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Q&A: Houston engineering, consulting exec on designing a low-carbon future

Ken Gilmartin, CEO of Wood, joins HETI for a Q&A. Photo courtesy of HETI

Global engineering and consulting firm Wood is a pioneering force in the energy transition landscape.

The Houston Energy Transition Initiative recently sat down with Ken Gilmartin, CEO of Wood, to learn more about the company’s strategic mission for the future and their recent wins in the energy space that are driving the energy transition forward.

Houston Energy Transition Institute: Can you give our audience an overview of Wood and your mission to help reach net-zero?

Ken Gilmartin: We are a company of 36,000 remarkable people delivering some of the world’s most complex and transformative projects for our clients. As an engineering and consulting firm, we’re passionate about delivering net-zero solutions across two key markets, energy and materials.

Our passion derives from our people whose curiosity, skills and expertise have always driven the advancement and transformation of industry, pushing the envelope of what is possible. Sustainability is core to us as engineers and consultants and we take our responsibility in delivering the net-zero solutions critical to the world, very seriously.

We live in the future – designing and delivering facilities today that will operate more effectively, efficiently and sustainably tomorrow by integrating technologies to decarbonize and digital solutions that derive data to ensure this.

HETI: Wood was recently selected as an EPCM partner by Canadian battery materials company Euro Manganese Inc. with a mission to design Europe’s largest high-purity manganese processing facility. How critical is this project to the energy transition?  

KG: Hugely critical. As a mineral used in most lithium-ion batteries, it is core to the electric vehicle industry and therefore, the energy transition.

This project is the only significant source of manganese in the European Union today. With mineral reserves of 27 million tonnes, this project could provide up to 20 percent of the projected European demand for high-purity manganese, which will provide battery supply chains with critical raw materials to support the shift to a circular, low carbon economy.

This innovative project holds real significance for Wood as we continue to lead the development of critical mineral projects — with specialist expertise in hydrometallurgy and a passion for designing sustainable energy and materials infrastructure.

HETI: Closer to HETI’s home, what have you got going on in the region in the energy transition space?

KG: As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act and other key government policies and incentives, we’re seeing a significant uptick in the number of decarbonization projects, particularly hydrogen and carbon capture storage (CCS).

Wood is at the forefront of advising our clients on funding opportunities and taking the lead on the development of Department of Energy applications to ensure critical net zero projects go from paper to production. We see ourselves as a collaborator across the entire process, from funding and feasibility to engineering, design, start-up and operations.

Ten years ago, we delivered Century Plant in West Texas, which at the time, was the largest CO2 plant in the world. Our involvement in needle-moving projects in the region hasn’t stopped.

We have near 4000 people in Texas advising and delivering some of the most innovative energy transition projects, including work on the critical CCS and hydrogen hub program proposed right here in Houston and across the U.S. We’re also supporting our clients in the funding and application stages of their direct air capture projects; we’re meeting the demand for low-carbon fuel alternatives in the areas of hydrogen fuel-switching, electrofuels and biofuels; and we’re delivering e-methanol projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast that will target and abate maritime emissions. You name it, we’re doing it.

As the DOE looks to award further funding rounds for hydrogen, carbon capture and industrial decarbonization projects in 2024, we’re excited about the tremendous opportunities this presents for the region and the role we can play in Houston’s future as the world’s energy capital.

Learn more about Wood, and their work in the energy transition.

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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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