Looking back at top energy transition news from the year, a podcast to stream, and more of what to know going into the last week of 2023. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: looking back on top news from 2023, a podcast to stream, and more.

LYB acquires German plastic waste sourcing and engineering company

Houston-based LyondellBasell, rebranded recently to LYB, announced earlier this month that it has acquired a minority share in Source One GmbH, Leiferde, Germany, a plastic waste sourcing and engineering company, that specializes specifically in solutions for hard-to-recycle post-consumer plastic waste. This investment gives LYB access to Source One's engineering and plastic waste sourcing services, according to a news release.

"We are committed to support the growing demand of our customers for circular solutions," says Yvonne van der Laan, LyondellBasell executive vice president of Circular and Low Carbon Solutions, in the news release. “With the investment in Source One we are taking another important step to secure access to plastic waste for our recycling activities and to strengthen our Circulen product portfolio of material made from recyclable or renewable resources.”

Podcast: Moji Karimi of Cemvita talks COP28, growth of the company, and more

Moji Karimi, CEO and co-founder of Cemvita, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast last week before he had even recovered from jet lag to talk about his biggest takeaways from 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties, more commonly known as COP28.

"It was a pretty amazing experience," Karimi says, comparing the event to how CERAWeek has evolved to really have a strong presence in its innovation-focused track called Agora. "This year you had a massive section for innovation and sustainability. I think that will become a theme in COP29 and beyond to bring entrepreneurs, investors, and more participating in the event."

Karimi's three big observations are outlined here, as is the full podcast with him sharing more about Cemvita's growth this year.

LYB is building its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Germany. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

Global chemicals co. with Houston HQ to build industrial-scale recycling plant in Germany

seeing green

This month, LyondellBasell has announced it has officially pulled the trigger on a new recycling plant in Germany.

Dutch chemicals leader LYB, as the company has rebranded recently, has made its final investment decision to build its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Wesseling, Germany.

The project is reported to be the first "commercial scale, single-train advanced recycling plant to convert post-consumer plastic waste into feedstock for production of new plastic materials that can be ran at net zero GHG emissions," per LYB's news release.

The plant will utilize LYB's MoReTec technology, which targets difficult to recycle plastics like mixed or flexible materials, and have an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year. The amount expected to be recycled annually will equal plastic packaging waste generated by over 1.2 million German citizens per year.

"We are committed to addressing the global challenge of plastic waste and advancing a circular economy, and today's announcement is another meaningful step in that direction," says Peter Vanacker, LYB CEO, in the release. "Scaling up our catalytic advanced recycling technology will allow us to return larger volumes of plastic waste back into the value chain. By doing this, we will have the ability to produce more materials for high-quality applications, retaining value of plastics for as long as possible."

The plant's construction is anticipated to be done by the end of 2025. The majority of the sorted processed feedstock will be supplied by Source One Plastics, a joint venture of LYB and 23 Oaks Investments that formed in October 2022.

A few weeks ago, LYB purchased a 25 percent stake in a joint venture that seeks to accelerate advancements in plastic recycling. The joint venture, Cyclyx International, was formed in 2020 by Spring-based energy giant ExxonMobil and Tigard, Oregon-based plastic recycling innovator Agilyx.

In 2022, Cyclyx announced it had inked a deal with ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell to develop a first-of-its-kind plastic waste sorting and processing plant in the Houston area. The estimated $100 million facility, set to open in 2024, is poised to annually produce 330 million pounds of plastic feedstock, which is made up of recycled materials that can be used to manufacture new plastics.

Cruise pauses in Houston and beyond — and more things to know this week. Photo via Cruise/Facebook

Robotaxi put it in park, events not to miss, and other things to know in Houston energy transition news

get up to speed

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem: events not to miss, robotaxis take a break, and more.

Events this week

Don't miss these two events.

  • November 7-8: Hydrogen North America 2024 will host the hydrogen sector's thought leaders for a two-day event. Learn more.
  • November 8 — The Houston Innovation Awards will honor the city's startups, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem, including energy tech innovators. Learn more.

Cruise hits the brakes

Cruise launched in Houston in October. Photo courtesy of Cruise

Self-driving taxi service, Cruise, which recently launched in Houston, has put it in park for the time being, as TechCrunch reported last month.

The company's California permit was rescinded, and Cruise announced a national pause on its service in a statement.

"The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust. Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult," reads the statement. "In that spirit, we have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and reflect on how we can better operate in a way that will earn public trust. This is not related to any new on-road incidents, and our supervised AV operations will continue."

Meet LYB — and its latest sustainability deal

LyondellBasell has rebranded as LYB. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

LyondellBasell has rebranded as LYB, revealing a new logo, tagline, and visual identity.

“With our new strategy firmly in place, our employees are adopting new ways of working to generate innovative, value-enhancing solutions to support our goals,” Peter Vanacker, LYB's CEO, says in the release.

The Dutch company, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, also recently announced that it has purchased a 25 percent stake in a joint venture that seeks to accelerate advancements in plastic recycling.

LyondellBasell has rebranded as LYB. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

Houston chemical corporation rebrands to reflect the future of sustainability

introducing LYB

A Houston-headquartered chemicals business has launched its new brand identity that's aligning its purpose of “creating solutions for everyday sustainable living.”

LyondellBasell's rebrand includes a new logo, tagline, and visual identity. The chemicals company, which is known as LYB with the rollout, announced the rebranding this week.

“With our new strategy firmly in place, our employees are adopting new ways of working to generate innovative, value-enhancing solutions to support our goals,” Peter Vanacker, LYB's CEO, says in the release. “I am especially proud of our teams’ recent accomplishments. This includes accelerating our value enhancement program targets and increasing our access to circular and renewable feedstocks through the development of integrated recycling hubs centered in Houston, Texas and Cologne, Germany.

"I believe our new brand identity will inspire employees by giving them a visual representation of our vision for the future and a sense of unity toward our purpose and values," he continues.

LYB's new tagline is “Solutions for a better tomorrow,” which is meant to convey the company's dedication to manufacturing products within circular and low carbon economies across food packaging, health care, and transportation, and technologies.

The new branding is visible now on the company's website and social media platforms.



LYB Logo

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

ExxonMobil revs up EV pilot in Permian Basin

seeing green

ExxonMobil has upgraded its Permian Basin fleet of trucks with sustainability in mind.

The Houston-headquartered company announced a new pilot program last week, rolling out 10 new all-electric pickup trucks at its Cowboy Central Delivery Point in southeast New Mexico. It's the first time the company has used EVs in any of its upstream sites, including the Permian Basin.

“We expect these EV trucks will require less maintenance, which will help reduce cost, while also contributing to our plan to achieve net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions in our Permian operations by 2030," Kartik Garg, ExxonMobil's New Mexico production manager, says in a news release.

ExxonMobil has already deployed EV trucks at its facilities in Baytown, Beaumont, and Baton Rouge, but the Permian Basin, which accounts for about half of ExxonMobil's total U.S. oil production, is a larger site. The company reports that "a typical vehicle there can log 30,000 miles a year."

The EV rollout comes after the company announced last year that it plans to be a major supplier of lithium for EV battery technology.

At the end of last year, ExxonMobil increased its financial commitment to implementing more sustainable solutions. The company reported that it is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027.

Cowboys and the EVs of the Permian Basin | ExxonMobilyoutu.be

Energy industry veteran named CEO of Houston hydrogen co.

GOOD AS GOLD

Cleantech startup Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based energy biotech company Cemvita, has named oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as its CEO.

Sekhon previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess. Most recently, he was a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team.

Gold H2 uses microbes to convert oil and gas in old, uneconomical wells into clean hydrogen. The approach to generating clean hydrogen is part of a multibillion-dollar market.

Gold H2 spun out of Cemvita last year with Moji Karimi, co-founder of Cemvita, leading the transition. Gold H2 spun out after successfully piloting its microbial hydrogen technology, producing hydrogen below 80 cents per kilogram.

The Gold H2 venture had been a business unit within Cemvita.

“I was drawn to Gold H2 because of its innovative mission to support the U.S. economy in this historical energy transition,” Sekhon says in a news release. “Over the last few years, my team [at NextEra] was heavily focused on the commercialization of clean hydrogen. When I came across Gold H2, it was clear that it was superior to each of its counterparts in both cost and [carbon intensity].”

Gold H2 explains that oil and gas companies have wrestled for decades with what to do with exhausted oil fields. With Gold H2’s first-of-its-kind biotechnology, these companies can find productive uses for oil wells by producing clean hydrogen at a low cost, the startup says.

“There is so much opportunity ahead of Gold H2 as the first company to use microbes in the subsurface to create a clean energy source,” Sekhon says. “Driving this dynamic industry change to empower clean hydrogen fuel production will be extremely rewarding.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Q&A: CEO of bp-acquired RNG producer on energy sustainability, stability

the view from heti

bp’s Archaea Energy is the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) producer in the U.S., with an industry leading RNG platform and expertise in developing, constructing and operating RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low carbon fuel.

Archaea partners with landfill owners, farmers and other facilities to help them transform their feedstock sources into RNG and convert these facilities into renewable energy centers.

Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shared more about bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future.

HETI: bp completed its acquisition of Archaea in December 2022. What is the significance of this acquisition for bp, and how does it bolster Archaea’s mission to create sustainability and stability for future generations?  

Starlee Sykes: The acquisition was an important move to accelerate and grow our plans for bp’s bioenergy transition growth engine, one of five strategic transition growth engines. Archaea will not only play a pivotal role in bp’s transition and ambition to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner but is a key part of bp’s plan to increase biogas supply volumes.

HETI: Tell us more about how renewable natural gas is used and why it’s an important component of the energy transition?  

SS: Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a type of biogas generated by decomposing organic material at landfill sites, anaerobic digesters and other waste facilities – and demand for it is growing. Our facilities convert waste emissions into renewable natural gas. RNG is a lower carbon fuel, which according to the EPA can help reduce emissions, improve local air quality, and provide fuel for homes, businesses and transportation. Our process creates a productive use for methane which would otherwise be burned or vented to the atmosphere. And in doing so, we displace traditional fossil fuels from the energy system.

HETI: Archaea recently brought online a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Medora, Indiana. Can you tell us more about the launch and why it’s such a significant milestone for the company?  

SS:Archaea’s Medora plant came online in October 2023 – it was the first Archaea RNG plant to come online since bp’s acquisition. At Medora, we deployed the Archaea Modular Design (AMD) which streamlines and accelerates the time it takes to build our plants. Traditionally, RNG plants have been custom-built, but AMD allows plants to be built on skids with interchangeable components for faster builds.

HETI: Now that the Medora plant is online, what does the future hold? What are some of Archaea’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond?  

SS: We plan to bring online around 15 RNG plants in each of 2024 and 2025. Archaea has a development pipeline of more than 80 projects that underpin the potential for around five-fold growth in RNG production by 2030.

We will continue to operate around 50 sites across the US – including RNG plants, digesters and landfill gas-to-electric facilities.

And we are looking to the future. For example, at our Assai plant in Pennsylvania, the largest RNG plant in the US, we are in the planning stages to drill a carbon capture sequestration (CCS) appraisal well to determine if carbon dioxide sequestration could be feasible at this site, really demonstrating our commitment to decarbonization and the optionality in value we have across our portfolio.

HETI: bp has had an office in Washington, DC for many years. Can you tell us more about the role that legislation has to play in the energy transition? 

SS: Policy can play a critical role in advancing the energy transition, providing the necessary support to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We actively advocate for such policies through direct lobbying, formal comments and testimony, communications activities and advertising. We also advocate with regulators to help inform their rulemakings, as with the US Environmental Protection Agency to support the finalization of a well-designed electric Renewable Identification Number (eRIN) program.

HETI: Science and innovation are key drivers of the energy transition. In your view, what are some of most exciting innovations supporting the goal to reach net-zero emissions?  

SS: We don’t just talk about innovation in bp, we do it – and have been for many years. This track record gives us confidence in continuing to transform, change and innovate at pace and scale. The Archaea Modular Design is a great example of the type of innovation that bp supports which enables us to pursue our goal of net-zero emissions.

Beyond Archaea, we have engineers and scientists across bp who are working on innovative solutions with the goal of lowering emissions. We believe that we need to invest in lower carbon energy to meet the world’s climate objectives, but we also need to invest in today’s energy system, which is primarily hydrocarbon focused. It’s an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach, and we need both to be successful.

Learn more about Archaea and the work they are doing in energy transition.

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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.