Here's what energy transition companies stood out to Rice Alliance's experts. Photo via Rice Alliance

At the 20th annual Energy Tech Venture Forum presented by Rice Alliance for technology and Entrepreneurship, 11 startups scored recognition from the event's investors who evaluated over 90 early-stage energy transition companies.

"The selection process was both exhilarating and challenging given the incredible ideas we've seen today," says Jason Sidhu, director of information services business engagement at TC Energy, who announced the top companies. "I want to extend my gratitude to every company that participate din this year's Energy Tech Venture Forum. Your commitment to solving energy problems and pursuing ambitions ideas is truly commendable."

In addition to the top 10 most-promising companies, the event's attendees decided the people's choice pick out of the 50 or so pitching companies. The winner of that recognition was Calgary, Alberta-based Galatea Technologies, which has created a tech platform to enhance workflows for operational, financial, and environmental performance.

The top companies, according to the Rice Alliance experts and investors, were:

  • Circular economy startup, Polystyvert. Based in Montreal, the company has created a unique dissolution recycling process that creates a material that can contribute to cutting carbon emissions by up to 90 percent.
  • United Kingdom-based Miricoprovides a tracking technology to its customers to measure climate gases (like methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ammonia), across areas up to half a square mile and in all conditions.
  • ProteinEvolution, from New Haven, Connecticut, taps into a combination of green chemistry and enzyme technology to break down synthetic polymers.
  • Another Canadian company, Ayrton Energy, based in Calgary, created a liquid organic H2 carrier (LOHC) storage technology presents an opportunity for large, scalable and efficient transport of H2 over long distances.
  • Also representing New Haven, Connecticut, Carbon Loop is on a mission to make carbon capture and conversion scalable through carbon dioxide electrolysis using a proprietary catalyst to convert captured carbon dioxide into methanol.d
  • Based in London, Mobilus Labs has designed a new way for frontline communication with an in-helmet hardware and software solution. software solution designed for the frontline workforce.
  • 1s1 Energy, based in California, is working on producing low-cost green hydrogen by creating new materials to unlock unprecedented electrolyzer efficiency, durability, and more.
  • From Skokie, Illinois, Numat is specializing in solutions within Metal-organic framework (MOF) research to enhance the process of separating the hazardous chemicals negatively impacting human health and the environment.
  • Mantel, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a molten borate technology to capture CO2 in a new and efficient way.
  • The lone Houston-based company,Mars Materials is working to produce acrylonitrile using CO2 and biomass to enable decarbonization applications in carbon fiber and wastewater treatment.

Ten companies from around the world were named as most promising. Photo courtesy of Rice

Next month, 96 startups will pitch at an annual event focused on the future of energy. Here's who will be there. Photo via rice.edu

Exclusive: Rice Alliance announces participants ahead of 20th annual energy symposium

where to be

Dozens of companies will be a part of an upcoming energy-focused conference at Rice University — from climate tech startups to must-see keynote speakers.

The 20th Annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum will take place on September 21 at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Anyone who's interested in learning more about the major players in the low-carbon future in Houston and beyond should join the industry leaders, investors, and promising energy and cleantech startups in attendance.

This year's keynote speakers include Christina Karapataki, partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the venture capital fund backed by Bill Gates; Scott Nyquist, vice chairman at Houston Energy Transition Initiative, founded by the Greater Houston Partnership; and Jeff Tillery, COO at Veriten.

Nearly 100 startups will also be pitching throughout the day, and at the end of the program, the most-promising companies — according to investors — will be revealed. See below for the 2023 selection of companies.

Presenting companies:

  • Element Resources
  • Eugenie AI
  • Flash H2 Synthesis from Waste Plastic at Zero Net Cost
  • Fluid Efficiency
  • Galatea Technologies
  • Heimdal
  • Impact Technology SystemsAS
  • INGU
  • Lithos
  • Luminescent
  • Mantel
  • Mars Materials
  • Microgrid Labs
  • Mirico
  • Mobilus Labs
  • Muon Vision
  • Nano Nuclear
  • NobleAI
  • Numat
  • Ourobio
  • Planckton Data Technologies
  • Polystyvert
  • Princeton NuEnergy
  • Protein Evolution
  • Qult Technologies
  • Sage Geosystems
  • Salient Predictions
  • Sawback Technologies
  • SHORELINE AI
  • Solidec
  • Spectral Sensor Solutions
  • Teren
  • Terradote
  • TexPower
  • Thiozen
  • Technology from the Lab of Dr. James Tour
  • Volexion
  • Xecta

CEA Demo Day:

  • Ayrton Energy
  • Carbix
  • CryoDesalination
  • Digital Carbon Bank
  • EarthEn
  • H Quest Vanguard
  • Highwood Emissions Management
  • Icarus RT
  • Khepra
  • Natrion
  • Oceanways
  • Relyion Energy
  • Triton Anchor
  • TROES

Office hours only:

  • 1s1 Energy
  • AKOS Energy
  • Aperta Systems
  • Atargis Energy
  • Ayas
  • C-Power
  • C-Quester
  • Carbon Loop
  • Deep Anchor Solutions
  • DG Matrix
  • Drishya AI Labs
  • Earthbound.ai
  • EarthBridge Energy
  • Enoverra
  • equipcast
  • ezNG Solutions
  • Feelit Technologies
  • FluxWorks
  • Forge
  • Horne Technologies
  • Imperium Technologies
  • LiCAP Technologies
  • Make My Day
  • Moblyze
  • MyPass Global
  • NovaSpark Energy
  • Octet Scientific
  • Perceptive Sensor Technologies
  • PetroBricks
  • Piersica
  • Poseidon Minerals
  • Predyct
  • RIvotto
  • Roboze
  • Talisea
  • ThermoLift Solutions
  • Trout Software
  • Tuebor Energy
  • Undesert Corporation
  • Viridos
  • Vroom Solar
  • Well Information Technologies
  • WellWorth
  • Zsense Systems
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Houston research shows how much hydrogen-powered vehicles would cost at the pump

hi, hydrogen

It's generally understood that transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles will help reduce the 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide gas released each year by the transportation sector in Texas.

Now, researchers at the University of Houston are proposing that supplying hydrogen for transportation in the greater Houston area could also be profitable.

The research team has done the math. In a white paper, "Competitive Pricing of Hydrogen as an Economic Alternative to Gasoline and Diesel for the Houston Transportation Sector," the team compared three hydrogen generation processes—steam methane reforming (SMR), SMR with carbon capture (SMRCC), and electrolysis using grid electricity and water—and provided cost estimates and delivery models for each.

The team found that SMRCC hydrogen can be supplied at about $6.10 per kilogram of hydrogen at the pump, which they say is competitive and shows promise for hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

FCEVs refuel with hydrogen in five minutes and produce zero emissions, according to UH.

"This research underscores the transformative potential of hydrogen in the transportation sector,” Alexander Economides, a co-author on the study, UH alumnus and CEO Kiribex Inc., said in the statement. “Our findings indicate that hydrogen can be a cost-competitive and environmentally responsible choice for consumers, businesses, and policymakers in the greater Houston area."

Economides was joined on the paper by co-authors Christine Ehlig-Economides, professor and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair at UH, and Paulo Liu, research associate in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at UH.

Additionally, the team says Houston is an ideal leader for this transition.

“(Houston) has more than sufficient water and commercial filtering systems to support hydrogen generation,” the study states. “Add to that the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, which makes hydrogen production and supply more cost effective and makes Houston ideal for transitioning from traditional vehicles to hydrogen-powered ones.”

The study also discusses tax incentives, consumer preferences, grid generation costs and many other details.

Houston sustainability startup founders named winners for 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year awards

winner, winner

Houston’s Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt, the founders of the transformative chemical manufacturing company Solugen, have been named EY’s US National Award winners for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Solugen, also recently named a finalist in the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards, is an environmentally friendly approach that relies on smaller chemical refineries that helps in reducing costs and transportation-related emissions.

Some of their noted accomplishments includes innovations like the proprietary reactor, dubbed the Bioforge, which is a carbon-negative molecule factory and manufacturing process produces zero wastewater or emissions compared with traditional petrochemical refineries.The Bioforge uses a chemienzymatic process in converting plant-sourced substances into essential materials that can be used instead of fossil fuels.

Chakrabarti and Hunt were originally named regional winners in this year's competition this summer along with nine other Houston entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2016 by Hunt and Gaurab Chakrabarti, Solugen has raised over $600 million from investors like Sasol that believe in the technology's potential. The company is valued at reportedly over $2 billion. Solugen is headquartered in Houston, not because it is the hometown of Chakrabarti, but for what Houston brings to the company.

“There’s no way our business could succeed in the Bay Area," Chakrabarti said in a 2023 interview at SXSW where he detailed the offers Hunt and he received to move the business out of state. “For our business, if you look at the density of chemical engineers, the density of our potential customers, and the density of people who know how to do enzyme engineering, Houston happened to be that perfect trifecta for us.”

Even though they are headquartered in Houston, Solugen recently secured plans to expand to the Midwest, as in November they announced its newest strategic partnership with sustainable solutions company ADM (NYSE:ADM) in Marshall, Minnesota. The partnership includes plans for Solugen to build a 500,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility next to an existing ADM facility , with the two companies working together on producing biomaterials to replace fossil fuel products.

“The strategic partnership with ADM will allow Solugen to bring our chemienzymatic process to a commercial scale and meet existing customer demand for our high-performance, cost-competitive, sustainable products,” Chakrabarti said in a news release. “As one of the few scaled-up and de-risked biomanufacturing assets in the country, Solugen’s Bioforge platform is helping bolster domestic capabilities and supply chains that are critical in ensuring the U.S. reaches its ambitious climate targets.”

For Chakrabarti and Hunt, Solugen was born out of a 12-year friendship, and the journey began after a friendly card game. After an entrepreneurship contest at MIT, which earned them second place and a $10,000 prize, they invested the winnings to work on what would become Solugen, a proof-of-concept reactor with materials bought from a local home improvement store.

"We had a conviction that we were building something that could be impactful to the rest of the world,” Chakrabarti said at SXSW in 2023.

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil breaks ground on Texas carbon dioxide storage project

digging in

ExxonMobil announced this month that it has officially broken ground on a groundbreaking carbon dioxide storage site.

According to a release from the company, a new rig is currently being used to gather information about an underground site in Southeast Texas. The rig stands 225 feet tall, but more importantly extends 8,000 feet below the subsurface to investigate if the site is a safe place to store carbon underground.

“Everyone’s excited about this appraisal well because we’re literally breaking ground on a new chapter of our work to help reduce industrial emissions,” Joe Colletti, who oversees carbon capture and storage development along the Gulf Coast for Exxon, says in a statement.

Exxon plans to move the rig to other sites in the Gulf Coast in the future for clients Nucor Corp., CF Industries and Linde.

In the last year, Exxon has made agreements with these regional companies to store carbon captured from their operations.

  • Exxon agreed to transport and permanently store up to 2.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year from Linde’s hydrogen production facility in Beaumont, Texas when it launches in 2025.
  • Exxon agreed to store up to 2 million metric tons per year of CO2 captured from CF Industries’ ammonia plant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, starting in 2025.
  • Exxon agreed to capture, transport and store up to 800,000 metric tons per year of CO2 from Nucor’s direct reduced iron manufacturing site in Convent, Louisiana starting in 2026.

Together, the three agreements represent a total of 5 million metric tons per year that Exxon plans to transport and store for third-party customers.

“Our agreement with Nucor is the latest example of how we’re delivering on our mission to help accelerate the world's path to net zero and build a compelling new business,” Dan Ammann, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, says in a statement over the summer. “Momentum is building as customers recognize our ability to solve emission challenges at scale.”

In addition to the carbon storage agreements, the energy giant also completed the acquisition of Denbury Inc. this month in an all-stock transaction valued at $4.9 billion. The deal adds more than 1,300 miles, including nearly 925 miles of CO2 pipelines in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to Exxon's CO2 pipeline network.

The deal was first announced this summer.