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.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Both Rice University and the University of Houston were selected by the Department of Energy to receive funds for ongoing research projects. Photo via Getty Images

Houston researchers snag government funds for net-zero emissions projects

seeing green

Rice University and the University of Houston were two of four national institutions to receive sizable grants from the Department of Energy last month to go toward the research and development of projects that will improve CO2 storage to help move the country toward the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Each of the four projects works to advance long-term, commercial-scale geologic sequestration of CO2. According to a release from the DOE, the process of carbon capture and storage (known as CSS) separates and captures CO2 from the emissions of industrial processes before it is released into the atmosphere. Once captured, the CO2 is then injected into deep underground geologic formations, known as caprock.

However, during seismic events, like an earthquake or volcanic eruption, the CO2 can leak through the ground and contaminate the water supply.

"Large scale carbon capture efforts are vital to getting America emissions free by 2050, and how we store this CO2 must be safe, secure and permanent," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "The R&D investments in new tools and technology to monitor underground activity near CO2 storage sites will help us minimize risk from natural events like earthquakes, safeguard the environment and water supply, and get us that much closer to our clean energy goals."

Rice was awarded nearly $1.2 million from the DOE for its project that aims to develop a new strategy for monitoring seal integrity in the CCS process. The project "has the potential to provide a powerful platform for identifying CO2 leakage through reactivated faults or fracture zones," the statement said.

UH received a nearly $800,000 grant for its project that will work to determine cost-effective seismic data processing technologies that will automatically detect faults on 3D seismic migration images.

The project is being developed by Yingcai Zheng at the University of Houston in collaboration with Los Alamos National Lab and Vecta Oil and Gas and aims will help not only estimate seismic activity, but will also be able to estimate the fluid leakage pathways in certain regions, according to a separate release from UH.

"Most think of applied geophysics as linked to the oil and gas industry," Zheng said in the statement. "While that is true, when we think of the energy transition and how to achieve our goals, it is important to realize that this cannot happen without studying the geophysics of the subsurface – in a way, it literally holds the well-being of humanity's future."

The remaining two projects that received grants from the DOE come from the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio and The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. In total the DOE issues $4 million to support the projects.

A number of Houston energy leaders are looking at smarter ways to store CO2. This spring, Joe Blommaert, the Houston-based president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, said that he envisions creating a $100 billion carbon-capture hub along the Houston Ship Channel. And that same month Occidental's venture arm, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, announced plans to construct and operate a pilot plant that would convert carbon dioxide into feedstocks.

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Houston university teams up with angel group to reach, upskill future investors

Through a new partnership with the Houston Angel Network and Houston Exponential, the University of Houston will help cultivate startup investors among UH alumni.

The partnership will bolster accredited early-stage investors and accelerate opportunities for aspiring startup investors, the university says in a news release.

“Investors play a vital role in the startup ecosystem and this initiative gives our alumni a rapid path to becoming angels. Our vision is to activate more investors with deep connections to UH who support world-class innovation in our community and beyond,” says Ramanan Krishnamoorti, the university’s vice president for energy and innovation.

The partnership is based at UH’s Technology Bridge. Tech Bridge promotes tech commercialization, industrial partnerships, and startup development.

“Our founders are launching many exciting new companies, but they need better access to capital,” says Tanu Chatterji, associate director of startup development at UH. “This partnership will help us mobilize angel investors who want to support these innovators with knowledge and financial resources.”

UH alumni interested in participating in the new partnership should contact Chatterji at tchatte@uh.edu.

The angel network will lend its investing expertise to early-stage businesses in tech, energy, life sciences, consumer, and aerospace sectors. Meanwhile, tech startup incubator Houston Exponential will provide support for entrepreneurs and the startup ecosystem.

“This relationship is a testament to the collaborative spirit of Greater Houston’s business and academic communities,” says Mitra Miller, vice president of the Houston Angel Network, an organization for early-stage investors. “By leveraging the combined expertise and resources of our three organizations, we can increase the flow of early-stage capital in our region in support of great innovators and high-growth enterprises.”

Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential, says the new initiative “promises to be a roadmap for investment education, and support for aspiring investors and entrepreneurs alike.”

“An active and educated investor base is an essential component of a thriving startup ecosystem,” says Branch.

Houston lab sees progress with breakthrough light-harvesting processes

Hi, tech

A groundbreaking Rice University lab has made further strides in its work to make harvesting light energy more efficient and stable.

Presented on the cover of a June issue of Science, a study from Rice engineer Aditya Mohite's lab uncovered a method to synthesize a high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, known as formamidinium lead iodide (FAPbI3), converting them into ultrastable high-quality photovoltaic films, according to a statement from Rice. Photovoltaic films convert sunlight into electricity.

The new process makes solar cells that are about 10 times more durable than traditional methods.

“Right now, we think that this is state of the art in terms of stability,” Mohite said in a statement. “Perovskite solar cells have the potential to revolutionize energy production, but achieving long-duration stability has been a significant challenge.”

The change come from "seasoning" the FAPbI3 with 2D halide perovskites crystals, which the Mohite lab also developed a breakthrough synthesis process for last year

The 2D perovskites helped make the FAPbI3 films more stable. The study showed that films with 2D perovskites deteriorated after two days of generating electricity, while those with 2D perovskites had not started to degrade after 20 days.

“FAPbI3 films templated with 2D crystals were higher quality, showing less internal disorder and exhibiting a stronger response to illumination, which translated as higher efficiency," Isaac Metcalf, a Rice materials science and nanoengineering graduate student and a lead author on the study, said in the statement.

Additionally, researchers say their findings could make developing light-harvesting technologies cheaper, and can also allow light-harvesting panels to be lighter weight and more flexible.

"Perovskites are soluble in solution, so you can take an ink of a perovskite precursor and spread it across a piece of glass, then heat it up and you have the absorber layer for a solar cell,” Metcalf said. “Since you don’t need very high temperatures ⎯ perovskite films can be processed at temperatures below 150 Celsius (302 Fahrenheit) ⎯ in theory that also means perovskite solar panels can be made on plastic or even flexible substrates, which could further reduce costs.”

Mohite adds this has major implications for the energy transition at large.

“If solar electricity doesn’t happen, none of the other processes that rely on green electrons from the grid, such as thermochemical or electrochemical processes for chemical manufacturing, will happen,” Mohite said. “Photovoltaics are absolutely critical.”

The Mohite lab's process for creating 2D perovskites of the ideal thickness and purity was published in Nature Synthesis last fall. At the time, Mohite said the crystals "hold the key to achieving commercially relevant stability for solar cells."

About a year ago, the lab also published its work on developing a scalable photoelectrochemical cell. The research broke records for its solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency rate.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with a health tech data scientist, a CEO celebrating an international expansion, and a founder who won a big DOE prize.

Angela Wilkins, chief data scientist at Starling Medical

Angela Wilkins joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the intersection of data and health care. Photo courtesy

When most people hear about Houston startup Starling Medical, they might think about how much potential the medical device company has in the field of urinalysis diagnostics. But that's not quite where Angela Wilkins's head went.

Wilkins explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that when she met the company's co-founders, Hannah McKenney and Drew Hendricks, she recognized them as very promising startup leaders taking action on a real health care problem. Starling's device can collect urine and run diagnostics right from a patient's toilet.

"It was one of those things where I just thought, 'They're going to get a bunch of data soon,'" Wilkins says. "The opportunity is just there, and I was really excited to come on and build their AI platform and the way they are going to look at data."

For about a year, Wilkins supported the startup as an adviser. Now, she's working more hands on as chief data officer as the company grows. Read more.

Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon

Amperon officially expanded in Europe. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston-based, AI-powered electricity forecasting and analytics services company Amperon Holdings is live in Europe. The expansion, which Co-Founder and CEO Sean Kelly previously told InnovationMap about, is official, the company announced this month. In addition to the expansion, Amperon announced Jon Ecker as general manager, Europe, and Kelsey Hultberg as executive vice president, communications, and chief of staff.

Now, European companies that buy and sell energy in the renewable energy producers, financial institutions, and utilities markets can leverage Amperon's platform of AI and machine learning technologies to access short- and long-term forecasts for their individual meters and generation assets.

“As a warmer-than-expected June ushers in a hot summer, and increasing uncertainty looms for the calmer fall months due to the influx of wind and solar generation, we are eager to assist our European customers in navigating the power market volatility caused by heat waves, extreme weather events, and shifts in power usage across the region,” Kelly says in a news release. Read more.

Laureen Meroueh, founder of Hertha Metals

Hertha Metals, based in Conroe, won first place at the 2024 Summer Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Startup Pitch Competition. Photo via LinkedIn

Four startups from across the country won over $160,000 in cash prizes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions earlier this month, and a Houston-area company claimed the top prize.

Hertha Metals, based in Conroe, won first place at the 2024 Summer Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Startup Pitch Competition. The program honors and supports clean energy innovators nominated by clean technology business incubators.

Hertha Metals was founded by Laureen Meroueh, a mechanical engineer and materials scientist, in 2022. Read more.