Maria Jelescu Dreyfus is CEO and founder of Ardinall Investment Management, which is an investment firm that works in “sustainable investing and resilient infrastructure.” Photo via ExxonMobil

An energy transition expert and investor has joined Houston-headquartered ExxonMobil Corp.’s board of directors.

Maria Jelescu Dreyfus is CEO and founder of Ardinall Investment Management, which is an investment firm that works in “sustainable investing and resilient infrastructure.”

She previously spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs as a portfolio manager and managing director in the Goldman Sachs Investment Partners Group that focused on energy, industrials, transportation and infrastructure investments across the capital structure.

She currently serves as a director on the board of Cadiz Inc. and on the board of CDPQ. She also works in the energy transition space as a director on several companies' boards.

“We welcome Maria to the ExxonMobil Board as the company executes its strategy to grow shareholder value by playing a critical role in a lower-emissions future, even as we continue to provide the reliable energy and products the world needs,” Joseph Hooley, lead independent director for Exxon Mobil Corporation, says in a news release. “Her deep financial background combined with her extensive work in sustainability will complement our Board’s existing skill set.”

Dreyfus is the vice chair of the advisory board of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and serves as co-chair of its Women in Energy program.

“With the close of our Pioneer merger, we gained a premier, tier-one Permian asset, exceptional talent and a new Board member who brings keen strategic insight,” says ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods in the release. “Our boardroom, shareholders and stakeholders will greatly benefit from Maria’s experience.”

ExxonMobil has annouonced how it plans to reduce its carbon footprint. Photo via exxonmobil.com

ExxonMobil updates corporate plan that aims to lower emissions

future focused

ExxonMobil has updated its corporate plan through 2027, which will reflect their continued strategy to provide the products that work towards lowering emissions.

ExxonMobil is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027. The $20 billion request represents the third increase in the last three years, and is in addition to the company’s recent $5 billion all-stock acquisition of Denbury. Denbury helped expand carbon capture and storage opportunities through access to the largest CO2 pipeline network in the United States.

The portfolio will include opportunities in lithium, hydrogen, biofuels, and carbon capture and storage. The company is expecting that in aggregate it is expected to generate returns of approximately 15 percent and could potentially reduce third-party emissions by more than 50 million tons per annum (MTA) by 2030, which aligns with the company’s goals to combat climate change.

The company’s Low Carbon Solutions business reduces consumer’s greenhouse gas emissions, and will get approximately 50 percent of the planned investments support to help build this core part of ExxonMobil’s goal. The balance of the company’s low carbon capital will be used to reduce its own emissions, which will support its 2030 emission reduction plans and its 2050 Scope 1 and 2 net-zero ambition.

In addition, they are developing a leading position in lithium by fully leveraging its upstream skills in geoscience, reservoir management, efficient drilling, fluid processing, and extraction to separate lithium from brine. The company’s first phase of lithium production in southwest Arkansas is currently underway with first production is expected in 2027, and possible global expansion of the project. ExxonMobil aims to produce enough lithium to supply the manufacturing needs of approximately 1 million EVs per year by 2030.

“We continue to see more opportunities to harness our technology, scale, and capabilities to implement real solutions to lower emissions and to profitably grow our Low Carbon Solutions business,” Darren Woods, chairman and CEO, says in a news release. “Success in accelerating emission reductions requires the development of nascent markets. We need technology-neutral durable policy support, transparent carbon pricing and accounting, and ultimately, customer commitments to support increased investment. We’re actively advocating for each of these areas so we can grow a profitable, and ultimately large, low carbon business.”

In the Permian Basin, ExxonMobil is on track to reach net-zero emissions for unconventional operations by 2030. They expect to leverage its Permian greenhouse gas reductions plans to accelerate Pioneer’s net-zero ambition by 15 years (2035 from 2050.)

Recently, ExxonMobil and Pioneer Natural Resources announced an agreement for ExxonMobil to acquire Pioneer, which is an all-stock transaction valued at $59.5 billion, or $253 per share, according to ExxonMobil’s closing price on October 5, 2023. The merger combines Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin with ExxonMobil’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basins, of which the companies will have an estimated 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent resource in the Permian.

The plan also intends to deliver $6 billion in additional structural cost reductions by the end of 2027, which should bring the total structural cost savings to $15 billion compared to 2019. Upstream earnings potential is expected to more than double by 2027 versus 2019, which is attributed to investments in high-return, low-cost-of-supply projects.

Other plan highlights included:

  • Expecting capital investments to generate average returns of around 30 percent, with payback periods less than 10 years for greater than 90 percent of the capex.
  • Generated $9 billion in structural cost savings with $6 billion more expected by 2027.
  • Increased pace of share repurchases to $20 billion per year from the Pioneer close through 2025.
  • Oil and gas production in 2024 to be about 3.8 million oil-equivalent barrels per day, rising to about 4.2 million oil-equivalent barrels per day by 2027.
  • Product Solutions is “leveraging scale and technology advantages” to nearly triple earnings potential by 2027 versus 2019.
ExxonMobil has placed a big bet on the carbon capture market. Photo via exxonmobil.com

Newly Houston-headquartered ExxonMobil acquires carbon capture company in $4.9B deal

M&A Moves

Spring-based energy giant ExxonMobil is making a nearly $5 billion bet on its future in the carbon capture sector.

ExxonMobil announced July 13 that it has agreed to buy Plano-based Denbury, a publicly traded company specializing in carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), in an all-stock deal valued at $4.9 billion. The deal’s value is based on ExxonMobil’s July 12 closing stock price — $89.45 per share.

Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, says the pending acquisition of Denbury “reflects our determination to profitably grow” his company’s low-carbon business unit.

The deal will give ExxonMobil the largest CO2 pipeline network in the U.S. at 1,300 miles, including nearly 925 miles in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, along with 10 onshore carbon sequestration sites.

Dan Ammann, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, says Denbury’s CO2 infrastructure “provides significant opportunities to expand and accelerate ExxonMobil’s low-carbon leadership across our Gulf Coast value chains.”

“Once fully developed and optimized,” Ammann adds, “this combination of assets and capabilities has the potential to profitably reduce emissions by more than 100 million metric tons per year in one of the highest-emitting regions of the U.S.”

ExxonMobil explains that CCUS — when carbon dioxide is captured and stored deep underground instead of being released into the atmosphere — is viewed as critical to meeting net-zero goals. The company forecasts the global market for CCUS will catapult to $4 trillion by 2050. Houston-based consulting firm Rystad Energy predicts total spending on CCUS projects in 2023 will reach $7.4 billion.

In addition to Denbury’s CCUS assets, the deal with ExxonMobil includes Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain oil and natural gas operations. These assets consist of reserves exceeding the equivalent of 200 million barrels of oil, with 47,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day of current production.

Directors at ExxonMobil and Denbury have unanimously approved the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Denbury, founded in 1951, posted $1.7 billion in revenue last year, up from 36 percent from 2021.

Chris Kendall, president and CEO of Denbury, launched his oil and gas career at Mobil Oil. Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999 to form the country’s largest oil and gas company, which just made official its headquarters relocation from Irving to Spring.

ExxonMobil generated revenue of nearly $413.7 billion in 2022, making it one of the country’s biggest publicly traded companies.

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Houston university's compost program reaches major milestone

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Rice University and its campus community have officially diverted over 1 million pounds of food waste from landfills.

The university, which works with Houston-based Moonshot Compost, reported the milestone achievement this month. The program was originally launched in November 2020.

“The genesis of the current composting program was a partnership between Housing and Dining, the Office of Sustainability and an undergraduate student named Ashley Fitzpatrick,” says Richard Johnson, senior executive director for sustainability at Rice, in a news release.

“We spent quite a bit of time developing options for food waste composting at Rice with those efforts really ramping up in 2019. After a pilot project, further reflection and an interruption due to the pandemic, we found Moonshot Compost, and they proved to be the partner we needed.”

Fitzpatrick, the student who started it all went on to graduate and now works for Moonshot Compost. She did leave a legacy of student involvement in the program, and Isabelle Chang now serves as an undergraduate student intern in the Office of Sustainability. The role includes liaising with students and other major players on campus who have feedback for the program.

Rice previously had a composting program, but it never reached the same level of scale, per the news release.

“Many years ago — from the late 1990s to about 2007 — we had an on-campus composting device called the Earth Tub that provided food waste composting at one campus kitchen,” Johnson said. “However, the device failed, and frankly, the process of operating the device, getting the food waste into the device and maintaining it all proved onerous. Interest in composting remained after we decommissioned the Earth Tub, and for years we looked for alternatives [before finding Moonshot Compost].”

Launched in July 2020 by Chris Wood and Joe Villa, Moonshot operates with a team of drivers utilizing its data platform to quantify the environmental benefits of composting. The duo went on to team up with energy industry veteran Rene Ramirez to harness their compost into clean hydrogen power.

Last fall, Moonshot Hydrogen signed a memorandum of understanding with the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization. The agreement includes facilitating the first operating commercial pilot that biologically turns food waste into hydrogen.

Equinor makes big investment into lithium projects in Arkansas, East Texas

eyes on LI

A Norwegian international energy company has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas.

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has reached an agreement with Vancouver, Canada-based Standard Lithium Ltd. to make the acquisition. Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities.

“Sustainably produced lithium can be an enabler in the energy transition, and we believe it can become an attractive business. This investment is an option with limited upfront financial commitment. We can utilise core technologies from oil and gas in a complementary partnership to mature these projects towards a possible final investment decision,” says Morten Halleraker, senior vice president for New Business and Investments in Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor, in a news release.

Standard Lithium retains the other 55 percent of the projects. Per the deal, will pay $30 million in past costs net to the acquired interest. The company also agreed to carry Standard Lithium's capex of $33 million "to progress the assets towards a possible final investment decision," per the release. Additionally, Equinor will make milestone payments of up to $70 million in aggregate to Standard Lithium should a final investment decision be taken.

Lithium is regarded as important to the energy transition due to its use in battery storage, including in electric vehicles. Direct Lithium Extraction, or DLE, produces the mineral from subsurface reservoirs. New technologies have the potential to improve this production method while lowering the environmental footprint.

Earlier this month, Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, announced that it's installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant is expected to go online later this year.

Texas joins in on lawsuit over rules on gas-powered trucks in California

road block

A large group of Republican attorneys general on Monday took legal action against the Biden administration and California over new emissions limits for trucks.

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers is leading the group of GOP attorneys general who filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting truck emissions.

Texas joined Nebraska's latest action against the EPA, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and several others.

A separate lawsuit against California claims a phased-in ban on internal-combustion trucks is unconstitutional and will hurt the U.S. economy.

Hilgers in a statement said the EPA and California rules “will devastate the trucking and logistics industry, raise prices for customers, and impact untold number of jobs across Nebraska and the country.”

“There’s not one trucking charging station in the state of Nebraska,” Hilgers later told reporters. “Trying to take that industry, which was built up over decades with diesel and fossil fuels-based infrastructure, and transforming it to an electric-based infrastructure – it’s probably not feasible.”

EPA officials have said the strict emissions standards will help clean up some of the nation’s largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The new EPA rules are slated to take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, and the agency has said they will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.

Emissions restrictions could especially benefit an estimated 72 million people in the U.S. who live near freight routes used by trucks and other heavy vehicles and bear a disproportionate burden of dangerous air pollution, the agency has said.

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment on the legal challenge to the new rules Monday, citing the pending litigation.

California rules being challenged by Republican attorneys general would ban big rigs and buses that run on diesel from being sold in California starting in 2036.

An email seeking comment from California’s Air Resources Board was not immediately answered Monday.

California has been aggressive in trying to rid itself of fossil fuels, passing new rules in recent years to phase out gas-powered cars, trucks, trains and lawn equipment in the nation’s most populous state. Industries, and Republican leaders in other states, are pushing back.

Another band of GOP-led states in 2022 challenged California’s authority to set emissions standards that are stricter than rules set by the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month ruled that the states failed to prove how California’s emissions standards would drive up costs for gas-powered vehicles in their states.