Woodside Energy has committed $12.5 million to a new partnership with Rice University. Photo via Instagram/WoodsideEnergy

A global Australian energy company with its international operations in Houston has backed a new climatetech accelerator in partnership with Rice University.

Woodside Energy, headquartered in Australia with its global operations in Houston following its 2022 acquisition of BHP Group, has committed $12.5 million over the next five years to create the Woodside Rice Decarbonization Accelerator.

"The goal of the accelerator is to fast track the commercialization of innovative decarbonization technologies created in Rice labs," Rice University President Reginald DesRoches says to a crowd at the Ion at the initiative's announcement. "These technologies have the potential to make better batteries, transitistors, and other critical materials for energy technologies. In addition, the accelerator will work on manufacturing these high-value products from captured and converted carbon dioxide and methane."

"The Woodside Rice Decarbonization Accelerator will build on the work that Rice has been doing in advanced materials, energy, energy transition, and climate for many years. More than 20 percent of our faculty do some related work to energy and climate," he continues. "Harnessing their efforts alongside an esteemed partner like Woodside Energy is an exciting step that will undoubtedly have an impact far and wide."

Rice University announced the new climate tech initiative backed by Woodside Energy this week. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Woodside, which has over 800 employees based in Houston, has been a partner at the Ion since last spring. Daniel Kalms, Woodside Energy's CTO and executive vice president, explains that the new initiative falls in line with the three goals of Woodside's climate strategy, which includes keeping up with global energy demand, creating value, and conducting its business sustainably. The company has committed a total of $5 billion to new energy by 2030, Kalms says.

"We know that the world needs energy that is more affordable, sustainable, and secure to support the energy transition — and we want to provide that energy. Energy that is affordable, sustainable, and secure requires innovation and the application of new technology. That's what this is about," he says.

"Of course collaboration will be the key," Kalms continues. "By working with researchers, entrepreneurs, leading experts and parallel industries, we can combine our capability to solve collective challenges and create shared opportunities. That's why we are excited to be partnering with Rice."

The accelerator will be run by Paul Cherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice University, and Aditya Mohite, associate professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science and Nanoengineering. Additional Rice professors will be involved as well, Cherukuri says.

"Success for us will not be papers, it will be products," Cherukuri says of what Woodside wants from the partnership. "We picked faculty at Rice in particular who were interested in taking on this charge, and they were all faculty who created companies."

Last fall, Rice announced a grant and venture initiative to accelerate innovation from Rice in the biotech space.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ALLY Energy celebrated over 50 honorees at its annual awards event. Photo via LinkedIn

Top Houston energy teams, individuals, and companies honored at annual awards

meet the winnenrs

The brightest stars in Houston's energy community celebrated wins at an annual awards event this week.

ALLY Energy, a company that works with its clients to make the energy industry more equitable, hosted its seventh annual GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces on October 26 — and named its prestigious winners. EnergyCapitalHTX, as well as its sister site InnovationMap, was a media partner for the event.

“Every year, we are astounded at how many impressive, committed people are demonstrating leadership and grit in their work to advance the energy transition and build more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces,” ALLY Energy CEO Katie Mehnert says in a news release naming the finalists. “This year is no exception. This is the time to celebrate so many crucial achievements that may otherwise go overlooked in the energy sector and in broader society.”

In addition to naming its winners, ALLY celebrated three Lifetime Achievement Award honorees who have distinguished careers championing change in energy and climate in the private or public sector in the areas of technology, policy, and workforce: John Berger, CEO of Sunnova Energy; Rhonda Morris, vice president and chief human resources officer of Chevron; and Amy Chronis, vice chair, US energy and chemicals leader, and Houston managing partner at Deloitte.

The big winners of 2023 are as follows.

The Professional Award

  • Alex Loureiro, Scientific Director at EnerGeo Alliance
  • Crystal McNack, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor at Enbridge Inc.
  • Dani Milling, Gulf of Mexico Environmental Engineer & Mexico HSE Coordinator at Chevron
  • Katie Zimmerman, Decarbonization Director, Americas at Wood
  • Mark Klapatch-Mathias, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls
  • Natalie Valentine, Director - Business Performance at Worley
  • Syed Fahim, Global ESG Lead at SLB
  • Tane Bates, Regional Operations Manager at Certarus LTD
  • Ujunwa Ojemeni, Senior Policy Advisor - Energy Transition & Technical Assistance Delivery at E3G - Third Generation Environmentalism

The Executive Award

  • Cara Hair, SVP of Corporate Services, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Helmerich & Payne
  • Emma Lewis, Senior Vice President USGC Chemicals & Products at Shell
  • Jeremy Campbell-Wray, Strategic Accounts and Enterprise Growth Market Executive at Baker Hughes
  • Maggie Seeliger, SVP & Global Head of Strategy, Energy & Resources at Sodexo
  • Max Chan, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development Officer at Enbridge
  • Megan Beauregard, Chief Legal Officer, Secretary, and Head of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at Enel North America, Inc.
  • Sarah Delille, Vice President of US Country Management at Equinor
  • Whitney Eaton, EVP, People & Sustainability at TGS Energy

The JEDI Award

  • Jason Limerick, Sustainability Strategy Lead at Woodside Energy
  • Melina Acevedo, Associate & Partnerships Lead at DE Shaw Renewable Investments

The Entrepreneur Award

  • Charli Matthews, CEO at Empowering Women in Industry
  • Mike Francis, Co-Founder and CEO at NanoTech

The ESG & Climate Champion Award

  • Andrea Hepp, Deal Lead at Shell
  • Brittney Marshall, Senior Advisor, Climate Strategy and Policy at Woodside Energy
  • Gabriel Rolland, Vice President, Corporate QHSE at TGS Energy
  • Sandhya Ganapathy, Chief Executive Officer at EDP Renewables North America

Gritty Girl Award

  • Deepasha Baral, Student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies

Best Affinity Group, Employee Resource Group Award, sponsored by ChampionX

  • Baker Hughes
  • ChampionX
  • Shell
  • TPI Composites
  • Women's Energy Network Houston
  • Wood Mackenzie
  • Worley

Best Energy Team Award, sponsored by Ovintiv

  • Advisian Material Handling
  • Halliburton Labs
  • NOV Marketing
  • Syzygy Plasmonics, Rigel Manufacturing & Launch Team

Best Energy Workplaces Award

  • Aera Energy LLC
  • Baker Hughes
  • ChampionX
  • EDP Renewables North America
  • Enel
  • Global Edge Group
  • Shell
  • Southwestern Energy
  • Sunnova Energy International
  • TGS Energy
  • Wood
  • Woodside Energy
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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.