LYB is building its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Germany. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

Houston-based chemical company LyondellBasell has agreed to secure 208 megawatts of renewable energy capacity from a solar park in Germany.

Under the 12-year deal, LyondellBasell will purchase about 210 gigawatt-hours of solar power each year from Germany-based Encavis Asset Management. That’s enough energy to power about 56,500 homes each year.

LyondellBasell aims to purchase at least half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The deal with Encavis will enable LyondellBasell to achieve more than 90 percent of that goal.

A report from BloombergNEF ranks LyondellBasell as the world’s third largest corporate buyer of clean energy, behind Amazon and Meta.

“This latest agreement will accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy across different sectors in Germany,” says Chris Cain, LyondellBasell’s senior vice president for net-zero transition strategy.

Construction of the solar park got underway in March, with completion set for next summer. The park’s total generating capacity for solar power will be 260 megawatts, which is enough to supply electricity to about 96,000 homes per year.

“Leveraging our industry know-how, we are committed to operating the solar park in an environmentally sustainable and economically profitable manner,” says Karsten Mieth, a spokesman for Encavis Asset Management.

Encavis Asset Management is a wholly owned subsidiary of Encavis, a large-scale producer of wind and solar power in Europe.

Combining batteries with green energy is a fast-growing climate solution. Photo via Getty Images

Batteries and green energies like wind and solar combine for major climate solution across Texas, U.S.

team work

In the Arizona desert, a Danish company is building a massive solar farm that includes batteries that charge when the sun is shining and supply energy back to the electric grid when it's not.

Combining batteries with green energy is a fast-growing climate solution.

“Solar farms only produce when the sun shines, and the turbines only produce when the wind blows,” said Ørsted CEO Mads Nipper. “For us to maximize the availability of the green power, 24-7, we have to store some of it too.”

The United States is rapidly adding batteries, mostly lithium-ion type, to store energy at large scale. Increasingly, these are getting paired with solar and wind projects, like in Arizona. The agencies that run electric grids, utility companies and developers of renewable energies say combining technologies is essential for a green energy future.

Batteries allow renewables to replace fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, while keeping a steady flow of power when sources like wind and solar are not producing. For example, when people are sleeping and thus using less electricity, the energy produced from wind blowing through the night can be stored in batteries — and used when demand is high during the day.

Juan Mendez, a resident of Tempe, Arizona, gets power from local utility Salt River Project, which is collaborating with Ørsted on the Eleven Mile Solar Center. As a state senator, Mendez pushed SRP to move to renewable energies.

He thinks the power company is still investing too much in gas and coal plants, including a major expansion planned for a natural gas plant in Coolidge, Arizona, near the solar center.

“This solar-plus-storage is a good step, but SRP needs to do more to provide clean energy and clean up our air and help address climate change," Mendez said.

The utility said it’s adding more renewables to its energy mix and recently pledged to zero out its emissions by 2050.

The U.S. has the second most electrical storage in the world, after China. In 2023, the U.S. added an estimated 7.5 gigawatts — 62% more than in 2022, according to the BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy factbook. That amount can power 750,000 homes for a day and brings the total amount of installed capacity nationwide to nearly enough for 2 million homes for one day, according to BloombergNEF.

In the U.S., California leads in energy storage as it aggressively cuts greenhouse gas emissions. It has twice as much as any other state. Residential, commercial and utility-scale battery installations increased by 757% there over just four years, meaning there's now enough to power 6.6 million homes for up to four hours, according to the California Energy Commission.

That's partly because in 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission told utilities to buy energy storage with a target to be met by 2020. Since then, power companies have continued to add more batteries to help the state meet clean electricity requirements.

Southern California Edison is one utility adding thousands of hours of energy storage. It is putting in solar-plus-batteries to replace some power plants that burn natural gas and would typically supply electricity in the evening.

“If it’s just clean and not reliable, you really don’t have anything,” said William Walsh, vice president for energy procurement and management. “We need both.”

In California, batteries proved their value in September 2022, as the West was experiencing a long heat wave that sent temperatures into the triple digits. Electricity demand reached the highest the state had ever seen on Sept. 6, 2022, as people cranked up air conditioners.

Walsh credits the batteries added to the grid between 2020 and 2022 with helping to avoid blackouts. Two years earlier, there were rolling electricity outages in California during a similar extreme heat wave.

Texas has the second-most battery storage after California. Last month, Schneider Electric announced it's teaming up with energy company ENGIE North America on solar and battery systems in Texas to get closer to the French multinational’s 100% renewable energy goal in the U.S. and Canada. Before the Inflation Reduction Act, a major climate law passed in 2022, the deal and the necessary $80 million investment would not have been possible, said Hans Royal, Schneider Electric's senior director for renewable energy and carbon advisory.

Royal is advising other global Fortune 500 companies it works with to get into the market.

“The industry needs that, the grid needs it," said Royal.

Back in Arizona, Ørsted’s Eleven Mile Solar Center covers 2,000 acres in rural Pinal County. It has 857,000 solar panels and more than 2,000 cubes that look like large shipping containers but contain battery modules. Ørsted also has large solar and storage projects in Texas and Alabama, and in Europe.

When the Arizona facility opens this summer, most power from the solar farm will go to Facebook owner Meta's data center in Mesa. The solar power not needed by Meta, in addition to the power stored in the batteries, will go to the local utility's customers. The new batteries can ensure power to roughly 65,000 homes during peak hours of demand.

“What I think is exciting is just how rapidly this market is moving," said Yayoi Sekine, head of energy storage at BloombergNEF. “There's so much pressure for the U.S. and different regions to decarbonize, and storage is one of the major technologies to enable that. There's a lot of momentum."

For the 2023 budget year, Texas’ total pot of federal money ranked second behind California’s. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Texas scores significant chunk of federal clean energy investment

by the numbers

On a per-person basis, Texas grabbed the third-highest share of federal investment in clean energy and transportation during the government’s 2023 budget year, according to a new report.

Texas’ haul — $6.2 billion in federal investments, such as tax credits and grants — from October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2023, worked out to $204 per person, bested only by Wyoming ($369) and New Mexico ($259). That’s according to the latest Clean Investment Monitor report shows. Rhodium Group and MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research produced the report.

For the 2023 budget year, Texas’ total pot of federal money ranked second behind California’s ($7.5 billion), says the report. Nationwide, the federal government’s overall investment in clean energy and transportation reached $34 billion.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Public and private investment in clean energy and transportation soared to $239 billion in 2023, up 37 percent from the previous year.
  • Overall investment in utility-scale solar power and storage systems climbed to $53 billion in 2023, up more than 50 percent from the previous year.
  • Overall investment in emerging climate technologies (clean energy, sustainable aviation fuel, and carbon capture) during 2023 surpassed investment in wind energy for the first time. This pool of money expanded from $900 million in 2022 to $9.1 billion in 2023.

The Lone Star arm of the pro-environment Sierra Club says the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which took effect in 2022, “includes a dizzying number of programs and tax incentives” for renewable energy.

“While it will take several years for all the programs to be implemented, billions in tax incentives and tax breaks, along with specific programs focused on clean energy development, energy efficiency, onsite solar, and transmission upgrades, means that Texas could help lower costs and transform our electric grid,” says the Sierra Club.

Plus Power has announced its Oahu, Hawaii, facility is up and running. Photo via pluspower.com

Houston clean energy company goes online with Hawaii facility

aloha

Houston-based Plus Power announced it has begun operating a new facility on Oahu, Hawaii.

The Kapolei Energy Storage, or KES, facility is “the most advanced grid-scale battery energy storage system in the world,” which will help transition the state's electric power from coal and oil to solar and wind, according to the company.

The KES battery project is located on 8 acres of industrial land on the southwest side of Oahu near Honolulu, and will use 158 Tesla Megapack 2 XL lithium iron phosphate batteries. It will offer the grid 185 megawatts of total power capacity and 565 megawatt-hours of electricity. This will act as an electrical "shock absorber" that will be served by combustion-powered peaker plants to respond in 250 milliseconds according to Power Plus.

"This is a landmark milestone in the transition to clean energy," Brandon Keefe, Plus Power's executive chairman, says in a news release. "It's the first time a battery has been used by a major utility to balance the grid: providing fast frequency response, synthetic inertia, and black start. This project is a postcard from the future — batteries will soon be providing these services, at scale, on the mainland."

The KES plant interconnects three of Hawaiian Electric's critical power generation facilities, which can enable KES to support the reboot of power plants in the event of a state-wide emergency.The KES batteries will help replace the grid capacity formerly provided by an AES coal power plant.

By June 2024, Plus Power aims to operate seven large-scale battery energy storage plants across Arizona and Texas. Last year, the company secured $1.8 billion in new financing for a handful of ongoing projects — most of which are in Texas.

Honeywell’s European launch follows a Dutch test of the smart gas meter, which the company touts as the world’s first commercially available hydrogen-ready gas meter. Photo via honeywell.com

Honeywell plans to launch world's first of hydrogen-ready gas meter

smart tech

A Houston-based unit of industrial conglomerate Honeywell has unveiled a gas meter capable of measuring both hydrogen and natural gas.

Honeywell’s European launch follows a Dutch test of the EI5 smart gas meter, which the company touts as the world’s first commercially available hydrogen-ready gas meter.

“Honeywell’s hydrogen-capable meters are key to facilitating a seamless transition to hydrogen energy across European utility networks,” Kinnera Angadi, chief technology officer of smart energy and thermal solutions at Honeywell, says in a November 28 news release. “We’re enhancing operational efficiency with meters that are ready for the future, helping our customers stay ahead in a market that’s swiftly transitioning toward greener energy solutions.”

Among other products, Honeywell’s Houston-based Process Solutions unit supplies connected utility and metering technology like the new EI5 gas meter. In the Netherlands, Honeywell’s meters will be installed at residences by Dutch energy company Enexis Group.

A 2022 report from the Hydrogen Council indicates that hydrogen costs are expected to fall by 2030, making it competitive with other low-carbon option. This insight helped lead Enexis Group to commit to converting its main gas lines to hydrogen within the next three years.

“The transition to clean energy is as necessary as it is complex,” says Ruud Busscher, program manager for energy transit and Hydrogen at Enexis. “This project aims to challenge the way we operate by using an alternative to natural gas. We are finding out how the existing grid will be influenced by hydrogen and what new paths can be taken for a sustainable future.”

Scott Nyquist on the future of technology and how they affect the energy industry. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: Where is tech going? And can the energy industry keep up?

guest column

When smart people come together to consider the future, it’s worth listening to them.

Not long ago, McKinsey brought together more than 60 experts, and asked them to name the most important technology trends for business. They started from the premise that the next 10 years will see more technological progress than in the previous 100 years—and that this will up-end companies and industries everywhere.

“We believe the technology disruption over the next few years will be equal to the industrial revolution,” says Nicolaus Henke, a McKinsey alum who participated in this Tech Trends Index, which will be updated annually.

Here are some of the specific predictions. More than three-quarters of enterprise-generated data will be processed by edge or cloud computing by 2025. Ten percent of global GDP could be associated with blockchain by 2027. Renewables will produce 75 percent of global energy by 2050. 5G could reach 80 percent of the world’s population by 2030.

Time will tell if any or all of these are right; personally, I think renewables will have to wait a little longer for that kind of dominance. But by and large, I found the list, and the underlying thinking, compelling. And given my background in oil-and-gas, I thought it was striking that parts of the energy industry are working on just about every single one of them. Here is the list:

  • Next-level process automation and visualization.
  • Future of connectivity.
  • Distributed infrastructure.
  • Next-generation computing.
  • Applied artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Future of programming.
  • Trust architecture.
  • Bio revolution.
  • Next-generation materials.
  • Future of clean technologies.

Specifically, the first half-dozen items are all connected to digitization, and while the energy industry may not be at the cutting edge of development, it has a long track record of integrating these technologies and safely deploying them in order to deliver low-cost and reliable supply.

For example, the oil and gas industry has used AI for years to evaluate reservoirs and to plan drilling—one of many improvements over the traditional “one rock, two geologists, three opinions" way of doing things. And advanced materials, such as composites, engineered polymers, and low-density/high-strength metals and alloys are commonly used to lower costs and improve performance, for example in deep water oil and gas production and rotating equipment. As for connectivity, there is no shortage of commitment, but I think it is fair to say that the full potential has not been tapped.

McKinsey has estimated that making use of advanced connectivity alone—to optimize drilling and production, as well as to improve maintenance and field operations—could translate into $250 billion in value by 2030. That is something that the industry could really use, given recent price fluctuations. Taken as a whole, while the industry is nowhere near completing a full digital transformation, it is certainly well on its way.

As for the item most clearly connected to the industry — No. 10, clean technologies — at first glance, this might seem like bad news for traditional energy players. Not so fast. There are clear opportunities in areas such as clean coal, carbon capture, and energy storage. Moreover, other kinds of clean technologies can help the industry decarbonize its operations—something that will become more important as carbon regulation gets more stringent.

As I see it, then, while parts of the industry may seem old-school, it is actually heavily engaged in almost everything on the list. That should come as no surprise. From the first time oil was pumped in Pennsylvania in 1859, it has innovated and adapted to integrate technologies that improved productivity, safety, and environmental performance. In fact, it could it could even be said that the sector is part of what is often known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution—the convergence and interaction of physical, digital, and biological technologies.

I, and many others in the industry, believe that the ongoing energy transition will likely suppress demand for fossil fuels in the long term. But while the items on the Tech Trends Index, together and separately, will be disruptive, requiring big changes in business models and day-to-day operations, they could also help the industry to adapt.

———

Scott Nyquist is a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company and vice chairman, Houston Energy Transition Initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership. The views expressed herein are Nyquist's own and not those of McKinsey & Company or of the Greater Houston Partnership. This article originally ran on LinkedIn on October 4, 2021.

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Chevron backs carbon capture tech company in $45M investment round

fresh funding

Chevron New Energies has a new cleantech company in its portfolio.

Boulder, Colorado-based ION Clean Energy announces it has raised $45 million in financing. The round was led by Chevron New Energies with participation from New York-based Carbon Direct Capital. Founded in 2008, ION's carbon dioxide capture technologies lower costs and make CO2 capture a more viable option for hard-to-abate emissions.

“We have truly special solvent technology. It is capable of very high capture efficiency with low energy use while simultaneously being exceptionally resistant to degradation with virtually undetectable emissions. That’s a pretty powerful combination that sets us apart from the competition. The investments from Chevron and Carbon Direct Capital are a huge testament to the hard work of our team and the potential of our technology,” ION founder and Executive Chairman Buz Brown says in a news release. “We appreciate their collaboration and with their investments we expect to accelerate commercial deployment of our technology so that we can realize the kind of wide-ranging commercial and environmental impact we’ve long envisioned.”

The funding will go toward ION’s organizational growth and commercial deployment of its ICE-31 liquid amine carbon capture technology.

“We continue to make progress on our goal to deliver the full value chain of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) as a business, and we believe ION is a part of this solution. ION has consistent proof points in technology performance, recognition from the Department of Energy, partnerships with global brands, and a strong book of business that it brings to the relationship,” Chris Powers, vice president of CCUS and emerging with CNE, says in the release. “ION’s solvent technology, combined with Chevron’s assets and capabilities, has the potential to reach numerous emitters and support our ambitions of a lower carbon future. We believe collaborations like this are essential to our efforts to grow carbon capture on a global scale.”

With the new investment, the company announced that Timothy Vail will join the company as CEO. He previously was CEO of Arbor Renewable Gas and founder and CEO of G2X Energy Inc. He also serves as an Operating Partner for OGCI Climate Investments.

"With these investments, we are well positioned to grow ION into a worldwide provider of high-performance point source capture solutions,” Vail says. “This capital allows us to accelerate the commercial deployment of our carbon capture technology.”

How the eclipse will test Texas' solar market, events not to miss, and more things to know in Houston energy

take note

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, what to expect from the eclipse, and more.


Eyes on ERCOT amid eclipse

For three hours today, Texas' solar energy market will be affected by the solar eclipse. According to a report from the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, Texas ranks third in the U.S. for residential solar power generation, so the moon's interception to the sunlight can be a real test to ERCOT, which reported that they have worked with solar forecast vendors on what to expect from solar generation on the grid during the eclipse.

"As we did in preparation for the October 2023 eclipse, ERCOT is actively monitoring the forecasts and available dispatchable capacity for April 8," reads a statement from the organization's March report. "ERCOT will rely on Ancillary Services and other actions to posture the system as necessary during the eclipse to compensate for both the reduction and increase in solar generation on this day and maintain grid reliability. ERCOT has been engaging Market Participants so that they are prepared for the eclipse and expects sufficient generation to meet demand."

Events not to miss

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

  • The Digital Wildcatters is hosting its Energy Tech Night in Houston on April 17. Register.
  • On April 17, the University of Houston presents "Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities & Solutions" featuring experts from academia, industry, government, and more. The symposium begins at 8 am with a networking reception takes place beginning at 5 pm at the University of Houston Student Center South - Theater Room. Register.
  • Ally Energy is hosting its Unconference - Energy 2.0 on April 17 to explore the energy renaissance. Register.
  • The inaugural, student-led TEX-E Conference is taking place on April 19 at TMC's Helix Park. The event’s mission is to empower budding student entrepreneurs to advance their climatetech ventures and inspire industry leaders to support these groundbreaking startups coming out of Texas’ universities. Register.
  • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.

Really big deal: Shell's EV charging plans

As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report. Read the full story.

Houston initiative selected for DOE program developing hubs for clean energy innovation

community focus

Houston has been selected as one of the hubs backed by a new program from the United States Department of Energy that's developing communities for clean energy innovation.

The DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the the first phase of winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters, or EPIC, Round 3. The local initiative is one of 23 incubators and accelerators that was awarded $150,000 to support programming for energy startups and entrepreneurs.

The Houston-based participant is called "Texas Innovates: Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator," or CHILI, and it's a program meant to feed startups into the DOE recognized HyVelocity program and other regional decarbonization efforts.

EPIC was launched to drive innovation at a local level and to inspire commercial success of energy startups. It's the third year of the competition that wraps up with a winning participant negotiating a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million.

“Incubators and Accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support," DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan says in a news release. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources, and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”

CHILI, the only participant in Texas, now moves on to the second phase of the competition, where they will design a project continuation plan and programming for the next seven months to be submitted in September.

where they’ll implement their programming and design a project continuation plan over the next 7 months. In September they will submit their plans with the hope of being selected to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each.

Phase 2 also includes two national pitch competitions with a total of $165,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for startups. The first EPIC pitch event for 2024 will be in June at the 2024 Small Business Forum & Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last fall, the DOE selected the Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hub was announced to receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will get.


The DOE's OTT selections are nationwide. Photo via energy.gov