The projects are among 16 other early-stage research projects at U.S. colleges and universities to receive a total of $17.4 million from the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Three projects from the University of Houston have been awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for research on decarbonization and emissions.

The projects are among 16 other early-stage research projects at U.S. colleges and universities to receive a total of $17.4 million from the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).

“These three projects show the relevance and quality of the research at UH and our commitment to making a meaningful impact by addressing society’s needs and challenges by doing critical work that impacts the real world,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a statement. “The success of these project could attract investment, create jobs, produce clean energy, save costs, reduce carbon emissions, and benefit not only the greater Houston area, but the Gulf Coast and beyond.”

The projects were selected under FECM’s University Training and Research program, which aims to support "research and development opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities and tap into the innovative and diverse thinking of student researchers," according to an announcement from the DOE.

Here are the projects from UH and their funding amounts:

A Comprehensive Roadmap for Repurposing Offshore Infrastructure for Clean Energy Projects in the Gulf of Mexico, $749,992 — Led by Ram Seetharam, UH Energy program officer, this project looks at ways to prolong the life of platforms, wells and pipelines in the Gulf Coast and will create a plan "covering technical, social, and regulatory aspects, as well as available resources," according to UH.

Houston Hydrogen Transportation Pilot, $750,000— Led by Christine Ehlig-Economides, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen, and managed by Joe Powell, this project will demonstrate the potential for a hydrogen refueling pilot in Houston. The first phase will create a system to optimize hydrogen and the second will create a workforce training network. The project is in collaboration with Prairie View A&M University.

Synergizing Minority-Serving Institution Partnerships for Carbon-Negative Geologic Hydrogen Production, $1.5 million — This project is in collaboration with Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and Texas Tech. The project will create a visiting scholars program for students from UH and TTU, who will spend one month per year at Stanford for three years. While in the program, students will focus on creating carbon-negative hydrogen from rocks beneath the Earth's surface. Kyung Jae Lee, associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at UH, is working alongside colleagues at TTU and Stanford on this project.

Other projects in the group come from the University of Texas at El Paso, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Tennessee State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Duke University and more.

Last year the DOE also awarded $2 million to Harris and Montgomery counties for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region. Click here to read about those projects.

The DOE also granted more than $10 million in funding to four carbon capture projects with ties to Houston last summer.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Two UH-affiliated organizations scored DOE funding for advancing superconductivity projects. Photo courtesy of UH

University of Houston pockets $5M in DOE funding for superconductivity projects

taking on tape

A program within the U.S. Department of Energy has deployed $10 million into three projects working on superconducting tape innovation. Two of these projects are based on research from the University of Houston.

The DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, issued the funding through its Novel Superconducting Technologies for Conductors Exploratory Topic. Superconductivity — found only in certain materials — is a focus point for the DOE because it allows for the conduction of direct electric current without resistance or energy loss.

The demand for HTS, or high-temperature superconducting, tapes has risen as the country moves toward net-zero energy, driving up the cost of the materials, which are manufactured outside of the U.S. Here's where the DOE wants to help.

“If we can improve superconductors and manufacture them here in the United States, we can ultimately speed up the energy transition through enabling cost savings, faster production, and improved capability,” ARPA-E Director Evelyn N. Wang says in the DOE press release. “The teams [selected] will all pursue ARPA-E’s mission to lower emissions, bolster national security, increase energy independence and improve energy efficiency through their critical research.”

Selva Research Group, a team from UH focused on scaling HTS tape production and led by Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, received a $2 million grant.

“Even though our superconducting tape is three times better than today’s industry products, for us to be able to take it to full-scale commercialization, we need to produce it faster and at a lower cost while maintaining its high quality,” Selvamanickam says in a UH press release. “This funding is to address this challenge and it’s an important step forward towards commercialization of our technology.”

The other UH-based team is MetOx Technologies, which secured $3 million in funding to support the advancement of its proprietary manufacturing technology for its HTS wire. Co-founded in 1998 by Alex Ignatiev, UH professor emeritus of physics and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, who also serves as the company’s chief science officer, MetOx plans to open its new manufacturing facility by the end of the year.

“This ARPA-E funding not only allows MetOx to advance its HTS wire fabrication process that I developed at UH, but also signifies the DOE’s recognition that MetOx is important,” Ignatiev says in the release. “The cost-effective HTS product that MetOx is developing at scale is critical to the national and global application of HTS for the world’s energy needs.”

The ARPA-E funding emphasizes the need for advancement of HTS tape innovation, and UH-affiliated groups receiving two of the three grants indicates the school is a leader in the space — something UH Vice President for Energy and Innovation Ramanan Krishnamoorti is proud of.

“These awards recognize the relevance and quality of the research at UH and our commitment to making a meaningful impact by addressing society’s needs and challenges by transitioning innovations out of research labs and into the real world,” Krishnamoorti says in the release.

High-temperature superconducting tapes have a high potential in the energy transition. Photo courtesy of UH

The PhD and doctoral students will each receive a one-year $12,000 fellowship, along with mentoring from experts at UH and Chevron. Photo via UH.edu

University of Houston names first group of Chevron-backed fellows

meet the chosen ones

The University of Houston has named eight graduate students to its first-ever cohort of UH-Chevron Energy Graduate Fellows.

The PhD and doctoral students will each receive a one-year $12,000 fellowship, along with mentoring from experts at UH and Chevron. Their work focuses on energy-related research in fields ranging from public policy to geophysics and math. The fellowship is funded by Chevron.

“The UH-Chevron Energy Fellowship program is an exciting opportunity for our graduate students to research the many critical areas that impact the energy industry, our communities and our global competitiveness,” Ramanan Krishnamoortil UH's Vice President for Energy and Innovation says in a statement.

“Today’s students not only recognize the importance of energy, but they are actively driving the push for affordable, reliable, sustainable and secure energy and making choices that clearly indicate that they are meaningfully contributing to the change,” he continues.

“We love that Chevron is sponsoring this group of fellows because it’s a fantastic way for us to get involved with the students who are working on some of the biggest problems we’ll face in society,” Chevron Technology Ventures President Jim Gable adds.

The 2023 UH-Chevron Energy Graduate Fellows are:

Kripa Adhikari, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering. Her work focuses on thermal regulation in enhanced geothermal systems. She currently works under the mentorship of Professor Kalyana Babu Nakshatrala and previously worked as a civil engineer with the Nepal Reconstruction Authority.

AparajitaDatta, a researcher at UH Energy and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science. Her work focuses on the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a redistributive welfare policy designed to help households pay their energy bills. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in India, and master’s degrees in energy management and public policy from UH. She also recently worked on a paper for UH about transportation emissions.

ChiragGoel, a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering at UH. His work focuses on using High Temperature Superconductors (HTS) to optimize manufacturing processes, which he says can help achieve carbon-free economies by 2050. The work has uses in renewable energy generation, electric power transmission and advanced scientific applications.

MeghanaIdamakanti, a third-year Ph.D. student in the William A. Brookshire Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her work focuses on using electrically heated steam methane for cleaner hydrogen production. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India in 2020 and previously worked as a process engineering intern at Glochem Industries in India.

ErinPicton, an environmental engineering Ph.D. student in the Shaffer Lab at UH. Her work focuses on ways to increase the sustainability of lithium processing and reducing wasted water and energy. “I love the idea of taking waste and turning it into value,” she said in a statement. She has previously worked in collaboration with MIT and Greentown Labs, as chief sustainability officer of a Houston-based desalination startup; and as a visiting graduate researcher at Argonne National Lab and at INSA in Lyon, France.

Mohamad Sarhan, a Ph.D. student and a teaching assistant in the Department of Petroleum Engineering. His work focuses on seasonal hydrogen storage and the stability of storage candidates during hydrogen cycling. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from Cairo University

Swapnil Sharma, a Ph.D. student in the William A. Brookshire Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His work has been funded by the Department of Energy and focuses on thermal modeling of large-scale liquid hydrogen storage tanks. He works with Professor Vemuri Balakotaiah. He holds bachelor's and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He also developed one of the world’s highest fiber-count optical fiber cables while working in India and founded CovRelief, which helped millions of Indians find resources about hospital beds, oxygen suppliers and more during the pandemic.

LarkinSpires, who's working on her doctoral research in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Her work focuses on a semi-empirical Brown and Korringa model for fluid substitution and the ties between geophysics and mathematics. She works under Professor John Castagna and holds a bachelor’s degree in math from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in geophysics from UH.

Earlier this month Evolve Houston also announced its first-ever cohort of 13 microgrant recipients, whose work aims to make EVs and charging infrastructure more accessible in some of the city's more underserved neighborhoods.

The first phase of the Pelican Gulf Coast Carbon Removal project recently received nearly $4.9 million in grants. Photo via Getty Images

Louisiana DAC project supported by UH, Shell gets $4.9M in funding

closer look

The University of Houston is spilling details about its role in a potential direct air capture, or DAC, hub in Louisiana.

The first phase of the Pelican Gulf Coast Carbon Removal project recently received nearly $4.9 million in grants, including almost $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. Led by Louisiana State University, the Pelican consortium includes UH and Shell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston.

The funding will go toward studying the feasibility of a DAC hub that would pull carbon dioxide from the air and either store it in deep geological formations or use it to manufacture various products, such as concrete.

“This support of development and deployment of direct air capture technologies is a vital part of carbon management and allows us to explore sustainable technological and commercial opportunities,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a news release.

Chemical engineer Joseph Powell, founding executive director of the university’s Energy Transition Institute, will be the primary leader of UH’s work on the Pelican project.

“DAC can be an important technology for addressing difficult-to-decarbonize sectors such as aviation and marine transport as well as chemicals, or to achieve negative emissions goals,” Powell says.

Powell, a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, was Shell’s first-ever chief scientist for chemical engineering from 2006 until his retirement in 2020. He joined Shell in 1988.

Shell is the Pelican project’s “technical delivery partner.”

“Advancing carbon management technologies is a critical part of the energy transition, and effectively scaling this technology will require continued collaboration, discipline, and innovation,” says Adam Prince, general manager of carbon capture storage strategy and growth at Shell.

One of the biggest obstacles to Texas' net-zero goals is its transportation sector, according to Houston research. Photo via UH.edu

Houston researchers: Texas to face gridlock challenges with reducing emissions in transportation

highway hiccup

A new report found that one of Texas' biggest roadblocks with reducing emissions is its transportation sector.

In its white paper series, the University of Houston's energy researchers found that — unless something changes — the Lone Star State is not likely to hit its carbon neutrality goals by 2050 within the transportation sector.

“What would it take to make the Texas transportation sector net zero by 2050?” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH vice president for energy and innovation, says in a news release. “The answer is a miracle, policy interventions that start as soon as possible, and somewhere between 30 to 50 billion dollars of public money between now and 2050 and at least an equal match from the private sector.”

According to the Net Zero in Texas: The Role of Transportation report, over 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide gas is released from Texas roads each year. By 2050, estimates show that the remaining gasoline and diesel vehicles on the road will still be contributing about 40 million metric tons of emissions. Krishnamoorti collaborated with UH Energy researcher Aparajita Datta on a white paper.

“The future is crucial not only for Texas, where carbon emissions hinge on transportation solutions but also for our nation. Emissions transcend state lines and considering the size of Texas, its growing population and strong industry, the impact is significant,” Krishnamoorti adds.

Some of the challenges the state faces, per the report, hinge on electric vehicle adoption, which has been slow for a variety of reasons. One is the lack of EV production materials, such as lithium, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite, due to increased demand, which is slated to be increased by 140 to 500 percent.

The EV workforce development also poses a challenge. Right now, hourly wages in the traditional auto sector range from $26 to $60, but most jobs in the EV industry, which are not unionized, range from $17 to $21 per hour.

The call for EV infrastructure is also estimated to be high. Per a news release about the report, "the change will require an annual expenditure of $250 million to $640 million for Level-2 (L2) charging stations and between $500 million and $1.3 billion for DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations in 2040."

The transition will include an addition of 40,000 and 180,000 jobs in Texas between now and 2050, as well as an estimated $104 billion addition in public health benefits for Texans – fewer deaths, fewer asthma attacks and fewer sick days, according to the study.

“It is evident that decarbonizing Texas’ transportation sector will be a significant challenge and relying solely on consumer behavior to change is unrealistic,” Krishnamoorti says in the release. “We need robust policies to drive the state’s transportation electrification. Let’s acknowledge the journey ahead; federal mandates alone will not guide us to net zero by 2050. Texas needs to act now.”

The University of Houston has received a grant from the Baker Hughes Foundation. Photo via UH.edu

University's energy transition hub scores $100,000 grant from energy corporation

just gifted

A Houston school is cashing in a major gift from a local energy company in order to support the industry's future workforce, research, and more.

The University of Houston Energy Transition Institute received a $100,000 grant from the Baker Hughes Foundation this week, which will work towards the ETI’s goals to support workforce development programs, and environmental justice research.

The program addresses the impact of energy transition solutions in geographical areas most-affected by environmental impacts.

“We are proud to support the University of Houston in its environmental justice research and workforce development programs; at Baker Hughes, we strive to take energy forward, and are committed to a fair and just energy transition,” says Chief Sustainability Officer Allyson Book in a news release. “Novel educational approaches centered around social, climate and environmental justice are crucial to creating a sustainable future for generations to come.”

The grant aims to help ETI in analyzing environmental footprints of energy use processes, energy use processes, impact on health, and emissions, as well as support the university’s Energy Scholars Program, which focuses on research programs on carbon management, hydrogen, and circular plastics for undergraduate students.The donation also supports Baker Hughes’ work with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that work to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education for all.”

“We look forward to working with the Baker Hughes Foundation to address grand challenges in energy and chemicals and create a sustainable and equitable future for all,” says Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH.

ETI launched a year ago through a $10 million grant from Shell USA Inc. and Shell Global Solutions (US) Inc., and is led by Joe Powell, who opted to take the helm of the program over retiring, telling EnergyCapital that it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

UH has announced a central campus innovation hub that will house UH's programs for STEM, social sciences, business and arts. Slated to open in 2025, the 70,000 square foot hub will house a makerspace, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Energy Transition Institute, innovation programs, and Presidential Frontier Faculty labs and offices.

“The University of Houston aims to transform lives and communities through education, research, innovation and service in a real-world setting," Krishnamoorti says in a news release. “I am confident that working together we will make a greater impact.”

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Houston companies land DOE vouchers for clean tech

money moves

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”