Five companies with connections to Houston have made it on this year’s 100 most influential companies by Time magazine. Photo via Getty Images

Five companies with strong ties to Houston have been named among this year’s 100 most influential companies by Time magazine, with a few representing the energy industry.

The five companies are:

  • South Korea’s Hanwha Group, whose Hanwha Power Systems Americas subsidiary is in Houston. Hanwha, known as the “Lockheed Martin of Asia,” was praised for winning approval last year from the American Bureau of Shipping for the world’s first large-scale, carbon-free liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel.
  • Saudi Aramco, whose Americas headquarters is in Houston. Time cited Saudi Aramco’s dominance in the global oil market as a $1.9 billion “giant.”
  • Germany-based ThyssenKrupp Nucera, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston. The company builds alkaline water electrolyzers to power steel mills and other fossil-fuel-dependent industrial sites.
  • United Airlines, which operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Chicago-based United was lauded for funding startups that help produce sustainable aviation fuel.
  • Houston-based Intuitive Machines. In February, the company’s Odysseus spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to land on the moon. The feat also marked the first U.S. landing on the moon since 1972.

To come up with the fourth annual list, Time solicited nominations and polled in-house contributors and correspondents, along with external experts. Editors at Time then evaluated each company based on factors such as impact, innovation, ambition, and success.

“The result is a diverse group of 100 businesses helping chart an essential path forward,” the magazine says.

In a news release, Time’s editor in chief, Sam Jacobs, says the list of 100 companies “is more than an index of business success.”

“It is an argument for what business influence looks like in 2024,” Jacobs adds. “At a time when leadership in other sectors is battered, surveys suggest that many look to corporate leaders first for direction …. Each show us how companies can provide new models and new inspiration for the future of humanity.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Among Dimensional Energy's funders are Microsoft and United. Photo via dimensionalenergy.com

Decarbonization tech startup with Houston office scores $20M from United, Microsoft, and others

Money moves

Climatech company Dimensional Energy, which operates a Houston office, has scooped up $20 million in series A funding.

Founded in 2014, Ithaca, New York-based Dimensional Energy specializes in producing decarbonization technology, sustainable aviation fuel, and carbon emissions-derived fuels and materials. South Korea’s Envisioning Partners led the round, with participation from investors such as:

  • United Airlines’ Sustainable Flight Fund
  • Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund
  • RockCreek Group’s Smart Aviation Futures fund
  • DSC Investment
  • Delek US
  • Empire State Development
  • Climate Tech Circle

The company also says it’s working toward becoming a certified B Corporation. Businesses that achieve this certification seek to balance purpose and profit.

Dimensional Energy says the $20 million funding round positions it for “significant growth,” enabling it to:

  • Build the world’s first advanced power-to-liquid fuel plant and continue developing commercial power-to-liquid fuel plants.
  • Roll out the company’s initial B2B and B2C products, such as a fossil-free surf wax and a cruelty-free fat alternative for vegan food manufacturers.
  • Evolve the company’s proprietary reactor and catalyst technologies, which are being tested at its pilot plant in Tucson, Arizona.

“The world needs immediate and rapid decarbonization across all sectors, and Dimensional Energy shows great promise as a cleaner and lower-carbon aviation solution alongside reductions in industrial emissions,” Brandon Middaugh, senior director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, says in a news release.

Dimensional Energy’s technology transforms carbon dioxide emissions into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel, and synthetic paraffin that can be refined into more than 6,000 everyday products.

“Dimensional Energy particularly stood out to us for their differentiated technology, exceptional team, and significant progress to date towards producing SAF and other industrial products from CO2,” says Justin Heyman, managing director at RockCreek. “This technology can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of the airline industry.”

Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures, says it's his job to accelerate the airline's mission to decarbonize operations. Photo via LinkedIn

How United Airlines got into the sustainable energy biz

funding SAF

While someone might not immediately make the connection between aviation and the energy transition, United Airlines understands the importance of more sustainable fuel — and has put its money where its mouth is.

According to an International Energy Agency report, the aviation accounted for 2 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions last year. Earlier this year, United Airlines launched a fund that called for collaboration across the industry.

After only five months, the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund SM increased to nearly $200 million and added new financial partners, airlines, and more. The fund takes on funding from its 13 limited partners and exists separately from United's core business operations.

Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures, says it's his job to accelerate the airline's mission to decarbonize operations. He explains that working together on the fund is the key for advancing sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF.

"We all recognize that we may compete in our core business, but with the importance of sustainable aviation fuel and given that it's an industry that doesn't exist — you can't compete for something that doesn't exist — let's collaborate and work together to explore technologies that can directly or indirectly support the commercialization and production of sustainable aviation fuel," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

United Airlines also recently signed an offtake agreement with Cemvita Factory, a Houston biotech startup that's working on SAF. Chang discusses this partnership on the show, as well as explaining how he works with other startups and what he's looking for.

The offtake agreement and the fund are just two examples of how United is building to a more sustainable future. As Chang explains on the show, the aviation industry hasn't evolved too much over the past three or four decades.

"It's been a challenging market," he says, blaming the ever-evolving macroeconomic conditions for providing challenges for the airline, taking away its focus from new technologies. "But I think we are at a point where the industry is in a healthier place, the sector has consolidated, we are supported by our consumers, and we are now empowered with the financial and strategic capital to think ahead."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

United Airlines is interested in buying Cemvita's sustainable aviation fuel when it's produced. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

United Airlines signs offtake arrangement with Houston startup for sustainable fuel production

green fuel incoming

An innovative Houston company is celebrating a new deal with a global airline.

Cemvita Corp. announced a new offtake arrangement with United Airlines. Cemvita's first full-scale sustainable aviation fuel plant will provide up to 1 billion gallons of SAF to United Airlines. The 20-year contract specifies that Cemvita will supply up to 50 million gallons annually to United.

It's not the first collaboration Cemvita has had with the airline. Last year, United invested in the biotech company, which used the funding to open its Houston pilot plant.

“Since our initial investment last year, Cemvita has made outstanding progress, including opening their new pilot plant – an important step towards producing sustainable aviation fuel,” United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen says in a news release. “United is the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, but we face a real shortage of available fuel and producers. Cemvita’s technology represents a path forward for a potentially significant supply of SAF and it’s our hope that this offtake agreement for up to one billion gallons is just the beginning of our collaboration.”

Founded in Houston in 2017 by brother-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi, Cemvita's biotechnology can mimic the photosynthesis process, turning carbon dioxide into feedstock. The company's SAF plan hopes to increase reliability of existing SAFs and lower impact of fuel creation.

“Biology is capable of truly amazing things,” Moji Karimi, CEO of Cemvita, says in the release. “Our team of passionate, pioneering, and persistent scientists and engineers are on a mission to create sustainable BioSolutions that redefine possibilities.”

“We are thrilled to partner with United Airlines in working towards transforming the aviation industry and accelerating the energy transition,” he continues. “This agreement featuring our unique SAF platform is a major milestone towards demonstrating our journey to full commercialization.”

Earlier this year, United, which was reportedly the first airline to announce its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, launched its UAV Sustainable Flight FundSM. The fund, which named Cemvita to its inaugural group of portfolio companies, has raised over $200 million, as of this summer.

Moji and Tara Karimi co-founded Cemvita in 2017. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

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Houston clean fuels producer reaches milestone on South Texas hydrogen-powered refinery

hi to hydrogen

Houston-based Element Fuels has completed the pre-construction phase of its hydrogen-powered clean fuels refinery and combined-cycle power plant in the Port of Brownsville.

Element Fuels, which has contracted with Houston-based McDermott to provide front-end engineering design services for the project, has designed the plant to produce and recycle hydrogen that will generate and deliver cleaner, higher-quality fuels, including much-needed high-octane gasoline and electricity for commercial and consumer consumption.

“Element Fuels has received the necessary permitting to construct and operate a refinery capable of producing in excess of 160,000 barrels, or approximately 6.7 million gallons, per day of finished gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel,” Founder and Co-CEO of Element Fuels John Calce says in a news release. “A permit for a greenfield refinery of this size, scope, and functionality has not been granted in the United States since the 1970s. This speaks to the innovative approaches we are taking to address climate and sustainability concerns in cleaner, greener ways that are new to the refinery space.”

The project is expected to go online in 2027 and will produce enough low-carbon hydrogen to supply approximately 100 percent of the refinery’s fuel requirements, essentially eliminating CO2 emissions, per the news release. More than 100 megawatts of excess electricity generated from the power plant will be provided to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas for the surrounding community’s needs.

“Element Fuels is not only ushering in the next generation of clean fuels, we’re also proving that, without a doubt, there is a way to produce higher quality, cleaner, higher-octane fuels that significantly advance the energy transition," Calce continues. "This changes everything – for the industry, for consumers, and for the well-being of the planet.”

The plant is located in South Texas and built on more than 240 acres within the Port of Brownsville. Element Fuels is reportedly collaborating with local and Port officials "to advance the Justice40 initiative established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to contribute to a climate-positive environment that provides residents of the Brownsville area and Rio Grande Valley with clean energy and affordable and sustainable housing," per the release.

“Building on our successful collaboration during early project phases, we believe we are uniquely positioned to leverage our expertise and knowledge to further support Element Fuels throughout the next stages of this unique project,” adds Rob Shaul, senior vice president at Low Carbon Solutions at McDermott. “We remain focused on the delivery of low carbon pathway projects and are committed to advancing the landscape of energy production.”

Houston organization grants funding to local arts center to make sustainable updates to facilities

solar-powered spotlight

Green Mountain Energy Sun Club has supplied a grant of nearly $103,000 to a local Indian arts center to make sustainable improvements to its facilities.

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio, which will be called The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Sustainability Pavilion. The venue will serve as an outdoor gathering space for events at the facility.

“At Green Mountain Energy, we recognize that our choices can have a profound impact on our environment,” Mark Parsons, Green Mountain Energy vice president, says in a news release. “We’re proud to support the rich and diverse culture of the Indian community, and we’re glad to help Silambam take the next step toward a more sustainable future.”

The 14.58 kW solar structure is expected to offset 100 percent of the building’s energy needs, which would save the organization more than $4,000 per year for the next 25 years. Sun Club has donated more than $14 million for 164 projects across Texas and the Northeast since it was founded in 2022.

Silambam is an Indian classical arts organization with an arts academy program that serves 180 students each week with more than 20 teaching artists on staff. The professional dance company has more than 20 dancers that regularly perform at Houston venues like Miller Outdoor Theater where they will perform next on June 7.

“We are thrilled to be able to weave sustainable practices into our arts programming, while also giving back to the community,” founder and executive artistic director of Silambam Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan said in a news release. “The annual savings from this project will allow us to increase artist pay, provide tuition waivers for economically disadvantaged students, and/or provide free or pay-what-you-can access to our ArtStream Concerts, all while benefiting the environment.”

Silambam Houston will use the grant to help with the installation of a rooftop solar array and a new pavilion at its Pearland dance studio. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain