Fast Company magazine just placed Fervo Energy and Syzygy Plasmonics on its energy innovation list. Photo via Getty Images

A pair of Houston energy startups have been named among the 10 most innovative energy companies for 2024.

Fast Company magazine just placed Fervo Energy and Syzygy Plasmonics on its energy innovation list. In all, 606 companies and organizations across a variety of industries were recognized for “reshaping industries and culture.”

Fervo produces carbon-free geothermal energy. Its existing geothermal project is in Nevada, and it’s building a geothermal project in Utah. The company recently raised $244 million.

“Solar and wind are cheap, but they don’t provide the kind of always-on dispatchable electricity that hydropower, hydrogen, and nuclear do; even at current high prices, enhanced geothermal is still cheaper than those other sources,” Fast Company notes.

The Fast Company accolade comes shortly after Time and Statista named Fervo one of the top greentech companies for 2024.

By relying on light rather than combustion to generate chemical reactions, Syzygy is taking on the use of fossil fuels in the chemical industry, Fast Company points out. Fossil fuels account for about 18 percent of the world’s industrial CO2 emissions.

Fast Company outlines some of Syzygy’s accomplishments in 2023:

  • Gained an undisclosed amount of funding from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
  • Completed its Pearland manufacturing facility.
  • Wrapped up 1,000 cumulative hours of testing on its ammonia-splitting reactor cell, capable of producing 200 kilograms of hydrogen per day.

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Fervo Energy scored a $244 million round of funding thanks to existing and new investors. Photo via Fervo Energy

Devon Energy leads Houston geothermal startup's $244M funding round

ready to dig

An Oklahoma-based shale oil and gas leader has backed Fervo Energy's latest round of funding, supporting the startup's geothermal technology yet again.

Fervo announced its latest round of funding this week to the tune of $244 million. The round was led by Devon Energy, a company that's previously backed the startup.

“Demand for around-the-clock clean energy has never been higher, and next-generation geothermal is uniquely positioned to meet this demand,” Tim Latimer, Fervo CEO and co-founder, says in a news release. “Our technology is fully derisked, our pricing is already competitive, and our resource pipeline is vast. This investment enables Fervo to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

Founded in 2017, Fervo provides carbon-free energy through development of next-generation geothermal power. The company has recently reported its success at its Cape Station project, a400 MW project in Beaver County, Utah, as well as at its full-scale commercial pilot, Project Red, in northern Nevada and made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Galvanize Climate Solutions, John Arnold, Liberty Mutual Investments, Marunouchi Innovation Partners, Mercuria, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries also contributed to the round with existing investors Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, Congruent Ventures, DCVC, Elemental Excelerator, Helmerich & Payne, and Impact Science Ventures.

“The energy trilemma is one of the defining global challenges of our time; how can we generate power that is affordable, reliable, and clean,” Houstonian John Arnold, founder of Centaurus Capital and co-chair of Arnold Ventures, says in the release. “Fervo has transformed geothermal into a scalable carbon-free resource ready to meet the moment.”

The fresh funding, according to the company, will go toward Fervo’s work in Cape Station, that is slated to begin delivering clean electricity to the grid in 2026.

“Fervo’s approach to geothermal development leverages leading-edge subsurface, drilling, and completions expertise and techniques Devon has been honing for decades,” David Harris, chief corporate development officer and executive vice president at Devon, says in the release. “We look forward to deepening our partnership with Fervo to capture the full value of Fervo’s first-mover advantage in geothermal and the adjacencies to Devon’s core business.”

In 2022, Fervo raised a $138 million series C round to support the completion of power plants in Nevada and Utah and evaluate new projects in California, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as in other countries. This latest investment brings the company's total funds raised to $431 million since its inception in 2017, according to Crunchbase.

Fervo Energy says its drilling operations Utah’s Cape Station show a 70 percent reduction in drilling times, paving the way for advancement of its geothermal energy system. Photo via fervoenergy.com

Houston geothermal startup reports 'dramatic acceleration' of drilling operations at Utah project

optimization station

Early drilling results indicate a geothermal energy project operated in Utah by Houston-based startup Fervo Energy is performing better than expected.

Fervo says its drilling operations Utah’s Cape Station show a 70 percent reduction in drilling times, paving the way for advancement of its geothermal energy system. Fervo began construction last year on Cape Station, which is set to deliver clean power to the grid in 2026 and be fully operating by 2028.

The company recently published early drilling results from Cape Station that it says exceed the U.S. Department of Energy’s expectations for enhanced geothermal systems. Fervo says these results “substantiate the rapid learning underway in the geothermal industry and signal readiness for continued commercialization.”

Founded in 2017, Fervo provides carbon-free energy through development of next-generation geothermal power.

Fervo began drilling at Cape Station, a 400-megawatt project in southwest Utah, in June 2023. Over the past six months, the company has drilled one vertical well and six horizontal wells there. The company reports that costs for the first four horizontal wells at Cape Station fell from $9.4 million to $4.8 million per well.

“Since its inception, Fervo has looked to bring a manufacturing mentality to enhanced geothermal development, building a highly repeatable drilling process that allows for continuous improvement and, as a result, lower costs,” Tim Latimer, Fervo’s co-founder and CEO, says in a news release. “In just six months, we have proven that our technology solutions have led to a dramatic acceleration in forecasted drilling performance.”

Trey Lowe, chief technology officer of Oklahoma City-based oil and gas producer Devon Energy, likens Fervo’s drilling results to “the early days of the shale revolution.” Last year, Devon invested $10 million in Fervo.

“When you operate continually and understand the resource, you dramatically streamline operations. That’s the unique value of Fervo’s approach to enhanced geothermal,” says Lowe.

Last summer, Fervo reported the results of another one of its projects, Project Red, which is in northern Nevada and made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google. That site officially went online for the tech company in December.

Fervo Energy — and a few other Greentown Labs companies — made a global list of clean tech companies. Photo via fervoenergy.com

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”

Fervo Energy's Project Red with Google is officially operational. Photo via blog.google

Houston geothermal company's Google facility in Nevada goes online

up and running

Google is on a mission to run all of its data centers and office campuses on constant carbon-free energy by 2030, and the tech giant is one step closer to that goal.

Last week, Google announced that its 24/7 carbon-free energy, or CFE, in Nevada to power its local data center in the state is officially operational. The facility is powered by Houston-based Fervo Energy's geothermal technology, a project — called Project Red — that began in 2021 and celebrated its successful pilot this summer.

"When we began our partnership with Fervo, we knew that a first-of-a-kind project like this would require a wide range of technical and operational innovations," Michael Terrell, senior director of energy and climate at Google, writes in a blog post about the partnership.

Fervo relies on tried and true drilling techniques from the oil and gas industry, accessing heat energy that previously has been elusive to traditional geothermal methods, Terrell continues. Fervo dug two horizontal wells at the Nevada plant, as well as installed fiber-optic cables to capture data that tracks performance and other key information.

"The result is a geothermal plant that can produce round-the-clock CFE using less land than other clean energy sources and drawing on skills, knowledge, and supply chains that exist in other industries," Terrell says. "From our early commitment to support the project’s development to its successful completion, we’ve worked closely with Fervo to overcome obstacles and prove that this technology can work."

Google also recently announced a partnership with Project InnerSpace, a nonprofit focused on global geothermal energy development.

Fervo is working on another nearby project, the company announced in September. The 400-milliwatt geothermal energy project in Cape Station, Utah, will start delivering carbon-free power to the grid in 2026, with full-scale production beginning in 2028.

The project, in southwest Utah, is about 240 miles southwest of Salt Lake City and about 240 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Cape Station is adjacent to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) and near the Blundell geothermal power plant.

Three energy tech startups secured wins at the Houston Innovation Awards. Photos courtesy

3 Houston energy startups score awards at annual innovation event

and the winners are...

Three energy tech startups scored wins this week at the annual Houston Innovation Awards.

The awards program — hosted by EnergyCapital's sister site, InnovationMap, and Houston Exponential — named its winners on November 8 at the Houston Innovation Awards. The program was established to honor the best and brightest companies and individuals from the city's innovation community.

Eighteen Houston energy startups were named finalists last month across categories, and three won awards.

Syzygy Plasmonics, a deep decarbonization company that builds chemical reactors designed to use light instead of combustion to produce valuable chemicals like hydrogen and sustainable fuels, won in the Hardtech Business category. The company was founded in 2018 based on technology out of Rice University by Trevor Best, co-founder and CEO, who accepted the award.

ALLY Energy, a tech platform that's helping energy companies and climate startups find, develop, and retain great talent, secured a win in the Social Impact Business category, a new category that's celebrating a business providing a solution that would enhance humanity or society in a significant way. Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO, accepted the award.

The big climatetech winner of the evening was Fervo Energy, a startup leveraging proven oil and gas drilling technology to deliver 24/7 carbon-free geothermal energy. Fervo, founded in 2017 by Tim Latimer before relocating to Houston, won in the Sustainability Business category.

Click here to view all of the awards winners from the evening.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

SLB to consolidate carbon capture business in partnership

M&A moves

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“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,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “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.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"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,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

3 top DOE researchers take professor positions at University of Houston

new hires

Three top researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have accepted joint appointments at the University of Houston.

“This strategic collaboration leverages the combined strengths of Argonne and the [university] to further critical research efforts, public-private partnerships, and educational opportunities for students in the energy transition and lead to transformational advancement of commercial scale energy industries,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a news release.

These appointments are part of a memorandum of understanding that Argonne, located in the Chicago area, recently signed with the Greater Houston Partnership. The agreement seeks to accelerate decarbonization efforts in the Houston area.

The three scientists appointed to positions are UH are:

  • Zach Hood, whose appointment is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. He’ll be hosted by Yan Yao, a UH professor who is principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity.
  • Jianlin Li, whose appointment also is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He plans to establish a dry room facility at UH and conduct research on energy storage technologies, electrode processing, and cell manufacturing.
  • Michael Wang, the inaugural Distinguished Senior Scholar at UH’s Energy Transition Institute. His objectives include advancing research in decarbonizing the oil and gas sector through carbon management and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Wang will conduct seminars and present lectures in environmental sustainability, lifecycle, and techno-economic analysis of energy technologies, while helping Argonne tap into the university’s talent pool.

“With more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Wang brings critical tools and expertise to the UH Energy Transition Institute, which is dedicated to unlocking the transformative potential within three critical domains: hydrogen, carbon management, and circular plastics,” says Joe Powell, founding executive director of the Energy Transition Institute. “These areas not only present opportunities for reshaping the energy sector but also stand as pillars for societal sustainable development and decarbonization.”

Clean energy founder shares key takeaways from CERAWeek 2024

guest column

Earlier this month, thousands converged on Houston for one of the world’s largest energy conferences – CERAWeek 2024. For five days global leaders, CEOs, oil and gas experts, and the industry’s top stakeholders gathered to provide insight, and discuss solutions, to some of the biggest questions on the future of energy.

Just this week, on the heels of the conference, it was hugely encouraging to see the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announce up to $6 billion for 33 projects across more than 20 states to decarbonize energy-intensive industries and reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement underscored the vitally important, and yet largely untapped role that industrial carbon capture must play in reaching the U.S.’s overall decarbonization goals. This must include significant point-source technology onsite at hard-to-abate industrial emitters like cement, metals and chemicals. The DOE announcement makes that priority clear, with the focus of the two largest grants for cement decarbonization projects going to carbon capture, each up to $500 million.

This was one of the major takeaways at this year’s CERAWeek: despite the success of the IRA, if we are to achieve the rapid scaling required to tackle emissions coming from hard-to-abate sectors, and now is the time to move rapidly into deployment, beginning with carbon capture demonstrations at industrial sites. Through our work with Chevron on the development of a carbon capture pilot for our CycloneCC technology on a gas turbine in San Joaquin Valley, California, we are proud to be doing exactly that.

While Carbon Clean has been active in the U.S. for several years, we chose to unveil our new Houston headquarters during last year’s CERAWeek, selecting the energy capital of the world for our U.S. home. With this increased focus on industrial decarbonization, the opportunities for carbon capture deployment in the U.S. – and more specifically Greater Houston – have significantly expanded. Since first opening the U.S. headquarters in Houston last year, we have grown our headcount by two-thirds and seen U.S. inquiries for our modular, point-source carbon capture solutions skyrocket by a further 59% (and this is after the initial leap in interest following the IRA’s passage).

Still, while a lot has been accomplished over the past year, we recognize that a lot more needs to be done to meet the country’s net zero targets, particularly in the space of industrial decarbonization. This was another takeaway at this year’s CERAWeek, a recognition that many industrial leaders have adopted ambitious net-zero goals but have no plans for implementation.

In conversations with many of this year’s conference attendees, one thing became abundantly clear: yes, the IRA was a breakthrough moment that provided key incentives for companies to enter the carbon capture space and develop the kinds of decarbonization technology that will reduce emissions. However, that only gets us half of the way there: we need to foster a market for the demand of clean industrial production, using the IRA as the vehicle to create that supply. Through the allocation of credits and increased pricing power, we can generate more demand from industrial emitters to embrace the kinds of technology that will enable them to reach net-zero.

Another critical next step: when it comes to adopting local industrial carbon capture projects, accelerate permitting by letting the states decide for themselves. The EPA’s recent decision to grant Louisiana the power to approve carbon capture projects could open the door to a wave of new project applications and additional states seeking the same authority.

If you want an example of a local economy poised to greatly benefit from expanded access to industrial carbon capture, look no further than Houston. With its energy expertise and local resources, Greater Houston is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of carbon capture’s promise, which will not only reduce the region’s emissions but grow jobs.

A recent study by the EFI Foundation, supported by Carbon Clean, identified Houston as an ideal location for a new coordinated regional approach to industrial carbon capture hubs. Previously, most studies on deployment focused on decarbonizing large emitters - the EFI report is focused on small-to-midsize emitters, as they account for 25 percent of America’s industrial emissions but are often overlooked given the cost and space barriers that have historically been barriers to the mass adoption of industrial carbon capture units.

Today, there are 311 facilities in the Houston cluster that fit the bill, representing 36.6 million metric tons of capturable CO2 emissions per year. Given that the region employs nearly a third of the nation’s jobs in oil and gas extraction alone, allowing multiple local emitters access to shared CO2 transport and storage would create a scalable solution at a lower cost. The business community should embrace the findings of this report, unlocking a key tool in combating local emissions, while also sustaining Houston’s workforce.

This year’s CERAWeek occurred during an inflexion point in the U.S.’s conversation around decarbonization. While a lot of progress is underway, it is imperative that energy leaders and the business community fully leverage industrial carbon capture technology if they are serious about reducing emissions at the source. Failure to do so recalls the aphorism by Benjamin Franklin: "Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

———

Aniruddha Sharma is the co-founder and CEO of Carbon Clean.