Four Houston energy execs have been appointed to a newly formed firm. Photo via Getty Images

A leading middle market infrastructure firm has formed a new entity to oversee its power infrastructure portfolio.

ArcLight Capital Partners announced that it has formed Alpha Generation to provide strategic management and oversight of its power infrastructure portfolio. ArcLight and AlphaGen will focus on secure, safe, and sustainable access to power to help meet the growing infrastructure needs created by electrification.

The power infrastructure portfolio will be managed by AlphaGen and includes low-cost, low-carbon strategically located assets that provide critical supply to key demand centers, including throughout the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The portfolio will represent a competitive fleet and one of the nation's largest natural gas-fired power portfolio.

AlphaGen also announces its executive leadership team that features four Houstonians in prominent roles. Mary Anne Brelinsky has been named as president and chief commercial officer, Stacey Peterson as CFO, Nick Rahn as COO, and Jason Buchman will serve as general counsel.

Brelinsky is in charge of leading the commercial-facing aspects of AlphaGen. She served as president of EDF Energy North America, which she helped grow to become the third largest energy retail business in North America. Previously, Peterson was CEO of utility-scale battery storage developer and operator, Broad Reach Power. She has 20 years of experience in power and utilities. Rahn was formerly the Senior Vice President of Asset Management at Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), was CEO of Optim Energy, and Vice President of Resource Development, Environmental and Construction at PacifiCorp,which is a division of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Buchman has over 25 years of experience, as he has held senior and executive roles at public and private companies specializing in wholesale power generation, oilfield and analytical services, and infrastructure development.

Additional non-local appointments include: Curt Morgan as CEO and Chairman, effective May 1, 2024; Mark Sudbey will serve as interim CEO until May; and Michael Bruneau as executive vice president of corporate development and strategy.

"AlphaGen has brought together a highly accomplished and experienced executive team responsible for creating a common culture and vision, capturing efficiencies, leveraging economies of scale, and driving a standard of operational excellence across ArcLight's funds' power generating portfolio," Curt Morgan, CEO and chairman of AlphaGen, says in a news release.

"We believe we are well positioned to serve the current and future needs of the portfolios' customers as the demand for safe, reliable, and dispatchable power continues to grow. We believe our power assets will continue to play a critical role in grid reliability and energy security for decades to come," he continues.

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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.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil's $60B acquisition gets FTC clearance — with one condition

M&A moves

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.