EnCap is ready to deploy growth capital to advance the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based energy transition-focused growth capital firm announced the close of its second fund to the tune of $1.5 billion.

EnCap Energy Transition's Fund II, or EETF II, was created to invest in solutions to decarbonize the power industry, and invest in low carbon fuels and carbon management.This second energy transition fund follows EnCap Energy Transition Fund I, a $1.2 billion fund that deployed capital to seven material portfolio company investments and four fund realizations with Broad Reach Power, Jupiter Power, Triple Oak, and Paloma Solar & Wind.

Previously, the company made investment commitments to five portfolio companies through EETF II, including Bildmore Renewables, Linea Energy, Parliament Solar, Power Transitions, and Arbor Renewable Gas. With the Bildmore arm, the EnCap fund aims to fuel development of renewable energy projects that can’t attract traditional tax equity financing.

EnCap expects to have 8-10 portfolio companies in EETF II in total.

"The EnCap Energy Transition team is proud to have raised a sizeable pool of capital to continue to invest in the opportunity created by the shift to a lower-carbon energy system,” EnCap Energy Transition Managing Partner Jim Hughes says in a news release.

“We greatly appreciate the strong support from our existing investor base and are pleased to have added a number of new, high-quality investors, both domestically and internationally," he continues. "Since our inception in 2019, we now manage approximately $2.7 billion of capital commitments to invest in decarbonization and are excited for the opportunities ahead of us."

Recently, EnCap was part of a deal in the battery energy storage business carrying an equity value of more than $1 billion. Engie purchased the majority of a startup . Broad Reach’s battery storage business from EnCap Energy Transition Fund I. Broad Reach launched in 2019 with backing from EnCap.

“We continue to believe all sources of energy are needed to support the world’s growing energy needs and that our Energy Transition Team will build off the significant success achieved to date,” said EnCap Managing Partner Jason DeLorenzo in a news release.

Bildmore expects to invest in 10 to 15 third-party, utility-scale clean energy projects each year. Photo via Getty Images

New platform launches in Houston to invest in clean energy endeavors

eyes on energy transition

Houston-based EnCap Energy Transition Fund has launched a platform that will take minority equity stakes in battery storage systems, solar energy systems, and other energy transition projects in the U.S.

With its new Bildmore arm, the EnCap fund aims to fuel development of renewable energy projects that can’t attract traditional tax equity financing. Bildmore expects to invest in 10 to 15 third-party, utility-scale clean energy projects each year.

Bildmore seeks to capitalize on clean energy incentives tucked into the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, including the ability of projects to sell tax credits. Specifically, the platform says it hopes to address “a chronic short supply” of tax equity deals due to heightened demand triggered by the inflation reduction law.

EnCap is no stranger to utility-scale solar power and battery storage systems. The fund backs Houston-based Broad Reach Power and Austin-based Jupiter Power, two of the largest players in the U.S. market for battery storage.

David Haug leads Bildmore as its CEO. He is co-founder and senior managing director of Houston-based Arctas Capital Group, which invests in energy infrastructure projects.

“Bildmore will focus on … battery storage and solar projects, particularly those which have chosen to leave all or part of their energy output available for ‘merchant’ sale rather than be sold under long-term contracts,” Haug says in a news release. “We want to help those development teams lacking the deep balance sheets typically required by tax equity providers.”

EnCap Investments, sponsor of the EnCap Energy Transition Fund, manages capital from more than 350 U.S. and international investors. Since its founding in 2019, EnCap Investments has raised 25 institutional investment funds totaling about $41 billion to support independent energy businesses in the U.S.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston researchers create AI model to tap into how brain activity relates to illness

brainiac

Houston researchers are part of a team that has created an AI model intended to understand how brain activity relates to behavior and illness.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine worked with peers from Yale University, University of Southern California and Idaho State University to make Brain Language Model, or BrainLM. Their research was published as a conference paper at ICLR 2024, a meeting of some of deep learning’s greatest minds.

“For a long time we’ve known that brain activity is related to a person’s behavior and to a lot of illnesses like seizures or Parkinson’s,” Dr. Chadi Abdallah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor and co-corresponding author of the paper, says in a press release. “Functional brain imaging or functional MRIs allow us to look at brain activity throughout the brain, but we previously couldn’t fully capture the dynamic of these activities in time and space using traditional data analytical tools.

"More recently, people started using machine learning to capture the brain complexity and how it relates it to specific illnesses, but that turned out to require enrolling and fully examining thousands of patients with a particular behavior or illness, a very expensive process,” Abdallah continues.

Using 80,000 brain scans, the team was able to train their model to figure out how brain activities related to one another. Over time, this created the BrainLM brain activity foundational model. BrainLM is now well-trained enough to use to fine-tune a specific task and to ask questions in other studies.

Abdallah said that using BrainLM will cut costs significantly for scientists developing treatments for brain disorders. In clinical trials, it can cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, to enroll numerous patients and treat them over a significant time period. By using BrainLM, researchers can enroll half the subjects because the AI can select the individuals most likely to benefit.

The team found that BrainLM performed successfully in many different samples. That included predicting depression, anxiety and PTSD severity better than other machine learning tools that do not use generative AI.

“We found that BrainLM is performing very well. It is predicting brain activity in a new sample that was hidden from it during the training as well as doing well with data from new scanners and new population,” Abdallah says. “These impressive results were achieved with scans from 40,000 subjects. We are now working on considerably increasing the training dataset. The stronger the model we can build, the more we can do to assist with patient care, such as developing new treatment for mental illnesses or guiding neurosurgery for seizures or DBS.”

For those suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, BrainLM could be a key to unlocking treatments that will make a life-changing difference.

Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.