Patrick Sullivan of Oceanit joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share the potential he sees for Houston's energy ecosystem to transition efficiently. Photo courtesy of Oceanit

On an island almost 4,000 miles away, a company is creating research-based tech innovation that's sending ripple effects across the Pacific Ocean to Houston's energy ecosystem.

While Oceanit, founded in 1985 by Patrick Sullivan, is based in Hawaii, a portion of its customer base is based right here in Houston.

“We are, indeed, in the middle of the sea, but we work around the world,” Sullivan, who serves as president and CEO of his company, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “What we do in Houston is interesting because we consider Houston the center of energy. And energy makes the world go around, and there’s just no two ways around it. Of course, there’s lots of transition going on, so it’s an exciting time to be doing energy.”

In fact, realizing how much business opportunity there is in Houston, Oceanit recently opened H2XCEL — short for “Hydrogen Accelerator” — locally, aiming to integrate hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure.

H2XCEL will be the only lab in the U.S. capable of testing hydrogen and methane mixtures at high temperatures and pressures. Its aim is to protect pipelines from hydrogen embrittlement — when small hydrogen molecules penetrate pipe walls and damage the metal, potentially causing cracks, leaks, and failures.

The facility acts as a demonstration opportunity for Oceanit to test and show how hydrogen could be transferred via existing infrastructure.

"We can test to failure right there in Houston," Sullivan says on the show. “We’re talking to all the pipeline companies about getting their steel pipe and running through all these tests to show how it’s going to perform with all these different mixtures."

“The idea is to get the community to see that when you integrate technology from different fields into the energy space, we can keep making progress,” he continues.

Hydrogen embrittlement prevention is just one piece of what Oceanit's team is working to find solutions for. Sullivan describes his company as a 'Mind to Market' approach to industry. His business model includes some venture capital backing, but he says he prefers to partner with customers directly, explaining that the type of technology Oceanit deploys takes time and customization. This corporate co-development, as he explains, is Oceanit's unique approach to disruption.

There are so many opportunities within the energy transition to innovate, as Sullivan says, and it's not just one thing that's going to move the needle. The transition will require many different types of tech.

"It’s going to take time," he says. "But if we start reducing carbon and the use of fossil fuel today, we buy time for the planet."

Sullivan shares more on his company's unique approach to innovation on the podcast. Listen to the interview here — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Oceanit's lab, H2XCEL — short for “Hydrogen Accelerator” — aims to integrate hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure, a serious cost-saver for companies looking to make the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

Hawaii-based tech company opens new lab in Houston to enhance hydrogen pipeline safety

HOU-DRYGEN

An innovative Hawaii-based technology company is saying aloha to Houston with the opening of a unique test laboratory that aims to increase hydrogen pipeline safety. It is the latest sign that Houston is at the forefront of the movement to hydrogen energy.

The lab, H2XCEL — short for “Hydrogen Accelerator” — aims to integrate hydrogen into the current energy infrastructure, a serious cost-saver for companies looking to make the energy transition. Oceanit, a Honolulu-based technology company, is behind the lab.

H2XCEL will be the only lab in the U.S. capable of testing hydrogen and methane mixtures at high temperatures and pressures. Its aim is to protect pipelines from hydrogen embrittlement — when small hydrogen molecules penetrate pipe walls and damage the metal, potentially causing cracks, leaks, and failures.

Photo courtesy of Oceanit

“The launch of this testing facility is a major milestone. It is the only lab of its kind in the U.S. and the work underway at H2XCEL will accelerate the transition toward a hydrogen-driven economy,” Patrick Sullivan, the CEO and founder of Oceanit, says in a news release. “We see a toolset emerging that will enable the U.S. to accelerate toward a low-carbon future.”

Houston was the obvious choice to launch the new lab, says Oceanit’s Direct of Marketing James Andrews.

“Houston is the energy capital of the world," Andrews explains. "Oceanit knew that if we wanted to make inroads with decarbonization technologies, we needed to be physically present there.”

H2XCEL uses Oceanit’s HydroPel pipeline nanotechnology, developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy. It is a surface treatment that protects metals, eliminating the need to build new pipelines using expensive, hydrogen-resistant metals. The estimated cost of building new hydrogen pipelines is approximately $4.65 million per mile, according to a press release from the company. In contrast, HydroPel can be applied to existing pipelines to prevent damage, and the cost to refurbish one mile of existing steel pipeline is less than 10 percent of the cost per mile for new pipeline construction.

One of the main objectives of the new Houston lab will be to test hydrogen-methane blends under varying conditions to determine how to use HydroPel safely. By enabling the energy sector to reduce its climate impact while continuing to provide energy using existing infrastructure, methane-hydrogen blends capitalize on hydrogen’s carbon-free energy potential and its positive impact on climate change.

“We want to create a situation where we can speed up energy transition,” says Andrews. “By blending it into a safer environment, we can make it attractive to bigger players.”

Oceanit already has a Houston presence where the team is focused on several other technologies related to hydrogen, including HeatX, a water-based technology for heat transfer surfaces in refineries, power plants, and more, as well as their HALO system, which utilizes directed energy to produce clean hydrogen wastewater and other waste byproducts produced in industrial businesses.

A recent report issued by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy about the hydrogen economy

in Texas insists that the Lone Star State is an ideal hub for hydrogen as an energy source. The report explains that with the state’s existing oil and gas infrastructure, Texas is the best spot to affordably develop hydrogen while managing economic challenges. The Houston region already produces and consumes a third of the nation’s hydrogen, according to the report, and has more than 50 percent of the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Here's how far Houston's robust population of 'super commuters' drive to and from work every day

on the road again

If you’re a workday commuter in the Houston metro area, you may be among the many motorists who’ve cursed the snarled traffic on I-610/West Loop Freeway. This route routinely takes the crown as the most clogged roadway in Texas.

But imagine if you were one of the nearly 80,000 workers in the Houston area who travel at least 90 minutes each way for their jobs. That’s an even more gripe-worthy commuting scenario.

U.S. Census Bureau data gathered by Apartment List shows that as of 2022 in the Houston area, 79,645 workers were tagged as “super commuters.” These workers represent three percent of all commuters in the region.

The Houston area’s 2022 number is down slightly from the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when 82,878 workers across the region were super commuters, according to Apartment List.

Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List, says 3.7 million American workers spent at least 90 minutes traveling each way for their jobs in 2022. These extreme commutes are becoming more commonplace as suburban populations rise and employers pull back on remote work, he says.

Nationally, the number of super commuters jumped by 593,000 in 2022 compared with 2021, when the pandemic caused the figure to plummet by more than 1.5 million.

“Generally, super commuting is most common for transit users, workers who live on the fringes of the metropolitan area, or those who commute to separate metros entirely,” Popov says.

Super commuting is also common among high-income workers who are willing to travel longer distances for higher-wage jobs, according to Popov.

A recent study by Stanford University and travel data provider INRIX mostly aligns with the Census Bureau data cited by Apartment List.

Since the pandemic, the study says, the share of one-way commutes covering at least 40 miles has gone up in the country’s 10 largest metros, including Houston. In the Houston area, the share of one-way super commutes, which the study defines as those over 75 miles, grew 18 percent from 2019-20 to 2023-24.

Among the 10 areas examined in the study, a typical two-way super commute lasts nearly four hours and 40 minutes.

Experts: What Houston startup founders need to know about conducting a successful IPO

guest column

Home to a wealth of world-changing innovations and a highly skilled labor pool, Houston has attracted startups and digital tech firms for years. Today, the city stands at the forefront of a promising era with seven Houston startups beginning the year strong with more than $380 million in venture funding, and the city ranked among the top emerging startup ecosystems in North America

Houston-based startups planning their exit strategies have good reason to be optimistic about an initial public offering, or IPO, market that is expected to grow in 2024. After a two-year slump in startup investing, some market watchers are predicting that the IPO window may reopen as the economy improves and inflation and interest rates cool.

But good timing requires good readiness. The window of opportunity for preparation now appears to be a microwindow. As any company that went public at the peak of the dot-com or post-COVID booms can attest, preparation is essential to quickly take action when the time is right. Hitting that microwindow will require that IPO-bound Houston companies be strategic about their IPO readiness planning. A lack of planning can result in an IPO experience that is not well planned, and potentially a missed opportunity altogether.

It’s unclear when the next IPO window will open, or for how long the window will remain open, but it could happen quicker than expected. This unpredictability suggests that Houston startups seeking to go public should start their legal, financial, and regulatory planning now. The important period for many companies planning an IPO begins six to 18 months prior to listing and lasts until the six months post-IPO.

Readying an IPO

We gained several insights from our discussions with CEOs and CFOs who have effectively navigated IPOs recently to provide insights for companies contemplating going public when the next microwindow opens. A company’s comprehensive readiness plan can be key to performing well in the market, whether it is up or down. Summarized below are common key areas that challenged many C-Suite executives in being a public company and, in hindsight, areas they wished they had addressed earlier in the process.

  1. Internal forecasting. Internal forecasting is paramount. In fact, it’s one of the primary takeaways cited in our conversations with the C-suite execs who went through the IPO process. Houston companies on an IPO track should be prepared to provide accurate forecasting and timely fulfillment of projections. Missing projections can result in significant regulatory repercussions.
  1. Key performance indicators and non-GAAPmeasures. Take reasonable steps towards performing a comprehensive benchmarking study to determine relevant KPIs and non-GAAP measures and metrics to report upon; be ready with the frameworks in place to report upon during quarterly and annual reporting.
  1. Growth story. The ability to communicate the company’s growth story can be essential to an effective IPO. Company leaders should be able to clearly convey topics such as the company’s growth, vision and strategy, its plans for improving performance metrics, the market opportunity, its competitive edge, and how its product or services will meet market demand. Meetings with analysts and other market influencers are also necessary to gain investor support. The executives we talked to said that when they did not invest time in this awareness-building step, they often found themselves rushing to get the word out as the offering date closed in.
  1. Finance infrastructure and human capital. Understand the infrastructure and operating model required to operate as a public company, along with the human capital necessary to sustain operations. Identifying the necessary skillsets and bandwidth within the team supports a smoother IPO process. Collaborating with experienced, independent advisors is also vital. These advisors assist in organizing the process, outlining SEC reporting requirements, updating SEC-compliant financial reporting, preparing Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) and pro forma financial information, and offering guidance throughout the pre-IPO preparation.
  1. Governance. IPO-bound companies need to anticipate new corporate governance requirements as a publicly traded entity, particularly in terms of their board of directors. Proper governance and board oversight can be essential to support the quality of financial statements produced by management. Executives told us that recruiting the right board members is often a significant pre-IPO challenge. Identifying these members early is crucial, as the right resources may not be available later.

Closing thoughts

If you are among those companies looking to go public in the near future, now is the time to get your house in order. Companies are often surprised to discover how much preparation it truly takes to operate as a public company. In fact, we typically recommend starting the preparation journey 18 to 24 months before the anticipated public listing date. Simply stated, if you wait until the IPO window opens before gearing up, you likely will be gearing up for the next window.

Deloitte’s complimentary IPO

SelfAssess tool can help you gauge your ability to go public with a tailored assessment. The tool provides you with useful insights and identifies potential areas for improvement based on the feedback you provide.

------

Will Braeutigam is the U.S. capital markets transactions leader at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Laura Evans is audit and assurance partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Former Shopify exec joins Houston scale-up e-commerce software company

joining the team

Houston-based e-commerce software and services company Cart.com has hired a former Shopify executive as its chief people officer.

Before joining Cart.com, Lani Doyle was chief HR officer at Strategic Solutions Group, a provider of health care software. Previously, she was vice president of HR and people operations at 6 River Systems, a provider of software and robotics for warehouses. Prior to that, Doyle was head of talent development and operations at Shopify, an e-commerce platform for businesses that posted revenue of $7.1 billion in 2023.

Cart.com is one of the fastest-growing companies in commerce today, and I’m excited to partner with our teams to help drive growth and scalability,” Doyle says in a news release. “I am eager to contribute to shaping our culture and developing programming that supports and elevates high-performing teams, ensuring we achieve our ambitious goals.”

Omair Tariq, founder and CEO of Cart.com, describes Doyle as a “strategic leader” who will help develop the startup’s continually growing team. The company, founded in 2020 in Houston, employs more than 1,600 people.

“Her deep expertise in HR strategy and talent development will be instrumental as we accelerate our growth trajectory and foster a dynamic workplace culture,” says Frank Parker, chief operating officer of Cart.com.

In February, Cart.com made another high-level executive move by promoting Joe Barth from senior vice president of fulfillment to chief logistics officer.

Cart.com has more than 6,000 customers. The company handles more than 75 million orders per year from 14 fulfillment centers in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Tariq joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to share a bit about his company's growth and its relocation from Austin back to Houston.

"I think Austin served its purpose. It certainly allowed us to be in the limelight in all the right ways, and I'm grateful for it," Tariq says on the show. "But once we got to a point, once we closed our series C round and became a unicorn ... I think we're now at a scale where the infrastructure that Houston provides is probably something that will be more attractive and useful for us in the long term."