The HyVelocity Hub, representing the Gulf Coast region, will receive $1.2 billion to strengthen and further build out the region's hydrogen production. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-area project got the green light as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production.

President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm named the seven regions to receive funding in a White House statement today. The Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, will receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will receive, per the release.

“As I’ve stated repeatedly over the past years, we are uniquely positioned to lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub that will deliver economic growth and good jobs, including in historically underserved communities," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. "HyVelocity will also help scale up national and world clean hydrogen economies, resulting in significant decarbonization gains. I’d also like to thank all the partners who came together to create HyVelocity Hub in a true spirit of public-private collaboration.”

Backed by industry partners AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Ørsted, and Sempra Infrastructure, the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub will connect more than 1,000 miles of hydrogen pipelines, 48 hydrogen production facilities, and dozens of hydrogen end-use applications across Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The hub is planning for large-scale hydrogen production through both natural gas with carbon capture and renewables-powered electrolysis.

The project is spearheaded by GTI Energy and other organizing participants, including the University of Texas at Austin, The Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Advanced Research Center, and around 90 other supporting partners from academia, industry, government, and beyond.

“Prioritizing strong community engagement and demonstrating an innovation ecosystem, the HyVelocity Hub will improve local air quality and create equitable access to clean, reliable, affordable energy for communities across the Gulf Coast region,” says Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of GTI Energy, in a news release.

According to the White House's announcement, the hub will create 45,000 direct jobs — 35,000 in construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. The other selected hubs — and the impact they are expected to have, include:

  • Tied with HyVelocity in terms of funding amount, the California Hydrogen Hub — Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) — will also receive up to $1.2 billion to create 220,000 direct jobs—130,000 in construction jobs and 90,000 permanent jobs. The project is expected to target decarbonizing public transportation, heavy duty trucking, and port operations.
  • The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), spanning Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, will receive up to $1 billion. This region's efforts will be directed at optimizing hydrogen use in steel and glass production, power generation, refining, heavy-duty transportation, and sustainable aviation fuel. It's expected to create 13,600 direct jobs—12,100 in construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.
  • Receiving up to $1 billion and targeting Washington, Oregon, and Montana, the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub — named PNW H2— will produce clean hydrogen from renewable sources and will create over 10,000 direct jobs—8,050 in construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs.
  • The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), which will be located in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, will tap into existing infrastructure to use low-cost natural gas to produce low-cost clean hydrogen and permanently and safely store the associated carbon emissions. The project, which will receive up to $925 million, will create 21,000 direct jobs—including more than 18,000 in construction and more than 3,000 permanent jobs.
  • Spanning Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the Heartland Hydrogen Hub will receive up to $925 million and create around 3,880 direct jobs–3,067 in construction jobs and 703 permanent jobs — to decarbonize the agricultural sector’s production of fertilizer, decrease the regional cost of clean hydrogen, and advance hydrogen use in electric generation and for cold climate space heating.
  • Lastly, the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), which will include Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, hopes to repurposing historic oil infrastructure to develop renewable hydrogen production facilities from renewable and nuclear electricity. The hub, which will receive up to $750 million, anticipates creating 20,800 direct jobs—14,400 in construction jobs and 6,400 permanent jobs.

These seven clean hydrogen hubs are expected to catalyze more than $40 billion in private investment, per the White house, and bring the total public and private investment in hydrogen hubs to nearly $50 billion. Collectively, they aim to produce more than three million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually — which reaches nearly one third of the 2030 U.S. clean hydrogen production goal. Additionally, the hubs will eliminate 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from end uses each year. That's roughly equivalent to annual emissions of over 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars.

“Unlocking the full potential of hydrogen—a versatile fuel that can be made from almost any energy resource in virtually every part of the country—is crucial to achieving President Biden’s goal of American industry powered by American clean energy, ensuring less volatility and more affordable clean energy options for American families and businesses,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm says in the release. “With this historic investment, the Biden-Harris Administration is laying the foundation for a new, American-led industry that will propel the global clean energy transition while creating high quality jobs and delivering healthier communities in every pocket of the nation.”

HyVelocity has been a vision amongst Houston energy leaders for over a year, announcing its bid for regional hydrogen hub funding last November. Another Houston-based clean energy project was recently named a semi-finalist for National Science Foundation funding.

“We are excited to get to work making HyVelocity come to life,” Brett Perlman, president and CEO of Center for Houston’s Future, says in the release. “We look forward to spurring economic growth and development, creating jobs, and reducing emissions in ways that will benefit local communities and the Gulf Coast region as a whole. HyVelocity will be a model for creating a clean hydrogen ecosystem in an inclusive and equitable manner.”

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Intuitive Machines has officially moved into its new HQ. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines

Space tech startup opens new $40M HQ at Houston Spaceport

ready for takeoff

Houston aerospace company Intuitive Machines has moved into its new $40 million headquarters at the Houston Spaceport.

Intuitive Machines’ new home supports NASA’s $93 billion Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and eventually send humans to Mars. Eighteen astronauts are assigned to the program. Houston’s Johnson Space Center is playing a key role in Artemis.

The company’s 105,572-square-foot Lunar Production and Operations Center serves as the hub for its lunar program, including the manufacturing of lunar landers and spacecraft. The facility features manufacturing and production spaces, 3D printing areas, machine shops, R&D labs, cleanrooms, and spacecraft assembly areas, along with offices, meeting rooms, and conference rooms.

“Unique to the facility are mission control rooms to track and manage lunar missions, and a propulsion test facility to assess lunar lander engine capabilities,” Intuitive Machines says in a news release.

The propulsion test facility consists of a 3,800-square-foot reinforced concrete chamber surrounded by a 25-foot-high perimeter wall that encloses an additional 6,500-square-foot yard.

Intuitive Machines says its first mission lunar lander, Nova-C, will soon be shipped from its new facility ahead of the lander’s upcoming launch. The mission to deliver NASA and commercial payloads to the moon’s south pole marks the first U.S. attempt of a soft lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The moon “is no longer a distant dream; it’s a destination within our grasp, and this facility is our lunar gateway — a national asset,” says Steve Altemus, co-founder, president, and CEO of Intuitive Machines.

Construction on the site began in June 2021, with the now-completed facility ready to support each of Intuitive Machines’ three NASA-awarded missions.

Intuitive Machines joins Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace as the third anchor tenant at the Houston Spaceport.

“Houston has always been a city that reaches for the stars, and with Intuitive Machines operating at the Houston Spaceport, our city is poised to shine even brighter in the cosmos,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

In August, the publicly traded company announced it received a $20 million equity investment from an unidentified institutional investor.

UH's business school has a new program focused on artificial intelligence thanks to a partnership with Intel. Photo via uh.edu

University of Houston, Intel team up to prepare workforce for AI revolution

back to school

The University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business has teamed up with semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel Corp. to provide training in artificial intelligence.

The new artificial intelligence program features a standalone business certificate with two specialized courses; the first course launched in January. Bauer also plans to offer non-degree certificate programs in AI, such as the AI Certificate for Entrepreneurship and AI Certificate for Executive Education.

In a news release, Elizabeth McGee, chief strategy and innovation adviser at Santa Clara, California-based Intel, says the UH initiative will help bridge the AI knowledge gap. An online search indicates hundreds of AI-related jobs are open in the Houston area.

“Digital upskilling, or digital readiness, needs to be a catapult for economic prosperity for everyone and not a dividing point,” McGee says. “I commend the University of Houston for being the first higher education institution to take our award-winning curriculum and lend your expertise in entrepreneurship, your access to the broader Houston community, and supporting this digital upskilling for everyone.”

AI education has taken on a greater sense of urgency as the healthcare and energy sectors, among others, incorporate AI into their operations.

Paul Pavlou, dean of the Bauer College and Cullen Distinguished Chair Professor, says the collaboration between UH and Intel will help propel growth and innovation in Houston’s tech sector. Intel, whose only Texas location is in Austin, is a key player in the expanding AI market.

“Intel has been very generous with their resources, and with our expertise in analytics and faculty research and students’ initiative in bringing new products to life, the opportunities for this collaboration to be transformative are endless,” Pavlou says.

AI is growing at an incredibly rapid pace. According to Precedence Research, the size of the global AI market was estimated at $119.78 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach nearly $1.6 trillion by 2030.

“While some markets, sectors and individual businesses are more advanced than others, AI is still at a very early stage of development overall,” says professional services firm PwC. “From a macroeconomic point of view, there are … opportunities for emerging markets to leapfrog more developed counterparts.”

AI is viewed as both positive and negative in terms of today’s workforce.

“AI is a fast-evolving technology with great potential to make workers more productive, to make firms more efficient, and to spur innovations in new products and services. At the same time, AI can also be used to automate existing jobs and exacerbate inequality, and it can lead to discrimination against workers,” says a report published by the White House in 2022.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council celebrated “AI Innovation and Entrepreneurship Day” at City Hall on Feb. 7. Photo via Facebook

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.