Black Bayou Energy Hub is developing an underground energy storage facility near the Louisiana/Texas border on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Photo courtesy of Mercuria

A global independent energy and commodities group with its United States office in Houston has announced an investment in a Gulf Coast salt dome energy storage project.

Mercuria did not disclose its financial contribution into Lafayette, Louisiana-based Black Bayou Energy Hub LLC, but the company's support will go toward the development of the energy infrastructure of the large-scale, underground energy storage facility in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana, which is alongside the Texas border.

"Mercuria's investment in Black Bayou Energy Hub represents a significant step towards enhancing the resilience and flexibility of our energy infrastructure. This partnership leverages Mercuria's robust financial capabilities and extensive expertise in commodity markets, aligning with Black Bayou's strategic location and development potential," Boris Bystrov, managing director of investments at Mercuria, says in a news release.

"We are committed to supporting innovative projects like Black Bayou essential for transitioning to a sustainable global energy future," he continues. "Together, we aim to create a storage solution that addresses the dynamic needs of the energy sector, fostering stability and growth in the U.S. Gulf Coast region and beyond."

Located in Southwest Louisiana near what is called "LNG Alley," the Black Bayou Energy Hub will initially store FERC-regulated natural gas energy in its salt dome storage capacity, as well as develop wide range of energy products to meet growing customer need, per the release.

The strategic location of the facility — 25 miles on either side of growing cities Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Port Arthur, Texas — is just seven miles east of the Louisiana/Texas border and 18 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

"Mercuria's investment in the Black Bayou Energy Hub creates an ideal partnership that combines Mercuria's financial strength, extensive commodity experience, and global reach with Black Bayou's unique project attributes and the team's deep expertise developing, owning, and operating underground salt dome storage projects," adds Tad Lalande, Black Bayou's CEO. "We're thrilled to add Mercuria to our roster of existing sponsors, including Charlestown Energy Partners and Cameron Prairie Sporting Club, as we progress our development and bring this project to life."

With its local office in Houston's Greenway Plaza, Mercuria, founded in 2004, has pledged that over half of its new investments will go toward renewables and transitional energy.

The temporary abandonment of the nine wells, which are located in the Matagorda Island lease area in the Gulf of Mexico, is the first stage of full decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure. Photo via Getty Images

Houston co. starts work on 9 orphan wells in Gulf of Mexico

temporary abandonment

A Houston-based company that develops, produces, and decommissions mature assets in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner and begun work on the temporary abandonment of nine orphan wells.

Promethean Energy has announced the beginning of the project on the wells on behalf of the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE. The temporary abandonment of the nine wells, which are located in the Matagorda Island lease area in the Gulf of Mexico, is the first stage of full decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure.

"We are very proud to have been able to start work and contribute to this project of strategic national importance commissioned by BSEE," Promethean's SVP Decommissioning Steve Louis says in a news release.

The company was awarded a five-year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract "to address the most immediate and urgent needs representing safety and environmental hazards" of the wells which no prior owner survives, per the release.

Promethean has conducted its own inspection of the platforms using drone-based laser scan technology in order to digitalize the structures and evaluate the equipment to plan safe boarding and procedures.

The next steps of decommissioning the wells will be to repair the platforms and wellhead equipment, followed by well diagnostics testing and the well decommissioning itself.

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4 Houston energy companies pledge financial support in wake of Hurricane Beryl

donation station

Four major energy companies in the Houston area have chipped in more than $400,000 to support relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl in Southeast Texas. Nationwide, it’s estimated that the storm caused at least $28 billion in damage and economic losses.

Here’s a breakdown of contributions announced by the four energy companies.

Baker Hughes Foundation

The Baker Hughes Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Houston-based energy technology company Baker Hughes, gave a $75,000 grant to the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts.

“We understand recovery and rebuilding can take weeks or months, and we support the American Red Cross’ mission of providing people with clean water, safe shelter, and food when they need them most,” says Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes.

CenterPoint Energy

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, which at one point had more than 2 million customers without power due to Hurricane Beryl, says its foundation has donated to several disaster relief organizations in the region. These include the American Red Cross of Coastal Bend, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Combined Arms, and the 4B Disaster Response Network in Brazoria and Galveston counties.

As of July 11, the company had also provided:

  • More than 30,000 bottles of water to cooling centers and distribution centers in the Houston area.
  • Meals to local first responders.
  • Mobile power generation at cooling centers, hospitals, senior living centers, and water treatment plants.

CenterPoint didn’t assign a dollar value to its contributions.

“Our first priority is getting the lights back on. At the same time, we have seen firsthand the devastation our neighbors are facing, and our commitment to the community goes beyond restoration efforts,” says Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president of CenterPoint’s electric business.

ConocoPhillips

Houston-based ConocoPhillips contributed $200,000 to relief efforts for Hurricane Beryl. The company also is matching donations from U.S. employees of ConocoPhillips.

The money is being split among the Houston Food Bank, Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

“Houston is our hometown, and many of our employees and neighbors have been impacted by Hurricane Beryl,” says Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillip.

Entergy Texas

Entergy Texas, based in The Woodlands, donated $125,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Beryl relief efforts. The money will go toward emergency needs such as food, shelter, and medical care.

“Our commitment to helping communities in distress remains unwavering, and we are hopeful that our contribution will offer relief and comfort to those facing hardships in the storm’s aftermath,” says Eliecer Viamontes, president and CEO of Entergy Texas.

Entergy Texas supplies electricity to about 512,000 customers in 27 counties. It’s a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

Houston energy data SaaS co. expands to new platform

making moves

In an effort to consolidate and improve energy data and forecasting, a Houston software company has expanded to a new platform.

Amperon announced that it has expanded its AI-powered energy forecaststoSnowflake Marketplace, an AI data cloud company. With the collaboration, joint customers can seamlessly integrate accurate energy forecasts into power market trading. The technology that Amperon provides its customers — a comprehensive, AI-backed data analytics platform — is key to the energy industry and the transition of the sector.

“As Amperon continues to modernize energy data and AI infrastructure, we’re excited to partner with Snowflake to bring the most accurate energy forecasts into a single data experience that spans multiple clouds and geographies," Alex Robart, chief revenue officer at Amperon, says in a news release. "By doing so, we’re bringing energy forecasts to where they will be accessible to more energy companies looking to increase performance and reliability."

Together, the combined technology can move the needle on enhanced accuracy in forecasting that strengthens grid reliability, manages monetary risk, and advances decarbonization.

“This partnership signifies Amperon’s commitment to deliver world-class data-driven energy management solutions," Titiaan Palazzi, head of power and Utilities at Snowflake, adds. "Together, we are helping organizations to easily and securely access the necessary insights to manage risk and maximize profitability in the energy transition."

With Amperon's integrated short-term demand and renewables forecasts, Snowflake users can optimize power markets trading activity and manage load risk.

"Amperon on Snowflake enables us to easily integrate our different data streams into a single unified view," Jack Wang, senior power trader and head of US Power Analysis at Axpo, says. "We value having complete access and control over our analytics and visualization tools. Snowflake allows us to quickly track and analyze the evolution of every forecast Amperon generates, which ultimately leads to better insights into our trading strategy."

Amperon, which recently expanded operations to Europe, closed a $20 million series B round last fall led by Energize Capital and tripled its team in the past year and a half.

In March, Amperon announced that it replatformed its AI-powered energy analytics technology onto Microsoft Azure.

Learn more about the company on the Houston Innovators Podcast episode with Sean Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Amperon.

Houston logistics company works toward software solutions to energy transition challenges

offshore shipping

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now."

And, predictably, some of those waves are caused by new momentum within the energy transition.

"The energy transition has thrown up a lot of questions for everyone in the maritime industry," Costello says. "The regulations create a lot of questions around cost primarily. ... And that has created a huge number of opportunities for technology."

Fuel as a primary cost for the maritime industry. These cargo ships are traversing the world 24/7 and burning fuel at all times. Costello says there's an increased focus on the fuel process — "all with a goal of essentially reducing carbon intensity usage."

One of the ways to move the needle on reducing the carbon footprint of these ships is optimizing the time spent in port, and specifically the delays associated. Demurrage are charges associated with delays in loading and unloading cargo within maritime shipping, and Costello estimates that the total paid globally in demurrage fees is around $10 billion to $20 billion a year.

"These fees can be huge," Costello says. "What technology has really enabled with this problem of demurrage is helping companies drill down to the true root cause of what something is happening."

All this progress is thanks to the enhancement — and wider range of acceptance — of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Costello, who says Voyager has been improving its profitability every quarter for the last year, has grown the business to around 40 employees in its headquarters of Houston and three remote offices in Brazil, London, and Singapore. The company's last round of funding was a series A in 2021. Costello says the next round, if needed, would be next year.

In the meantime, Voyager is laser focused on providing optimized, cost-saving, and sustainable solutions for its customers — around half of which are headquartered or have a significant presence in Houston. For Costello, that's all about putting the control back into the hands of his customers.

"If we think back to the real problems the industry faces, a lot of them are controlled by different groups and parties. The fact that a ship cannot get in and out of a port quickly is not necessarily a function of one party's issue — it's a multitude of issues, and there's no one factor," Costello says on the show. "To really make the whole process efficient end-to-end you need to provide the customer to access and options for different means of getting cargo from A to B — and you need to have a sense of control in that process."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.