A new program at Rice University will educate recent graduates or returning learners on key opportunities within energy transition. Photo via Rice

A Houston university has committed to preparing the workforce for the future of energy with its newest program.

Rice University announced plans to launch the Master of Energy Transition and Sustainability, or METS, in the fall. The 31 credit-hour program, which is a joint initiative between Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, "will train graduates to face emergent challenges in the energy sector and drive innovation in sustainability across a wide range of domains from technology to economics and policy," according to the university.

“We believe that METS graduates will emerge as leaders and innovators in the energy industry, equipped with the skills and knowledge to drive sustainable solutions,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches says in the release. “Together we can shape a brighter, more resilient and cleaner future for generations to come.”

Some of the focus points of the program will be geothermal, hydrogen, and critical minerals recovery. Additionally, there will be education around new technologies within traditional oil and gas industry, like carbon capture and sequestration and subsurface storage.

“We are excited to welcome the inaugural cohort of METS students in the fall of 2024,” Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics and astronomy, says in the release. “This program offers a unique opportunity for students to delve into cutting-edge research, tackle real-world challenges and make a meaningful impact on the future of energy.”

The new initiative is just the latest stage in Rice's relationship with the energy industry.

“This is an important initiative for Rice that is very much aligned with the university’s long-term commitment to tackle urgent generational challenges, not only in terms of research — we are well positioned to make significant contributions on that front — but also in terms of education,” says Michael Wong, the Tina and Sunit Patel Professor in Molecular Nanotechnology, chair and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a professor of chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology and of civil and environmental engineering. “We want prospective students to know that they can confidently learn the concepts and tools they need to thrive as sustainability and energy transition experts and thought leaders.”

These five Houston-based energy transition research news articles trended this year on EnergyCapital. Image via Getty Images

From carbon studies to hydrogen solutions, here's what Houston energy research news trended in 2023

Year in Review

Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, EnergyCapital is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston energy transition. When it comes to the future of energy, Houston has tons of forward-thinking minds hard at work researching solutions to climate change and its impact on Earth. The following research-focused articles that stood out to readers this year — be sure to click through to read the full story.

New study from Houston research team looks at how the Earth cycles fossil carbon

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release. Click here to continue reading article from November.

Rice University team breaks records with new sunlight-to-hydrogen device

Rice University engineers have created a device that absorbs light, converts it into electricity, and then uses the electricity to split water molecules and generate hydrogen. Photo courtesy Gustavo Raskoksy/Rice University

A team of Rice University engineers have developed a scalable photoelectrochemical cell that converts sunlight into clean hydrogen at a record-setting pace.

The lab led by Aditya Mohite, an associate professor at Rice, published the findings in a study in Nature Communications late last month, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is backed by the Department of Energy. In it, the team details how they created a device that absorbs light, converts it into electricity, and then uses the electricity to split water molecules and generate hydrogen.

Austin Fehr, a chemical and biomolecular engineering doctoral student at Rice and one of the study’s lead authors, says in a statement that the device "could open up the hydrogen economy and change the way humans make things from fossil fuel to solar fuel." Click here to continue reading article from August.

Houston research shows how much hydrogen-powered vehicles would cost at the pump

Researchers at the University of Houston are proposing that supplying hydrogen for transportation in the greater Houston area could also be profitable. Photo via UH.edu

It's generally understood that transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles will help reduce the 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide gas released each year by the transportation sector in Texas.

Now, researchers at the University of Houston are proposing that supplying hydrogen for transportation in the greater Houston area could also be profitable.

The research team has done the math. In a white paper, "Competitive Pricing of Hydrogen as an Economic Alternative to Gasoline and Diesel for the Houston Transportation Sector," the team compared three hydrogen generation processes—steam methane reforming (SMR), SMR with carbon capture (SMRCC), and electrolysis using grid electricity and water—and provided cost estimates and delivery models for each. Click here to continue reading article from November.

Houston university to lead new NSF-back flooding study

A Rice University study will consider how "design strategies aimed at improving civic engagement in stormwater infrastructure could help reduce catastrophic flooding." Photo via Getty Images

Houston will be the setting of a new three-year National Science Foundation-funded study that focuses on a phenomenon the city is quite familiar with: flooding.

Conducted by Rice University, the study will consider how "design strategies aimed at improving civic engagement in stormwater infrastructure could help reduce catastrophic flooding," according to a statement.

The team will begin its research in the Trinity/Houston Gardens neighborhood and will implement field research, participatory design work and hydrological impact analyses.

Rice professor of anthropology Dominic Boyer and Rice's Gus Sessions Wortham Professor of Architecture Albert Pope are co-principal investigators on the study. They'll be joined by Phil Bedient, director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice, and Jessica Eisma, a civil engineer at the University of Texas at Arlington. Click here to continue reading article from October.

Research team lands DOE grant to investigate carbon storage in soil

Two Rice University researchers just received DOE funding for carbon storage research. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

Two researchers at Rice University are digging into how soil is formed with hopes to better understand carbon storage and potential new methods for combating climate change.

Backed by a three-year grant from the Department of Energy, the research is led by Mark Torres, an assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences; and Evan Ramos, a postdoctoral fellow in the Torres lab. Co-investigators include professors and scientists with the Brown University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

According to a release from Rice, the team aims to investigate the processes that allow soil to store roughly three times as much carbon as organic matter compared to Earth's atmosphere.

“Maybe there’s a way to harness Earth’s natural mechanisms of sequestering carbon to combat climate change,” Torres said in a statement. “But to do that, we first have to understand how soils actually work.” Click here to continue reading article from September.

Leaders across Houston shared their thoughts on the Future of Global Energy today. Image courtesy of HETI.

Energy leaders across Houston provide a global perspective​

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Just over one month ago, a major Houston drilling executive challenged the energy industry to embrace partnering to attain the sustainability goals of the energy transition. The sentiment echoed across multiple sessions held throughout Houston and broadcast virtually at today’s Future of Global Energy Conference presented by Chevron.

Read on for key statements made by leaders across the city at Day 2 of this three-part event, hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI), and Center for Houston’s Future.

SESSION 1: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND EQUITY

“My work over the past 20 years… has allowed me to connect with communities that live in the shadows of large industrial facilities,” says John Hall, CEO of Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC).

“If energy companies, and the rest of the business sector, and government could come together… we have the opportunity, if we work innovatively and creatively to mesh all of those resources together, through a process of deliberate and thoughtful conversations, and engagement with some of the most disadvantaged communities in this state–we have the opportunity, without having to spend extra money, but through cooperative collaboration and solution building… not only achieve corporate goals, but uplift these communities.“

SESSION 2: BUILDING A WORKFORCE FOR THE TRANSITION

“We have to educate younger people that are coming into the workforce where the jobs are, and where the where the jobs are going to be in the next 10-15 years,” declares Tim Tarpley, president of the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. “We do not have enough young people coming into the energy space to [back]fill the folks that are retiring. And that’s a big problem.”

Tarpley continues, “Younger people don’t always feel like there’s going to be opportunities in this industry going forward. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There is tremendous opportunity.”

SESSION 3: INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY FOR THE ENERGY TRANSITION

“Being able to take technology from lab development to commercialization, crossing that barrier of risk–we have to do that as an industry and as a society,” explains Billy Bardin, Global Climate Transition Director, Dow Inc.

“Houston has a leading role to play in that, given the deployed assets, the expertise, the workforce development plans we heard about in the previous session with our academic partners. This portfolio of capabilities is ultimately required. At Dow, we talk about a decarbonizing growth strategy – where we want to decarbonize our assets but at the same time make safer, more sustainable materials that our customers need.”

------

“Partnerships are critical with earlier stage startups, but also partnerships on deployment are critical. When thinking about scaling up, and the challenges of scaling up, it’s really hard to find one company that can do it all,” says Jim Gable, President, Chevron Technology Ventures. “Every solution has to fit within the rest of the system. It’s not just one breakthrough that’s going to resolve the world’s challenges related to decarbonization or lowering our carbon footprint.”

SESSION 4: FUNDING THE ENERGY TRANSITION

“One of the vexing issues is the demand side of the equation,” posits Kassia Yanosek, Partner, McKinsey & Company. “We are in a different world today, where we have to think, ‘How do we scale new molecules?’ Green LNG, hydrogen and ammonia made from green hydrogen or blue hydrogen–we don’t have a deep market for those types of molecules. The challenge we are facing today, in addition to the supports on the supply side, is creating a market and demand for these molecules that cost more but also have a greener content.”

Rising temps could result in rolling brownouts this summer–unless we work together to reduce the strain on the electric grid. Photo via Shutterstock

NERC warns of summer energy shortfalls–what you can do now

THINGS ARE HEATING UP

The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) issued a warning with the 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment yesterday – energy shortages could be coming this summer for two-thirds of North America if temperatures spike higher than normal.

“Increased, rapid deployment of wind, solar and batteries have made a positive impact,” Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments says in the release. “However, generator retirements continue to increase the risks associated with extreme summer temperatures, which factors into potential supply shortages in the western two-thirds of North America if summer temperatures spike.”

For Texans, the combined risk of drought and higher-than-normal temperatures could stress ERCOT system resources, especially in the case of reduced wind. But before there’s a mad rush on generators, keep in mind, electricity consumers can take simple actions to minimize the possibility of widespread shortfalls.

Electricity demand begins rising daily around 2 P.M. in the summer and peaks in the final hours of daylight. These hours are generally not only the warmest hours of the day but also the busiest. People return from work to their homes, crank down the air conditioner, turn on TVs, run a load of wash, and prepare meals using multiple electric-powered appliances.

If everyone takes one or two small steps to avoid unnecessary stress on the grid in the hours after coming home from work, we can prevent energy shortfalls. Modify routines now to get into the habit of running the dishwasher overnight, using the washer and dryer before noon or after 8 pm and pulling the shades down in the bright afternoon hours of the day.

Try to delay powering up devices – including EVs – until after dark. Turn off and unplug items to avoid sapping electricity when items are not in use. And if you can bear it, nudge that thermostat up a couple of degrees.

Energy sustainability demands consistent collaboration and coordination from every consumer of energy. Let’s get in the habit of acting neighborly now with conservative electricity practices before we start seeing temperatures–of both the literal and figurative kind–flare.

Businesswoman, philanthropist, educator, and entertainer Revani “Rani” Puranik discusses the convergence of sustainability and work ethos as part of the Energy Transition. Photo courtesy of ranipuranik.com

Building a modern legacy of corporate and social responsibility

QUESTIONS + ANSWERS

With a mind for business and a passion for people, one woman leads the legacy her family trailblazed in corporate social responsibility.

Revani “Rani” Puranik, named successor for the CEO of Worldwide Oilfield Machine (“WOM”) and current Chair of the Puranik Foundation, continues the institutions her parents created with the same emphasis on mindfulness, sustainability, and opportunity for all.

In addition to extending the reach of WOM’s 3,000+ employees across 10 countries–and counting–Puranik shapes future leaders and innovators of energy through The Energy Project, a program launched in 2020 by the foundation to support young minds tackling environmental challenges for sustainable development across five sectors: Alternative Power Generation, Sustainable Consumption, Waste Management, Urban Design, and Water Sustainability.

In her upcoming book, Seven Letters to My Daughters, scheduled for release on May 24th, Puranik shares lessons in love, leadership, and legacy carved out of distinct seven-year periods of her life. And if inspiring the next generation and writing a book weren’t enough, Puranik has her eyes set on building a more holistic charter school in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine.

With just a moment to spare before she launches a new initiative, Puranik met with EnergyCapitalHTX to discuss what Energy Transition looks like from her perspective.

EnergyCapitalHTX: You’ve had an interesting career, with one foot in something very altruistic, and the other in energy–which has a reputation for being… not so altruistic, let’s say. How did you get here?

Rani Puranik: First, I'll tell you that none of it, none of it, was planned.

The 1st 17 years of my life, I lived in Houston. I went to Lamar high school thinking I was going to be an engineer. But I was on a robust and dedicated journey singing and dancing, too. I was always very active and engaged in my heritage that way.

I went to India after I graduated from high school and stayed in my parents’ vacation home, which was next to a poverty-stricken area. All I thought was, “hey, how can I help?”

And that “how can I help?“ has always turned into larger projects than I ever imagined. Before long, I was running an after-school dance program for 60 kids. But it was more than dance. These girls needed a safe space to express themselves.

EC: How did you end up back in Houston?

RP: Well, life happens. I came to Houston on a one-way ticket with $200 in my pocket. My dad was still living here in Houston, running Worldwide Machine, so I volunteered in his company to keep busy.

Finally, in 2012, I realized I’m never going to be an engineer; I graduated from Rice with an MBA in finance in 2014. And then I just dedicated my entire life to WOM, my two girls, and the Puranik Foundation my mother started when I was in India.

EC: On one hand, you're encouraging innovation around building a sustainable environment with Puranik Foundation. And with WOM, you provide offshore equipment, services, and expertise. Do you see those concepts blending as part of the energy transition?

RP: One of the core principles of WOM is “stay curious.” We have something called the Idea Factory; sometimes we get ideas that are related to sustainability and alternative energies. The people that come up with these solutions and methods are deeply involved from start to finish as part of our research and development team.

We’ve currently got a patent on a frac valve that is so much healthier for the environment. There’s no disposal of grease, there’s much less use of water and chemicals injected because of the way our frac valve operates, and the pressures and temperatures it can sustain and withhold.

We’re also looking at design, revisiting processes and asking, “how can we make this more efficient?” How can we reduce not just the emissions, but the use of oils and liquids and fuels with process improvements and enhancements for the equipment that we're manufacturing?

EC: And for the foundation?

RP: What's important for me is to understand what energy is, why it's needed, and how we can tap into it from all sources.

If younger minds can think of things like some of the students in this year’s cohort of The Energy Project– things like using human movement to not just capture, but transform, energy–we're headed in the right direction.

EC: The energy transition is increasingly branded as a transition in mindset more than anything. Mindfulness is a core tenet of your foundation, is it a part of the nine core principles of WOM you mentioned?

RP: Absolutely. I've been called an empathetic leader because I listen. And I say the first part of listening is receiving. When you receive information, you're empowering yourself with knowledge and information being shared by someone else for you. And then you can offer a direction, a guide, or just a helping hand.

There's definitely a shift going on where people not just want to be heard, but there are leaders and organizations who understand the value and the importance of it. We can't do things on our own.

EC: You emphasize collaboration and human connectivity often, which are vital components of the sustainability economy. Can you elaborate on how your organizations embody these concepts?

RP: I made up the “earn to return” philosophy because I saw it in my own parents and I said, I've been given very valuable resources and I've been given a talent to connect people. And if together, that can create something beautiful to really enhance the abundance of resources and create stable pathways for people in their livelihoods, then that's my purpose and that's what I'm going to do.

And in the process, yeah, we make great sales, great profits. But then the profits have to be returned back to our local communities and our people and our kids so that they end up having stable livelihoods for their future. For me, that was always the driving force, and it still is.

But I'll tell you again, none of it was planned. None.

Students from the 2023 cohort of The Energy Project showcased their innovations at the Puranik Foundation Lotus Innovation Awards. Photo courtesy of Jacob Power Photography

Sustainability-focused philanthropy recognizes student innovations, local leaders

EMPOWERING THE TRANSITION

From the moment of arrival at the Puranik Foundation Lotus Innovation Awards, attendees engaged in an experience that stimulated the senses and excited the mind – a precise reflection of the foundation’s approach to a holistic education for future innovators.

The event, held last week at the Post Oak Hotel in Uptown, honored Houston leaders supporting the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs and celebrated the dedication of high school students dreaming sustainability solutions into reality.

“[These students] have the potential to reach innovative places that none of us can think of because we are so set in our ways,“ says Bhakti Puranik, executive director of Puranik Foundation, just steps from where the students showcased their prototypes to secure the gala’s Fan Favorite award. “They are open-minded and creative and constantly inspired by the community that surrounds us.”

The Energy Project, launched in 2020 by the foundation, supports young minds tackling environmental challenges for sustainable development across five sectors: alternative power generation, sustainable consumption, waste management, urban design, and water sustainability.

Multiple small student teams from across the country met for design thinking lessons before creating prototypes of their own solutions at TXRX Labs. The foundation’s primary sponsor, Worldwide Oilfield Machine, provided mentors and resources to the 25 students in this year’s cohort alongside Rice University.

For the winning team, Refoam Maine, the application of mushroom mycelium in lieu of plastic for floating buoys came from the optimistic minds of Maggie Blood, Olivia Huard, Tula Bradley Prindiville, and Laura Riordan, students of Camden Hills Regional High School near Rockport, Maine.

A close-knit community, Camden Hills has collectively seen thousands of orphaned buoys pile up against their docks and beaches for years. The team plans to use their Lotus Innovation Award grant of $15,000 to get their floats in the water, and is actively working with boatyards, aquaculture farmers, and others to bring that vision to reality this summer.

Cyrus Golshan, Nathaniel Lemon, and Alexander Kristof took home the Fan Favorite Award for their solution Piezot, which harnesses energy from revolutionary piezoelectric tiles that convert pressure into energy and electricity.

The team studies at the Energy Institute High School in Houston and envisions an energy ecosystem that doesn’t rely so heavily on natural forces, but rather on human movement as a means to generate power. Placement of the tiles in high-traffic areas like airports, schools, and shopping centers could mean an exponential growth in power supply created simply by the many feet that pass through these areas every day.

Bobby Tudor, CEO and founder of Artemis Energy Partners, and recipient of the Sustainability Lotus Award from Puranik Foundation, attributes the success of the program to the convergence of expertise, a collaborative ecosystem, and global connectivity available from Houston as part of the burgeoning Energy Transition industry.

“We are the energy capital of the world because we are the intellectual capital of energy,“ says Tudor. “The knowledge, the engineering, the expertise, sits here in a more concentrated way than it sits anywhere else in the world. It is that intellectual capital that will pave the way for us to continue to be the energy capital of the world a decade from now, two decades from now, and five decades from now.”

Additionally, Paula Harris, senior vice president of the Houston Astros Community Affairs and Executive Director for the Astros Foundation, accepted the Education Lotus Award for her continued commitment to advancing STEM education across underserved communities.

For his positive impact on the mental well-being of students, Bradley H. Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological, Health, and Learning Services at the University of Houston School of Psychology, Puranik Foundation honored him with Mindfulness Lotus Award.

Applications for The Energy Project are due by 1 November each fall. In addition to the team competition, next year’s cohort includes an immersive experience in India for holistic learning and leadership development.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

ExxonMobil revs up EV pilot in Permian Basin

seeing green

ExxonMobil has upgraded its Permian Basin fleet of trucks with sustainability in mind.

The Houston-headquartered company announced a new pilot program last week, rolling out 10 new all-electric pickup trucks at its Cowboy Central Delivery Point in southeast New Mexico. It's the first time the company has used EVs in any of its upstream sites, including the Permian Basin.

“We expect these EV trucks will require less maintenance, which will help reduce cost, while also contributing to our plan to achieve net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions in our Permian operations by 2030," Kartik Garg, ExxonMobil's New Mexico production manager, says in a news release.

ExxonMobil has already deployed EV trucks at its facilities in Baytown, Beaumont, and Baton Rouge, but the Permian Basin, which accounts for about half of ExxonMobil's total U.S. oil production, is a larger site. The company reports that "a typical vehicle there can log 30,000 miles a year."

The EV rollout comes after the company announced last year that it plans to be a major supplier of lithium for EV battery technology.

At the end of last year, ExxonMobil increased its financial commitment to implementing more sustainable solutions. The company reported that it is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027.

Cowboys and the EVs of the Permian Basin | ExxonMobilyoutu.be

Energy industry veteran named CEO of Houston hydrogen co.

GOOD AS GOLD

Cleantech startup Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based energy biotech company Cemvita, has named oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as its CEO.

Sekhon previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess. Most recently, he was a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team.

Gold H2 uses microbes to convert oil and gas in old, uneconomical wells into clean hydrogen. The approach to generating clean hydrogen is part of a multibillion-dollar market.

Gold H2 spun out of Cemvita last year with Moji Karimi, co-founder of Cemvita, leading the transition. Gold H2 spun out after successfully piloting its microbial hydrogen technology, producing hydrogen below 80 cents per kilogram.

The Gold H2 venture had been a business unit within Cemvita.

“I was drawn to Gold H2 because of its innovative mission to support the U.S. economy in this historical energy transition,” Sekhon says in a news release. “Over the last few years, my team [at NextEra] was heavily focused on the commercialization of clean hydrogen. When I came across Gold H2, it was clear that it was superior to each of its counterparts in both cost and [carbon intensity].”

Gold H2 explains that oil and gas companies have wrestled for decades with what to do with exhausted oil fields. With Gold H2’s first-of-its-kind biotechnology, these companies can find productive uses for oil wells by producing clean hydrogen at a low cost, the startup says.

“There is so much opportunity ahead of Gold H2 as the first company to use microbes in the subsurface to create a clean energy source,” Sekhon says. “Driving this dynamic industry change to empower clean hydrogen fuel production will be extremely rewarding.”

–––

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Q&A: CEO of bp-acquired RNG producer on energy sustainability, stability

the view from heti

bp’s Archaea Energy is the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) producer in the U.S., with an industry leading RNG platform and expertise in developing, constructing and operating RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low carbon fuel.

Archaea partners with landfill owners, farmers and other facilities to help them transform their feedstock sources into RNG and convert these facilities into renewable energy centers.

Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shared more about bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future.

HETI: bp completed its acquisition of Archaea in December 2022. What is the significance of this acquisition for bp, and how does it bolster Archaea’s mission to create sustainability and stability for future generations?  

Starlee Sykes: The acquisition was an important move to accelerate and grow our plans for bp’s bioenergy transition growth engine, one of five strategic transition growth engines. Archaea will not only play a pivotal role in bp’s transition and ambition to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner but is a key part of bp’s plan to increase biogas supply volumes.

HETI: Tell us more about how renewable natural gas is used and why it’s an important component of the energy transition?  

SS: Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a type of biogas generated by decomposing organic material at landfill sites, anaerobic digesters and other waste facilities – and demand for it is growing. Our facilities convert waste emissions into renewable natural gas. RNG is a lower carbon fuel, which according to the EPA can help reduce emissions, improve local air quality, and provide fuel for homes, businesses and transportation. Our process creates a productive use for methane which would otherwise be burned or vented to the atmosphere. And in doing so, we displace traditional fossil fuels from the energy system.

HETI: Archaea recently brought online a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Medora, Indiana. Can you tell us more about the launch and why it’s such a significant milestone for the company?  

SS:Archaea’s Medora plant came online in October 2023 – it was the first Archaea RNG plant to come online since bp’s acquisition. At Medora, we deployed the Archaea Modular Design (AMD) which streamlines and accelerates the time it takes to build our plants. Traditionally, RNG plants have been custom-built, but AMD allows plants to be built on skids with interchangeable components for faster builds.

HETI: Now that the Medora plant is online, what does the future hold? What are some of Archaea’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond?  

SS: We plan to bring online around 15 RNG plants in each of 2024 and 2025. Archaea has a development pipeline of more than 80 projects that underpin the potential for around five-fold growth in RNG production by 2030.

We will continue to operate around 50 sites across the US – including RNG plants, digesters and landfill gas-to-electric facilities.

And we are looking to the future. For example, at our Assai plant in Pennsylvania, the largest RNG plant in the US, we are in the planning stages to drill a carbon capture sequestration (CCS) appraisal well to determine if carbon dioxide sequestration could be feasible at this site, really demonstrating our commitment to decarbonization and the optionality in value we have across our portfolio.

HETI: bp has had an office in Washington, DC for many years. Can you tell us more about the role that legislation has to play in the energy transition? 

SS: Policy can play a critical role in advancing the energy transition, providing the necessary support to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We actively advocate for such policies through direct lobbying, formal comments and testimony, communications activities and advertising. We also advocate with regulators to help inform their rulemakings, as with the US Environmental Protection Agency to support the finalization of a well-designed electric Renewable Identification Number (eRIN) program.

HETI: Science and innovation are key drivers of the energy transition. In your view, what are some of most exciting innovations supporting the goal to reach net-zero emissions?  

SS: We don’t just talk about innovation in bp, we do it – and have been for many years. This track record gives us confidence in continuing to transform, change and innovate at pace and scale. The Archaea Modular Design is a great example of the type of innovation that bp supports which enables us to pursue our goal of net-zero emissions.

Beyond Archaea, we have engineers and scientists across bp who are working on innovative solutions with the goal of lowering emissions. We believe that we need to invest in lower carbon energy to meet the world’s climate objectives, but we also need to invest in today’s energy system, which is primarily hydrocarbon focused. It’s an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach, and we need both to be successful.

Learn more about Archaea and the work they are doing in energy transition.

———

This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.