brine. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Oxy has opted into a joint venture to deploy lithium technology from its subsidiary.

The JV is 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.”

BHE Renewables currently operates 10 geothermal power plants in California’s Imperial Valley. The location processes 50,000 gallons of lithium-rich brine per minute to produce 345 megawatts of clean energy. The joint venture aims for an environmentally safe way to demonstrate the feasibility of using the TerraLithium DLE technology to produce lithium, which began at BHE Renewables’ Imperial Valley geothermal facility. The companies also plan to license the technology and develop commercial lithium production facilities to expand outside the Imperial Valley area.

“By leveraging Occidental’s expertise in managing and processing brine in our oil and gas and chemicals businesses, combined with BHE Renewables’ deep knowledge in geothermal operations, we are uniquely positioned to advance a more sustainable form of lithium production,” Richard Jackson, president of U.S. Onshore Resources and Carbon Management and Operations at Oxy adds. “We look forward to working with BHE Renewables to demonstrate how DLE technology can produce a critical mineral that society needs to further net zero goals.”

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