future of O&G

Houston energy exec launches well-plugging fintech company

This new Houston startup is tackling the increasingly dangerous problem of methane-emitting inactive oil and gas wells. Photo courtesy of OneNexus

Long-time Houston energy executive Tony Sanchez has launched a new fintech company that aims to help oil and gas exploration and production operators decommission orphaned wells and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

The company, OneNexus Environmental, was formed in partnership with Houston-based private equity firm BlackGold Capital Management LP and offers exploration and production companies "the equivalent of a universal life insurance policy for their oil & gas wells," according to a statement.

Through OneNexus's model, operators will be able to transfer the title of their wells over to OneNexus, thus absolving all Asset Retirement Obligations (AROs) related to decommissioning inactive wells that are known to release dangerous levels of methane. OneNexus will then assume the financial and operation obligations around properly plugging the wells in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner.

"The drastic decline in energy demand that arose from the pandemic forced many operators to walk away from their wells," Sanchez said in a statement. "When orphaned wells started multiplying around the world overnight, what was previously the so-called elephant in the oilfield could no longer be ignored."

Tony Sanchez has founded OneNexus in Houston. Photo courtesy

In addition to the fintech operation, OneNexus will also introduce a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation that will call on the international oil and gas community to support the innovative solutions to suppressing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Existing solutions are inadequate," Sanchez adds. "We started a company that is capable of tackling the problem head-on and that enables energy companies to proactively be part of the solution."

Sanchez was the founder and former CEO of Sanchez Energy Corporation, a multi-billion dollar energy production company with assets in the Eagle Ford Shale, and has held finance and analysis positions at JP Morgan Investment Banking and Zix Corp. (NASDAQ: ZIXI). He has brought over energy industry specialists and financial professionals to build out his team, with subject matter experts in petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, data science, and systems management.

OneNexus joins a growing group of Houston organizations focused on clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research from Rice University showed that the city is uniquely ready for the energy transition.

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Building Houston

 
 

This UH engineer is hoping to make his mark on cancer detection. Photo via UH.edu

Early stage cancer is hard to detect, mostly because traditional diagnostic imaging cannot detect tumors smaller than a certain size. One Houston innovator is looking to change that.

Wei-Chuan Shih, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, recently published his findings in IEEE Sensors journal. According to a news release from UH, the cells around cancer tumors are small — ~30-150nm in diameter — and complex, and the precise detection of these exosome-carried biomarkers with molecular specificity has been elusive, until now.

"This work demonstrates, for the first time, that the strong synergy of arrayed radiative coupling and substrate undercut can enable high-performance biosensing in the visible light spectrum where high-quality, low-cost silicon detectors are readily available for point-of-care application," says Shih in the release. "The result is a remarkable sensitivity improvement, with a refractive index sensitivity increase from 207 nm/RIU to 578 nm/RIU."

Wei-Chuan Shih is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering. Photo via UH.edu

What Shih has done is essentially restored the electric field around nanodisks, providing accessibility to an otherwise buried enhanced electric field. Nanodisks are antibody-functionalized artificial nanostructures which help capture exosomes with molecular specificity.

"We report radiatively coupled arrayed gold nanodisks on invisible substrate (AGNIS) as a label-free (no need for fluorescent labels), cost-effective, and high-performance platform for molecularly specific exosome biosensing. The AGNIS substrate has been fabricated by wafer-scale nanosphere lithography without the need for costly lithography," says Shih in the release.

This process speeds up screening of the surface proteins of exosomes for diagnostics and biomarker discovery. Current exosome profiling — which relies primarily on DNA sequencing technology, fluorescent techniques such as flow cytometry, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) — is labor-intensive and costly. Shih's goal is to amplify the signal by developing the label-free technique, lowering the cost and making diagnosis easier and equitable.

"By decorating the gold nanodisks surface with different antibodies (e.g., CD9, CD63, and CD81), label-free exosome profiling has shown increased expression of all three surface proteins in cancer-derived exosomes," said Shih. "The sensitivity for detecting exosomes is within 112-600 (exosomes/μL), which would be sufficient in many clinical applications."

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