Gold H2 has aligned itself with an oil and gas company, making its Black 2 Gold microbial technology available for the first time. Photo via cemvita.com

Gold H2, a Houston-based producer of clean hydrogen, is teaming up with a major U.S.-based oil and gas company as the first step in launching a 12-month series of pilot projects.

The tentative agreement with the unnamed oil and gas company kicks off the availability of the startup’s Black 2 Gold microbial technology. The technology underpins the startup’s biotech process for converting crude oil into proprietary Gold Hydrogen.

The cleantech startup plans to sign up several oil and gas companies for the pilot program. Gold H2 says it’s been in discussions with companies in North America, Latin America, India, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The pilot program is aimed at demonstrating how Gold H2’s technology can transform old oil wells into hydrogen-generating assets. Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based biotech company Cemvita, says the technology is capable of producing hydrogen that’s cheaper and cleaner than ever before.

“This business model will reshape the traditional oil and gas industry landscape by further accelerating the clean energy transition and creating new economic opportunities in areas that were previously dismissed as unviable,” Gold H2 says in a news release.

The start of the Black 2 Gold demonstrations follows the recent hiring of oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as CEO.

“With the proliferation of AI, growth of data centers, and a national boom in industrial manufacturing underway, affordable … carbon-free energy is more paramount than ever,” says Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner at venture capital firm 8090 Industries, an investor in Gold H2. “We’re investing in Gold H2, as we know they’ll play a pivotal role in unleashing a new dawn for energy abundance in partnership with the oil industry.”

Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Gold H2

Newly named CEO to lead Houston gold hydrogen biotech co. into high-growth phase

bugging out

Using microbes to sustainably unlock low-cost hydrogen sounds like the work of science fiction, but one Houston company is doing just that.

Gold H2, a spin-off company from Cemvita, has bioengineered subsurface microbes to use in wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen. The technology was piloted two years ago by Cemvita, and now, as its own company with a new CEO, it's safe to say Gold H2's on its way.

"First of all, that was groundbreaking," Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, says of the 2022 pilot in the Permian Basin, "to be able to use bugs to produce hydrogen within a couple of days."

"2024 is supposed to be the year where Gold H2 takes off," Sekhon, who joined the company in April, tells the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It was one of those opportunities that I couldn't turn down. I had been following the company. I thought, 'here is this innovative tech that's on the verge of providing a ground-breaking solution to the energy transition — what better time to join the team.'"

Sekhon shares on the show how his previous roles at NextEra Energy Resources and Hess have prepared him for Gold H2. Specifically, as a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team, he says he was tasked with figuring out what the energy industry looks like in the next five, 10, and 20 years.

"Green hydrogen was a huge buzz, but one of the things I realized when I started looking at green hydrogen was that it's very expensive," Sekhon says. "I wanted to look at alternatives."

This journey led him to what Cemvita was doing with gold hydrogen, Sekhon says, explaining that the ability to use biotechnology to provide a new revenue stream from the mostly used up wells struck him as something with major potential.

"The idea of repurposing existing oil and gas assets to become hydrogen assets, leveraging current infrastructure to drive down overall deliver costs — to me I thought, 'wow, if they can make this works, that's brilliant,'" he says.

Now, as CEO, Sekhon gets to lead the company toward these goals, which include expanding internationally. He explains on the show that Gold H2 is interested in expanding to any part of the world where there's interest in implementing their biotech. In order to support the growth, Sekhon says they are looking to raise funding this year with plans for an additional round, if needed, in 2025.

"When we compare our tech to the rest of the stack, I think we blow the competition out of the water," Sekhon says, explaining that Gold H2's approach to gold hydrogen development is novel when you look at emerging technology in the space. "We're using a biological process — cheap bugs that eat oil for a living."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, who previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess, was named CEO of Gold H2. Photo courtesy of Gold H2

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.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Column: Should companies pay for EV chargers for corporate fleets?

guest column

As electric vehicles continue to rise in popularity among corporate fleets, the question of how to best accommodate charging needs for fleet drivers, especially those taking their vehicles home, is becoming increasingly important.

Charging EV fleet vehicles at home can be an excellent strategy to save employees time and cut operational costs. However, many companies hesitate in their take-home EV implementation, mistakenly believing that high-cost level 2 home chargers are a necessity. This misconception can stall the transition to an efficient, cost-effective fleet charging solution.

By taking a thoughtful approach to employees’ individual situations, fleet managers can design a take-home EV program that fits their drivers’ needs and benefits the company’s bottom line in the long run. Here are some essential points to consider:

The viability of level 1 charging for low-mileage drivers

For many fleet drivers, especially those covering less than 10,000 miles annually, the standard level 1 charger that plugs into a 120v (standard) wall outlet and comes with their EV is perfectly adequate. This solution involves no additional hardware costs, mitigates issues when employees leave the company, and reduces corporate liability concerns. The primary advantage of relying on level 1 charging is its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, as it requires no extra investment in charging infrastructure. By leveraging the charging cable provided with the vehicle, companies can minimize their financial outlay while still supporting their employees' charging needs effectively.

Opting for non-networked level 2 chargers for high-mileage drivers

For higher mileage drivers with faster charging needs, a non-networked level 2 charger represents a compelling option. In this scenario, the employee pays for the unit and the installation and is then reimbursed by the company. This approach has several benefits:

  • Tax Rebates and Incentives. Employees may qualify for various tax writeoffs and incentives that are not available to companies, making the installation of a level 2 charger more affordable.
  • Ownership and Choice. Employees select and own the charging port, choose the contractor and pay for installation, which limits corporate liability and cuts costs.
  • Home Value Enhancement. Installing a level 2 charger can increase the value of the employee's home, providing them with an additional benefit and easy access to charging.
  • Accurate Reimbursement Still Possible. Modern electric vehicles record charging data, eliminating the need to get this information from a smart charger. Software like ReimburseEV can connect the dots and calculate accurate usage, costs and reimbursement.

This approach offers a cost-effective, lower-liability solution that benefits both the company and the employee, making it an attractive option for higher-mileage drivers.

The drawbacks of company-owned and networked chargers

Installing company-owned chargers, especially networked ones, is arguably the least favorable option for several reasons:

  1. Increased costs and liability: The installation and maintenance of networked chargers significantly increases costs. Moreover, owning the charging infrastructure introduces liability concerns, especially regarding data security.
  2. Connectivity and compatibility Issues: Networked chargers can suffer from connectivity issues, leading to inaccurate charging data and other operating and compliance problems.
  3. Risk of fraud: Many smart chargers do not know which vehicle is plugged in. Thus, they also risk being used by non-fleet vehicles, further complicating cost and energy management.
  4. Brand lock-in: A number of networked chargers are tied to specific OEM brands, limiting the flexibility in vehicle selection and potentially locking the company into a less dynamic fleet vehicle mix.

The drawbacks associated with company-owned and networked chargers underline the importance of evaluating charging needs carefully and opting for solutions that offer flexibility, reduce liability, and control costs.

Decision tree for fleet managers

Fleet managers should consider a decision tree approach to determine the most suitable charging solution for their needs. This decision-making process involves assessing the annual mileage of fleet drivers, access to charging, the benefits of tax incentives, and considering the long-term implications of charger ownership and ongoing liabilities. By adopting a thoughtful, structured approach to at-home charging decision-making, fleet managers can identify the most cost-effective and efficient charging solutions that align with their company's operational goals, culture, and drivers' needs.

Transitioning to an EV fleet and providing robust at-home charging solutions for your EV fleet drivers need not be a big operational bottleneck requiring huge investments in home charging infrastructure and installation costs. By understanding the specific operational demands of your EV fleet vehicles and the unique circumstances of your EV fleet drivers, companies can implement effective, efficient at-home charging solutions that save time, reduce costs, and minimize liability, all while supporting employees' transition to electric mobility.

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David Lewis is the founder and CEO of MoveEV, an AI-powered EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric by accurately reimbursing for charging electric vehicles at home.

Houston renewable energy developer teams up with global commercial real estate biz

collaboration station

Houston-based Catalyze, a developer of independent power systems, has teamed up with commercial real estate services powerhouse Cushman & Wakefield to expand installation of solar panels and battery storage technology at U.S. commercial and industrial properties.

The two companies say the partnership will help owners and tenants of office buildings, warehouses, and other commercial properties reduce utility costs, boost operating income, achieve environmental goals and ease stress on the power grid.

“This partnership marks a significant step forward in our mission to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy among commercial and industrial customers, benefiting both tenants and building owners,” Jared Haines, CEO of Catalyze, says in a news release.

The partnership will enable Cushman & Wakefield to decrease greenhouse gas emissions at facilities it manages for clients as well as its own corporate offices. The real estate sector accounts for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

“Our strategic partnership with Catalyze is a testament to our shared commitment to decarbonize the built environment by being at the forefront of the clean energy revolution,” says Jessica Francisco, Cushman & Wakefield’s chief sustainability officer. “Together, we are poised to advance the adoption of solar and storage technologies while driving down costs for our clients.”

In May, Catalyze announced that it secured $100 million in financing from NY Green Bank to support a 79 megawatt portfolio of community distributed generation solar projects across the state of New York.

Houston crews deal with disgruntled residents over power outages after Beryl

Houston, we have a problem

Drawn guns. Thrown rocks. Threatening messages. Houston’s prolonged outages following Hurricane Beryl has some fed-up and frustrated residents taking out their anger on repair workers who are trying to restore power across the city.

The threats and confrontations have prompted police escorts, charges in at least two cases, and pleas from authorities and local officials to leave the linemen alone so they can work.

Beryl knocked out power to nearly 3 million people in Texas — with most of those in the Houston area — after making landfall July 8. The Category 1 storm unleashed heavy rain and winds that uprooted trees and damaged homes and businesses along the Texas Coast and parts of Southeast Texas. State authorities have reported 18 deaths from Beryl. In the Houston area, some have been due to heat exposure following the loss of power, according to the medical examiner’s office in Harris County.

As of Tuesday, crews were still working to restore power to some residents.

“Linemen are our friends and are doing their job. Do not threaten them. I understand you’re angry and mad and frustrated, but let’s get through this together,” Mayor John Whitmire said during a news conference on Monday.

Houston police have investigated at least five cases involving threats made to workers and other employees, whether in person or online.

In one of these cases, police arrested Anthony Leonard, 38, charging him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities allege Leonard on Saturday threw rocks and pointed a gun at a group of CenterPoint Energy workers who were at a staging area.

Leonard remained jailed Tuesday. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

CenterPoint CEO Jason Wells said over 100 line workers had to be evacuated from the staging area on Saturday. He said such threats are counterproductive as crews have to be moved to safer areas, delaying their work.

“So many of our fellow Houstonians have addressed this situation with patience and grace. And I want to thank them. But unfortunately, there have been instances where either acts of violence have been threatened or actually committed against our crews that are working this vital restoration. This is unacceptable. The safety of our crews is paramount,” Wells said.

KPRC reported that a charge of making a terroristic threat has been filed against a woman from the Houston suburb of Baytown. The Texas Department of Public Safety alleges the woman made multiple online threats of murder, assault and deadly conduct against employees, including Wells, at CenterPoint’s headquarters in downtown Houston. The woman has not been arrested.

Chief Deputy Mike Lee with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said his agency has investigated a break-in of a CenterPoint vehicle and three cases where residents refused to let linemen enter their properties.

Ed Allen, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 66, which represents workers at CenterPoint, said in 42 years in this industry, he’s never seen a response like this where workers are being threatened.

Allen said he spoke to one crew that said while they were working in a suburban Houston neighborhood, several men stood across the street from them and held an assault type rifle in a menacing way.

“It is very disheartening to see the community that I’ve worked in and that I’ve dedicated my life to provide electricity to act the way they have during this event,” Allen said.

Crews on Tuesday told Allen they haven’t received any new threats.

“I hope it’s gotten better out there. Part of that I think has a lot to do with the fact that regardless of what anybody thinks, the restoration effort has gone really well,” Allen said.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, CenterPoint reported that less than 82,000 customers remained without power.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to CenterPoint demanding information from the company, including what actions it will take to reduce or eliminate power outages during future storms and how it will improve communication with its customers before, during and after a weather event.

“Texans must be able to rely on their energy providers to keep the power flowing, even during hurricane season. It is your responsibility to properly prepare for these foreseen incidents and work tirelessly to restore power as quickly as possible when it is lost. Anything less is unacceptable,” Abbott wrote.

In a statement, CenterPoint said it's addressing Abbott's request and that its work with officials and community leaders to increase the resiliency of the electric grid is essential in "creating and sustaining an environment in Texas where people want to live and build their businesses.”

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said the threats to CenterPoint workers and out-of-town crews only makes “it harder and longer to get your lights back on.”

“These folks are just here trying to help. Let them do their work and help us and tomorrow will be a better day,” Garcia said.