Skip to main content

How Energy Tech is Driving the Global Energy Transition

Published Jan 31, 2020 by Maggie Martin

Houston has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the global energy transition, and energy technologies are one of the significant ways the region can deliver. That’s one of the key points Greater Houston Partnership chair Bobby Tudor drove home in his keynote address at the organization’s annual meeting earlier this month.  

Tudor said Houston needs to leverage its scientific, academic and commercial expertise to innovate and develop new technologies that will help the transition to a cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable lower carbon world. This work is already underway at two of our Tier One universities: the University of Houston and Rice University. Tudor pointed to the UH Energy Program and Rice’s Carbon Hub, as well as the new Midtown innovation district, anchored by The Ion, which will include a focus on energy industry solutions. 

“The scope of these innovations can range from smart grid technology to water recycling and reuse, to more sustainable commercial and residential building practices,” said Tudor. 

New energy technologies, including horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and deep-water offshore technology, began, or are centered, here. Houston is home to several facilities exploring such technologies, including Dow Chemical’s Texas Innovation Center, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Technology Ventures (the first corporate venture fund in the oil and gas industry). 

As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is creating an environment that naturally fosters emerging digital technology companies and their R&D work. At least 21 of Houston’s 40 corporate R&D centers are focused on energy technology and innovation. Plus we are home to a range of startups focused on a broad set of technologies including blockchain, data analytics and AI. In fact, a quarter of Houston’s venture capital-backed startups are focused on energy technology, and energy-focused technology startups generated $65.8 million in 10 deals in 2019. 

Companies include Rebellion Photonics, a platform provider of intelligent, visual monitoring solutions that make the oil and gas industry safer; Data Gumbo, which provides blockchain-based smart contracts to automate contract execution between companies; and Goexpedi, which provides procurement solutions to increase the efficiency of drilling operations.  

Job growth in the energy tech sector also indicates growth in this area. 

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle noted that while statewide employment in the oil and gas industry was down 3% compared to a year ago, tech jobs within the sector appeared to be growing. Nearly two-thirds of the estimated 228,000 tech jobs in the region are outside traditional tech companies. 

The Partnership estimates that two-thirds of tech jobs in the region are embedded in industries such as energy, medicine or aerospace.

“Demand is super high for tech workers,” said Josh Pherigo, a research manager with the Partnership. “All the oil and gas companies are digitizing. They’re changing their business models. They all want to know how they can use data to enhance their bottom line.”

The Partnership is launching a new initiative aimed at accelerating Houston’s activity around energy transition, while existing committees will continue efforts to bring energy tech and renewable energy companies to Houston; explore the policy dimensions of carbon capture, use, and storage; and advocate for legislation that helps ensure the Texas Gulf Coast is positioned as a leader in that technology. 

Read Partnership chair Bobby Tudor's full annual meeting remarks on the global energy transition. See the Partnership's KEI report on venture capital. Read more about Houston's energy tech developments.

Related News

Economy

Coronavirus, Brexit and a Chinese Trade Deal: Recent Events and the Potential Impact on Houston

2/18/20
Bayou Business Download is a podcast from the Greater Houston Partnership that dives into the data and analytics influencing the region’s economy and the core business sectors that drive Houston’s growth.  On this edition of Bayou Business Download, we chat with Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski about a number of recent global events, from the coronavirus and Brexit to the signing of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, and their potential impact on Houston.   Here are 5 key takeaways from the conversation:  Coronavirus Concerns While there is a great deal of understandable global concern around the coronavirus (now named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization), the vast majority of cases remain centered in China where officials are working to contain it. However, China is a much bigger player in the global economy than it was 17 years ago during the SARS outbreak. Back then, China represented only 4.3% of global economic activity compared with 15.3% today. We also didn’t have the integrated global supply chain that we do now and those are just a couple of the reasons global markets are concerned about this outbreak. The virus’ affect on Houston is likely to be felt in trade, tourism and other areas, but the biggest impact may be the drop in demand for crude oil and related products. U.S.-China Trade Deal As China deals with the coronavirus, trade tensions between the U.S. and the world’s largest country are easing. A newly signed U.S.-China trade deal essentially calls a truce to what had been a mounting trade war and starts removing some tariffs on both sides. Parts of the deal call for the Chinese to open their automobile markets as well as buy more agricultural products and energy products from the U.S. The Chinese have agreed to buy another $200 billion in goods and commodities over the next two years, including $52 billion in energy related products specifically. That is likely to have a positive impact here in Houston. USMCA The biggest impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is that it brings some certainty to trade between the countries. A lot of investment was sitting on the sidelines and this helps pave the way for that to move forward, particularly in Mexico which is Houston’s largest trading partner. We are going to see increased trade between the U.S. and Mexico as a result of the deal and that should prove a benefit to Houston. Brexit Part of what led voters in the United Kingdom to want to exit the European Union was that many felt they had lost control of their sovereignty under the EU. When the nation officially left the EU on January 31, they essentially left the political part of the union but they have 11 months to negotiate future trade relationships. Houston has already had visitors from the U.K. wanting to establish closer ties here and in Texas.  We’re likely to see an increased amount of physical trade of goods and commodities back and forth between Houston and the U.K. as well as an increase in investment from firms on both sides now that there are fewer restrictions. The Federal Reserve did not lower interest rates at its January meeting. That suggests the Fed is not concerned about a possible recession, which is good news for Houston since the health of the broader national economy is one of the three big pillars of the local economy, along with the global economy and the energy sector. Listen to this and future episodes of the Bayou Business Download podcast here. Get updates on key economic indicators and other data and analysis from the Partnership Research team here. Find more on these issues in the February edition of Economy at a Glance.   
Read More
Economy

BP Sets Net Zero Goal for 2050, Joins Growing List of Companies

2/18/20
Last week, BP announced plans to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner.  The multinational oil and gas company laid out ways it aims to reach that goal, including hitting net zero on carbon in BP's oil and gas production on an absolute basis as well as cutting back on the carbon intensity of products BP sells by 50%. BP is also setting its sites on helping the rest of the world. The company said that'll include more active advocacy that supports net zero, including carbon pricing, and launching a new team to help countries, cities and large companies decarbonize. BP said it's ambition to be a net zero company by 2050 covers the greenhouse gas emissions from its operations worldwide. It also aims to cut back the carbon in the oil and gas it produces. "We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner. To deliver that, trillions of dollars will need to be invested in replumbing and rewiring the world’s energy system. It will require nothing short of reimagining energy as we know it," said BP CEO Bernard Looney.  BP's announcement comes just a few months after a delegation led by the Greater Houston Partnership visited BP's global headquarters in London. The group met with executives to discuss opportunities for renewable operations in Houston. Houston is home to BP’s U.S. headquarters and the company’s largest employee base anywhere in the world. The company’s current renewables presence in Houston includes BP Wind Energy’s Remote Operations Center, which centrally monitors all BP-operated wind farms, as well as the Center for High-Performance Computing, which is home to one of the world’s largest supercomputers for commercial research.  BP now joins a growing list of energy companies striving to hit similar net zero goals by 2050. In the past few months, Dominion Energy, Reposol and DTE Energy have all announced they want to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.  These plans bolster the Partnership's own efforts to lead the global energy transition to a more sustainable, lower carbon world. During his keynote address at the organization's Annual Meeting last month, Partnership chair Bobby Tudor said maintaining Houston's place as the Energy Capital of the World requires the region's business and civic leaders to address the dual challenge of meeting expanding global energy demand while lowering the world's carbon footprint. He called on Partnership members to use their convening powers to rally companies, political leaders and fellow citizens to position Houston as the city that will lead that transition.  "Houston must lead the world to an era of low-cost, reliable, and climate-friendly energy," said Tudor. "Nowhere else in the world is there such a concentration of scientists, engineers, and economists who understand energy systems and can affect the necessary change." See highlights from the Partnership's Annual Meeting here. Read Partnership chair Bobby Tudor's full annual meeting remarks on the global energy transition. 
Read More

Related Events

Digital Technology

Innovation Council

For Houston to continue moving forward as a great global city, we must further the innovation eco-system in order to attract tech and start-up companies. This council examines how the greater Houston region can…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners