At the annual, SUPER DUG Conference & Exhibition 2024 in Fort Worth last week, Texas energy executives weighed in on the progress of the energy transition. Photo by Lindsey Ferrell

Woven in between reflections on the most active consolidation market in recent history, an underlying theme emerged from Hart Energy’s SUPER DUG Conference & Exhibition 2024 in Fort Worth last week. Executives, investors, and analysts conveyed admiration for the emissions reductions achieved across the shales while continuing to meet the growing demand for natural gas.

However, concern for continued investment echoed this praise, as many expressed the need for increased investment to support a world of flourishing population, economics, and technology.

Marshall Adkins, head of energy for Raymond James, shared an analogy demonstrating the energy demand impact from advancements in technology, most notably those sprouting from the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. Adkins explained that a minimal whole-home generator consumes about 8,500 watts of power; to keep air conditioning, the washing machine, and garage door working results in a pull of approximately 14,000 watts. One single chip from NVIDIA requires that same 14,000 watts plus another 150 percent power for cooling, totaling approximately 35,000 watts — about the same as would completely power an average home as if there were no disruption in supply.

While this volume of power consumption seems hefty, consider that NVIDIA sold over half a million chips in a single quarter last year, and the effect starts to multiply exponentially. And while development of solar and wind power sources will replace most, if not all, of the current energy produced from coal, the stability of the power grid relies predominantly on the continuous stream of natural gas. That is, if the stream of investment into developing and expanding natural gas continues to grow in parallel.

Reflecting on the expectation from public and private investors, as well as upcoming talent, to embrace meaningful advancements in ESG, Will Van Loh, CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, shared the business benefit of greener practices.

“Switching your frac fleet from running diesel to natural gas, we saved one of our companies in the Haynesville half a million dollars per well and reduced GHG by 70 percent. Make a bunch of money and do good for the environment – (that’s a) pretty good deal,” Van Loh told Hart Energy’s editor-in-chief for Oil & Gas Investor, Deon Daugherty.

For decades, the industry has pursued increasingly eco-friendly habits, but the requirements of ESG reporting make it more visible to the rest of the world. Permian Operators, which produce almost half of all US daily oil volume, cited specific strides made in reducing emissions and operating more cleanly during their respective presentations:

  • Leadership from Diamondback Energy spoke about adopting the use of clear drilling fluids in lieu of oil-based mud, resulting in faster drilling times and cleaner operations. The technique came along with the acquisition of QEP Resources in 2021 and reflects the company’s commitment to remaining humble in its pursuit of more efficient and more environmentally beneficial methodologies.
  • Nick McKenna, vice president of the Midland Basin for ConocoPhillips praised their Lower48 team for reducing gas flaring by 80 percent since 2019 while also increasing the use of recycled water over 3x in that same 5-year horizon.
  • Clark Edwards, senior vice president of Development for BPX, cited achieving 95 percent electrification of their Permian well set as of the end of 2023. Building and installing their own microgrid – a practice repeated by numerous operators throughout the Basin, where public infrastructure lags far behind private entity needs – added enough megawatts to their operation to allow BPX to run drilling rigs completely independent of an already strained public grid.

In addition to reducing diesel usage, flaring, and dependence on the public grid for electricity, water management stays a top economic and ecological concern for shale operators all over the United States. While a compelling case of "have and have-not" dominated the shale water business over the last decade-plus, savvy operators increasingly embrace a mindset that water disposal should remain a choice of last resort. Companies like WaterBridge, a Joint Venture with Devon Energy, and Deep Blue, a joint venture with Diamondback Energy, help bring clean and recycled water to areas with shortages, both in and outside of the industry.

As Kaes Van’t Hof, president and CFO of Diamondback Energy, said, “The Midland Basin is now recycling as much water as it possibly can. Eventually it’s going to be about, ‘Water going downhole into a disposal well is the last option.’ Can you recycle it? Can you bring it somewhere else, evaporate it? We’re starting start some early de-sal[ination] tests in the Spanish Trail near the airport. Eventually, can we tell the story that we sell freshwater back to water the golf courses of Midland?”

The Energy Transition steams ahead, but pragmatic observations remind us that oil and gas make up approximately 60 percent of the energy supply today – a volume not easily replaced by any other source completely in the next few years. However, the overwhelming support for delivering the best barrel with the lowest carbon intensity possible permeated Hart Energy’s SUPER DUG Conference & Exhibition 2024.

The Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas, Frontier Energy, Inc., and GTI Energy celebrated the grand opening of a hydrogen research and demonstration facility in Austin. Photo via utexas.edu

Texas hydrogen research hub opens to support statewide, DOE-backed initiative

hi to hydrogen

A Texas school has cut the ribbon on a new hydrogen-focused research facility that will play a role in a statewide, Department of Energy-funded energy transition initiative.

The Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas, Frontier Energy, Inc., and GTI Energy celebrated the grand opening of a hydrogen research and demonstration facility in Austin as part of the “Demonstration and Framework for H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond” project, which is supported by the DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

The hydrogen proto-hub is first-of-its-kind and part of Texas-wide initiative for a cleaner hydrogen economy and will feature contributions from organizations throughout the state. The facility will generate zero-carbon hydrogen by using water electrolysis powered by solar and wind energy, and steam methane reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill.

The hydrogen will be used to power a stationary fuel cell for power for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and it will also supply zero-emission fuel to cell drones and a fleet of Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles. This method will mark the first time that multiple renewable hydrogen supplies and uses have been networked at one location to show an economical hydrogen ecosystem that is scalable.

“The H2@Scale in Texas project builds on nearly two decades of UT leadership in hydrogen research and development” Michael Lewis, Research Scientist, UT Austin Center for Electromechanics, say in a news release. “With this facility, we aim to provide the educated workforce and the engineering data needed for success. Beyond the current project, the hydrogen research facility is well-positioned for growth and impact in the emerging clean hydrogen industry.”

Over 20 sponsors and industry stakeholders are involved and include Houston-based partners in Center for Houston’s Future and Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy. Industry heavyweights like Chevron, Toyota, ConocoPhillips, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are also part of the effort.

Texas hydrogen infrastructure and wind and solar resources position the state for clean hydrogen production, as evident in the recently released study, “A Framework for Hydrogen in Texas.” The study was part of a larger effort that started in 2020 with the H2@Scale project, which aims to develop clearer paths to renewable hydrogen as a “clean and cost-effective fuel” according to a news release. The facility will serve as an academic research center, and a model for future large-scale hydrogen deployments.

Participants in the DOE-funded HyVelocity Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub will aim to gain insights from the H2@Scale project at UT Austin. The project will build towards a development of a comprehensive hydrogen network across the region. HyVelocity is a hub that includes AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Orsted, and Sempra Infrastructure. The GTI Energy administered HyVelocity involves The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Houston’s Future, and Houston Advanced Research Center.

“H2@Scale isn't just about producing low-carbon energy, it's about creating clean energy growth opportunities for communities throughout Texas and the nation,” Adam Walburger, president of Frontier Energy, says in a news release. “By harnessing renewable energy resources to create zero-carbon hydrogen, we can power homes, businesses, transportation, and agriculture – all while creating jobs and reducing emissions.”

The executive who manages the ConocoPhillips sustainability and technology teams has announced his retirement. Photo via ConocoPhillips.com

ConocoPhillips exec overseeing sustainability, tech set to retire

leadership shift

After decades at the company, ConocoPhillips's executive vice president of strategy, sustainability, and technology is retiring.

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) announced that Dominic Macklon, who's been in his role for two and a half years and at the company for 33 years, has elected to retire effective May 1.

“I want to thank Dominic for his leadership, dedication and significant contributions during his distinguished 33 years with ConocoPhillips,” Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO, says in a news release.

“Dominic has played an important role in identifying and driving value from low cost of supply opportunities across our global portfolio while positioning our company for the energy transition and accelerating our emissions reduction initiatives," Lance continues. "I wish Dominic the best in retirement as he relocates back to the U.K.”

In his role, Macklon oversees the teams focused on corporate planning and development, global technical functions, information technology, sustainable development, and low carbon technology, according to the company's website. He previously worked on managing operations of the Gulf Coast and Great Plains business units, as well as land and commercial gas activities, finance, human resources and health, safety and environment.

A graduate of University of Edinburgh, his other leadership roles at the company include vice president of corporate planning and development, president of ConocoPhillips United Kingdom, and senior vice president of Oil Sands.

ConocoPhillips did not reveal any details on who is to succeed Macklon at this time.

Halliburton and ConocoPhillips were named to the 2023 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. Photo via halliburton.com

2 Houston energy companies secure Dow Jones sustainability rating

seeing green

Halliburton and ConocoPhillips were named to the 2023 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, which assesses the “sustainability performance of companies transparency process” based on an annual S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment.

The CSA evaluates companies’ sustainability practices, and covers over 10,000 companies globally. The CSA has focused on financially material and industry-specific sustainability criteria since 1999.

The methodology of the annual CSA is updated to reflect the objectives to ensure that the CSA captures and delivers high-quality, material sustainability data, and increases efficiency and ease for participating companies. Over 13,000 companies get invited to participate in the CSA, but just 3,500 of the largest companies globally are eligible for inclusion.

In 2023, the DJSI saw a strong response from companies that disclosed their sustainability performance to capital markets through the CSA process.

For Halliburton, 2023 marks the third consecutive year that the company has been named to the prestigious list. Halliburton and ConocoPhillips are the only Houston companies that made the 2023 list.

“At Halliburton, we are constantly developing new and better ways to meet the growing global energy demand while advancing a more sustainable energy future,” Summer Condarco, senior vice president of Service Quality, Continuous Improvement, and Chief HSE Officer, says in a news release. “We are honored to be recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for our commitment to sustainability leadership.”

See the full list of companies here.

Chevron — as well as nine other Houston energy companies — was named a top company by Newsweek. Photo via chevron.com

10 Houston energy companies recognized as best workplaces on annual list

best of class

Newsweek recently recognized the country's top workplaces, and 10 Houston energy businesses made the cut.

The annual America's Greatest Workplaces 2023 list, which originally published in the fall, gave 10 Houston energy companies four stars or above.

ConocoPhillips is the only Houston-based energy company to receive five out of five stars. Baker Hughes, Exxon, S&B Engineers and Constructors, and KBR all received four-and-a-half stars. Chevron Corp., Halliburton, J-W Power Co., Q'MAX Solutions, and Valerus secured four stars each.

"Our commitment to engaging the full potential of our people to deliver the future of energy is at the core of everything we do," Rhonda Morris, vice president and chief human resources officer at Chevron, says in a news release. "We do this because our business succeeds best when our employees feel engaged and empowered, and we look forward to building on this momentum for years to come.”

The ranking identified the top 1,000 companies in the United States and is based off of a large employer survey, as well as a a sample set of over 61,000 respondents living and working in the U.S. In total, Newsweek factored in 389,000 company reviews across all industry sectors. The report was in partnership with Plant-A.

"In an economic climate where the job market remains competitive despite fears of a recession, employers who stand out as America's Greatest Workplaces may find they have substantial advantages over their competitors," writes Nancy Cooper, editor of Newsweek, about the report.

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Houston students selected for prestigious DOE program

rising stars

Three rising stars in the energy sector who are graduate students at the University of Houston have been chosen for a prestigious U.S. Department of Energy research program.

UH doctoral candidates Caleb Broodo, Leonard Jiang, and Farzana Likhi, are among 86 students from 31 states who were selected for the Office of Science Graduate Student Research program, which provides training at Department of Energy (DOE) labs.

“This recognition is a testament to their hard work and dedication to pushing the boundaries of science, and to our commitment to fostering excellence in research and innovation,” Sarah Larsen, vice provost and dean of the UH’s graduate school, says in a news release.

The DOE program allows graduate students to work on research projects that address national and international energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges.

The program “is a unique opportunity for graduate students to complete their Ph.D. training with teams of world-class experts aiming to answer some of the most challenging problems in fundamental science,” says Harriet Kung, acting director of DOE’s Office of Science. “Gaining access to cutting-edge tools for scientific discovery at DOE national laboratories will be instrumental in preparing the next generation of scientific leaders.”

Here’s a rundown of the UH trio’s involvement in the DOE program:

  • Broodo, a second-year Ph.D. candidate whose research focuses on heavy ion nuclear physics, will work at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
  • Jiang, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering, will head to Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to research electrochemistry.
  • Likhi, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the materials science and engineering program, will conduct research on microelectronics at Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee.

2 Houston energy leaders bet on carbon capture with recent acquisitions

the view from heti

CCUS will play a pivotal role in the global energy transition by decarbonizing carbon-intensive industries, including energy, chemicals, cement, and steel. CCUS is one of the few proven technologies to significantly lower net emissions. However, the unique nature of decarbonization presents many complex challenges. With greater funding and growing policy support, the widespread adoption of CCUS technologies is becoming more technically feasible and economically viable than ever before.

Houston, with its existing CCUS infrastructure, large concentration of CCUS expertise, and high storage capacity, is the ideal location to deploy and derisk CCUS projects at unprecedented speed and scale. Recently, two HETI members announced acquisition and investment into carbon capture businesses.

SLB + Aker Carbon Capture (ACC)

SLB, a pioneer in carbon capture technologies, announced an agreement to acquire major ownership in Aker Carbon Capture (ACC), a pure-play carbon capture company. The move combines SLB’s established CCUS business with ACC’s innovative CCUS technology to support accelerated industrial decarbonization at scale.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” said Olivier Le Peuch, chief executive officer, SLB. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project. We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors.”

Chevron New Energies + ION Clean Energy

Chevron New Energies, a division of Chevron U.S.A. Inc., announced a lead investment in ION Clean Energy (ION), which provides post-combustion point-source capture technology through its third-generation ICE-31 liquid amine system. This investment expands and complements Chevron’s growing portfolio of CCUS technologies.

“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,” said Chris Powers, vice president of CCUS & Emerging, Chevron New Energies. “We believe collaborations like this are essential to our efforts to grow carbon capture on a global scale.”

“This investment from Chevron is a huge testament to the hard work of our team and the potential of our technology,” said ION founder and executive chairman Buz Brown. “We appreciate their collaboration and with their investment 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.”

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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.

BP donates $200,000 to Houston school system's EV training program

fresh funding

BP America agreed to donate a large sum to Houston Community College in order to support the future of the city's electric vehicle workforce.

During the Board of Trustees meeting, HCC's Transportation Center of Excellence Electric Vehicle training program received a donation of $200,000 from BP America. The program plans to use the funds for a safety and fundamentals course for more than 300 City of Houston’s and Harris County fleet department employees, which equips technicians to repair and maintain EVs.

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of this important education to equip Houstonians with the knowledge and skills to maintain electric vehicles,” Chancellor Margaret Ford Fisher says in a news release. “This generous donation is a win for the partners involved and for helping to ensure a sustainable future.”

The Transportation Center of Excellence's EV training program has already trained more than 100 fleet mechanics and automotive technicians. It began on April 1 at the HCC North Forest Campus Automotive Training Center. With state-of-the-art equipment for hands-on training and classroom instruction,instructors show technicians potential risks associated with the high-voltage elements of EVs.

"We are proud to support the HCC Transportation Center of Excellence - Electric Vehicle training program," Mark Crawford, senior vice president at BP America adds in the release. "This partnership aligns with BP's commitment to sustainable livelihoods and advancing the energy transition."