Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Fervo Energy, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share his story as a reluctant entrepreneur who's headed toward 100x business growth. Photo courtesy of Fervo Energy

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston energy leader Barbara Burger joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the energy transition's biggest challenges and her key takeaways from CERAWeek. Photo courtesy of CERAWeek

Q&A: Energy leader on key trends, future of industry, and Houston's role in it all

podcast interview

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. Read through an excerpt or stream the full episode below.



Houston Innovators Podcast: I think most of the Houston energy world knows who you are, namely from your role leading Chevron Technology Ventures, which you left a few years ago now. So catch us up on what life looks like for you lately. I know you’re involved with a lot of organizations, so break down how you distribute your time with all of them?

Barbara Burger: The last two years since I left Chevron, I’ve built this portfolio of really interesting roles. Having been an executive for so long — executives are in there, doing stuff for the company — now, I’m an adviser or director at the company level, at the investor level, and at an investment bank, all in energy transition.

I have some challenges I want to work on that are really important to me — and those tend to not be in the for-profit space in education and performing arts.

I have some informal roles that I found I really enjoy — I mentor a wide variety of people. I have time to learn changes amid the energy transition and to attend conferences.

HIP: One of those conferences was CERAWeek last month. Why was that one important to Houston and what were your key takaways?

BB: CERAWeek is known as the "Super Bowl of Energy." It’s been going on for 40 years and really shows you the trends in energy across so many different dimensions. There’s so much in energy and you can get in your own narrow silo of working on something, and CERAWeek is an opportunity to actually see the bigger picture.

One takeaway was that it was a very practical approach. We need an energy system that focuses on climate, the economy, security — a lot of this is just the block and tackling of engineering, policy, economics, and community engagement. I think it was a practical discussion.

The other is that everybody has woken up and realized that our load growth — our demand — is growing, and because of all kinds of things pointing toward electrification. I think that the big one in the room was AI and the power demands for it.

It’s not just about the innovation — it’s really about scaling that innovation and that execution, because that’s when we get impact, when these technologies are actually used in the energy system, and when we create new businesses. It’s going to take investment, capabilities, a real understanding of the marketplace, and, in many cases, it’s going to take a relationship with the government.

Philanthropists were there, but I wish I'd seen more of a presence from private equity. Every year I see more people from outside of what I would call the conventional energy industry, and I think that’s really good.

There’s a lot pools of capital, and they’re different and siloed, and they even use different vocabulary. Making those transitions is really important. That’s where I think the private equity investors play a role here, and venture and private equity — those are two different places, but we’re starting to see collaboration between them.

HIP: The United States Department of Energy had a notable presence at CERAWeek this year. What do you think about the organization's efforts and recent approach to 

BB: In years gone by, DOE funding was much more focused on early stuff — research and development. We all know that if you cannot scale and put technologies into operation, you do not get the impact. So the DOE has developed programs to focus and deployments.

They aren’t trying to replace private capital, but they are trying to be catalytic — which is also a role philanthropists are doing. Go in where the market won’t make the right call to buy down some of the uncertainty. They've been really collaborative and have skin in the game on this one.

HIP: What keeps you up at night when you think of the future of energy?

BB: One of the biggest risks is that we do not act fast enough, and what I mean is that we somehow convince ourselves that we do not need to evolve — and that’s as companies, as a nation, or as a globe.

We’ve made tremendous progress in 10 years. But I believe that in 2050 that we will look back and say, "why didn’t we start earlier and why weren’t we consistent with our actions." The energy transition gets politicized, and we don’t move with conviction.

HIP: What about the role Houston plays in all of this?

BB: I've been bullish on Houston in the energy transition. I moved here 11 years ago, and I had no companies in my portfolio in CTV from Houston, and I wondered why. There are a few things I’m proud of in the ecosystem here, and one of theme is that it’s a very inclusive ecosystem — and I mean that there's all different startups — student founded, operator founded, and incumbent companies at the table, but the worst way to get people to not join a party is to not invite them.

No one company or organization is going to solve this. We have to get along. We have to stop thinking that the mode is to compete with each other because the pie is so big and the opportunity is so big to work together — and by and large I do see that happening.

Looking back on CERAWeek 2024 — and more things to know this week. Photo courtesy of CERAWeek

CERAWeek in review, a podcast to stream, and more things to know in Houston energy transition 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.

CERAWeek in review

Last week, we wrapped up the top five themes of CERAWeek on EnergyCapital, including geothermal, the rise of AI, and more.

Let's look back on all the articles from the conference, in case you missed it:

Podcast to stream: Sean Kelly of Amperon

Sean Kelly says he didn't seek to start a clean tech company. He saw a need and opportunity for more accurate energy forecasting, and he built it.

But Amperon has made it on lists highlighting energy transition innovation on more than one occasion — and caught the eye of renewable energy giants.

"We don't brand ourselves as a clean tech company," Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, "but we have four of the top six or eight wind providers who have all invested in Amperon. So, there's something there."

The technology that Amperon provides its customers — a comprehensive, AI-backed data analytics platform — is majorly key to the energy industry and the transition of the sector. Read more.

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.
  • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.

The energy transition community needs to step up for the upcoming Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week. Photo via Getty Images

How corporates can tap into Houston's energy tech community at inaugural week of programming

gearing up

Halliburton Labs was founded in 2020 a bit differently from other corporate venture groups, and, as Executive Director Scott Gale describes, the idea was to deeply ingratiate themselves with the startups as well as the innovation community.

While the corporate world always needs eyes on its return on investment, supporting the innovation ecosystem has been a bit of a leap of faith – and it always will be.

"There's always this idea of having a line of sight to the outcomes (of your investment). And when you're interfacing with or investing in the startup community, you don't have the benefit of line of sight. A lot of the things that are being solved for are just too early stage. And that can be really hard for corporates to wrap their heads around," Gale says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"One of the things that we got to was this idea that you can invest in the startup community, and you don't know where the returns will come from, but you know they will come," he continues.

In line with this idea, Halliburton Labs — along with the Rice Alliance and Greentown Houston — announced the inaugural Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week 2024 to take place in September, but Gale 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. "It really is an open invitation — and I want to make that super clear."

Gale says that he's looked at some of the successful week-long events — like SXSW and others — and the key factors are calendar coordination and cross promotion. Now that Houston has the week set — September 9 to 13, 2024 — it's time for everyone to fill that week with a density of events anywhere around Houston to showcase the city's innovative energy community.

Those interested can learn more or submit their event information online.

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Tierra Climate is technology agnostic, so while the company is seeing activity in the battery space, they can also work with other types of storage. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based energy storage fintech platform founder targets new market key to transition

ready to grow

If the energy transition is going to be successful, the energy storage space needs to be equipped to support both the increased volume of energy needed and new energies. And Emma Konet and her software company, Tierra Climate, are targeting one part of the equation: the market.

"To me, it's very clear that we need to build a lot of energy storage in order to transition the grid," Konet says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The problems that I saw were really on the market side of things."

Konet says she was bullish on the energy storage side of things when she was an early hire at Key Capture Energy, a private equity-backed energy storage project developer. The issue with energy storage projects, as Konet describes, is they aren't being monetized properly and, in some cases, aren't sustainable and increasing emissions.

"The product we're building is solving these problems. It's a financial product, but what it's doing is solving a market deficiency," she says. "We're sending the right signal to the battery to operate in a way that reduces emissions, and then we're paying them for it because there's a demand to decarbonize."

For over a year, Konet, as co-founder and CTO, has worked on the platform, which is essentially a marketplace for corporates to buy carbon offsets, incentifying and monetizing storage projects.

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Tierra Climate is technology agnostic, so while the company is seeing activity in the battery space, they can also work with other types of storage — like hydrogen, pumped water, and more. Konet says her ideal customers are companies with money and interest in playing a role in the energy transition and looking to offset their scope two and three emissions.

"The ultimate vision for our company is for this to be an accessible product that has a high degree of integrity that small to very large companies can execute on, because it's a pay-per-performance mechanism that doesn't lock companies into a really large contract," she says. "It's really scalable."

This year, she says the company, which won fourth place in the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition, is focused on securing its first big contract and fundraising for its seed round.

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

David Pruner, executive director of TEX-E, joins the Houston Innovator Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Why this organization is focused on cultivating the future of energy transition innovation

Q&A

David Pruner is laser focused on the future workforce for the energy industry as executive director of the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, known as TEX-E, a nonprofit housed out of Greentown Labs that was established to support energy transition innovation at Texas universities.

TEX-E launched in 2022 in collaboration with Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and five university partners — Rice University, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, University of Houston, and The University of Texas at Austin.

Pruner was officially named to his role earlier this year, but he's been working behind the scenes for months now getting to know the organization and already expanding its opportunities from students across the state at the five institutions.

"Our mission is to create the next generation of energy transition climatetech entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs — they don’t all have to start companies," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Listen to the show below and read through a brief excerpt from the episode with Pruner.


EnergyCapital: Can you share a little bit about the origin of TEX-E?

David Puner: There were a variety of factories that led to its creation, but the seminal event was a piece of work that had been done for the Greater Houston Partnership by McKinsey on the future of Houston. It showed that if Houston isn't careful and doesn't make sure to go ahead and transition with this energy expansion we’re seeing, that they’re at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs. If they catch the transition right and make the conversion to cleaner and low-carbon fuels, they can actually gain 1.4 million jobs.

It was this eye opener for everyone that we need to make sure that if the energy transition is going to happen, it needs to happen here so that Houston stays the energy capital of the world.

David Baldwin (partner at SCF Partners) literally at the meeting said, “listen I've got the beginning of the funnel — the universities, that’s where innovation comes from.” From that, TEX-E was born.

EC: How are you working with the five founding universities to connect the dots for collaboration?

DP: In the end, we have five different family members who need to be coordinated differently. The idea behind TEX-E is that there's plenty of bright students at each of these schools, and there's plenty of innovation going on, it's whether it can grow, prosper, and be sustainable.

Our main job is to look to connect everyone, so that an engineer at Texas A&M that has an idea that they want to pursue, but they don't know the business side, can meet that Rice MBA. Then, when they realize it's going to be a highly regulated product, we need a regulatory lawyer at UT — we can make all that happen and connect them.

At the same time, what we found is, no one school has the answer. But when you put them together, we do have most of the answer. Almost everything we need is within those five schools. And it's not just those five schools, it really is open to everyone.

EC: As you mentioned before, TEX-E started as a way for Houston to take the reins of its energy transition. What's the pulse on that progress?

DP: I spent the last decade building boards and hiring CEOs for all kinds of energy companies and there was the period I would say — pre-pandemic and a little bit into the pandemic — where not everybody was on board with climate change and the issue of carbon. The nice thing now is that’s fully in the rearview mirror. There’s not really a company of any size or a management team of any major entity that doesn’t fully believe they need to do something there.

The train has fully left the station — and picked up speed — on this whole issue of transition and climate. So, that’s been nice to see and create a lot of tailwinds.

———

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Sysco introduces new fleet of electric trucks at Houston operations

ev moves

Houston-based food distributor Sysco is helping fuel the future of electric vehicles.

Sysco recently took delivery of 10 heavy-duty, electric-powered trucks for its Houston operations. With this delivery, Sysco now operates nearly 120 electric vehicles (EVs) around the world.

In 2023, Sysco unveiled its first EV hub, which is in Riverside, California. The hub will eventually feature:

  • 40 electric-powered refrigerated trailers
  • 40 electric-powered semi-trucks
  • 40 charging stations

The hub also will include 4 megawatt-hours of battery storage and 1.4 additional megawatts of solar power generation.

Aside from Houston and Riverside, Sysco uses EVs in Baltimore; Boston; Baltimore; Denver; Long Island, New York; Los Angeles; and Fremont, California. Its EV fleet extends to Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Sysco announced in 2021 that it planned to operate nearly 800 electric-powered semi-trucks by 2026. Houston Freightliner is a partner in this initiative.

In all, Sysco aims to electrify 35 percent of its U.S. tractor fleet.

Around the world, EVs are contributing to Sysco’s goal of reducing direct emissions by 27.5 percent by 2030.

“We are proud of our progress to scale our electric truck fleet and continue our journey to meet our climate goal,” Neil Russell, chief administrative officer at Sysco, says in a news release. “This work is important to many of our customers who have also set goals to reduce emissions.”

Texas energy transition leaders praise progress, call for continued efforts at conference

overheard at SUper dug

Woven in between reflections on the most active consolidation market in recent history, an underlying theme emerged from Hart Energy’s SUPER DUG Conference & Exhibition 2024 in Fort Worth last week. Executives, investors, and analysts conveyed admiration for the emissions reductions achieved across the shales while continuing to meet the growing demand for natural gas.

However, concern for continued investment echoed this praise, as many expressed the need for increased investment to support a world of flourishing population, economics, and technology.

Marshall Adkins, head of energy for Raymond James, shared an analogy demonstrating the energy demand impact from advancements in technology, most notably those sprouting from the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence. Adkins explained that a minimal whole-home generator consumes about 8,500 watts of power; to keep air conditioning, the washing machine, and garage door working results in a pull of approximately 14,000 watts. One single chip from NVIDIA requires that same 14,000 watts plus another 150 percent power for cooling, totaling approximately 35,000 watts — about the same as would completely power an average home as if there were no disruption in supply.

While this volume of power consumption seems hefty, consider that NVIDIA sold over half a million chips in a single quarter last year, and the effect starts to multiply exponentially. And while development of solar and wind power sources will replace most, if not all, of the current energy produced from coal, the stability of the power grid relies predominantly on the continuous stream of natural gas. That is, if the stream of investment into developing and expanding natural gas continues to grow in parallel.

Reflecting on the expectation from public and private investors, as well as upcoming talent, to embrace meaningful advancements in ESG, Will Van Loh, CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, shared the business benefit of greener practices.

“Switching your frac fleet from running diesel to natural gas, we saved one of our companies in the Haynesville half a million dollars per well and reduced GHG by 70 percent. Make a bunch of money and do good for the environment – (that’s a) pretty good deal,” Van Loh told Hart Energy’s editor-in-chief for Oil & Gas Investor, Deon Daugherty.

For decades, the industry has pursued increasingly eco-friendly habits, but the requirements of ESG reporting make it more visible to the rest of the world. Permian Operators, which produce almost half of all US daily oil volume, cited specific strides made in reducing emissions and operating more cleanly during their respective presentations:

  • Leadership from Diamondback Energy spoke about adopting the use of clear drilling fluids in lieu of oil-based mud, resulting in faster drilling times and cleaner operations. The technique came along with the acquisition of QEP Resources in 2021 and reflects the company’s commitment to remaining humble in its pursuit of more efficient and more environmentally beneficial methodologies.
  • Nick McKenna, vice president of the Midland Basin for ConocoPhillips praised their Lower48 team for reducing gas flaring by 80 percent since 2019 while also increasing the use of recycled water over 3x in that same 5-year horizon.
  • Clark Edwards, senior vice president of Development for BPX, cited achieving 95 percent electrification of their Permian well set as of the end of 2023. Building and installing their own microgrid – a practice repeated by numerous operators throughout the Basin, where public infrastructure lags far behind private entity needs – added enough megawatts to their operation to allow BPX to run drilling rigs completely independent of an already strained public grid.

In addition to reducing diesel usage, flaring, and dependence on the public grid for electricity, water management stays a top economic and ecological concern for shale operators all over the United States. While a compelling case of "have and have-not" dominated the shale water business over the last decade-plus, savvy operators increasingly embrace a mindset that water disposal should remain a choice of last resort. Companies like WaterBridge, a Joint Venture with Devon Energy, and Deep Blue, a joint venture with Diamondback Energy, help bring clean and recycled water to areas with shortages, both in and outside of the industry.

As Kaes Van’t Hof, president and CFO of Diamondback Energy, said, “The Midland Basin is now recycling as much water as it possibly can. Eventually it’s going to be about, ‘Water going downhole into a disposal well is the last option.’ Can you recycle it? Can you bring it somewhere else, evaporate it? We’re starting start some early de-sal[ination] tests in the Spanish Trail near the airport. Eventually, can we tell the story that we sell freshwater back to water the golf courses of Midland?”

The Energy Transition steams ahead, but pragmatic observations remind us that oil and gas make up approximately 60 percent of the energy supply today – a volume not easily replaced by any other source completely in the next few years. However, the overwhelming support for delivering the best barrel with the lowest carbon intensity possible permeated Hart Energy’s SUPER DUG Conference & Exhibition 2024.