Vibhu Sharma founded InnoVent Renewables to make a sustainable impact on tire waste. Photo courtesy

With over a billion cars currently on the road — each with four tires that will eventually end up discarded, one Houstonian is hoping to create the infrastructure to sustainably dispose of tire waste now and into the future.

Announced earlier this month, Vibhu Sharma founded InnoVent Renewables to establish production facilities that utilize a proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals.

In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Sharma explains his plans to sustainably impact the tire waste space and his vision for his company.

EnergyCapital: Why did you decide to expand the InnoVent brand to focus on renewable energy?

Vibhu Sharma: InnoVent Technology has been developing and implementing projects in renewable energy, chemicals, and oil and gas. Project examples include an EV battery chemical project for a $9 billion chemical company, municipal solid waste (MSW) to biogas, and of course pyrolysis of waste tires, plastics and biomass. Renewable energy is the calling of our time, and with our expertise in this area, we felt strongly that we must do more. With 1 billion waste tires disposed of every year, we wanted to focus on this vast opportunity, which led us to create a spin-off company called InnoVent Renewables, in order to specifically focus on innovative technologies such as pyrolysis of waste tires. We received overwhelming response from our investors and partners, and we're on our way to the first commercial production facility.

EC: Can you describe the process of converting the materials into fuel? How does it work?

VS: At a high level the process involves shredding of tires into small cubes, which are then fed into the main pyrolysis reactor. They're pre-heated enroute to the reactor, using the pyrolysis gas that's generated in the reactor. The reactor operates at a high temperature, and in the absence of oxygen, and decomposes the tires into various components. These are then separated using various techniques. The gases are treated to remove any sulfur, and then used to preheat the shredded tires. The pyrolysis oil (pyoil), which is one of the main products, is condensed out.

The pyoil is further processed to separate out higher value aromatics, and the remaining pyoil is equivalent to off-road diesel or fuel oil, and can be sold directly. The aromatic stream can be further processed or sold directly. It makes a great feed for petrochemical plants, or carbon black plants.

There are two solid products as well. These are recovered carbon black (rCB) and steel wire. Steel wire is separated from the rCB mix and can be sold directly. The rCB is further processed through a series of steps resulting in a high-quality powder which can be used to make tires, making it a completely circular product.

EC: Tell me about your expansion plan. Where are you hoping to grow the company and why in those particular regions?

VS: Our immediate plan is to build and start our commercial production facility in Monterrey, Mexico. Monterrey happens to be home to nearly 50 million waste tires. We are located very close to where the source is. We will set up our initial production train there, and leave room to expand to multiple parallel trains at the same site or nearby sites.

We have our own engineering and operations team in Monterrey, and we have access to modern infrastructure and resources, as this is a fast-growing city of 6 million people. In addition, we have close proximity to Texas for product distribution. Our next step will be to establish production facilities in Texas. We are based in Texas. Texas also has access to at least 50 million tires in landfills all across the state, and the state is taking significant measures to address this issue. We are already engaging with various entities here to plan our expansion site. Meanwhile we have been receiving high levels of interest from counties in Florida, California, as well as international sites in India and the Middle East to set up production facilities there. There are one billion waste tires disposed of every year, it's a huge opportunity. Some of these expansion decisions will depend on support from state governments, access to tires, cost of setting up the facility, etc.

EC: Do you plan on raising investment funding to reach these goals? If not, how will you be funded?

VS: We are fully funded for our first production site in Mexico. Based on our cash flow projections, we should be able to self-fund expansions at that site, and eventually add additional production trains. In order to accelerate our expansion at other sites, we intend to raise funds, with support from different states/counties in the USA where we decide to expand, and with support from investors. We are also open to strategic partners that can team up with us for the expansion both internationally and domestically.

EC:  In the long term, what's the impact you hope to make?

VS: Each production train of 15,000 tons that recycles 1 million passenger tires per year, can reduce CO2 emissions by 80 million pounds per year. Over the next five years, our goal is to get that target to 150,000 tons of recycling, which is 800 million pounds of CO2 emission reduction. That's a good impact to have, and a great way to drive renewable energy forward.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tired of slow tire decomposition? This Houston company has a solution. Photo via InnoVentRenewables.com

New Houston company launches to turn recycled materials into fuel

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Every year, over a billion tires are disposed of globally, and, while in use, tires are used to reach maximum speed on the road, their decomposition times are inordinately slow.

Houston-based InnoVent Renewables has a solution. The company launched this week to drive renewable energy forward with its proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals.

“We are thrilled to formally launch InnoVent Renewables and plan to ramp-up operations into early 2024," InnoVent Renewables CEO Vibhu Sharma says in a news release. “Our investors, strategic advisors, and management team are all fully committed to our success as we address the global challenge of waste tires. We firmly believe our proven process, deployed at scale globally, will have a huge positive impact on our climate and fill a clear environment need.”

While InnoVent Renewables has only just launched, Sharma has worked in the space for years with his company InnoVent Technology, a technology and consulting company working with clients on turnkey process technology and asset management solutions within the process and manufacturing industries.

During InnoVent's unique material breakdown process, its pyrolysis technology recovers chemicals from the products, and produces high-quality fuels — in in a net-zero capacity. The company's products include renewable pyrolysis oil, or PyOil; aromatics; recovered carbon black, or rCB; and steel wire. PyOil, according to InnoVent's website, can be sold as fuel oil, off-road diesel, or used as a feedstock to crude blending.

"The InnoVent team conducted product quality analysis in conjunction with a world renowned research facility and results were further validated and scaled up in 2022, using comprehensive process simulation software and pre-engineering design work for scale-up," reads the InnoVent website.

Headquartered in Houston, the company has operations in Pune, India, and Monterrey, Mexico, with plans for aggressive growth across North America and Latin America. Specifically, InnoVent is planning to open a commercial production plant in Monterrey next year. Down the road, the company's team hopes to expand in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.

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Houston company expands JV to build new power generation, storage assets

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Houston-based Conduit Power is broadening the scope of its joint venture with Oklahoma City-based Riley Exploration Permian.

Under this deal, the joint venture, RPC Power, will build power generation and storage assets for the sale of energy and related services to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the power grid for the bulk of Texas.

RPC Power, established in March 2023, owns and operates power generation assets that use Riley Permian’s natural gas to power its oilfield operations in Yoakum County, located in West Texas.

The expanded relationship will enable RPC Power to sell power and related services to ERCOT, with plans for 100 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation and battery energy storage systems across facilities in West Texas. The facilities are expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

In conjunction with the expanded scope, Riley Permian bumped up its stake in RPC Power from 35 percent to 50 percent. Furthermore, it plans to sell up to 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to RPC Power as feedstock supply for the new generation facilities.

"Our JV expansion at RPC Power represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are proud to build upon our successful partnership with Riley Permian,” Travis Windholz, managing director of Conduit, says in a news release.

Conduit, a portfolio company of private equity firm Grey Rock Investment Partners, designs, builds, and operates distributed power generation systems.

Riley Exploration Permian specializes in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves, primarily within the Permian Basin.

Elon Musk sees more resistance against his multibillion dollar pay package

just say no

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled about 30% this year.

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package. Shares at the time were up 571% since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9% fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Things to know: $17.5B oil acquisition, new accelerator focuses on sustainability, and more in Houston energy

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Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a podcast episode with a biotech leader, a very big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.


Big deal: ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $17.B in all-stock deal

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion as energy prices rise and big oil companies reap massive profits.

The deal to combine the two Houston-headquartered companies is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt.

Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. Oil majors put up record profits after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and while those numbers have slipped, there has been a surge in mergers between energy companies flush with cash. Continue reading.

Podcast to stream: Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about." Continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.