Recently, two HETI members announced acquisition and investment into carbon capture businesses. Photo via htxenergytransition.org

CCUS will play a pivotal role in the global energy transition by decarbonizing carbon-intensive industries, including energy, chemicals, cement, and steel. CCUS is one of the few proven technologies to significantly lower net emissions. However, the unique nature of decarbonization presents many complex challenges. With greater funding and growing policy support, the widespread adoption of CCUS technologies is becoming more technically feasible and economically viable than ever before.

Houston, with its existing CCUS infrastructure, large concentration of CCUS expertise, and high storage capacity, is the ideal location to deploy and derisk CCUS projects at unprecedented speed and scale. Recently, two HETI members announced acquisition and investment into carbon capture businesses.

SLB + Aker Carbon Capture (ACC)

SLB, a pioneer in carbon capture technologies, announced an agreement to acquire major ownership in Aker Carbon Capture (ACC), a pure-play carbon capture company. The move combines SLB’s established CCUS business with ACC’s innovative CCUS technology to support accelerated industrial decarbonization at scale.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” said Olivier Le Peuch, chief executive officer, SLB. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project. We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors.”

Chevron New Energies + ION Clean Energy

Chevron New Energies, a division of Chevron U.S.A. Inc., announced a lead investment in ION Clean Energy (ION), which provides post-combustion point-source capture technology through its third-generation ICE-31 liquid amine system. This investment expands and complements Chevron’s growing portfolio of CCUS technologies.

“ION’s solvent technology, combined with Chevron’s assets and capabilities, has the potential to reach numerous emitters and support our ambitions of a lower carbon future,” said Chris Powers, vice president of CCUS & Emerging, Chevron New Energies. “We believe collaborations like this are essential to our efforts to grow carbon capture on a global scale.”

“This investment from Chevron is a huge testament to the hard work of our team and the potential of our technology,” said ION founder and executive chairman Buz Brown. “We appreciate their collaboration and with their investment we expect to accelerate commercial deployment of our technology so that we can realize the kind of wide-ranging commercial and environmental impact we’ve long envisioned.”

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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.

Two startups have recently announced support from Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures. Photo via Getty Images

Chevron supports 2 carbon emissions tech startups

making moves

Chevron Technology Ventures has added two startups to its portfolio — one to its startup accelerator and one via an investment.

Delaware-based Compact Membrane Systems closed an oversubscribed series A funding round of $16.5 million led by Pangaea Ventures. CTV also contributed to the round, along with GC Ventures, Solvay Ventures, and Technip Energies.

CMS's technology is targeting carbon capture in traditionally hard-to-abate sectors, such as steel, cement, etc., which represent more than a tenth of worldwide emissions. The CMS platform, which operates in a 10,000-square-foot lab and manufacturing facility in Delaware, is a fully electrified and low-cost solution.

“We are delighted to have secured such a strong group of investors who share our vision for delivering a revolutionary carbon capture technology for industrial applications,” says Erica Nemser, CEO of Compact Membrane Systems, in a news release. “This oversubscribed funding round catalyzes our ability to deliver large projects. Deployment of our commercial systems by 2026 will have measurable environmental and economic benefits to our customers and society.”

It's the latest investment from CTV's $300 million Future Energy Fund II, which specifically "focuses on industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular economy," says Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of CTV.

“The technology that CMS has developed has the potential to drive further efficiencies and cost reduction along the CCUS value chain, supporting decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors and complementing our existing portfolio of investments in this space,” Gable says in the release.

The company is planning to use its new funding to further develop and commercialize its product by 2026.

Another startup has announced support from Chevron last month. Calgary, Alberta-based Arolytics Inc. announced last month that its been accepted into CTV's Catalyst Program. The company has an emissions software and data analytics platform for the oil and gas sector, and the program will help it further develop and deploy its technology.

"Being selected for the Catalyst Program is an amazing opportunity for Arolytics," says Liz O'Connell, CEO of Arolytics, in a news release. "The interest from Chevron demonstrates the oil and gas industry's desire to reduce emissions. It aligns closely with Arolytics' mission to build and execute efficient emissions management programs that enable industry to become leaders in emissions management."

Arolytics' technology, which includes AroViz, an emissions management software, and AroFEMP, an emissions forecasting model, targets methane emissions specifically, per the release.

Launched in 2017, the CTV Catalyst Program accelerates early-stage companies that are working on innovations within the energy industry. Arolytics will use the program to make key connections, identify important use cases, and expand into the U.S. Market.

Gautam Phanse of Chevron Technology Ventures answers questions about this unique program. Photo courtesy

Q&A: Chevron's unique clean energy studio role in Houston entrepreneur community

matchmaking innovation

A new program from Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures is rethinking how best to commercialize research-based technology.

This spring, Chevron Studio announced its second cohort of its program that matches entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. The overall goal of the studio — a collaboration between Chevron and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL — is to scale up and commercialize early-stage technologies that have the potential to impact the future of energy.

Once selected, there are three phases of the program. After the entrepreneur applications closed in March, the first step was matching the selected entrepreneurs with the inventors of the selected intellectual properties, which will occurs over three to four months. The next phase includes scaling up the product — something that will take one to two years, depending on the tech. The last step would be a trial or a pilot program that includes rolling out a minimum viable product at commercial scale at Chevron or an affiliate. The next cohort application period will open next month.

Gautam Phanse is the strategic relationship manager for Chevron Technology Ventures. He joins InnovationMap for a Q&A to explain more about the opportunity.

What types of technologies is Chevron looking to bring into commercialization through this program? How is the program different from existing accelerators/incubators/etc.?

GautamPhanse: Chevron Technology Ventures brings external innovation to Chevron. Key focus areas for CTV are industrial decarbonization, emerging mobility, energy decentralization, and the growing circular carbon economy. Chevron Studio is one of the tools to achieve this goal. The current focus areas for Chevron Studio are: carbon utilization, hydrogen and renewable energy, energy storage systems, and solutions for circular economy. These focus areas will be reviewed every year and additional areas could be brought into the mix.

The goal of Chevron Studio is to scale up and commercialize technology developed in the Universities and National Labs. We curate the intellectual property developed at universities and national labs and provide a platform to match entrepreneurs with the IP. The program provides seed funding and a pathway through incubation, pilot and field trials to scale up the technologies. The uniqueness of this program is its target and the breadth of its scope — all the way from incubation to field trials.

How does Chevron Technology Ventures and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory collaborate on this project? What role does each entity play?

GP: CTV has a long history of supporting innovation and the startup community. And over the years we’ve seen the consistent gaps and the struggles that the startup companies have in scaling up technologies. We also have a long history of working with national labs and universities and have seen the challenges in getting these technologies out of the labs. The idea for Chevron Studio grew out of these challenges.

NREL’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center manages Chevron Studio, working closing with entrepreneurs and guiding them through the program while leveraging capabilities at the lab and activating the IEC’s network of cleantech startups, investors, foundations, and industry partners.

What are you looking for from the entrepreneur applicants? Who should apply?

GP: We are looking for entrepreneurs who are seeking their next opportunity. They should have a passion in lower carbon solutions and the patience to work on early-stage technologies to see them through scale up and commercialization. Aspiring entrepreneurs with demonstrated passion are also welcome to apply. The entrepreneurs are expected to build a team, raise funds and grow the business providing competitive solutions to the industry.

Tell me about cohort 1. How did it go and what were the participants able to accomplish?

GP: We were really excited about the response we got from both the entrepreneur community and the universities and national labs. We had a strong pool of entrepreneurs and a great mix of IP and frankly had a tough time making the selection. The first cohort had four entrepreneurs in the initial discovery phase. Some of them have now graduated, and we will be announcing the participants in the next phase — for scaling up — shortly.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”