"Our focus on sustainability is the right thing to do for our employees, for our customers, and for our communities." Photo courtesy of EthosEnergy

When Ana Amicarella took the helm of EthosEnergy in 2019, she had no idea of the challenges that awaited her company, the industry, and the world.

But Amicarella, a former synchronized swimmer from Venezuela who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics who has three decades of leadership experience at energy companies, has what it took to steer the ship in the choppy waters that was the pandemic, the ongoing energy transition, and more.

In a discussion with EnergyCapital, she shares how she navigated that difficult time and how important she feels it is that energy companies are committed to reducing their carbon footprints — especially through tapping into the circular economy.

EnergyCapital: How have you led EthosEnergy through the past few difficult years? What were the company’s biggest challenges and how did you address them?

Ana Amicarella: Growing EthosEnergy into a global powerhouse with hundreds of millions in turnover within nine years was a formidable task. Since our inception in 2014, we've expanded to 94 locations with 4,000 employees, becoming a leading provider of rotating equipment services in the power, oil, and gas sectors. However, when I assumed the role of CEO in December 2019, the company had evolved into a complex, unwieldy structure with missed opportunities and unsustainable overheads, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, we were already on the path to transformation. COVID-19 accelerated our OneEthos strategy, focused on simplifying our business, fostering a new culture, and strengthening client relationships. Extensive listening exercises were held with staff and customers in March 2020 that led to a restructuring plan that was swiftly approved by the board. On July 1, 2020, we launched the new structure, emphasizing that this transformation went beyond organizational changes. Our simplified OneEthos plan focuses on core strengths, eliminating unprofitable activities, embracing cultural principles, and maintaining an unwavering commitment to quality and consistency for our customers. We've also shifted our perspective on capital expenditures, aligning them with energy transition goals to become the preferred partner for critical rotating equipment, offering assistance with end-of-life equipment and carbon footprint reduction as our key value proposition.

EC: How is EthosEnergy future-proofing its business amid the energy transition?

AA: We believe we have a moral responsibility to take a leading role in shaping a better future for us and for generations to come – essentially, we are trying to "Turn on Tomorrow." Our focus on sustainability is the right thing to do for our employees, for our customers, and for our communities. I like to say that behind our company’s name is a team of people. Behind our customers’ names are teams of people. Together we all share common communities, a common environment, and a common reliance on transparent, ethical practices.

A few years ago, we introduced a framework to help us build growth, financial sustainability and deliver long-term value. Our aim is to create value and improve our economic, social, and environmental impact by focusing in the following six areas: Policies and Procedures, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Environmental Footprint, Engineering Solutions, Alliances and Partnerships, and Third-Party Suppliers. As an example, for Environmental Footprint we are implementing programs to install LED lighting in our facilities, implement more robust environmental recycling and waste reduction plans, and identify other energy efficiency programs around the company. From a third-party supplier’s perspective, we are focused on increasing our spend with minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. In the last two years, we’ve increased spend in those categories by 35 percent in the US alone. And, we are working towards issuing our first sustainability report in the near future.

EC: How does EthosEnergy help customers shrink their carbon footprint and why is that important to you as a business?

AA: Concerns about climate change have started to exert pressure on conventional business models that follow a linear approach of "take, make, dispose" – a system where we acquire new items, use them, and then discard them when they are no longer needed.

A circular economy approach, on the other hand, disconnects economic activities from excessive material and energy consumption by establishing closed-loop systems where waste and carbon-footprint is minimized, and resources are repeatedly used. Even industries traditionally adhering to linear models, like oil and gas and utilities, can incorporate elements of circularity into their operations. EthosEnergy explores the possibilities that circularity offers to companies in the power generation, oil and gas, and industrial sectors, aiming to revitalize and extend the lifespan of existing assets.

To transition from a linear economy to a circular one, we must focus on three key aspects: optimizing product usage, giving priority to renewable inputs, and effectively recovering by-products and waste.

EC: What sort of technology are you tapping into to help achieve these goals?

AA: The adoption of reusing equipment in the energy industry has room for improvement. There's significant potential for reusing rather than disposing of equipment when it nears decommissioning. Our mission is to offer solutions that are economically, socially, and environmentally beneficial, aimed at prolonging the lifespan of existing equipment. EthosEnergy has already developed a range of solutions for life extension and emissions compliance to help existing assets meet critical targets. This has a noteworthy impact on reducing CO2 emissions in two key ways: first, by avoiding the production of new equipment and thus preventing emissions during manufacturing, and second, by deferring or even eliminating the recycling of older assets.

Additionally, there's an opportunity to enhance the environmental performance of existing assets by increasing their efficiency through regeneration and enabling them to operate with lower-carbon alternative fuels like hydrogen. We've actively collaborated with a university in Italy, Politecnico di Torino, on this front, recognizing that partnerships between universities and industries will play a pivotal role in shaping our future.

We firmly believe that greater collaboration and alignment between business, social, and environmental factors are essential for achieving success in these endeavors.

EC: What’s your leadership style and how do you navigate the challenges that come with being a female CEO in a male-dominated industry?

AA: I would best describe my leadership style as inclusive and engaging. I firmly believe in the power of teamwork and fostering a culture where diverse voices are not only heard but valued. My leadership approach is rooted in transparency, open communication, and a commitment to empowering individuals within the organization to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

In a male-dominated industry, being relentless is a necessity. I approach challenges with unwavering determination and persistence. I use adversity as motivation to push forward and break down barriers. My relentless pursuit of excellence sets an example for my team and reinforces the idea that gender should never limit one's aspirations.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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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

Energy industry veteran named CEO of Houston hydrogen co.

GOOD AS GOLD

Cleantech startup Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based energy biotech company Cemvita, has named oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as its CEO.

Sekhon previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess. Most recently, he was a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team.

Gold H2 uses microbes to convert oil and gas in old, uneconomical wells into clean hydrogen. The approach to generating clean hydrogen is part of a multibillion-dollar market.

Gold H2 spun out of Cemvita last year with Moji Karimi, co-founder of Cemvita, leading the transition. Gold H2 spun out after successfully piloting its microbial hydrogen technology, producing hydrogen below 80 cents per kilogram.

The Gold H2 venture had been a business unit within Cemvita.

“I was drawn to Gold H2 because of its innovative mission to support the U.S. economy in this historical energy transition,” Sekhon says in a news release. “Over the last few years, my team [at NextEra] was heavily focused on the commercialization of clean hydrogen. When I came across Gold H2, it was clear that it was superior to each of its counterparts in both cost and [carbon intensity].”

Gold H2 explains that oil and gas companies have wrestled for decades with what to do with exhausted oil fields. With Gold H2’s first-of-its-kind biotechnology, these companies can find productive uses for oil wells by producing clean hydrogen at a low cost, the startup says.

“There is so much opportunity ahead of Gold H2 as the first company to use microbes in the subsurface to create a clean energy source,” Sekhon says. “Driving this dynamic industry change to empower clean hydrogen fuel production will be extremely rewarding.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Q&A: CEO of bp-acquired RNG producer on energy sustainability, stability

the view from heti

bp’s Archaea Energy is the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) producer in the U.S., with an industry leading RNG platform and expertise in developing, constructing and operating RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low carbon fuel.

Archaea partners with landfill owners, farmers and other facilities to help them transform their feedstock sources into RNG and convert these facilities into renewable energy centers.

Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shared more about bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future.

HETI: bp completed its acquisition of Archaea in December 2022. What is the significance of this acquisition for bp, and how does it bolster Archaea’s mission to create sustainability and stability for future generations?  

Starlee Sykes: The acquisition was an important move to accelerate and grow our plans for bp’s bioenergy transition growth engine, one of five strategic transition growth engines. Archaea will not only play a pivotal role in bp’s transition and ambition to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner but is a key part of bp’s plan to increase biogas supply volumes.

HETI: Tell us more about how renewable natural gas is used and why it’s an important component of the energy transition?  

SS: Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a type of biogas generated by decomposing organic material at landfill sites, anaerobic digesters and other waste facilities – and demand for it is growing. Our facilities convert waste emissions into renewable natural gas. RNG is a lower carbon fuel, which according to the EPA can help reduce emissions, improve local air quality, and provide fuel for homes, businesses and transportation. Our process creates a productive use for methane which would otherwise be burned or vented to the atmosphere. And in doing so, we displace traditional fossil fuels from the energy system.

HETI: Archaea recently brought online a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Medora, Indiana. Can you tell us more about the launch and why it’s such a significant milestone for the company?  

SS:Archaea’s Medora plant came online in October 2023 – it was the first Archaea RNG plant to come online since bp’s acquisition. At Medora, we deployed the Archaea Modular Design (AMD) which streamlines and accelerates the time it takes to build our plants. Traditionally, RNG plants have been custom-built, but AMD allows plants to be built on skids with interchangeable components for faster builds.

HETI: Now that the Medora plant is online, what does the future hold? What are some of Archaea’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond?  

SS: We plan to bring online around 15 RNG plants in each of 2024 and 2025. Archaea has a development pipeline of more than 80 projects that underpin the potential for around five-fold growth in RNG production by 2030.

We will continue to operate around 50 sites across the US – including RNG plants, digesters and landfill gas-to-electric facilities.

And we are looking to the future. For example, at our Assai plant in Pennsylvania, the largest RNG plant in the US, we are in the planning stages to drill a carbon capture sequestration (CCS) appraisal well to determine if carbon dioxide sequestration could be feasible at this site, really demonstrating our commitment to decarbonization and the optionality in value we have across our portfolio.

HETI: bp has had an office in Washington, DC for many years. Can you tell us more about the role that legislation has to play in the energy transition? 

SS: Policy can play a critical role in advancing the energy transition, providing the necessary support to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We actively advocate for such policies through direct lobbying, formal comments and testimony, communications activities and advertising. We also advocate with regulators to help inform their rulemakings, as with the US Environmental Protection Agency to support the finalization of a well-designed electric Renewable Identification Number (eRIN) program.

HETI: Science and innovation are key drivers of the energy transition. In your view, what are some of most exciting innovations supporting the goal to reach net-zero emissions?  

SS: We don’t just talk about innovation in bp, we do it – and have been for many years. This track record gives us confidence in continuing to transform, change and innovate at pace and scale. The Archaea Modular Design is a great example of the type of innovation that bp supports which enables us to pursue our goal of net-zero emissions.

Beyond Archaea, we have engineers and scientists across bp who are working on innovative solutions with the goal of lowering emissions. We believe that we need to invest in lower carbon energy to meet the world’s climate objectives, but we also need to invest in today’s energy system, which is primarily hydrocarbon focused. It’s an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach, and we need both to be successful.

Learn more about Archaea and the work they are doing in energy transition.

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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.