Nádia Skorupa Parachin joined Cemvita as vice president of industrial biotechnology. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Gold H2

Newly named CEO to lead Houston gold hydrogen biotech co. into high-growth phase

bugging out

Using microbes to sustainably unlock low-cost hydrogen sounds like the work of science fiction, but one Houston company is doing just that.

Gold H2, a spin-off company from Cemvita, has bioengineered subsurface microbes to use in wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen. The technology was piloted two years ago by Cemvita, and now, as its own company with a new CEO, it's safe to say Gold H2's on its way.

"First of all, that was groundbreaking," Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, says of the 2022 pilot in the Permian Basin, "to be able to use bugs to produce hydrogen within a couple of days."

"2024 is supposed to be the year where Gold H2 takes off," Sekhon, who joined the company in April, tells the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It was one of those opportunities that I couldn't turn down. I had been following the company. I thought, 'here is this innovative tech that's on the verge of providing a ground-breaking solution to the energy transition — what better time to join the team.'"

Sekhon shares on the show how his previous roles at NextEra Energy Resources and Hess have prepared him for Gold H2. Specifically, as a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team, he says he was tasked with figuring out what the energy industry looks like in the next five, 10, and 20 years.

"Green hydrogen was a huge buzz, but one of the things I realized when I started looking at green hydrogen was that it's very expensive," Sekhon says. "I wanted to look at alternatives."

This journey led him to what Cemvita was doing with gold hydrogen, Sekhon says, explaining that the ability to use biotechnology to provide a new revenue stream from the mostly used up wells struck him as something with major potential.

"The idea of repurposing existing oil and gas assets to become hydrogen assets, leveraging current infrastructure to drive down overall deliver costs — to me I thought, 'wow, if they can make this works, that's brilliant,'" he says.

Now, as CEO, Sekhon gets to lead the company toward these goals, which include expanding internationally. He explains on the show that Gold H2 is interested in expanding to any part of the world where there's interest in implementing their biotech. In order to support the growth, Sekhon says they are looking to raise funding this year with plans for an additional round, if needed, in 2025.

"When we compare our tech to the rest of the stack, I think we blow the competition out of the water," Sekhon says, explaining that Gold H2's approach to gold hydrogen development is novel when you look at emerging technology in the space. "We're using a biological process — cheap bugs that eat oil for a living."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, who previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess, was named CEO of Gold H2. Photo courtesy of Gold H2

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.

Lisa Bromiley has joined Cemvita as CFO. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston sustainable biotech company names new CFO

new hire

A growing Houston carbon utilization company has named its newest C-suite member.

Lisa Bromiley has joined Cemvita as CFO. Bromiley will work on spearheading capital markets, strategic positioning, and financial management of the company.

"We are thrilled to welcome Lisa Bromiley to Cemvita as our CFO,” Moji Karimi, CEO of Cemvita, says in a news release. “She joins us at an inflection point in our growth trajectory and I’m confident that Lisa's strategic financial acumen will play a pivotal role in driving Cemvita's continued success.”

Bromiley brings over two decades of experience in energy and commodity-related finance. She previously played a key role in the development of Flotek Industries Inc. and assisted Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. to achieve a market capitalization of $4 billion. Bromiley holds a Master of Professional Accounting and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas. She is also a certified public accountant.

"As the new CFO of Cemvita, I'm very excited to lead the company through a crucial expansion in 2024,” Bromiley says in the news release. “We're moving swiftly from development to commercialization, using our patented microbes to produce sustainable feedstocks from carbon waste. I believe our core mission to recycle carbon waste, including CO2, for profitable industrial feedstock production is vital for a more sustainable world."

Cemvita’s eCO2 recently helped garner the Houston company its spot in the Sustainable Aviation Challenge. The eCO2™ takes waste streams and carbon dioxide and uses them to produce valuable materials like plastics,proteins, and fuel feedstock through microbiology. Cemvita also plans to remove 250 million tons per year from the atmosphere by 2050.
Three startups with Houston ties and sustainable solutions were named winners of the Sustainable Aviation Challenge. Photo via Cameron Casey/Pexels

3 Houston climate tech companies win challenge for sustainable aviation

winner, winne

Greentown Houston companies have made the list of companies working toward sustainable aviation technology.

Cemvita and Verne, two Greentown Houston members, and C2V Initiative Year 1 participant Air Company were all named as winners of the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Aviation Challenge, which will net the winners visibility opportunities, curated introductions to industry partners and potential funders, and other event invitations.

“We look forward to start collaborating with fellow winners and challenge partners to support the decarbonization of the aviation sector,” Cemvita writes in a statement on LinkedIn.

The Sustainable Aviation Challenge on UpLink included innovators who accelerate the adoption and development of sustainable aviation fuel and other propulsion solutions. Aviation accounts for 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and air travel is projected to increase over this decade according to the International Energy Agency. The challenge is to reinvent flying and make it compatible with our global net-zero emissions targets. Decarbonizing aviation is one of the goals to help with the goal of global net-zero emissions.

Cemvita’s eCO2™ helped garner the Houston company its spot in the Sustainable Aviation Challenge. The eCO2 takes waste streams and carbon dioxide and uses them to produce valuable materials like plastics,proteins, and fuel feedstock through microbiology. Cemvita also plans to remove 250 million tons per year from the atmosphere by 2050, according to their website.

Last fall, Cemvita Corp. announced a new offtake arrangement with United Airlines. Cemvita's first full-scale sustainable aviation fuel plant will provide up to 1 billion gallons of SAF to United Airlines. The 20-year contract specifies that Cemvita will supply up to 50 million gallons annually to United.

See the full list of World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Aviation Challenge winners here.
Looking back at top energy transition news from the year, a podcast to stream, and more of what to know going into the last week of 2023. Photo via Getty Images

LYB buys in on plastics recycling co., a podcast to stream, and more to know this week

take note

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: looking back on top news from 2023, a podcast to stream, and more.

LYB acquires German plastic waste sourcing and engineering company

Houston-based LyondellBasell, rebranded recently to LYB, announced earlier this month that it has acquired a minority share in Source One GmbH, Leiferde, Germany, a plastic waste sourcing and engineering company, that specializes specifically in solutions for hard-to-recycle post-consumer plastic waste. This investment gives LYB access to Source One's engineering and plastic waste sourcing services, according to a news release.

"We are committed to support the growing demand of our customers for circular solutions," says Yvonne van der Laan, LyondellBasell executive vice president of Circular and Low Carbon Solutions, in the news release. “With the investment in Source One we are taking another important step to secure access to plastic waste for our recycling activities and to strengthen our Circulen product portfolio of material made from recyclable or renewable resources.”

Podcast: Moji Karimi of Cemvita talks COP28, growth of the company, and more

Moji Karimi, CEO and co-founder of Cemvita, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast last week before he had even recovered from jet lag to talk about his biggest takeaways from 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties, more commonly known as COP28.

"It was a pretty amazing experience," Karimi says, comparing the event to how CERAWeek has evolved to really have a strong presence in its innovation-focused track called Agora. "This year you had a massive section for innovation and sustainability. I think that will become a theme in COP29 and beyond to bring entrepreneurs, investors, and more participating in the event."

Karimi's three big observations are outlined here, as is the full podcast with him sharing more about Cemvita's growth this year.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demands answers from Houston power company following Beryl

investigation incoming

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

Things to know: Beryl in the rearview, Devon Energy's big deal, and events not to miss

taking notes

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition.

Hurricane Beryl's big impact

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston area likely won’t have power restored until this week, as the city swelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl.

The storm slammed into Texas on July 8, knocking out power to nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses and leaving huge swaths of the region in the dark and without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Although repairs have restored power to nearly 1.4 million customers, the scale of the damage and slow pace of recovery has put CenterPoint Energy, which provides electricity to the nation's fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm and is doing enough now to make things right.

Some frustrated residents have also questioned why a part of the country that is all too familiar with major storms has been hobbled by a Category 1 hurricane, which is the weakest kind. But a storm's wind speed, alone, doesn't determine how dangerous it can be. Click here to continue reading this article from the AP.

Big deal: Devon Energy to acquire Houston exploration, production biz in $5B deal

Devon Energy is buying Grayson Mill Energy's Williston Basin business in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5 billion as consolidation in the oil and gas sector ramps up.

The transaction includes $3.25 billion in cash and $1.75 billion in stock.

Grayson Mill Energy, based in Houston, is an oil and gas exploration company that received an initial investment from private equity firm EnCap Investments in 2016.

The firm appears to be stepping back from energy sector as it sells off assets. Last month EnCap-backed XCL Resources sold its Uinta Basin oil and gas assets to SM Energy Co. and Northern Oil and Gas in a transaction totaling $2.55 billion. EnCap had another deal in June as well, selling some assets to Matador Resources for nearly $2 billion. Click here to continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • 2024 Young Leaders Institute: Renewable Energy and Climate Solutions is taking place July 15 to July 19 at Asia Society of Texas. Register now.
  • CCS/Decarbonization Project Development, Finance and Investment, taking place July 23 to 25, is the deepest dive into the economic and regulatory factors driving the success of the CCS/CCUS project development landscape. Register now.
  • The 5th Texas Energy Forum 2024, organized by U.S. Energy Stream, will take place on August 21 and 22 at the Petroleum Club of Houston. Register now.

New talent-packed TV show taps into Texas oil boom history

spotlight on TX

A new television show that's slated to premiere this fall will put Texas' oil boom on center stage.

Taylor Sheridan's buzzy new Texas-based series Landman will premiere Sunday, November 17, on Paramount+, the network revealed. That's just one week after the November 10 debut of the final episodes of Sheridan's Yellowstone on Paramount.

Landmanwill launch with two episodes, with subsequent ones dropping weekly on Sundays, a news release says. In total, the first season will be 10 episodes long. The series is based on Texas Monthly's acclaimed podcast Boomtown by West Texas-raised journalist Christian Wallace, which aired from late 2019 to early 2020. Wallace is serving as a consultant and writer on the series.

"Set in the proverbial boomtowns of West Texas, Landman is a modern-day tale of fortune seeking in the world of oil rigs," the show's release says. "Based on the notable 11-part podcast Boomtown, the series is an upstairs/downstairs story of roughnecks and wildcat billionaires fueling a boom so big, it’s reshaping our climate, our economy and our geopolitics."

Landman, Paramount+'Landman' stars Billy Bob Thornton. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as the titular "land man" Tommy Norris, a crisis manager for an oil company.

He leads an all-star cast that includes Demi Moore as Cami Miller and Jon Hamm in a recurring guest role as her husband, Texas oil titan Monty Miller. Ali Larter plays Thornton's wife, Angela Norris; their two kids are portrayed by Michelle Randolph (1923) and Jacob Lofland (Joker 2).

Landman, Jon Hamm, Demi MooreJon Hamm stars as Texas oil titan Monty Miller, and Demi Moore plays his wife, Cami.Photo courtesy of Paramount+

Other stars include James Jordan (Yellowstone), Kayla Wallace (When Calls the Heart), Mark Collie (Nashville), and Paulina Chávez (The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia); Andy Garcia (Expendables franchise) and Michael Peña (End of Watch)will make guest appearances.

Sheridan is creator and executive co-producer, and the show is produced by MTV Entertainment Studios, 101 Studios, and Sheridan’s Bosque Ranch Productions. Its release comes sooner than expected; even the show's IMDB page says "2025."

Although it's set in West Texas,Landman has been filming around Dallas-Fort Worth since early 2024, with the show's stars frequenting restaurants and shops around town. Fans have been making a sport of posting local star sightings on social media.

Some lucky residents even got to be extras in sports scenes shot at TCU.

Unlike 1883, which was filmed in and around North Texas in 2021, Landman is not considered a Yellowstone spinoff.

Filming around Dallas-Fort Worth is convenient for Sheridan, who lives on a ranch near Weatherford with his wife, Nicole. He also filmed parts of his series Lawmen: Bass Reeves in North Texas in 2023.

A Texas cowboy through and through, Sheridan is the creator of the award-winning series Yellowstone, its prequels 1883 and 1923, and a forthcoming one reportedly called 1944, starring fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey.

The only question left is: Will Texas get to host the big Landman red-carpet premiere, as Fort Worth did for the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere in November 2022? Stay tuned.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.