Black Bayou Energy Hub is developing an underground energy storage facility near the Louisiana/Texas border on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Photo courtesy of Mercuria

A global independent energy and commodities group with its United States office in Houston has announced an investment in a Gulf Coast salt dome energy storage project.

Mercuria did not disclose its financial contribution into Lafayette, Louisiana-based Black Bayou Energy Hub LLC, but the company's support will go toward the development of the energy infrastructure of the large-scale, underground energy storage facility in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana, which is alongside the Texas border.

"Mercuria's investment in Black Bayou Energy Hub represents a significant step towards enhancing the resilience and flexibility of our energy infrastructure. This partnership leverages Mercuria's robust financial capabilities and extensive expertise in commodity markets, aligning with Black Bayou's strategic location and development potential," Boris Bystrov, managing director of investments at Mercuria, says in a news release.

"We are committed to supporting innovative projects like Black Bayou essential for transitioning to a sustainable global energy future," he continues. "Together, we aim to create a storage solution that addresses the dynamic needs of the energy sector, fostering stability and growth in the U.S. Gulf Coast region and beyond."

Located in Southwest Louisiana near what is called "LNG Alley," the Black Bayou Energy Hub will initially store FERC-regulated natural gas energy in its salt dome storage capacity, as well as develop wide range of energy products to meet growing customer need, per the release.

The strategic location of the facility — 25 miles on either side of growing cities Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Port Arthur, Texas — is just seven miles east of the Louisiana/Texas border and 18 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

"Mercuria's investment in the Black Bayou Energy Hub creates an ideal partnership that combines Mercuria's financial strength, extensive commodity experience, and global reach with Black Bayou's unique project attributes and the team's deep expertise developing, owning, and operating underground salt dome storage projects," adds Tad Lalande, Black Bayou's CEO. "We're thrilled to add Mercuria to our roster of existing sponsors, including Charlestown Energy Partners and Cameron Prairie Sporting Club, as we progress our development and bring this project to life."

With its local office in Houston's Greenway Plaza, Mercuria, founded in 2004, has pledged that over half of its new investments will go toward renewables and transitional energy.

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Houston-area company specializing in creating clean campuses announces new data center project

coming soon

A California AI infrastructure company has announced it's building a 200 megawatt data center in Texas and will work with The Woodlands-based Lancium, a decarbonization-focused energy technology company.

Crusoe Energy Systems LLC announced its plans to build the 200 MW data center at the Lancium Clean Campus outside Abilene, Texas. The two companies will work to bring the data center online in the coming months, reports Lancium in a news release. Once completed, the first phase will enable AI workloads at scale across 1.2 gigawatts of power capacity.

“Lancium’s mission to decarbonize compute for the most energy-intensive workloads and this scale and type of data center is game-changing,” Michael McNamara, co-founder and CEO of Lancium, says in the release. “Our energy management expertise, the integration of incremental storage and solar generation resources behind-the-meter at the campus, and Crusoe’s design approach will combine to deliver the maximum amount of green energy at the lowest possible cost, while bringing significant benefits to the Abilene community.”

Lancium's role will include "land acquisition, power interconnect, site engineering, renewables interconnect, and power orchestration," per the release. Crusoe will own and develop the data center, which is expected to go online in 2025.

“Data centers are rapidly evolving to support modern AI workloads, requiring new levels of high density rack space, direct-to-chip liquid cooling and unprecedented overall energy demands. We’ve designed this data center to enable the largest clusters of GPUs in the world to drive new breakthroughs in AI,” adds Chase Lochmiller, Crusoe’s co-founder and CEO. “Given its leadership in renewable energy and plans for the site, working with Lancium in Abilene presents a unique opportunity to sustainably power the future of AI and we’re thrilled to have the support of the city in this ambitious endeavor.”

According to the release, the project will feature direct-to-chip liquid cooling or rear-door heat exchangers and will be flexible enough to include air cooling. Once completed, each building within the data center will be able to operate up to 100,000 GPUs on a single integrated network fabric, according to the companies.

Lancium has raised $150 million since its founding in 2017, according to Crunchbase. Investors include Hanwha Solutions and SBI Group.

Houston clean hydrogen producer teams up with O&G for series of pilots

piling on pilots

Gold H2, a Houston-based producer of clean hydrogen, is teaming up with a major U.S.-based oil and gas company as the first step in launching a 12-month series of pilot projects.

The tentative agreement with the unnamed oil and gas company kicks off the availability of the startup’s Black 2 Gold microbial technology. The technology underpins the startup’s biotech process for converting crude oil into proprietary Gold Hydrogen.

The cleantech startup plans to sign up several oil and gas companies for the pilot program. Gold H2 says it’s been in discussions with companies in North America, Latin America, India, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The pilot program is aimed at demonstrating how Gold H2’s technology can transform old oil wells into hydrogen-generating assets. Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based biotech company Cemvita, says the technology is capable of producing hydrogen that’s cheaper and cleaner than ever before.

“This business model will reshape the traditional oil and gas industry landscape by further accelerating the clean energy transition and creating new economic opportunities in areas that were previously dismissed as unviable,” Gold H2 says in a news release.

The start of the Black 2 Gold demonstrations follows the recent hiring of oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as CEO.

“With the proliferation of AI, growth of data centers, and a national boom in industrial manufacturing underway, affordable … carbon-free energy is more paramount than ever,” says Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner at venture capital firm 8090 Industries, an investor in Gold H2. “We’re investing in Gold H2, as we know they’ll play a pivotal role in unleashing a new dawn for energy abundance in partnership with the oil industry.”

Column: Should companies pay for EV chargers for corporate fleets?

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As electric vehicles continue to rise in popularity among corporate fleets, the question of how to best accommodate charging needs for fleet drivers, especially those taking their vehicles home, is becoming increasingly important.

Charging EV fleet vehicles at home can be an excellent strategy to save employees time and cut operational costs. However, many companies hesitate in their take-home EV implementation, mistakenly believing that high-cost level 2 home chargers are a necessity. This misconception can stall the transition to an efficient, cost-effective fleet charging solution.

By taking a thoughtful approach to employees’ individual situations, fleet managers can design a take-home EV program that fits their drivers’ needs and benefits the company’s bottom line in the long run. Here are some essential points to consider:

The viability of level 1 charging for low-mileage drivers

For many fleet drivers, especially those covering less than 10,000 miles annually, the standard level 1 charger that plugs into a 120v (standard) wall outlet and comes with their EV is perfectly adequate. This solution involves no additional hardware costs, mitigates issues when employees leave the company, and reduces corporate liability concerns. The primary advantage of relying on level 1 charging is its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, as it requires no extra investment in charging infrastructure. By leveraging the charging cable provided with the vehicle, companies can minimize their financial outlay while still supporting their employees' charging needs effectively.

Opting for non-networked level 2 chargers for high-mileage drivers

For higher mileage drivers with faster charging needs, a non-networked level 2 charger represents a compelling option. In this scenario, the employee pays for the unit and the installation and is then reimbursed by the company. This approach has several benefits:

  • Tax Rebates and Incentives. Employees may qualify for various tax writeoffs and incentives that are not available to companies, making the installation of a level 2 charger more affordable.
  • Ownership and Choice. Employees select and own the charging port, choose the contractor and pay for installation, which limits corporate liability and cuts costs.
  • Home Value Enhancement. Installing a level 2 charger can increase the value of the employee's home, providing them with an additional benefit and easy access to charging.
  • Accurate Reimbursement Still Possible. Modern electric vehicles record charging data, eliminating the need to get this information from a smart charger. Software like ReimburseEV can connect the dots and calculate accurate usage, costs and reimbursement.

This approach offers a cost-effective, lower-liability solution that benefits both the company and the employee, making it an attractive option for higher-mileage drivers.

The drawbacks of company-owned and networked chargers

Installing company-owned chargers, especially networked ones, is arguably the least favorable option for several reasons:

  1. Increased costs and liability: The installation and maintenance of networked chargers significantly increases costs. Moreover, owning the charging infrastructure introduces liability concerns, especially regarding data security.
  2. Connectivity and compatibility Issues: Networked chargers can suffer from connectivity issues, leading to inaccurate charging data and other operating and compliance problems.
  3. Risk of fraud: Many smart chargers do not know which vehicle is plugged in. Thus, they also risk being used by non-fleet vehicles, further complicating cost and energy management.
  4. Brand lock-in: A number of networked chargers are tied to specific OEM brands, limiting the flexibility in vehicle selection and potentially locking the company into a less dynamic fleet vehicle mix.

The drawbacks associated with company-owned and networked chargers underline the importance of evaluating charging needs carefully and opting for solutions that offer flexibility, reduce liability, and control costs.

Decision tree for fleet managers

Fleet managers should consider a decision tree approach to determine the most suitable charging solution for their needs. This decision-making process involves assessing the annual mileage of fleet drivers, access to charging, the benefits of tax incentives, and considering the long-term implications of charger ownership and ongoing liabilities. By adopting a thoughtful, structured approach to at-home charging decision-making, fleet managers can identify the most cost-effective and efficient charging solutions that align with their company's operational goals, culture, and drivers' needs.

Transitioning to an EV fleet and providing robust at-home charging solutions for your EV fleet drivers need not be a big operational bottleneck requiring huge investments in home charging infrastructure and installation costs. By understanding the specific operational demands of your EV fleet vehicles and the unique circumstances of your EV fleet drivers, companies can implement effective, efficient at-home charging solutions that save time, reduce costs, and minimize liability, all while supporting employees' transition to electric mobility.

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David Lewis is the founder and CEO of MoveEV, an AI-powered EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric by accurately reimbursing for charging electric vehicles at home.