The University of Houston is hosting an open house to introduce its Seismic Data Center. Photo courtesy of UH

The University of Houston is hosting a morning full of thought leadership and networking in partnership with the Directorate General Hydrocarbon (DGH), the technical arm of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, to showcase the new UH Seismic Data Center.

When: Friday, July 7, from 9 am to noon.

Where: UH Technology Bridge, Building 9, Room 135. 5000 Gulf Freeway Houston, TX 77204

Who: Industry and academic leaders

Learn more and register.

The UH Seismic Data Center, which was announced earlier this year, was established via a five-year agreement between UH and DGH. The center aims to generate reliable information on the energy industry — including seismic, well, reservoir and production data.

“This MoU is essentially an agreement to spur collaboration and combine the strengths of the involved parties for greater good,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH, said in a February news release announcing the partnership. “UH is in Houston, the Energy Capital of the World and the DGH has this wonderful wealth of information in its National Data Repository.

"By working together, we will maximize the potential of this important data and it will serve as an excellent research foundation,” he continued.

A national research institute recently opened a new lab and outpost adjacent to the University of Houston's campus. Photo via UH.edu

New research lab opens in University of Houston's tech transfer facility

seeing green

A national organization has opened a new Houston outpost at a local university campus.

The Electrochemical Safety Research Institute, or ESRI, of UL Research Institutes opened the doors to a new laboratory in Houston in November. The new space was established to further research renewable energy technologies.

“As the world transitions from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, we are working with research teams across several organizations to lay the scientific groundwork for safe and reliable energy storage alternatives,” says Judy Jeevarajan, ESRI’s executive director, in a news release. “Since several of our research partners are based in Houston, the natural progression was to open our own laboratory in the area.”

The lab is housed in the University of Houston Technology Bridge, a startup park next to the university’s main campus. A team of ESRI’s research scientists will have access to explore the safety and performance of renewable energy technologies. Per the release, ESRI already has ongoing projects with UH within hydrogen research, solid-state batteries, and the synthesis of magnesium-ion separators.

“We are significantly expanding both our capacity and scope to better meet today’s increasingly urgent safety challenges,” says Christopher J. Cramer, ULRI’s chief research officer. “Our new Houston facility is one element of that expansion. The lab will strengthen the synergies between ESRI and our research partners in the area and accelerate scientific discoveries to help create a safer, more sustainable world.”

The facility will also act as a homebase for all Houston-area collaborations. Per the release, the new lab "will also facilitate ESRI’s research partnership with Rice University on lithium-ion cell recycling and the research institute’s work with NASA’s Johnson Space Center on thermal runaway mitigation and micro-USB lithium-ion battery safety." The organization also collaborates with Houston-based Stress Engineering Services Inc.

“We’re delighted to welcome the Electrochemical Safety Research Institute to its new home in Houston,” says Chris Taylor, executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation at the University of Houston, in the release. “Together, we can build upon our research culture of collaboration as we pursue innovations for the greater good.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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3 Houston sustainability startups score prizes at Rice University pitch competition

seeing green

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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.