Houston energy transition folks — here's what to know to start your week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a really big deal from last week, three startups make it to the finals of an Elon Musk-backed competition, and five events not to miss.

Companies to watch: 

Twenty promising climatetech companies were selected to advance to the final stage of a global competition backed by Elon Musk's foundation — and three of the finalists hail from Houston.

Vaulted Deep, Mati Carbon, and Climate Robotics secured finalists spots in XPRIZE's four-year global competition is designed to combat climate change with innovative solutions. XPRIZE Carbon Removal will offer $100 million to innovators who are creating solutions that removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or the oceans, and then sequester it sustainably.

The finalists — categorized into four sections: air, rocks, oceans, and land — were selected based upon their performance in three key areas: operations, sustainability, and cost. Click here to read more.

Events not to miss

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

  • 2nd Annual Geothermal Transition Summit for North America will take place May 21 and 22 at The Hilton Greenway Plaza. Engage in discussions on early-project development, industry policies, the synergy with the oil and gas industry, methods to enhance commerciality, and explore case studies from ground-breaking projects.Register now.
  • 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.

Big deal: Equinor bets on lithium

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas. The agreement is 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.

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. Click here to read more.

Texas has some room to improve when it comes to green states, one report found — and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

Texas' status as a clean energy leader, talking key industry trends, and more 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: a roundup of events not to miss, a one-on-one with Barbara Burger, and more.

Podcast to stream: A conversation with Barbara Burger

Last month, Barbara Burger participated in four panels at CERAWeek by S&P Global, and from her insider perspective, she had a few key takeaways from the event, which brought together energy leaders, tech startups, dignitaries, civil servants, and more.

In a recent podcast interview, Burger shared some of her key takeaways from the event — and how these trends are affecting the industry as a whole.

Click here to read an excerpt of the conversation.

Report: Texas as a green state needs improvement

A new report from WalletHub looked at 25 key metrics — from green buildings per capita to energy consumption from renewable resources — to evaluate the current health of states' environment and residents’ environmental-friendliness. Texas ranked No. 38, meaning it was the thirteenth least green state, only scoring 50.40 points out of 100.

Here's how Texas ranked among a few of the key metrics:

  • No. 35 for air quality
  • No. 38 for soil quality
  • No. 38 for water quality
  • No. 26 for LEED-certified buildings per capita
  • No. 32 for percent of renewable energy consumption
  • No. 45 for energy consumption per capita
  • No. 38 for gasoline consumption (in gallons) per capita

Click here to read more about the report.

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 18 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.

Bill Gates was announced as a keynote speaker at CERAWeek — and more things to know this week. Photo via breakthroughenergy.org

Bill Gates headed to CERAWeek, Houston leader calls for collaboration, and more 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: a roundup of events not to miss, a podcast to stream, and more.

Bill Gates heads to Houston for CERAWeek by S&P Global

Legendary Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who founded Breakthrough Energy and TerraPower, is headed to town for the 2024 CERAWeek. Gates will be featured in a luncheon fireside chat with S&P Global's Daniel Yergin on Thursday, March 21, at 1 pm.

CERAWeek by S&P Global 2024, with its theme of "Multidimensional Energy Transition: Markets, climate, technology and geopolitics," will zero in on the world's journey to zero-carbon, specifically exploring "strategies for a multidimensional, multispeed and multifuel energy transition," according to a news release. The programming will reflect on the reality of the energy transition, including its progress in different regions and across industries, technologies, and politics. Learn more.

Podcast: Scott Gale of Halliburton Labs calls for collaboration

Scott Gale will be the first to admit that hosting a week of curated events targeted to a group of individuals within the tech and energy space isn't a novel idea — Climate Week NYC has been taking over Manhattan for over a decade. But Gale believes Houston deserves to have its own time to shine.

Earlier this month, Halliburton Labs, Rice Alliance, and Greentown Houston announced the inaugural Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week 2024 to take place in September, but Gale, executive director of Halliburton Labs, says he hopes this is just the beginning of Houston organizations coming together to collaborate on the initiative.

"I think we have a really awesome initial coalition. Whether your the fifth company or organization to raise its hand to do something that week or the 50th — it really doesn't matter," Gale says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It really is an open invitation — and I want to make that super clear."

Events not to miss

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

  • CERAWeek 2024 is Monday, March 18, to Friday, March 22, in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Register.
  • DeCarb Connect supports senior leaders in decarbonization to accelerate strategy and decision making to reduce carbon emissions and reach net zero targets. The event is March 26 to 28 at Westin Houston Memorial City. Register.
  • On March 27, Greentown Houston is hosting "Accelerating Net-Zero Solutions: CCUS Innovation and Startup Showcase." Watch the Go Make 2023 cohort pitch their innovations in carbon utilization, storage, and traceability; hear about their work with Shell throughout the startup-corporate-partnerships accelerator; and learn from CCUS industry experts. 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.

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Houston clean fuels producer reaches milestone on South Texas hydrogen-powered refinery

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Houston-based Element Fuels has completed the pre-construction phase of its hydrogen-powered clean fuels refinery and combined-cycle power plant in the Port of Brownsville.

Element Fuels, which has contracted with Houston-based McDermott to provide front-end engineering design services for the project, has designed the plant to produce and recycle hydrogen that will generate and deliver cleaner, higher-quality fuels, including much-needed high-octane gasoline and electricity for commercial and consumer consumption.

“Element Fuels has received the necessary permitting to construct and operate a refinery capable of producing in excess of 160,000 barrels, or approximately 6.7 million gallons, per day of finished gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel,” Founder and Co-CEO of Element Fuels John Calce says in a news release. “A permit for a greenfield refinery of this size, scope, and functionality has not been granted in the United States since the 1970s. This speaks to the innovative approaches we are taking to address climate and sustainability concerns in cleaner, greener ways that are new to the refinery space.”

The project is expected to go online in 2027 and will produce enough low-carbon hydrogen to supply approximately 100 percent of the refinery’s fuel requirements, essentially eliminating CO2 emissions, per the news release. More than 100 megawatts of excess electricity generated from the power plant will be provided to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas for the surrounding community’s needs.

“Element Fuels is not only ushering in the next generation of clean fuels, we’re also proving that, without a doubt, there is a way to produce higher quality, cleaner, higher-octane fuels that significantly advance the energy transition," Calce continues. "This changes everything – for the industry, for consumers, and for the well-being of the planet.”

The plant is located in South Texas and built on more than 240 acres within the Port of Brownsville. Element Fuels is reportedly collaborating with local and Port officials "to advance the Justice40 initiative established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to contribute to a climate-positive environment that provides residents of the Brownsville area and Rio Grande Valley with clean energy and affordable and sustainable housing," per the release.

“Building on our successful collaboration during early project phases, we believe we are uniquely positioned to leverage our expertise and knowledge to further support Element Fuels throughout the next stages of this unique project,” adds Rob Shaul, senior vice president at Low Carbon Solutions at McDermott. “We remain focused on the delivery of low carbon pathway projects and are committed to advancing the landscape of energy production.”

Houston organization grants funding to local arts center to make sustainable updates to facilities

solar-powered spotlight

Green Mountain Energy Sun Club has supplied a grant of nearly $103,000 to a local Indian arts center to make sustainable improvements to its facilities.

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio, which will be called The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Sustainability Pavilion. The venue will serve as an outdoor gathering space for events at the facility.

“At Green Mountain Energy, we recognize that our choices can have a profound impact on our environment,” Mark Parsons, Green Mountain Energy vice president, says in a news release. “We’re proud to support the rich and diverse culture of the Indian community, and we’re glad to help Silambam take the next step toward a more sustainable future.”

The 14.58 kW solar structure is expected to offset 100 percent of the building’s energy needs, which would save the organization more than $4,000 per year for the next 25 years. Sun Club has donated more than $14 million for 164 projects across Texas and the Northeast since it was founded in 2022.

Silambam is an Indian classical arts organization with an arts academy program that serves 180 students each week with more than 20 teaching artists on staff. The professional dance company has more than 20 dancers that regularly perform at Houston venues like Miller Outdoor Theater where they will perform next on June 7.

“We are thrilled to be able to weave sustainable practices into our arts programming, while also giving back to the community,” founder and executive artistic director of Silambam Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan said in a news release. “The annual savings from this project will allow us to increase artist pay, provide tuition waivers for economically disadvantaged students, and/or provide free or pay-what-you-can access to our ArtStream Concerts, all while benefiting the environment.”

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain