Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids. Photo via Getty Images

Last month, oil companies offered $382 million for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after courts rejected the Biden administration's plans to scale back the sale to protect an endangered whale species.

The auction was the last of several offshore oil and gas lease sales mandated under the 2022 climate law. It comes as President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration tries to navigate between energy companies seeking greater oil and gas production and environmental activists who want to stop new drilling to help combat climate change.

Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids on more than 300 parcels covering 2,700 square miles (7,000 square kilometers), according to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The dollar amount of the successful bids marked a sharp increase from the previous sale in March 2023, when the Interior Department awarded leases covering about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers) for $250 million.

The next sale will be conducted in 2025, to the frustration of energy companies and Republicans who say the administration is hampering U.S. oil production.

Wednesday's online auction was originally scheduled for September but got delayed by a court battle after the administration reduced the area available for leases from 73 million acres (30 million hectares) to 67 million acres (27 million hectares) as part of a plan to protect the endangered Rice’s whale.

Chevron, Shell Offshore, the American Petroleum Institute and the state of Louisiana sued to reverse the cut in acreage and block the inclusion of the whale-protecting measures in the lease sale provisions.

A federal judge in southwest Louisiana ordered the sale to go on without the whale protections, which also included regulations governing vessel speed and personnel. Environmental groups appealed, but the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month rejected their arguments against the sale and threw out the plans to scale it back.

The lease sale was required under a compromise with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a supporter of the oil and gas industry who cast the deciding vote in favor of the landmark climate law. The measure was approved with only Democratic votes in Congress. Under the terms negotiated by Manchin, the government must offer at least 60 million acres of offshore oil and gas leases in any one-year period before it can offer offshore wind leases that are part of its strategy to fight climate change.

Only a small portion of parcels that are offered for sale typically receive bids, in areas where companies want to expand their existing drilling activities or where they foresee future development potential.

The administration in September proposed up to three oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five years and none in Alaska waters. That was the minimum number the administration could legally offer if it wants to continue expanding offshore wind development.

Environmental groups criticized the five-year plan as a “missed opportunity” to stop the expansion of oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and address climate change.

“New oil and gas operations (in the Gulf) will only bring more health risks to Gulf Coast communities and slow our transition to a clean-energy economy,'' said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy.

The industry, meanwhile, said more sales are needed — and sooner.

“In our forward-thinking industry, securing new lease blocks is vital for exploring and developing resources crucial to the U.S. economy,'' said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito. “The Gulf of Mexico is a prime economic engine and investment area, and this (lease sale) was the last chance for companies to secure leases in the near term.''

Holly Hopkins, API vice president of upstream policy, called Wednesday's sale "a "positive step after multiple delays,'' and noted that it generated the highest dollar value for bids in nearly a decade.

The results demonstrate that the oil and gas industry “is working to meet growing demand and investing in the nation’s long-term energy security,'' Hopkins said. “Just as today’s record U.S. production was supported by investment and policy decisions made years ago, new leasing opportunities are critical for maintaining American energy leadership for decades to come.''

The administration's clean-energy ambitions have been hampered by recent project cancellations including two large wind projects shelved last month off the New Jersey coast and the earlier cancellation of three projects that would have sent power to New England.

Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. Photo via ADNOC

Houston-based startup secures million-dollar prize after global competition

big win

A Houston sustainability startup has secured a major win on a global scale.

Revterra, which produces novel batteries made from recycled steel, has been awarded a million-dollar piloting opportunity by ADNOC following a global competition.

The ADNOC Decarbonization Technology Challenge, in collaboration with AWS, bp, Hub71, and the Net Zero Technology Centre, sought to find emerging climate tech innovations that are ready for scale.

The contest drew 650 applicants from across 50 countries, and applicants specialized in innovations in oil and gas emissions reduction, nature-based solutions, carbon capture utilization and storage, digital applications, new energies, oil and gas emissions reduction and advanced materials for decarbonization.

At the event in Dubai, Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. In addition to the $1 million, they will gain access to facilities and expertise at the ADNOC Research and Innovation Center in Abu Dhabi.

“We are thrilled to win this opportunity,” Patrick Flam, CFO of Revterra, says in a news release. “At Revterra, we have developed an environmentally friendly battery that doesn’t rely on metals like lithium, nickel, or cobalt. Instead, our 2MW batteries are built using recycled steel and rely on rotational energy storage technology to achieve maximum power with a minimal environmental footprint. I am excited to work with our new partners at ADNOC to further develop our solution and deploy it across ADNOC’s operations.”

ADNOC is accelerating the decarbonization of its operations and looks to reduce its carbon intensity by 25 percent by 2030.

“ADNOC is leveraging partnerships and innovative climate technologies to accelerate our decarbonization goals and responsibly enable the energy transition,” Musabbeh Al Kaabi, ADNOC executive director for Low Carbon Solutions and International Growth, adds in the release. “The ADNOC Decarbonization Technology Challenge supports this objective, and we congratulate Revterra for emerging victorious amongst very competitive submissions from around the world.

"We look forward to working with Revterra to unlock cutting-edge solutions that will enhance efficiencies and continue decarbonizing our operations,” he continues.

BP's solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024. Photo via bp.com

BP breaks ground​ on Texas solar farm, plans to open it next year

sun-powered peacock

British energy giant BP, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, has started construction on a 187-megawatt solar farm about 10 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The Peacock Solar facility will generate power for a nearby chemical complex operated by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a joint venture between Spring-based energy company ExxonMobil and SABIC, a Saudi Arabian chemical conglomerate whose products are used to make clothes, food containers, packaging, agricultural film, and construction materials. SABIC’s Americas headquarters is in Houston.

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures opened the plant in 2022. The joint venture says the ethylene cracker and derivatives complex, located northwest of the town of Gregory, employs about 600 people.

BP says the solar project, which is expected to create about 300 construction jobs, will produce enough energy each year to power the equivalent of 34,000 homes. The solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024.

“We want to be good stewards of our environment,” Paul Fritsch, president of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, says in a BP news release. “Once online, the solar-generated electricity will be used to partially power our plant and help reduce emissions in support of a net-zero future.”

At full capacity, Peacock’s renewable power could keep more than 256,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere each year, BP says.

BP’s joint venture partner, British solar company Lightsource BP, is developing the solar project and managing construction on behalf of BP. In 2017, BP bought a 43 percent stake in Lightsource and now holds a 50 percent stake.

Canadian contractor PCL Construction is providing construction and engineering services for the solar setup, and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar and Norwalk, Connecticut-based GameChange Solar are supplying the solar equipment.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston companies land DOE vouchers for clean tech

money moves

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”