Kanin Energy has been named a top investible startup. Photo via kaninenergy.com

A Canadian organization has called out the top 50 most investible energy transition companies in the country, and one Canada-founded, Houston-based startup made the cut.

The 2023 Foresight 50, Foresight Canada's 50 Most Investible Cleantech Ventures, sought to highlight the top companies moving the needle toward Net Zero. Kanin Energy — founded by CEO Janice Tran in Calgary in 2020 but relocated to Houston by way of Greentown Labs — developed a waste-heat-to-power concept for generating clean energy.

“The ventures included in this year’s Foresight 50 are nothing short of awe-inspiring. These game-changing innovators are scaling the critical climate solutions we need to solve the world’s most urgent climate challenges and accelerate the transition to net zero. Congratulations and thank you for all you are doing for Canadian cleantech," says Jeanette Jackson, CEO of Foresight Canada, in a news release.

According to the organization, 41 cleantech investors evaluated detailed profiles the companies submitted. They looked at investibility, potential environmental and employment impact, leadership and team, and probability of success, according to Foresight Canada.

"Canada has no shortage of inspiring innovators with the potential to solve global climate challenges. But these companies struggle to attract the long-term capital and recognition needed to make their businesses competitive on a global scale," Kanin Energy's team writes in its news release.

A year ago, the Kanin team visited Houston to see if the city could be a fit for an office. In July of 2022, Tran opened Kanin Energy offices in Greentown Labs.

“We’re hiring and building our team office out of Greentown. It’s been really great for us,” she previously told EnergyCapital.

Earlier this month, Kanin Energy was named a finalist in the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards.

The six finalists for the sustainability category for the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards weigh in on their challenges overcome. Photos courtesy

4 biggest challenges of Houston-based sustainability startups

Houston innovation awards

Six Houston-area sustainability startups have been named finalists in the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards, but they didn't achieve this recognition — as well as see success for their businesses — without any obstacles.

The finalists were asked what their biggest challenges have been. From funding to market adoption, the sustainability companies have had to overcome major obstacles to continue to develop their businesses.

The awards program — hosted by EnergyCapital's sister site, InnovationMap, and Houston Exponential — will name its winners on November 8 at the Houston Innovation Awards. The program was established to honor the best and brightest companies and individuals from the city's innovation community. Eighteen energy startups were named as finalists across all categories, but the following responses come from the finalists in the sustainability category specifically.

    Click here to secure your tickets to see who wins.

    1. Securing a commercial pilot

    "As an early-stage clean energy developer, we struggled to convince key suppliers to work on our commercial pilot project. Suppliers were skeptical of our unproven technology and, given limited inventory from COVID, preferred to prioritize larger clients. We overcame this challenge by bringing on our top suppliers as strategic investors. With a long-term equity stake in Fervo, leading oilfield services companies were willing to provide Fervo with needed drilling rigs, frack crews, pumps, and other equipment." — Tim Latimer, founder and CEO of Fervo Energy

    2. Finding funding

    "Securing funding in Houston as a solo cleantech startup founder and an immigrant with no network. Overcome that by adopting a milestone-based fundraising approach and establishing credibility through accelerator/incubator programs." — Anas Al Kassas, CEO and founder of INOVUES

    "The biggest challenge has been finding funding. Most investors are looking towards software development companies as the capital costs are low in case of a risk. Geothermal costs are high, but it is physical technology that needs to be implemented to safety transition the energy grid to reliable, green power." — Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

    3. Market adoption

    "Market adoption by convincing partners and government about WHP as a solution, which is resource-intensive. Making strides by finding the correct contacts to educate." — Janice Tran, CEO and co-founder of Kanin Energy

    "We are creating a brand new financial instrument at the intersection of carbon markets and power markets, both of which are complicated and esoteric. Our biggest challenge has been the cold-start problem associated with launching a new product that has effectively no adoption. We tackled this problem by leading the Energy Storage Solutions Consortium (a group of corporates and battery developers looking for sustainability solutions in the power space), which has opened up access to customers on both sides of our marketplace. We have also leveraged our deep networks within corporate power procurement and energy storage development to talk to key decision-makers at innovative companies with aggressive climate goals to become early adopters of our products and services." — Emma Konet, CTO and co-founder of Tierra Climate

    4. Long scale timelines

    "Scaling and commercializing industrial technologies takes time. We realized this early on and designed the eXERO technology to be scalable from the onset. We developed the technology at the nexus of traditional electrolysis and conventional gas processing, taking the best of both worlds while avoiding their main pitfalls." — Claus Nussgruber, CEO of Utility Global

    At last year's awards program, Cemvita Factory's co-founders, Tara and Moji Karimi, accepted the award for the Green Impact Business category. This year, Moji Karimi served as a judge

    18 Houston energy startups named finalists for innovation awards program

    companies to watch

    The 2023 Houston Innovation Awards announced its 52 finalists — a large portion of which are promising energy transition startups.

    The awards program — hosted by EnergyCapital's sister site, InnovationMap, and Houston Exponential — will name its winners on November 8 at the Houston Innovation Awards. The program was established to honor the best and brightest companies and individuals from the city's innovation community.

    The following startups, which all have an energy transition element to their business, received a finalist position in one or two categories.

    Click here to secure your tickets to see who wins.

    • ALLY Energy, helping energy companies and climate startups find, develop, and retain great talent, scored two finalist positions — one in the Female-Owned Business category and the other in the Social Impact Business category.
    • Eden Grow Systems, next generation farming technologies, is a finalist in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
    • Feelit Technologies, nanotechnology for preventive maintenance to eliminate leaks, fires and explosions, increase safety and reduce downtime, is a finalist in the Female-Owned Business category and the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
    • Fervo Energy, leveraging proven oil and gas drilling technology to deliver 24/7 carbon-free geothermal energy, scored two finalist positions — one in the Sustainability Business category and the other in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
    • FluxWorks, making frictionless gearboxes for missions in any environment, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
    • Helix Earth Technologies, decarbonizing the built environment and heavy industry, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
    • INOVUES, re-energizing building facades through its non-invasive window retrofit innovations, making building smarter, greener, and healthier for a better and sustainable future, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
    • Kanin Energy, helping heavy industry monetize their waste heat and decarbonize their operations, was named a finalist in the BIPOC-Owned Business and the SustainabilityBusiness categories.
    • Mars Materials, developing a carbon-negative pathway for carbon fiber and acrylamide production using CO2 and biomass as raw materials, is a finalist in the BIPOC-Owned Business category.
    • Molecule, an energy/commodity trading risk management software that provides users with an efficient, reliable, responsive platform for managing trade risk, is a finalist in the Digital Solutions Business category.
    • Rhythm Energy, 100 percent renewable electricity service for residential customers in Texas, is a finalist in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
    • Sage Geosystems, a cost-effective geothermal baseload energy solution company, also innovating underground energy storage solutions, was named a finalist in the Sustainability Business category.
    • Solugen, decarbonizing the chemical industry, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
    • Square Robot, applying robotic technology to eliminate the need to put people into dangerous enclosed spaces and eliminate taking tanks out of service, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.
    • Syzygy Plasmonics, a deep decarbonization company that builds chemical reactors designed to use light instead of combustion to produce valuable chemicals like hydrogen and sustainable fuels, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.
    • Tierra Climate, decarbonizing the power grid faster by helping grid-scale batteries monetize their environmental benefits and change their operational behavior to abate more carbon, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
    • Utility Global, a technology company converting a range of waste gases into sustainable hydrogen and syngas, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
    • Venus Aerospace, a hypersonics company on track to fly reusable hypersonic flight platforms by 2024, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.

    Additionally, two energy companies were named to the Corporate of the Year category, which honors corporations that supports startups and/or the Houston innovation community. Aramco Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures are two of the four finalists in this category.

    Lastly, Jason Ethier, co-founder of Lambda Catalyzer and host of the Energy Tech Startups podcast, and Kendrick Alridge, senior manager of community at Greentown Labs, scored finalist positions in the Ecosystem Builder category, as individuals who have acted as leaders in developing Houston’s startup ecosystem.

    Click here to see the full list of finalists.

    The deadline to apply to participate in an upcoming energy-focused event is approaching. Photo courtesy of Rice

    Rice Alliance calls for participants for its annual energy conference

    now's the time to apply

    This year marks the 20th anniversary of Energy Tech Venture Day, a one-day symposium for energy innovation put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The organization is currently calling for applications for startups interested in participating.

    The event is taking place on September 21 at Rice University and will bring together energy innovators, investors, corporate leaders, and the rest of the energy ecosystem. The programming will include panels and discussions as well as startup pitches from the Rice Alliance's Clean Energy Accelerator 2023 cohort.

    In addition to the CEA pitches, energy tech startups from around the world can apply to be a part of the day and be in the running to be recognized as a select group as the "most-promising" at the conclusion of the pitches. Applications can be filled out online and are due July 14. Registration is also open online.

    According to Rice, 90 or so companies will be selected to participate in one-on-one meetings with around 75 investors. The organization conducts a unique matchmaking round that pairs up investors and founders for four to 10 of these office hour meetings which will take place the day before the main event.

    On the day of the Energy Tech Venture Day, around 40 companies will pitch to the rest of the crowd. At the end of the day and based off the investor feedback from the one-on-one meetings, 10 energy tech startups will be deemed the most-promising businesses and be presented with awards.

    Last year, over a third of the companies that pitched were based in the Houston area. Two Houston-based companies received awards at the end of the day, including:

    • Kanin Energy, which works with heavy Industry to turn their waste heat into a clean baseload power source. The platform also provides tools such as project development, financing, and operations.
    • Syzygy Plasmonics, which is commercializing its light-reacting energy, which would greatly reduce carbon emissions in the chemical industry. The technology originated out of Rice University.
    Kanin Energy set up shop in Greentown Labs last year to grow its impact on the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

    This energy transition startup taps Houston to grow, build its waste-heat-to-power tech

    eyes on hou

    Waste heat is everywhere, but in Houston, the Energy Capital of the World, it is becoming a hot commodity. What is it? Janice Tran, CEO of Kanin Energy, uses the example of turning ore into steel.

    “There’s a lot of heat involved in that chemical process,” she says. “It’s a waste of energy.”

    But Kanin Energy can do something about that. Its waste-heat-to-power, or WHP, concept uses a technology called organic rankine cycle. Tran explains that heat drives a turbine that generates electricity.

    “It’s a very similar concept to a steam engine,” she says. Tran adds that the best term for what Kanin Energy does is “waste heat recovery.”

    Emission-free power should be its own virtuous goal, but for companies creating waste heat, it can be an expensive endeavor both in terms of capital and human resources to work on energy transition solutions. But Kanin Energy helps companies to decarbonize with no cost to them.

    “We can pay for the projects, then we pay the customers for that heat. We turn a waste product into a revenue stream for our customer,” Tran explains. Kanin Energy then sells the clean power back to the facility or to the grid, hence decarbonizing the facility gratis. Financing, construction, and operations are all part of the package.

    Kanin Energy began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020.

    “We started like a lotus. A lotus grows in mud — you start in the worst conditions and everything is better and easier from there,” says Tran.

    That tough birth has helped provide the team with a discipline and thoughtfulness that’s been key to the company’s culture. Remote work has forced the team to get procedures clearly in place and react efficiently.

    Back in May of 2020, its inception took place in Calgary. But the team, which also includes CDO Dan Fipke and CTO Jake Bainbridge, began to notice that many of their customers were either based in Houston or had Houston ties.

    A year ago, the Kanin team visited Houston to see if the city could be a fit for an office. In July of 2022, Tran opened Kanin Energy offices in Greentown Labs.

    “We’re hiring and building our team office out of Greentown. It’s been really great for us,” she says.

    With the company now in its commercialization stage, Tran says that becoming part of the Houston energy ecosystem has been invaluable for Kanin.

    The investments being made in climate tech and in energy transition make Space City the right place for the company. For Canadian-born Kanin Energy, Houston is now home. Investors across the nation, including Texas, are now helping Kanin to blossom, much like the lotus.

    Janice Tran is the CEO and co-founder of Kanin Energy. Photo via LinkedIn

    ------

    This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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    SLB to consolidate carbon capture business in partnership

    M&A moves

    SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

    Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

    According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

    “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,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “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.

    The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

    "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,” Le Peuch continues.

    SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

    3 top DOE researchers take professor positions at University of Houston

    new hires

    Three top researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have accepted joint appointments at the University of Houston.

    “This strategic collaboration leverages the combined strengths of Argonne and the [university] to further critical research efforts, public-private partnerships, and educational opportunities for students in the energy transition and lead to transformational advancement of commercial scale energy industries,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a news release.

    These appointments are part of a memorandum of understanding that Argonne, located in the Chicago area, recently signed with the Greater Houston Partnership. The agreement seeks to accelerate decarbonization efforts in the Houston area.

    The three scientists appointed to positions are UH are:

    • Zach Hood, whose appointment is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. He’ll be hosted by Yan Yao, a UH professor who is principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity.
    • Jianlin Li, whose appointment also is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He plans to establish a dry room facility at UH and conduct research on energy storage technologies, electrode processing, and cell manufacturing.
    • Michael Wang, the inaugural Distinguished Senior Scholar at UH’s Energy Transition Institute. His objectives include advancing research in decarbonizing the oil and gas sector through carbon management and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Wang will conduct seminars and present lectures in environmental sustainability, lifecycle, and techno-economic analysis of energy technologies, while helping Argonne tap into the university’s talent pool.

    “With more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Wang brings critical tools and expertise to the UH Energy Transition Institute, which is dedicated to unlocking the transformative potential within three critical domains: hydrogen, carbon management, and circular plastics,” says Joe Powell, founding executive director of the Energy Transition Institute. “These areas not only present opportunities for reshaping the energy sector but also stand as pillars for societal sustainable development and decarbonization.”

    Clean energy founder shares key takeaways from CERAWeek 2024

    guest column

    Earlier this month, thousands converged on Houston for one of the world’s largest energy conferences – CERAWeek 2024. For five days global leaders, CEOs, oil and gas experts, and the industry’s top stakeholders gathered to provide insight, and discuss solutions, to some of the biggest questions on the future of energy.

    Just this week, on the heels of the conference, it was hugely encouraging to see the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announce up to $6 billion for 33 projects across more than 20 states to decarbonize energy-intensive industries and reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement underscored the vitally important, and yet largely untapped role that industrial carbon capture must play in reaching the U.S.’s overall decarbonization goals. This must include significant point-source technology onsite at hard-to-abate industrial emitters like cement, metals and chemicals. The DOE announcement makes that priority clear, with the focus of the two largest grants for cement decarbonization projects going to carbon capture, each up to $500 million.

    This was one of the major takeaways at this year’s CERAWeek: despite the success of the IRA, if we are to achieve the rapid scaling required to tackle emissions coming from hard-to-abate sectors, and now is the time to move rapidly into deployment, beginning with carbon capture demonstrations at industrial sites. Through our work with Chevron on the development of a carbon capture pilot for our CycloneCC technology on a gas turbine in San Joaquin Valley, California, we are proud to be doing exactly that.

    While Carbon Clean has been active in the U.S. for several years, we chose to unveil our new Houston headquarters during last year’s CERAWeek, selecting the energy capital of the world for our U.S. home. With this increased focus on industrial decarbonization, the opportunities for carbon capture deployment in the U.S. – and more specifically Greater Houston – have significantly expanded. Since first opening the U.S. headquarters in Houston last year, we have grown our headcount by two-thirds and seen U.S. inquiries for our modular, point-source carbon capture solutions skyrocket by a further 59% (and this is after the initial leap in interest following the IRA’s passage).

    Still, while a lot has been accomplished over the past year, we recognize that a lot more needs to be done to meet the country’s net zero targets, particularly in the space of industrial decarbonization. This was another takeaway at this year’s CERAWeek, a recognition that many industrial leaders have adopted ambitious net-zero goals but have no plans for implementation.

    In conversations with many of this year’s conference attendees, one thing became abundantly clear: yes, the IRA was a breakthrough moment that provided key incentives for companies to enter the carbon capture space and develop the kinds of decarbonization technology that will reduce emissions. However, that only gets us half of the way there: we need to foster a market for the demand of clean industrial production, using the IRA as the vehicle to create that supply. Through the allocation of credits and increased pricing power, we can generate more demand from industrial emitters to embrace the kinds of technology that will enable them to reach net-zero.

    Another critical next step: when it comes to adopting local industrial carbon capture projects, accelerate permitting by letting the states decide for themselves. The EPA’s recent decision to grant Louisiana the power to approve carbon capture projects could open the door to a wave of new project applications and additional states seeking the same authority.

    If you want an example of a local economy poised to greatly benefit from expanded access to industrial carbon capture, look no further than Houston. With its energy expertise and local resources, Greater Houston is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of carbon capture’s promise, which will not only reduce the region’s emissions but grow jobs.

    A recent study by the EFI Foundation, supported by Carbon Clean, identified Houston as an ideal location for a new coordinated regional approach to industrial carbon capture hubs. Previously, most studies on deployment focused on decarbonizing large emitters - the EFI report is focused on small-to-midsize emitters, as they account for 25 percent of America’s industrial emissions but are often overlooked given the cost and space barriers that have historically been barriers to the mass adoption of industrial carbon capture units.

    Today, there are 311 facilities in the Houston cluster that fit the bill, representing 36.6 million metric tons of capturable CO2 emissions per year. Given that the region employs nearly a third of the nation’s jobs in oil and gas extraction alone, allowing multiple local emitters access to shared CO2 transport and storage would create a scalable solution at a lower cost. The business community should embrace the findings of this report, unlocking a key tool in combating local emissions, while also sustaining Houston’s workforce.

    This year’s CERAWeek occurred during an inflexion point in the U.S.’s conversation around decarbonization. While a lot of progress is underway, it is imperative that energy leaders and the business community fully leverage industrial carbon capture technology if they are serious about reducing emissions at the source. Failure to do so recalls the aphorism by Benjamin Franklin: "Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

    ———

    Aniruddha Sharma is the co-founder and CEO of Carbon Clean.