Oxy's Permian Basin carbon capture project has a news partner and the Astros are thinking about their climate goals. Rendering via 1pointfive.com

Houston-based energy company Occidental is capturing a ton of attention with its carbon capture initiative.

Occidental’s carbon capture subsidiary, 1PointFive, recently said it’s developing a carbon capture and sequestration hub on a 55,000-acre site along the Gulf Coast in Southeast Texas. The hub will be able to hold about 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The Bluebonnet Hub, expected to be operating in 2026, will be located in Chambers, Liberty, and Jefferson counties near coastal refineries, chemical plants, and manufacturing facilities. Chambers County is the Houston metro area.

“This hub is located between two of the largest industrial corridors in Texas so captured CO2 can be efficiently transported and safely sequestered,” says Jeff Alvarez, president of sequestration at 1PointFive. “Rather than starting from scratch with individual capture and sequestration projects, companies can plug into this hub for access to shared carbon infrastructure.”

Home run on emissions

Another development at 1PointFive involves the Houston Astros baseball team.

The Astros recently agreed to buy CO2 removal credits from 1PointFive’s carbon capture plant being built in Ector County, whose county seat is Odessa. Under this deal, CO2 captured by the company’s equipment will be sequestered in underground saline reservoirs that aren’t affiliated with oil and gas production.

Over the next three years, the Astros will use the removal credits to help the team achieve a carbon-neutral footprint at Minute Maid Park.

“We remain committed to continuous improvement of our stadium for our fans, and purchasing carbon removal credits is an important investment for us,” Marcel Braithwaite, senior vice president of business operations for the Astros, says in a news release.

Progress in the Permian Basin

Furthermore, 1PointFive is making progress on its carbon capture plant being developed in West Texas’ Permian Basin. The company recently tapped Orlando, Florida-based Siemens Energy to supply two compressors for the plant, which is set to capture more than 500,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.

Vicki Hollub, president and CEO of Occidental, says in a news release that the Permian Basin plant will help meet the Paris Agreement’s Paris climate change goals and reduce global emissions.

The Permian Basin facility, with an estimated price tag of $800 million to $1 billion, is on track to open by late 2024.

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Houston organizations launch collaborative center to boost cancer outcomes

new to HOU

Rice University's new Synthesis X Center officially launched last month to bring together experts in cancer care and chemistry.

The center was born out of what started about seven years ago as informal meetings between Rice chemist Han Xiao's research group and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The level of collaboration between the two teams has grown significantly over the years, and monthly meetings now draw about 100 participants from across disciplines, fields and Houston-based organizations, according to a statement from Rice.

Researchers at the new SynthX Center will aim to turn fundamental research into clinical applications and make precision adjustments to drug properties and molecules. It will focus on improving cancer outcomes by looking at an array of factors, including prevention and detection, immunotherapies, the use of artificial intelligence to speed drug discovery and development, and several other topics.

"At Rice, we are strong on the fundamental side of research in organic chemistry, chemical biology, bioengineering and nanomaterials,” Xiao says in the statement. “Starting at the laboratory bench, we can synthesize therapeutic molecules and proteins with atom-level precision, offering immense potential for real-world applications at the bedside ... But the clinicians and fundamental researchers don’t have a lot of time to talk and to exchange ideas, so SynthX wants to serve as the bridge and help make these connections.”

SynthX plans to issue its first merit-based seed grants to teams with representatives from Baylor and Rice this month.

With this recognition from Rice, the teams from Xiao's lab and the TMC will also be able to expand and formalize their programs. They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

“I am confident that the SynthX Center will be a great resource for both students and faculty who seek to translate discoveries from fundamental chemical research into medical applications that improve people’s lives,” Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, says in the release.

Rice announced that it had invested in four other research centers along with SynthX last month. The other centers include the Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, the Center for Environmental Studies, the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the Rice Center for Nanoscale Imaging Sciences.

Earlier this year, Rice also announced its first-ever recipients of its One Small Step Grant program, funded by its Office of Innovation. The program will provide funding to faculty working on "promising projects with commercial potential," according to the website.

Houston physicist scores $15.5M grant for high-energy nuclear physics research

FUTURE OF PHYSICS

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

The Rice team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas. Photo via Rice.edu

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.