It's the first time the company has used EVs in any of its upstream sites, including the Permian Basin. Photo via exxonmobil.com

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

As the world becomes more reliant on renewable energy, artificial intelligence is proving to be a major game-changer. Photo via Getty Images

How AI technology is advancing a low-carbon future

the view from heti

In the midst of a continuously changing global energy landscape, industry experts, leading energy companies and corporations have rallied together for one common goal: to reach net zero by 2050. As the demand for energy increases, so does the urgency to develop more energy efficient technologies that reduce emissions.

As the world becomes more reliant on renewable energy, artificial intelligence is proving to be a major game-changer. AI is one of the world’s largest disruptors in tech to date with some tech giants pouring millions into research surrounding AI technologies.

While artificial intelligence may not be the first thing to come to mind when talking about the energy industry, it’s already proven its value in fueling the energy transition in multiple domains: improving renewable energy forecasting, grid operations, materials innovation and more. Companies like Accenture have shown how artificial intelligence can play a huge role in steering the energy transition toward a more efficient future.

As a technology services provider, Accenture bridges the gap between technology and human ingenuity to solve some of the world’s most complex issues. With more than 15 years of leadership in metaverse-related technology and more than 1,400 patents, the Accenture Metaverse team brings together metaverse-skilled professionals and market-leading capabilities across Accenture.

The Dublin, Ireland-based company recently announced plans to invest more than $3 billion in artificial intelligence and double its AI-related staff to accommodate demands. Accenture also plans to use generative AI for client work and launch an AI Navigator for Enterprise platform to help guide AI strategy, use cases, decision-making and policy.

With decades of investments and patents, Accenture is no stranger to AI. The company also recently introduced their Net Zero Metaverse, an immersive experience that allows users to explore the future of energy, at the third annual Future of Global Energy conference hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Energy Transition Initiative presented by Chevron. The innovative software system consists of multiple digital worlds including a Charge Stations of the Future, Energy Transition Igloo, a Space Lab and Hydrogen Heights, a renewable-powered neighborhood named after The Heights of Houston.

While Accenture is helping to shift to a more sustainable future, three ways that AI software has already transformed the way we generate, distribute and consume energy are through smart grids, optimized electricity consumption and electricity mobility.

Smart Grids
AI technology can help optimize the efficiency of smart grids, reducing the number of outages and mitigating impact for both residential and commercial customers. In its ability to analyze data collected by smart grids, AI can predict the demand of energy and adjust the flow of electricity accordingly.

Optimized electricity consumption
According to the World Economic Forum, reducing carbon emissions in buildings will be critical to achieving net zero emissions by 2050; buildings represent 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions. AI powered smart buildings and homes can help to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. With the ability to analyze data from sensors and other sources, AI software can identify patterns, predict equipment failures and maintenance needs and help building managers schedule maintenance repairs more efficiently.

Electricity mobility
According to the Congressional Budget Office, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States with CO2 emissions representing about 97% of the global warming potential of all greenhouse emissions. AI software plays a key role in monitoring driving conditions, speed and load levels predicting the most efficient way to use available energy. AI software also helps in safety management and aids in the race to a pollution-free eco-friendly environment.

While AI technology is still advancing, and there is uncertainty in its accuracy, this breakthrough technology is shaping the future of society offering new approaches to optimize energy systems’ operation and reliability.

Learn more about what companies like Accenture are doing with AI technologies.

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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.

Navigating the energy transition is a relay race, and the baton is in Houston, says this energy executive. Photo courtesy of SCS

O&G exec: Houston is where the future of energy is taking shape

Q&A

Earlier this month, a West Texas-based oilfield equipment provider announced that it was opening an office in the Ion Houston. It's all a part of the company's energy transition plan.

SCS Technologies, based in Big Spring, Texas, has a new strategy and innovation-focused office in the Ion, the company announced last week. The company, which provides CO2 capture measurement and methane vapor recovery equipment for the energy, industrial, and environmental sectors, also announced René Vandersalm as the new COO.

These are just the latest moves for the company as the world moves away from hydrocarbons and toward a greener future, CEO Cody Johnson tells EnergyCapital, explaining that he recognizes Houston has a role in the energy transition.

"This is a relay race – a race that has already started," he says. "Houston is the place where the baton will be handed off – it’s the place where the race is occurring. SCS Technologies is determined to be part of this solution dreamed of and planned in Houston and then executed in the Permian Basin, where we call home."

In an interview with EnergyCapital, Johnson weighs in on the new office and the future of his company.

EnergyCapital: How has SCS’s business evolved amid the energy transition?

CodyJohnson: SCS Technologies was founded to design and fabricate customized Lease Automated Custody Transfer units in the Permian Basin. These LACT units were used primarily to measure the quality and quantity of crude oil at all points of custody transfer. Essentially, SCS Technologies produced the premier "crude cash registers" for the Permian Basin.

As the oil and gas industry has adapted into the energy transition industry, our customers and the communities we operate in have a growing need for SCS Technologies to use our design and fabrication of measurement skids to measure the quality and quantity of CO2 or to design and fabricate methane — and other vent gases — Vapor Recovery Units. SCS Technologies’ design and fabrication expertise in measurement skids, pump skids, and compression skids, coupled with our Permian Basin based training and fabrication campus, ideally positioned us to answer the call to fill the expertise and capacity gap.

EC: How are you preparing for the future of energy?

CJ: Society has been powered for the past 100 years or so by the management of hydrocarbon molecules. The essential tools for that have been and continue to be oil rigs, pipelines, and refineries in large part. This has given society many benefits but at a price to the environment that isn’t sustainable. Over the next 50 years, society will complete a transition away from managing hydrocarbon molecules and towards managing electrons. Those electrons are created by wind, solar, geothermal, or nuclear processes and travel down copper wires. Managing this transition that is already occurring and working together to do it in the near-term future of energy.

As we execute this transition over the next several decades from managing molecules to managing electrons to provide energy, molecule management companies must find ways to reach net zero emissions in their management practices. This means primarily capturing and managing methane vapors and capturing and sequestering CO2. This is starting in 2023 in a meaningful way and needs to continue past 2030 and probably past 2050 to have any chance to meet the globally shared social goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and stay below a maximum increase of 1.5 degrees C in global temperatures.

The clock is ticking, and we are behind. The largest molecule management infrastructure investment in history must happen for us to reach these goals. It's mission-critical as one of the three things we simply cannot fail at to achieve net zero by 2050. SCS Technologies is very focused on being an intentional part of the tremendous supply chain buildout to support the infrastructure buildout.

EC: How does the new office in the Ion support these plans?


CJ: SCS Technologies needs to collaborate with the brightest minds working on the energy transition challenges. To contribute meaningfully to the overall effort and to be the thought leader in the methane vapor recovery and CO2 compression and measurement niche, we need to be at the heart of the energy transition collaboration community. That beating heart is the Ion in Houston.

EC: What role does your new COO, René Vandersalm, play in SCS evolving with the energy transition?


CJ: René is a proven executive in growing mission-critical design and fabrication capacity without sacrificing quality. René’s experience, capabilities, and global network will play a key role in our path forward.

EC: Based in West Texas, SCS has a growing presence in Houston. Why do you see Houston as a leader in the energy transition?

CJ: West Texas has an amazing group of oil and gas professionals and infrastructure. We are proud of that heritage and will always maintain our roots and foundation there. Houston has the only community of engineers, scientists, universities, companies, investors, and key professional service providers that can deliver on the buildout of the molecule management infrastructure required to buy the electron management infrastructure folks time to transition fully to green energy after 2050.

This is a relay race – a race that has already started. Houston is the place where the baton will be handed off – it’s the place where the race is occurring. SCS Technologies is determined to be part of this solution dreamed of and planned in Houston and then executed in the Permian Basin, where we call home.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The world can't keep on with what it's doing and expect to reach its goals when it comes to climate change. Radical innovations are needed at this point, writes Scott Nyquist. Photo via Getty Images

Only radical innovation can get the world to its climate goals, says this Houston expert

guest column

Almost 3 years ago, McKinsey published a report arguing that limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels was “technically achievable,” but that the “math is daunting.” Indeed, when the 1.5°C figure was agreed to at the 2015 Paris climate conference, the assumption was that emissions would peak before 2025, and then fall 43 percent by 2030.

Given that 2022 saw the highest emissions ever—36.8 gigatons—the math is now more daunting still: cuts would need to be greater, and faster, than envisioned in Paris. Perhaps that is why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted March 20 (with “high confidence”) that it was “likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century.”

I agree with that gloomy assessment. Given the rate of progress so far, 1.5°C looks all but impossible. That puts me in the company of people like Bill Gates; the Economist; the Australian Academy of Science, and apparently many IPCC scientists. McKinsey has estimated that even if all countries deliver on their net zero commitments, temperatures will likely be 1.7°C higher in 2100.

In October, the UN Environment Program argued that there was “no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place” and called for “an urgent system-wide transformation” to change the trajectory. Among the changes it considers necessary: carbon taxes, land use reform, dietary changes in which individuals “consume food for environmental sustainability and carbon reduction,” investment of $4 trillion to $6 trillion a year; applying current technology to all new buildings; no new fossil fuel infrastructure. And so on.

Let’s assume that the UNEP is right. What are the chances of all this happening in the next few years? Or, indeed, any of it? President Obama’s former science adviser, Daniel Schrag, put it this way: “ Who believes that we can halve global emissions by 2030?... It’s so far from reality that it’s kind of absurd.”

Having a goal is useful, concentrating minds and organizing effort. And I think that has been the case with 1.5°C, or recent commitments to get to net zero. Targets create a sense of urgency that has led to real progress on decarbonization.

The 2020 McKinsey report set out how to get on the 1.5°C pathway, and was careful to note that this was not a description of probability or reality but “a picture of a world that could be.” Three years later, that “world that could be” looks even more remote.

Consider the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter. In 2021, 79 percent of primary energy demand (see chart) was met by fossil fuels, about the same as a decade before. Globally, the figures are similar, with renewables accounting for just 12.5 percent of consumption and low-emissions nuclear another 4 percent. Those numbers would have to basically reverse in the next decade or so to get on track. I don’t see how that can happen.

No alt text provided for this image

Credit: Energy Information Administration

But even if 1.5°C is improbable in the short term, that doesn’t mean that missing the target won’t have consequences. And it certainly doesn’t mean giving up on addressing climate change. And in fact, there are some positive trends. Many companies are developing comprehensive plans for achieving net-zero emissions and are making those plans part of their long-term strategy. Moreover, while global emissions grew 0.9 percent in 2022, that was much less than GDP growth (3.2 percent). It’s worth noting, too, that much of the increase came from switching from gas to coal in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; that is the kind of supply shock that can be reversed. The point is that growth and emissions no longer move in lockstep; rather the opposite. That is critical because poorer countries are never going to take serious climate action if they believe it threatens their future prosperity.

Another implication is that limiting emissions means addressing the use of fossil fuels. As noted, even with the substantial rise in the use of renewables, coal, gas, and oil are still the core of the global energy system. They cannot be wished away. Perhaps it is time to think differently—that is, making fossil fuels more emissions efficient, by using carbon capture or other technologies; cutting methane emissions; and electrifying oil and gas operations. This is not popular among many climate advocates, who would prefer to see fossil fuels “stay in the ground.” That just isn’t happening. The much likelier scenario is that they are gradually displaced. McKinsey projects peak oil demand later this decade, for example, and for gas, maybe sometime in the late 2030s. Even after the peak, though, oil and gas will still be important for decades.

Second, in the longer term, it may be possible to get back onto 1.5°C if, in addition to reducing emissions, we actually remove them from the atmosphere, in the form of “negative emissions,” such as direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage in power and heavy industry. The IPCC itself assumed negative emissions would play a major role in reaching the 1.5°C target; in fact, because of cost and deployment problems, it’s been tiny.

Finally, as I have argued before, it’s hard to see how we limit warming even to 2°C without more nuclear power, which can provide low-emissions energy 24/7, and is the largest single source of such power right now.

None of these things is particularly popular; none get the publicity of things like a cool new electric truck or an offshore wind farm (of which two are operating now in the United States, generating enough power for about 20,000 homes; another 40 are in development). And we cannot assume fast development of offshore wind. NIMBY concerns have already derailed some high-profile projects, and are also emerging in regard to land-based wind farms.

Carbon capture, negative emissions, and nuclear will have to face NIMBY, too. But they all have the potential to move the needle on emissions. Think of the potential if fast-growing India and China, for example, were to develop an assembly line of small nuclear reactors. Of course, the economics have to make sense—something that is true for all climate-change technologies.

And as the UN points out, there needs to be progress on other issues, such as food, buildings, and finance. I don’t think we can assume that such progress will happen on a massive scale in the next few years; the actual record since Paris demonstrates the opposite. That is troubling: the IPCC notes that the risks of abrupt and damaging impacts, such as flooding and crop yields, rise “with every increment of global warming.” But it is the reality.

There is one way to get us to 1.5°C, although not in the Paris timeframe: a radical acceleration of innovation. The approaches being scaled now, such as wind, solar, and batteries, are the same ideas that were being discussed 30 years ago. We are benefiting from long-term, incremental improvements, not disruptive innovation. To move the ball down the field quickly, though, we need to complete a Hail Mary pass.

It’s a long shot. But we’re entering an era of accelerated innovation, driven by advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning that could narrow the odds. For example, could carbon nanotubes displace demand for high-emissions steel? Might it be possible to store carbon deep in the ocean? Could geo-engineering bend the curve?

I believe that, on the whole, the world is serious about climate change. I am certain that the energy transition is happening. But I don’t think we are anywhere near to being on track to hit the 1.5°C target. And I don’t see how doing more of the same will get us there.

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Scott Nyquist is a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company and vice chairman, Houston Energy Transition Initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership. The views expressed herein are Nyquist's own and not those of McKinsey & Company or of the Greater Houston Partnership. This article originally ran on LinkedIn.

There's no silver bullet for clean energy. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach, writes Scott Nyquist. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: When it comes to the future of energy and climate, think 'all of the above'

guest column

People in the energy industry don’t have the Oscars. For us, the big event of the year is CERAWeek — a conference stuffed with CEOs, top policymakers, and environmental and energy wonks held annually in March.

CERAWeek 2022, with the theme“Pace of Change: Energy, Climate, and Innovation," meant the return of in-person activations, panels, and networking. Walking and talking between sessions and around the coffee table, it occurred to me that the unofficial theme of the event was “Maybe now we can find middle ground on energy.” This idea came up time and time again, from all kinds of people.

As with too many other issues, the discussion of the future of US energy has become polarized. On one end of the spectrum are those who want everything renewable and/or electrified by ….. last week, whatever the cost. Their mantra for fossil fuels: “Keep them in the ground.”

On the other end, are those who dismiss climate change, saying we can always adapt and that it doesn’t much matter, anyway. Just keep digging and drilling and mining as we have always done. And in the middle are the great majority of Americans who are not passionate either way, but want to be responsible consumers, and also to be able to visit grandma without breaking the bank.

I believe that the transition toward an energy system that is cleaner and less reliant on fossil fuels is realand will ultimately bring substantial benefits. At the same time, I believe that energy security and economics also matter. At a time when inflation was already running high, paying an average of $4.25 a gallon at the pump is piling pain on tens of millions of US households. Ultimately, over decades, the use of electric vehicles will reduce the need for oil and that lower-emissions sources, including renewables, will provide a larger share of the power supply, which today depends largely on gas and coal. But that moment is not now, or next week. Indeed, fossil fuels continue to account for almost 80 percent of US primary energy consumption, and a similar figure globally.

Here is one way to think about the interplay between the energy transition and energy security: “We need an energy strategy for the future—an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” No, that isn’t some apologist for Big Oil; it was President Obama. In 2014, the Obama White House also noted the role of US domestic oil and gas production in enhancing economic resilience and reducing vulnerability to oil shocks. In short, the White House argued, US oil and gas production can bring real benefits for the country. I think that is still true.

Does that mean throwing in the towel on the energy transition and climate change? Absolutely not. There are a variety of ways to pursue the goal of reducing emissions and eventually getting to net-zero emissions. I’ve touched on many of them in previous posts—including reducing methane emissions,pricing carbon, hydrogen, renewables, electric vehicles, urban planning, carbon capture, and negative emissions technologies. In other words, an “all of the above strategy” makes sense in this regard, too.

I don’t know how, or if, a middle ground can be captured. But from what I heard at CERAWeek last year, from people of otherwise widely divergent views, there just may be momentum to get there. A middle-ground consensus rests on three premises. First, we need fossil fuels for energy security and reliability now and until the time when technologies are in place to secure the energy transition. Second, at the same time, we need to be investing in the energy transition because climate change is real and matters. And third, for sustained and systematic progress, government and industry need to work together.

Or, in a phrase, “all of the above.”

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Scott Nyquist is a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company and vice chairman, Houston Energy Transition Initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership. The views expressed herein are Nyquist's own and not those of McKinsey & Company or of the Greater Houston Partnership. This article originally ran on LinkedIn.

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ExxonMobil's $60B acquisition gets FTC clearance — with one condition

M&A moves

ExxonMobil's $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission, but the former CEO of Pioneer was barred from joining the new company's board of directors.

The FTC said Thursday that Scott Sheffield, who founded Pioneer in 1997, colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ to potentially raise crude oil prices. Sheffield retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, served as CEO from 2021 to 2023, and continues to serve on the board. Since Jan. 1, he has served as special adviser to the company’s chief executive.

“Through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications while at Pioneer, Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” according to the FTC. It proposed a consent order that Exxon won't appoint any Pioneer employee, with a few exceptions, to its board.

Dallas-based Pioneer said in a statement it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing of the merger, which was announced in October 2023.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe that the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “disappointing that FTC is making the same mistake they made 25 years ago when I warned about the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1999.”

Schumer and 22 other Democratic senators had urged the FTC to investigate the deal and a separate merger between Chevron and Hess, saying they could lead to higher prices, hurt competition and force families to pay more at the pump.

The deal with Pioneer vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin, a huge oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.

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.