Quidnet Energy has entered into a strategic partnership with Hunt Energy Network, and the two Texas companies will work on a build-transfer program for 300 MW of storage projects in Texas. Photo via quidnetenergy.com

A Houston-based company that's developing long-duration energy storage solutions announced a $10 million investment and partnership with a Texas corporation.

Quidnet Energy has entered into a strategic partnership with Hunt Energy Network, an affiliate of Dallas-based Hunt Energy that develops and operates distributed energy resources. The two Texas companies will work on a build-transfer program for 300 MW of storage projects that uses Quidnet's Geomechanical Energy Storage technology in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid operating region.

“Hunt Energy Network brings an extensive and proven track record across diverse energy businesses, making them an ideal partner to address the need for large-scale, long-duration energy storage in Texas,” Joe Zhou, CEO of Quidnet Energy, says in a news release. “We’re thrilled to have them as an investor, partner, and board member, and we look forward to jointly advancing the deployment of energy storage solutions, particularly in regions like ERCOT where the need is most pressing.”

Todd Benson, the chief innovation officer of Hunt Energy, will join Quidnet's board of directors as a part of the partnership.

“Quidnet Energy's GES technology presents a unique opportunity to revolutionize energy storage, and we’re excited to invest in a solution that purposefully transforms existing resources to expand access to long-duration storage,” adds Pat Wood, III, CEO of HEN. “ERCOT's growing supply of renewable energy makes this region ideal for the deployment of our technology, and we’re pleased to work with another Texas innovator to build a more resilient grid for all ERCOT customers.”

Quidnet’s technology, which can provide over 10 hours of storage, uses drilling and hydropower machinery to store renewable energy. Essentially, the company, founded in 2013, is using water storage to power carbon-free electric grid approach to energy.

One year ago, Quidnet secured $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E. Just a few months after that, the company received an additional $2 million from the DOE for its project, entitled "Energy Storage Systems for Overpressure Environments," which is taking place in East Texas.

OTC’s annual Emerging Leaders program recognizes professionals with less than 10 years of experience in the offshore energy sector. Photo via LinkedIn

OTC names Houston professionals to 2024 class of emerging leaders

big winners

Nine people with ties to the Houston area have been named emerging leaders in the energy industry by the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC).

OTC’s annual Emerging Leaders program recognizes professionals with less than 10 years of experience in the offshore energy sector.

“This year's recipients embody the essence of what it means to be a young professional,” Alex Martinez, chair of the OTC board, says in a news release.

“Their commitment to excellence, relentless pursuit of knowledge, and unwavering passion for their work have set them apart. They have not only excelled in their field but have also shown remarkable leadership qualities, inspiring those around them to push beyond boundaries and explore new horizons.”

The 2024 honorees were recognized May 7 during an OTC ceremony at NRG Center. This year’s honorees with ties to the Houston area are:

  • Rebecca Caldwell, an exploration geologist at Chevron.
  • Jinbo Chen, associate professor in the School of Naval Architecture Ocean and Civil Engineering at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China. He is a former staff drilling engineer at Houston-based Shell USA.
  • Pankaj Goel, a projects adviser at Spring-based ExxonMobil.
  • Mejdi Kammoun, a principal engineer at the Houston-based American Bureau of Shipping.
  • Mathilde Luycx, a petrophysicist for the technology and engineering business of Spring-based ExxonMobil.
  • J. Michael Renning, an engineer at the Houston-based American Bureau of Shipping.
  • Jian “Jason” Shi, an assistant professor of engineering technology, electrical engineering, and computer engineering at the University of Houston.
  • Yan Wang, an advanced technology development engineer for the technology and engineering business of Spring-based ExxonMobil.
  • Luz Zarate, a marine technology research engineer at Houston-based Shell International Exploration and Production.

In a UH news release, Shi explains that his research centers on safety concerns associated with energy transition in the industry’s offshore sector.

Shi hopes his work helps share a future “where our world is powered by an abundance of innovative energy sources, where technology coexists harmoniously with nature, and where humanity embarks on bold adventures into uncharted territory.”

Work done by Kammoun, a UH alumnus, at the American Bureau of Shipping zeroes in on developing marine and offshore safety regulations and requirements for shipping of energy storage and generation systems.

“My aspirations have always centered around contributing to a safer, greener world,” Kammoun says. “Whether through innovative technologies, sustainable practices or policy advocacy, my dream remains unwavering: to leave a lasting positive impact on our planet.”

TotalEnergies' new solar farm outside of Houston is the size of 1,800 football fields. Photo via totalenergies.com

Global energy company opens solar farm outside of Houston

up & running

A global energy corporation has a new solar farm online and operating just outside of Houston.

TotalEnergies (NYSE: TTE) has started commercial operations of its new solar farm, Myrtle Solar, just south of Houston. The farm has a capacity of 380 megawatts peak of solar production and 225 MWh of co-located batteries. Spread across the space — which is about the size of 1,800 football fields — are 705,000 solar panels producing enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

Seventy percent of the power generated will be sourced for TotalEnergies' industrial plants in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, and the remaining 30 percent will be used by Kilroy Realty, a publicly traded real estate company, per a 15-year corporate power purchase agreement.

“We are very proud to start up Myrtle, TotalEnergies’ largest-to-date operated utility-scale solar farm with storage in the United States. This startup is another milestone in achieving our goal to build an integrated and profitable position in Texas, where ERCOT is the main electrical grid operator," Vincent Stoquart, senior vice president of renewables at TotalEnergies, says in the release. "Besides, the project will enable the Company to cover the power needs of some of its biggest U.S. industrial sites with electricity from a renewable source."

The farm is part of the company’s Go Green Project that is hoping to enable the company to cover its power needs by 2025, as well as curtail the Scope 1+2 emissions of its industrial sites in the Gulf Coast area, including Port Arthur and La Porte in Texas and Carville, Louisiana.

“Given the advantages that IRA tax exemptions are generating, we will continue to actively develop our 25 GW portfolio of projects in operation or development in the United States, to contribute to the Company’s global power generation target of more than 100 TWh by 2030,” Stoquart continues.

Myrtle Solar is also equipped with 114 high-tech Energy Storage Systems with a total capacity of 225 MWh. The technology was provided by TotalEnergies' affiliate Saft.

Balancing renewable energy growth and grid resilience requires a multifaceted approach. Photo via Getty Images

Finding a Balance: Growing renewable energy vs. grid resilience in Texas

Guest Column

The global energy sector is on an exhilarating trajectory, teeming with promising technologies and unprecedented opportunities for a sustainable future. Yet, we find ourselves grappling with the challenges of reliability and affordability. As both a researcher in the field of power electronics and a consumer with bills to pay, I find myself experiencing mixed feelings.

As a researcher, I am thrilled by the progress we have achieved, particularly in energy conversion. The exponential growth of renewable energy technologies in Texas and beyond, including wind turbines and solar PV systems, is cause for celebration. These innovations, coupled with supportive policies, have facilitated widespread deployment and the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and create a brighter future for our children.

While renewable energy resources can play a crucial role in maintaining the supply-demand balance of the grid, as they did by performing very well during the recent 2023 Texas heat wave, their intermittent and unpredictable nature can also pose a significant challenge to the power system. Unlike traditional power plants that operate continuously, wind turbines and solar PV systems rely on weather conditions for optimal performance. Fluctuations in wind speed, cloud cover, and sunlight intensity can lead to imbalances between energy supply and demand. This imbalance will worsen as the anticipated influx of electric vehicles and their charging needs come into play.

The volatility of renewables contributes to price fluctuations in the electricity market, which not only affects consumers but also raises concerns about grid resilience during extreme weather events. My electricity bill increased by over 20 percent compared to last year, partly caused by inflation, but mainly due to higher operational costs in the Texas electricity market.

Texas witnessed firsthand the consequences of a not-so-resilient grid through the severe power outages experienced during the "Polar Vortex" in February 2021. These outages not only disrupted lives but also disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations. During that time, my wife was expecting our second child. Enduring two nights in our frigid home without electricity or a fireplace was an ordeal that we navigated relatively unscathed. But it made me think of those less fortunate. These circumstances underscore the importance of establishing a robust, dependable and affordable electrical power system.

Balancing renewable energy growth and grid resilience requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Investment in Infrastructure and Storage: It is crucial to strengthen the grid and ensure a reliable power supply. Upgrading transmission and distribution systems, integrating advanced monitoring and control technologies, and enhancing grid interconnections are essential. The Texas Legislature established the Powering Texas Forward Act, also known as Senate Bill 2627, a taxpayer-funded loan program, to encourage investment. While excluding certain renewable energy facilities and electric energy storage, it recognizes the need for a reliable grid. Hydrogen fuel cell generation facilities could be a potential solution, providing clean and stable energy while remaining eligible for the loan program. Additionally, implementing large-scale energy storage systems utilizing batteries and hydrogen storage technologies can mitigate renewable energy volatility by storing excess energy until needed. The Texas energy industry's push for these advances is a significant step in the right direction.
  2. Diversification of Energy Sources: While renewables play a crucial role in decarbonization, a mix of renewable sources, natural gas, and other low-carbon resources is necessary for the foreseeable future. Implementing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies across industries can mitigate associated climate impacts. The failure of Senate Bill 624, which would have had significant repercussions for wind and solar facilities, indicates that Texas legislators are genuinely concerned about clean, alternative sources of energy. However, a lot more needs to be done, including coordinated actions between federal, state, and international governments, to address the urgent issue of climate change. Texas can leverage its hydrocarbon/energy expertise to produce economical green and blue hydrogen, advanced fuel cells and hydrogen-based internal combustion engine technologies, enabling a smoother energy transition in terms of usage and jobs.
  3. Educating the General Public: It is critical to help people understand the necessity of modernizing our energy infrastructure; the benefits and opportunities it brings and the transformations we can expect. Institutions like the University of Houston play a crucial role in advancing clean energy technologies and educating the future energy workforce. The establishment of the Texas University Fund (TUF), with a budget of over $3 billion, through a constitutional amendment in November 2023, will be a pivotal step toward this goal.

When addressing the energy transformation and grid resilience dilemma, the real-life impact on human beings must be of prime importance. Our leaders should focus on a balanced approach considering grid infrastructure investment, diversification of energy sources, energy storage solutions, and public education. By adopting this multifaceted strategy, we can ensure a reliable, resilient, and affordable energy future.

———

Harish Krishnamoorthy is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the Power Electronics, Microgrids and Subsea Electric Systems Center (PEMSEC) at the University of Houston.

Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures answers questions about this unique program. Photo courtesy

Q&A: Chevron's unique clean energy studio role in Houston entrepreneur community

matchmaking innovation

A new program from Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures is rethinking how best to commercialize research-based technology.

This spring, Chevron Studio announced its second cohort of its program that matches entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. The overall goal of the studio — a collaboration between Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL — is to scale up and commercialize early-stage technologies that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

Once selected, there are three phases of the program. After the entrepreneur applications closed in March, the first step was matching the selected entrepreneurs with the inventors of the selected intellectual properties, which will occurs over three to four months. The next phase includes scaling up the product — something that will take one to two years, depending on the tech. The last step would be a trial or a pilot program that includes rolling out a minimum viable product at commercial scale at Chevron or an affiliate. The next cohort application period will open next month.

Gautam Phanse is the strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures. He joins InnovationMap for a Q&A to explain more about the opportunity.

What types of technologies is Chevron looking to bring into commercialization through this program? How is the program different from existing accelerators/incubators/etc.?

GautamPhanse: Chevron Technology Ventures brings external innovation to Chevron. Key focus areas for CTV are industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular carbon economy. Chevron Studio is one of the tools to achieve this goal. The current focus areas for Chevron Studio are: carbon utilization, hydrogen and renewable energy, energy storage systems, and solutions for circular economy. These focus areas will be reviewed every year and additional areas could be brought into the mix.

The goal of Chevron Studio is to scale up and commercialize technology developed in the Universities and National Labs. We curate the intellectual property developed at universities and national labs and provide a platform to match entrepreneurs with the IP. The program provides seed funding and a pathway through incubation, pilot and field trials to scale up the technologies. The uniqueness of this program is its target and the breadth of its scope — all the way from incubation to field trials.

How does Chevron Technology Ventures and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory collaborate on this project? What role does each entity play?

GP: CTV has a long history of supporting innovation and the startup community. And over the years we’ve seen the consistent gaps and the struggles that the startup companies have in scaling up technologies. We also have a long history of working with national labs and universities and have seen the challenges in getting these technologies out of the labs. The idea for Chevron Studio grew out of these challenges.

NREL’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center manages Chevron Studio, working closing with entrepreneurs and guiding them through the program while leveraging capabilities at the lab and activating the IEC’s network of cleantech startups, investors, foundations, and industry partners.

What are you looking for from the entrepreneur applicants? Who should apply?

GP: We are looking for entrepreneurs who are seeking their next opportunity. They should have a passion in lower carbon solutions and the patience to work on early-stage technologies to see them through scale up and commercialization. Aspiring entrepreneurs with demonstrated passion are also welcome to apply. The entrepreneurs are expected to build a team, raise funds and grow the business providing competitive solutions to the industry.

Tell me about cohort 1. How did it go and what were the participants able to accomplish?

GP: We were really excited about the response we got from both the entrepreneur community and the universities and national labs. We had a strong pool of entrepreneurs and a great mix of IP and frankly had a tough time making the selection. The first cohort had four entrepreneurs in the initial discovery phase. Some of them have now graduated, and we will be announcing the participants in the next phase — for scaling up — shortly.

------

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston company expands JV to build new power generation, storage assets

team work

Houston-based Conduit Power is broadening the scope of its joint venture with Oklahoma City-based Riley Exploration Permian.

Under this deal, the joint venture, RPC Power, will build power generation and storage assets for the sale of energy and related services to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the power grid for the bulk of Texas.

RPC Power, established in March 2023, owns and operates power generation assets that use Riley Permian’s natural gas to power its oilfield operations in Yoakum County, located in West Texas.

The expanded relationship will enable RPC Power to sell power and related services to ERCOT, with plans for 100 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation and battery energy storage systems across facilities in West Texas. The facilities are expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

In conjunction with the expanded scope, Riley Permian bumped up its stake in RPC Power from 35 percent to 50 percent. Furthermore, it plans to sell up to 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to RPC Power as feedstock supply for the new generation facilities.

"Our JV expansion at RPC Power represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are proud to build upon our successful partnership with Riley Permian,” Travis Windholz, managing director of Conduit, says in a news release.

Conduit, a portfolio company of private equity firm Grey Rock Investment Partners, designs, builds, and operates distributed power generation systems.

Riley Exploration Permian specializes in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves, primarily within the Permian Basin.

Elon Musk sees more resistance against his multibillion dollar pay package

just say no

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled about 30% this year.

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package. Shares at the time were up 571% since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9% fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Things to know: $17.5B oil acquisition, new accelerator focuses on sustainability, and more 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 podcast episode with a biotech leader, a very big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.


Big deal: ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $17.B in all-stock deal

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion as energy prices rise and big oil companies reap massive profits.

The deal to combine the two Houston-headquartered companies is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt.

Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. Oil majors put up record profits after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and while those numbers have slipped, there has been a surge in mergers between energy companies flush with cash. Continue reading.

Podcast to stream: Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about." Continue reading.

Events not to miss

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

  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • 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.