Lignium combats greenhouse gasses with a green fuel that boasts an enviably low carbon footprint. Photo courtesy of Lignium

In Houston, air pollution is usually more of an abstract concept than a harsh reality. But in parts of Chile, the consequences of heating homes with wet wood are catching up to residents.

“Given all the contamination, there are times kids aren’t allowed to go to school. The air pollution is really affecting people’s health,” says Agustín Ríos, COO of Lignium Energy.

Additionally, the methane and nitrous oxide produced by cattle farming are a problem. But Lignium Energy, an international company started in Chile and now headquartered in Houston’s Greentown Labs, has a solution that can solve both problems by upending the latter.

“There’s a lack of solutions with the problem of manure. Methane gases are destroying our planet,” says CEO and co-founder Enrique Guzmán. He goes on to say that most solutions currently being developed are expensive and complex. But not Lignium Energy’s method, invented by co-founder José Antonio Caraball.

Caraball has patented an extraordinarily simple concept. Lignium separates the solid from liquid excretions, then cleans the solid to generate a hay-like biomass. Biomass refers to organic matter that can be used as fuel. What Lignium makes from the cattle evacuations is a clean, odorless and highly calorific biomass.

Essentially, Lignium combats greenhouse gasses with a green fuel that boasts an enviably low carbon footprint. “Our process is very cheap and very simple. That’s why we are a great solution,” explains Guzmán.

Caraball, an industrial engineer, came up with the idea six years ago, says Guzmán. Five years ago, he began working with the company, one year ago, Guzmán and Ríos picked up and moved to Houston.

“We decided to move out of Chile due to market size,” says Ríos. However, the product is already being sold to consumers in its homeland.

Why Houston? The reason was twofold. As an energy company, Ríos says that they wanted to be in “the energy capital of the world.” But Texas is also one of the largest sites of cattle farming on the planet. Lignium prefers to work with farms with more than 500 head to optimize harvesting the waste that becomes biomass.

With that in mind, Lignium has partnered with Southwest Regional Dairy Center in Stephenville, Texas, a little more than an hour southwest of Fort Worth, a town known as the world’s rodeo capital. The facility is associated with Texas A&M, though Guzmán says Lignium is not officially associated with the university.

Guzmán says that the company is currently hiring a team member to help Lignium figure out commercial logistics, as well as four or five other Houstonians who will help them take their product to market in the United States, and eventually around the globe. For now, he predicts that they will be able to sell to consumers in this country by early next year, if not the fourth quarter of 2023.

“We are very committed to the solution because, at the end of the day, if we do good work with the company, we are sure we can give better conditions to the cattle industry,” says Guzmán. “Then we can make a big impact on a real problem.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Chevron backs carbon capture tech company in $45M investment round

fresh funding

Chevron New Energies has a new cleantech company in its portfolio.

Boulder, Colorado-based ION Clean Energy announces it has raised $45 million in financing. The round was led by Chevron New Energies with participation from New York-based Carbon Direct Capital. Founded in 2008, ION's carbon dioxide capture technologies lower costs and make CO2 capture a more viable option for hard-to-abate emissions.

“We have truly special solvent technology. It is capable of very high capture efficiency with low energy use while simultaneously being exceptionally resistant to degradation with virtually undetectable emissions. That’s a pretty powerful combination that sets us apart from the competition. The investments from Chevron and Carbon Direct Capital are a huge testament to the hard work of our team and the potential of our technology,” ION founder and Executive Chairman Buz Brown says in a news release. “We appreciate their collaboration and with their investments 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.”

The funding will go toward ION’s organizational growth and commercial deployment of its ICE-31 liquid amine carbon capture technology.

“We continue to make progress on our goal to deliver the full value chain of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) as a business, and we believe ION is a part of this solution. ION has consistent proof points in technology performance, recognition from the Department of Energy, partnerships with global brands, and a strong book of business that it brings to the relationship,” Chris Powers, vice president of CCUS and emerging with CNE, says in the release. “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. We believe collaborations like this are essential to our efforts to grow carbon capture on a global scale.”

With the new investment, the company announced that Timothy Vail will join the company as CEO. He previously was CEO of Arbor Renewable Gas and founder and CEO of G2X Energy Inc. He also serves as an Operating Partner for OGCI Climate Investments.

"With these investments, we are well positioned to grow ION into a worldwide provider of high-performance point source capture solutions,” Vail says. “This capital allows us to accelerate the commercial deployment of our carbon capture technology.”

LyondellBasell announces renewable energy power purchase agreement with German partner

power move

Houston-based chemical company LyondellBasell has agreed to secure 208 megawatts of renewable energy capacity from a solar park in Germany.

Under the 12-year deal, LyondellBasell will purchase about 210 gigawatt-hours of solar power each year from Germany-based Encavis Asset Management. That’s enough energy to power about 56,500 homes each year.

LyondellBasell aims to purchase at least half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The deal with Encavis will enable LyondellBasell to achieve more than 90 percent of that goal.

A report from BloombergNEF ranks LyondellBasell as the world’s third largest corporate buyer of clean energy, behind Amazon and Meta.

“This latest agreement will accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy across different sectors in Germany,” says Chris Cain, LyondellBasell’s senior vice president for net-zero transition strategy.

Construction of the solar park got underway in March, with completion set for next summer. The park’s total generating capacity for solar power will be 260 megawatts, which is enough to supply electricity to about 96,000 homes per year.

“Leveraging our industry know-how, we are committed to operating the solar park in an environmentally sustainable and economically profitable manner,” says Karsten Mieth, a spokesman for Encavis Asset Management.

Encavis Asset Management is a wholly owned subsidiary of Encavis, a large-scale producer of wind and solar power in Europe.

How the eclipse will test Texas' solar market, events not to miss, and more things to know in Houston energy

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, what to expect from the eclipse, and more.


Eyes on ERCOT amid eclipse

For three hours today, Texas' solar energy market will be affected by the solar eclipse. According to a report from the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, Texas ranks third in the U.S. for residential solar power generation, so the moon's interception to the sunlight can be a real test to ERCOT, which reported that they have worked with solar forecast vendors on what to expect from solar generation on the grid during the eclipse.

"As we did in preparation for the October 2023 eclipse, ERCOT is actively monitoring the forecasts and available dispatchable capacity for April 8," reads a statement from the organization's March report. "ERCOT will rely on Ancillary Services and other actions to posture the system as necessary during the eclipse to compensate for both the reduction and increase in solar generation on this day and maintain grid reliability. ERCOT has been engaging Market Participants so that they are prepared for the eclipse and expects sufficient generation to meet demand."

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.
  • Ally Energy is hosting its Unconference - Energy 2.0 on April 17 to explore the energy renaissance. Register.
  • The inaugural, student-led TEX-E Conference is taking place on April 19 at TMC's Helix Park. The event’s mission is to empower budding student entrepreneurs to advance their climatetech ventures and inspire industry leaders to support these groundbreaking startups coming out of Texas’ universities. Register.
  • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.

Really big deal: Shell's EV charging plans

As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report. Read the full story.