ExxonMobil got initial approval of its $60 billion deal to buy Houston-based Pioneer Natural Resources. Photo via ExxonMobil.com

ExxonMobil's $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission, but the former CEO of Pioneer was barred from joining the new company's board of directors.

The FTC said Thursday that Scott Sheffield, who founded Pioneer in 1997, colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ to potentially raise crude oil prices. Sheffield retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, served as CEO from 2021 to 2023, and continues to serve on the board. Since Jan. 1, he has served as special adviser to the company’s chief executive.

“Through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications while at Pioneer, Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” according to the FTC. It proposed a consent order that Exxon won't appoint any Pioneer employee, with a few exceptions, to its board.

Dallas-based Pioneer said in a statement it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing of the merger, which was announced in October 2023.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe that the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “disappointing that FTC is making the same mistake they made 25 years ago when I warned about the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1999.”

Schumer and 22 other Democratic senators had urged the FTC to investigate the deal and a separate merger between Chevron and Hess, saying they could lead to higher prices, hurt competition and force families to pay more at the pump.

The deal with Pioneer vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin, a huge oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.

Once the deal closes, U.S. Silica's stock will no longer be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Photo via ussilica.com

Katy-based US Silica agrees to go private in $1.85B acquisition by asset management firm

M&A move

U.S. Silica has agreed to go private in an all-cash acquisition by Apollo Global Management, a New York asset management firm that primarily invests in alternative assets. The deal values the industrial minerals company at about $1.85 billion.

In a Friday announcement, U.S. Silica said that shareholders would receive $15.50 in cash for each share owned as of the deal's closing. Once the deal closes, U.S. Silica's stock will no longer be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Founded in the late 1800s, U.S. Silica produces commercial silica used in the oil and gas industry and other industrial applications. It operates 26 mines and processing facilities and two additional exploration stage properties.

The Katy, Texas-based company is still set to operate under the U.S. Silica name and brand, and will continue to be led by its current CEO Bryan Shinn. In a prepared statement, Shinn said that partnering with Apollo will give U.S. Silica “significant resources, deep industry expertise and enhanced flexibility as a private company."

U.S. Silica said that the transaction — which has been unanimously approved by its board of directors — is expected to close in the third quarter, subject to regulatory approval and other customary conditions.

The agreement also includes a 45-day “go-shop” period that allows U.S. Silica to seek out other proposals until June 10.

Shares of U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. climbed nearly 20 percent Friday morning, shortly after the company reported net income of $13.7 million for its first quarter. The commercial silica producer posted revenue of $325.9 million in the period.

Apollo Global Management's stock was up about 0.18 percent.

According to McKinsey data, more than $3.5 trillion will be invested in green hydrogen, carbon capture, renewable energy, and other projects that are working toward net-zero transition by 2050. Photo via ses-estimating.com

McKinsey acquires Houston-area co. to enhance sustainability services

M&A Moves

A global management consulting company has executed on an acquisition key to its plans amid the energy transition.

McKinsey & Company announced the acquisition of Strategic Estimating Systems, a Sugar Land-based consulting firm specializing in cost estimation for oil, gas, and chemical process industries. The acquisition provides McKinsey with enhanced benchmarking capabilities across capital project management — especially within the energy transition.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"The capital projects ecosystem is presented with a once-in-a-generation chance to aid in transforming economies to achieve net zero," Justin Dahl, partner and global leader of McKinsey & Company's Capital Analytics, says in a news release. "By integrating SES's unmatched capabilities, we're not only enhancing our sustainability services, such as carbon capture, but also expanding the scope of our existing Capital Excellence capabilities to crucial industries and wider geographies."

"This allows our clients to gain an independent perspective on value, cost, and timing at every phase of the capital project lifecycle, thereby improving bottom-up estimating," Dahl continues. "Committed to innovation and excellence, this acquisition empowers us to explore new value dimensions and further refine our expertise in bottom-up estimating for our clients."

According to McKinsey data, more than $3.5 trillion will be invested in green hydrogen, carbon capture, renewable energy, and other projects that are working toward net-zero transition by 2050.

"We are thrilled to join McKinsey and expand our footprint to serve more clients on a larger scale," SES Founder and CEO Mike Monteith, who joins as Leader of McKinsey & Company's Capital Analytics, says in the release. "McKinsey is unparalleled in developing scalable and sustainable transformation strategies, leveraging industry leading insight and expertise in capital excellence.

"By working together, we will amplify our strengths, driving greater impact for clients at every stage of the capital project lifecycle, and delivering end-to-end transformations that create lasting value," he continues.

Chevron has a new speed bump on the road to a big acquisition. Photo via Chevron

Chevron's $53B acquisition of Hess Corp. sees hiccup

speed bump

Chevron warned Monday that its pending $53 billion acquisition of Hess may be in jeopardy because it will require the approval of Exxon Mobil and a Chinese national oil company, which both hold rights to development of an oil field off the coast of the South American nation Guyana.

The disclosure in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission raised investor qualms, depressing shares of both Chevron and Hess. Chevron's stock price fell 3% Tuesday morning before rebounding; Hess stock lost 4% of its value but bounced back slightly.

Chevron's acquisition of Hess would add this major oil field in Guyana as well as shale properties in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Guyana is a country of 791,000 people that is poised to become the world’s fourth-largest offshore oil producer, placing it ahead of Qatar, the United States, Mexico and Norway. It has become a major producer in recent years, with oil giants including Exxon Mobil, China’s CNOOC, and Hess squared off in a heated competition for highly lucrative oil fields in northern South America.

Chevron said it's been engaged in discussion with Exxon and CNOOC, aka China National Offshore Oil Co. Both companies hold rights of first refusal for decisions regarding the oil field in question, known as the Stabroek Block. Exxon Mobil operates the Stabroek Block and holds 45% interest. Hess holds 30% interest, and CNOOC holds the remaining 25% interest. Production capacity at the field is expected to reach more than 1.2 million barrels per day by the end of 2027, Exxon said in November.

If those discussions and subsequent arbitration fail to set aside those first refusal rights, Chevron said, “the merger would not close.”

CeraPhi Energy acquired the business of Third Energy Limited, a former fracking company. Photo via ceraphi.com

Geothermal co. with Houston office acquires former fracking biz

m&a moves

A geothermal company with Houston ties has made a strategic acquisition.

CeraPhi Energy acquired the business of Third Energy Limited, which is a former fracking company, with plans to repurpose the existing wells into clean geothermal energy centers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition is set to include subsidiaries like Third Energy Trading Limited, Wolfland Renewables Limited, Wolfland Utilities Limited, Third Energy UK Gas Limited, and 50 percent holding in West Heslerton Renewables Limited.

The assets are located in North Yorkshire U.K. and include eight well sites consisting of 12 former gas wells in a suspended state, 22.4 km of 6-inch and 16.6 km of 3-inch subterranean pipelines and a further 22.4 km of buried fiber optic comms lines.

CeraPhi, which has a Houston office in Greentown Labs, completed a commercial demonstration of its CeraPhiWell system in 2023 using the Third Energy KMA site.

The company's strategy aims to “de-risk the scaling and commercialisation of large-scale heat networks using boreholes down to a depth of 2km, reducing the space required for deployment of large-scale systems and increasing the extraction of thermal energy available for network connections,” according to its website.

“By using the inexhaustible resource beneath our feet using closed-loop technology we can access this energy anywhere with zero environmental risk, requiring no hydraulic fracturing, no use of water and providing enough energy within the next 15 years to solve our energy crisis indefinitely,” says CEO Karl Farrow in a news release.

Pelican Energy has acquired Container Technologies Industries, a manufacturer of containment solutions for the nuclear industry. Photo via containertechnologies.com

Houston energy PE firm acquires nuclear infrastructure company

M&A move

A Houston-based private equity firm has made a strategic acquisition.

Pelican Energy has acquired Container Technologies Industries from a group of private shareholders. CTI is a manufacturer of containment solutions for the nuclear industry and a certified HUBZone small-business whose customers include the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense and the commercial-nuclear space. Pelican makes investments in energy equipment and serves oil and gas companies and those in the nuclear sectors.

Pelican also named Danielle Castley as president of CTI. Castley has a PhD in material science with a background in radiation shielding material. She comes with over 10 years of experience in the nuclear industry. In addition to the majority buyout of legacy shareholders, Pelican will invest growth capital into business to expand capacity.

"CTI is a great company with a 20+ year track record of expansion,” Mike Scott, the founding partner of Pelican, says in a news release. “The company's highly-experienced team has a reputation of delivering the highest quality containment solutions, including specialty products and industry-standard containers. The business is well positioned to deliver products for growing customer demand."

The Houston company will now work closely with CTI’s homebase in Helenwood, Tennessee.

“We are excited to continue serving the Department of Energy and the thriving commercial nuclear industry,” Castley says in a news release. “I also look forward to leading CTI to innovate in manufacturing to address the emerging needs of advanced reactors.

"CTI will also expand our production capabilities to support Governor Lee's intent of establishing Tennessee as the leader of America's nuclear supply chain," she continues. "CTI is located in Helenwood, an economic development zone, where CTI will be actively recruiting to employ and train the next generation nuclear manufacturing workforce."

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3 Houston sustainability startups score prizes at Rice University pitch competition

seeing green

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil revs up EV pilot in Permian Basin

seeing green

ExxonMobil has upgraded its Permian Basin fleet of trucks with sustainability in mind.

The Houston-headquartered company announced a new pilot program last week, rolling out 10 new all-electric pickup trucks at its Cowboy Central Delivery Point in southeast New Mexico. It's the first time the company has used EVs in any of its upstream sites, including the Permian Basin.

“We expect these EV trucks will require less maintenance, which will help reduce cost, while also contributing to our plan to achieve net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions in our Permian operations by 2030," Kartik Garg, ExxonMobil's New Mexico production manager, says in a news release.

ExxonMobil has already deployed EV trucks at its facilities in Baytown, Beaumont, and Baton Rouge, but the Permian Basin, which accounts for about half of ExxonMobil's total U.S. oil production, is a larger site. The company reports that "a typical vehicle there can log 30,000 miles a year."

The EV rollout comes after the company announced last year that it plans to be a major supplier of lithium for EV battery technology.

At the end of last year, ExxonMobil increased its financial commitment to implementing more sustainable solutions. The company reported that it is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027.

Cowboys and the EVs of the Permian Basin | ExxonMobilyoutu.be