The rig stands 225 feet tall and extends 8,000 feet below the subsurface. Photo via exxonmobil.com

ExxonMobil announced this month that it has officially broken ground on a groundbreaking carbon dioxide storage site.

According to a release from the company, a new rig is currently being used to gather information about an underground site in Southeast Texas. The rig stands 225 feet tall, but more importantly extends 8,000 feet below the subsurface to investigate if the site is a safe place to store carbon underground.

“Everyone’s excited about this appraisal well because we’re literally breaking ground on a new chapter of our work to help reduce industrial emissions,” Joe Colletti, who oversees carbon capture and storage development along the Gulf Coast for Exxon, says in a statement.

Exxon plans to move the rig to other sites in the Gulf Coast in the future for clients Nucor Corp., CF Industries and Linde.

In the last year, Exxon has made agreements with these regional companies to store carbon captured from their operations.

  • Exxon agreed to transport and permanently store up to 2.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year from Linde’s hydrogen production facility in Beaumont, Texas when it launches in 2025.
  • Exxon agreed to store up to 2 million metric tons per year of CO2 captured from CF Industries’ ammonia plant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, starting in 2025.
  • Exxon agreed to capture, transport and store up to 800,000 metric tons per year of CO2 from Nucor’s direct reduced iron manufacturing site in Convent, Louisiana starting in 2026.

Together, the three agreements represent a total of 5 million metric tons per year that Exxon plans to transport and store for third-party customers.

“Our agreement with Nucor is the latest example of how we’re delivering on our mission to help accelerate the world's path to net zero and build a compelling new business,” Dan Ammann, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, says in a statement over the summer. “Momentum is building as customers recognize our ability to solve emission challenges at scale.”

In addition to the carbon storage agreements, the energy giant also completed the acquisition of Denbury Inc. this month in an all-stock transaction valued at $4.9 billion. The deal adds more than 1,300 miles, including nearly 925 miles of CO2 pipelines in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to Exxon's CO2 pipeline network.

The deal was first announced this summer.

The Houston energy transition ecosystem is primed for collaborative partnerships – but here's what to keep in mind. Photo courtesy of Digital Wildcatters

Addressing the need for collaboration in Houston's energy transition

Editor's note

When it comes to advancing the energy transition in Houston and beyond, experts seem to agree that collaborations between all major stakeholders is extremely important.

In fact, it was so important that it was the first panel of the second day of FUZE, an energy-focused conference put on by Digital Wildcatters. EnergyCapital HTX and InnovationMap were the event's media partners, and I, as editor of these news outlets, moderated the panel about collaborations.

I wanted to take a second to reflect on the conversation I had with the panelists earlier this week, as I believe their input and expertise — from corporate and nonprofit to startup and investing — was extremely valuable to the greater energy transition community.

Here were my three takeaways from the panel, titled "Collaborative Partnerships: Leveraging synergy in the energy sector."

Early-stage tech startups need bridges to cross their valleys.

The energy transition is a long game — and an expensive one, as Jane Stricker, executive director of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, explains on the panel. And, just like most startups, the path to commercialization and profitability is long — and definitely not promised.

"When you look at innovation and startups, the multiple valleys of death a startup will go through on their journey, we have to find more ways to bridge those valleys and get more technology to get up that mountain and to a place where it can be scaled," she says.

She explains that corporations aren't always good at innovating, but they are impactful about rolling out de-risked technology at a global scale. But the technology has to get to that point first, so it takes a much earlier intervention for corporates — or another entity, like incubators and accelerators — to help in that developmental process.

"In Houston we have the potential to build out that ecosystem — we already have a lot of pieces in place, so it's about connecting the dots," Stricker says. "It's only by all of the different parts of the ecosystem understanding what each other does and what unique role they play in the process that we can really leverage the strengths of each of them to help create those partnerships and opportunities."

As Amy Henry, CEO of EUNIKE Ventures explains, corporates have their own challenges.

"Energy companies themselves have their own valley of death, and from where they are sitting, that's why they need to collaborate," she says on the panel. "And now we're talking about an unprecedented rate of getting technology commercialized."

EUNIKE works as a go between for corporates — almost as an expansion for them, Henry explains, and they are facing a challenging time too.

"Energy companies are just not early adopters of technology," she says. "But they are also going through their own transformation. At the same time, you've had this huge knowledge leakage in terms of all the workforce reduction."

Startups and corporates speak a different language.

Moji Karimi has had several partnerships with corporations with his biotech startup Cemvita Factory, including a recent offtake agreement with United. For Karimi, it's about learning about your corporate partner.

"In partnerships, especially for startups, you need to understand what is the language of love for the company at time," he says on the panel. "Is it growth, is it perception and PR, is it deployment of capital, or is there a specific bottleneck that we can help remove."

For HETI, Striker says they hope to act as a translator between the two parties.

"How do we enable more connectivity between the companies that have a technology that may be of interest to the larger companies looking for a solution?" Striker explains of HETI's mission. "And how do we make sure industry is communicating opening and broadly?"

Now is the time for action.

For Karimi, the solution is simple: More action is needed.

"Generally, we just need to talk less and do more," he says of what he wants to see from corporates, adding that more checks need to be written.

Based on his own experience, Karimi says some corporates are better to work with than others. He says he prefers working with the companies that don't try to mix in their startup pilots with the "bread and butter" of the business.

"Everyone has so much on their plate," he says, giving the example of Oxy Low Carbon Ventures being an offshoot of Oxy's main business.

Karimi says corporates should think of their startup pilots as an opportunity to try something new and different — something they'd never be able to test internally.

David Maher, business development director of Americas at Linde, says now that there's been regulatory framework, Linde knows what to invest in. The company has a particular interest in hydrogen.

"Another big piece of it is scale," Maher says of what Linde thinks about when considering innovative partnerships. "What's great about Houston is we have density and scale already."

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Chevron, TotalEnergies back energy storage startup's $15.8M series A

money moves

A California startup that's revolutionizing polymer cathode battery technology has announced its series A round of funding with support from Houston-based energy transition leaders.

LiNova Energy Inc. closed a $15.8 million series A round led by Catalus Capital. Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, which has its US HQ in Houston, and Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures, also participated in the round with a coalition of other investors.

LiNova will use the funds with its polymer cathode battery to advance the energy storage landscape, according to the company. The company uses a high-energy polymer battery technology that is designed to allow material replacement of the traditional cathode that is made up of cobalt, nickel, and other materials.

The joint development agreement with Saft will have them collaborate to develop the battery technology for commercialization in Saft's key markets.

“We are proud to collaborate with LiNova in scaling up its technology, leveraging the extensive experience of Saft's research teams, our newest prototype lines, and our industrial expertise in battery cell production," Cedric Duclos, CEO of Saft, says in a news release.

CTV recently announced its $500 million Future Energy Fund III, which aims to lead on emerging mobility, energy decentralization, industrial decarbonization, and the growing circular economy. Chevron has promised to spend $10 billion on lower carbon energy investments and projects by 2028.

Houston innovation leaders secure SBA funding to start equitability-focused energy lab

trying for DEI

A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Texas-based Tesla gets China's initial approval of self-driving software

global greenlight

Shares of Tesla stock rallied Monday after the electric vehicle maker's CEO, Elon Musk, paid a surprise visit to Beijing over the weekend and reportedly won tentative approval for its driving software.

Musk met with a senior government official in the Chinese capital Sunday, just as the nation’s carmakers are showing off their latest electric vehicle models at the Beijing auto show.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Chinese officials told Tesla that Beijing has tentatively approved the automaker's plan to launch its “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD, software feature in the country.

Although it's called FSD, the software still requires human supervision. On Friday the U.S. government’s auto safety agency said it is investigating whether last year’s recall of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system did enough to make sure drivers pay attention to the road. Tesla has reported 20 more crashes involving Autopilot since the recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In afternoon trading, shares in Tesla Inc., which is based in Austin, Texas, surged to end Monday up more than 15% — its biggest one-day jump since February 2020. For the year to date, shares are still down 22%.

Tesla has been contending with its stock slide and slowing production. Last week, the company said its first-quarter net income plunged by more than half, but it touted a newer, cheaper car and a fully autonomous robotaxi as catalysts for future growth.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the news about the Chinese approval a “home run” for Tesla and maintained his “Outperform” rating on the stock.

“We note Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai since 2021 as required by regulators in Beijing,” Ives wrote in a note to investors. “If Musk is able to obtain approval from Beijing to transfer data collected in China abroad this would be pivotal around the acceleration of training its algorithms for its autonomous technology globally.”