The newly launched plant will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. Photo via ibatterymetals.com

A Houston company has launched operations with what it's calling the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant.

International Battery Metals has reported that its new plant — just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, and co-located with US Magnesium LLC — is up and running. The plant, originally announced earlier this year, will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. The resulting lithium chloride product will provide feedstock for high-purity lithium carbonate generated by US Magnesium.

"This achievement is momentous for IBAT and a harbinger for an industry-transformation to significantly boost lithium production on a more cost-effective and sustainable basis, clearing a path for supplies of lower-priced, high-quality lithium for EV batteries and large-scale grid backup battery installations," John Burba, founder and CTO of IBAT, says in a news release. "This kicks off a U.S. lithium production renaissance and creates the potential for a sea change in global lithium supplies."

According to the company, IBAT is expected to expand production by installing additional columns on the same DLE modular platform with a goal of increasing capacity.

IBAT's patented technology is low cost, scalable, and sustainable. It reports that it's the only system that delivers a 97 percent extraction rate for lithium chloride from brine water, with up to 98 percent of water recycled and with minimal use of chemicals.

Under its agreement with US Magnesium, IBAT will receive royalties on lithium sales, as well as payments for equipment operations based on lithium prices and performance.

Earlier this summer, IBAT named Iris Jancik as the company's CEO. She will focus on expanding commercial deployment of IBAT's patented modular direct lithium extraction (DLE) plants, and begin in the role in mid-August.

A carbon capture company is looking at biofuels — and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

New battery CEO, events not to miss, and more Houston energy transition things to know this week

take note

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

Events not to miss

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

  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. 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.

Carbon Clean has eyes for biofuels solutions

Carbon Clean says its tentative partnership with Merrill, Wisconsin-based AGRA Industries should speed up adoption of Carbon Clean’s CaptureX technology in the biofuel industry. Photo via CarbonClean.com

Carbon Clean, a carbon capture company whose North American headquarters is in Houston, has forged a deal with a contractor to build modular carbon capture containers for the agricultural sector.

The company, based in the United Kingdom, says its tentative partnership with Merrill, Wisconsin-based AGRA Industries should speed up adoption of Carbon Clean’s CaptureX technology in the biofuel industry.

“Carbon Clean’s collaboration with AGRA Industries is a win-win for biofuel producers. Customers will benefit from the expertise of a leading agricultural engineering specialist and our modularized, innovative carbon capture technology that is cost-effective and simple to install,” Aniruddha Sharma, chair and CEO of Carbon Clean, says.

Read the full story.

Iris Jancik appointed as CEO of International Battery Metals

International Battery Metals announced the appointment of Iris Jancik as CEO. Photo via IBAT

A Houston- and Vancouver-based battery materials company has named a new CEO, effective later this summer.

International Battery Metals (IBAT) announced the appointment of Iris Jancik as CEO. She will focus on expanding commercial deployment of IBAT's patented modular direct lithium extraction (DLE) plants, and begin in the role in mid-August.

Read the full story.

Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities. Photo via Equinor.com

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.

Houston-headquartered KBR is working on a new alliance for lithium extraction. Photo via kbr.com

Houston-based KBR taps new partnership for global zero-emission lithium technology

teamwork

A Houston engineering solutions company has teamed up with a company to advance zero-emission lithium extraction technology.

KBR (NYSE: KBR) has signed an alliance agreement with France-based GeoLith SAS to offer its advanced Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology, Li-Capt, which allows for zero-emission lithium extraction from untapped sources like oil well brines and geothermal.

"We are excited to collaborate with GeoLith to pioneer advancements in accessing currently untapped sources of lithium to meet the world's increasing lithium-ion battery demand,” KBR President Jay Ibrahim says in a news release. “This alliance supports the global transition towards electrification and reinforces our commitment to a net-zero carbon future. As a world leader in evaporation and crystallization technologies, KBR is well positioned to provide end-to-end solutions essential to the development of sustainable mobility."

Per the agreement, KBR will serve as the exclusive global licensor of GeoLith's Li-Capt technology. The Li-Capt tech helps produce pure lithium concentrate and is adaptable to brine compositions and extraction sources. KBR already boasts an existing suite of battery material technologies like PureLiSM, which is a high purity lithium production technology. The combination of the two technologies aim to provide clients with solutions to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide monohydrate. Those are key components for advanced batteries in electric vehicles.

“The transition to electrification requires strong partnerships across the value chain, and we are proud to work with KBR to advance and commercialize our technology on a global scale," Jean-Philippe Gibaud, CEO of GeoLith SAS, says in the release. "Our Li-Capt technology ensures zero-emission lithium extraction, enabling the production of lithium concentrates from a process technology that achieves unparalleled levels of extraction efficiency and lithium selectivity."

KBR was recently awarded a contract by First State Hydrogen, which is building an electrolysis-powered green hydrogen production project. The study is part of First State Hydrogen's plan to provide clean energy to Delaware and the U.S. mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, KBR’s K-GreeN technology has been selected by a group of organizations — including Lotte Chemical, KNOC (Korea National Oil Corp), and Samsung Engineering — for the Sarawak, Malaysia-based H2biscus green ammonia project being developed by Lotte Chemical. The K-GreeN is a proprietary green ammonia development process. According to the company, KBR has licensed, engineered, or constructed over 250 ammonia plants since its founding in 1943.

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4 Houston energy companies pledge financial support in wake of Hurricane Beryl

donation station

Four major energy companies in the Houston area have chipped in more than $400,000 to support relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl in Southeast Texas. Nationwide, it’s estimated that the storm caused at least $28 billion in damage and economic losses.

Here’s a breakdown of contributions announced by the four energy companies.

Baker Hughes Foundation

The Baker Hughes Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Houston-based energy technology company Baker Hughes, gave a $75,000 grant to the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts.

“We understand recovery and rebuilding can take weeks or months, and we support the American Red Cross’ mission of providing people with clean water, safe shelter, and food when they need them most,” says Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes.

CenterPoint Energy

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, which at one point had more than 2 million customers without power due to Hurricane Beryl, says its foundation has donated to several disaster relief organizations in the region. These include the American Red Cross of Coastal Bend, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Combined Arms, and the 4B Disaster Response Network in Brazoria and Galveston counties.

As of July 11, the company had also provided:

  • More than 30,000 bottles of water to cooling centers and distribution centers in the Houston area.
  • Meals to local first responders.
  • Mobile power generation at cooling centers, hospitals, senior living centers, and water treatment plants.

CenterPoint didn’t assign a dollar value to its contributions.

“Our first priority is getting the lights back on. At the same time, we have seen firsthand the devastation our neighbors are facing, and our commitment to the community goes beyond restoration efforts,” says Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president of CenterPoint’s electric business.

ConocoPhillips

Houston-based ConocoPhillips contributed $200,000 to relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl. The company also is matching donations from U.S. employees of ConocoPhillips.

The money is being split among the Houston Food Bank, Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

“Houston is our hometown, and many of our employees and neighbors have been impacted by Hurricane Beryl,” says Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillip.

Entergy Texas

Entergy Texas, based in The Woodlands, donated $125,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts. The money will go toward emergency needs such as food, shelter, and medical care.

“Our commitment to helping communities in distress remains unwavering, and we are hopeful that our contribution will offer relief and comfort to those facing hardships in the storm’s aftermath,” says Eliecer Viamontes, president and CEO of Entergy Texas.

Entergy Texas supplies electricity to about 512,000 customers in 27 counties. It’s a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

Houston energy data SaaS co. expands to new platform

making moves

In an effort to consolidate and improve energy data and forecasting, a Houston software company has expanded to a new platform.

Amperon announced that it has expanded its AI-powered energy forecaststoSnowflake Marketplace, an AI data cloud company. With the collaboration, joint customers can seamlessly integrate accurate energy forecasts into power market trading. The technology that Amperon provides its customers — a comprehensive, AI-backed data analytics platform — is key to the energy industry and the transition of the sector.

“As Amperon continues to modernize energy data and AI infrastructure, we’re excited to partner with Snowflake to bring the most accurate energy forecasts into a single data experience that spans multiple clouds and geographies," Alex Robart, chief revenue officer at Amperon, says in a news release. "By doing so, we’re bringing energy forecasts to where they will be accessible to more energy companies looking to increase performance and reliability."

Together, the combined technology can move the needle on enhanced accuracy in forecasting that strengthens grid reliability, manages monetary risk, and advances decarbonization.

“This partnership signifies Amperon’s commitment to deliver world-class data-driven energy management solutions," Titiaan Palazzi, head of power and Utilities at Snowflake, adds. "Together, we are helping organizations to easily and securely access the necessary insights to manage risk and maximize profitability in the energy transition."

With Amperon's integrated short-term demand and renewables forecasts, Snowflake users can optimize power markets trading activity and manage load risk.

"Amperon on Snowflake enables us to easily integrate our different data streams into a single unified view," Jack Wang, senior power trader and head of US Power Analysis at Axpo, says. "We value having complete access and control over our analytics and visualization tools. Snowflake allows us to quickly track and analyze the evolution of every forecast Amperon generates, which ultimately leads to better insights into our trading strategy."

Amperon, which recently expanded operations to Europe, closed a $20 million series B round last fall led by Energize Capital and tripled its team in the past year and a half.

In March, Amperon announced that it replatformed its AI-powered energy analytics technology onto Microsoft Azure.

Learn more about the company on the Houston Innovators Podcast episode with Sean Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Amperon.

Houston logistics company works toward software solutions to energy transition challenges

offshore shipping

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now."

And, predictably, some of those waves are caused by new momentum within the energy transition.

"The energy transition has thrown up a lot of questions for everyone in the maritime industry," Costello says. "The regulations create a lot of questions around cost primarily. ... And that has created a huge number of opportunities for technology."

Fuel as a primary cost for the maritime industry. These cargo ships are traversing the world 24/7 and burning fuel at all times. Costello says there's an increased focus on the fuel process — "all with a goal of essentially reducing carbon intensity usage."

One of the ways to move the needle on reducing the carbon footprint of these ships is optimizing the time spent in port, and specifically the delays associated. Demurrage are charges associated with delays in loading and unloading cargo within maritime shipping, and Costello estimates that the total paid globally in demurrage fees is around $10 billion to $20 billion a year.

"These fees can be huge," Costello says. "What technology has really enabled with this problem of demurrage is helping companies drill down to the true root cause of what something is happening."

All this progress is thanks to the enhancement — and wider range of acceptance — of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Costello, who says Voyager has been improving its profitability every quarter for the last year, has grown the business to around 40 employees in its headquarters of Houston and three remote offices in Brazil, London, and Singapore. The company's last round of funding was a series A in 2021. Costello says the next round, if needed, would be next year.

In the meantime, Voyager is laser focused on providing optimized, cost-saving, and sustainable solutions for its customers — around half of which are headquartered or have a significant presence in Houston. For Costello, that's all about putting the control back into the hands of his customers.

"If we think back to the real problems the industry faces, a lot of them are controlled by different groups and parties. The fact that a ship cannot get in and out of a port quickly is not necessarily a function of one party's issue — it's a multitude of issues, and there's no one factor," Costello says on the show. "To really make the whole process efficient end-to-end you need to provide the customer to access and options for different means of getting cargo from A to B — and you need to have a sense of control in that process."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.