Empowering the Energy Transition: Insights from the Future of Global Energy Conference

Global Energy Conference

In late June, The Partnership’s Houston Power Changeover Initiative and the Center for Houston’s Future teamed up to host the enlightening three-day Future of Global Energy conference, generously sponsored by Chevron. The conference brought together nearly 40 leaders representing industry, academia, and public interest organizations. These luminaries shared invaluable insights into the evolving energy landscape, both on a global and national scale. They also spotlighted Houston’s remarkable achievements and the pivotal role it can play in driving the transition to a low-carbon, energy-rich world. Here’s a summary of what these thought leaders had to say, focusing on carbon capture, decarbonization, hydrogen, and climate equity.

Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) – Sponsored by Sempra

CCUS is a linchpin of the energy transition, and we’re witnessing a proliferation of CCUS projects worldwide. During the first session, “Global & National Context: What is Happening in CCUS Around the World,” we learned that North America leads the way in CCUS project development, while Australia and Europe are also increasing their project activity. Texas, in particular, boasts eight projects with projected capital costs totaling $102 billion. CCUS offers the crucial advantage of carbon mitigation, as the storage and transport of CO2 are adaptable across the energy sector. Keynote speaker Sallie Greenberg introduced the DOE’s CarbonSAFE program, highlighting the emergence of hubs as future infrastructure in carbon storage and clean hydrogen production. The 45Q federal tax credit, with a “steel in the ground” deadline of January 2026, underscores the importance of CCUS-enabling policies. To meet 2030 emissions reduction targets, the number of global projects will need to double.

Challenges and Opportunities for CCS Deployment in the Houston Area

The second session, “CCS in the Houston Area: Challenges and Opportunities for Deployment,” shed light on the numerous opportunities in the metro Houston region for CCS deployment. Abundant geological assets and significant CO2 input sources from refineries, petrochemical plants, and other Gulf Coast facilities position Houston as a leader in CCS deployment. Moreover, Houston possesses the knowledge, technology, and experience to commercialize CCS on an unprecedented scale. Despite these opportunities, challenges remain. Lowering the cost of carbon capture technology is essential, especially as CO2 becomes more diluted in certain applications like direct air capture. Navigating regulatory hurdles and securing state and federal approvals for Class VI permits and a robust regulatory framework are imperative for long-term investment certainty.

Innovations in CCUS: Advancements in Technologies Across the Supply Chain

The third session, “What’s Next in CCUS: Innovations in Technologies Across the Supply Chain,” underscored the importance of emerging technologies that are nearing commercialization. These technologies play a pivotal role in educating regulators, investors, and consumers on scaling CCUS. The 45Q tax credit is crucial for the long-term value stream of CCS projects. Tax equity, legal considerations, regulatory factors, and stakeholder engagement are critical in the near term. Mega-projects in CCS are essential, but smaller projects that validate technologies, demonstrate safety and reliability, and serve as stepping stones to mega-projects are equally vital. Furthermore, utilization of captured carbon is pivotal for economic viability. Houston and the Gulf Coast region need to demonstrate their ability to safely transport and store CO2, highlighting the indispensable role of CCUS in realizing a prosperous, low-carbon future.

Decarbonization Track – Sponsored by Accenture

The Decarbonization Track showcased digital solutions developed in Houston to reduce emissions across the supply chain. Energy operators are harnessing their expertise to implement solutions that reduce operational emissions and the carbon intensity of oil and gas production. Accurate measurement of CO2 emissions from operations and production is increasingly vital, given the technical nature of exploration and production activities. Digital solutions, including drones and AI, are becoming indispensable in assessing, monitoring, and mitigating carbon emissions. These digital solutions can be applied from wellhead to consumer, marking a transformative shift in the energy transition.

Decarbonizing Oil & Gas Operations: It’s Not Business as Usual

In the first session, “Decarbonizing Oil & Gas Operations: It’s Not Business as Usual,” the significance of carbon baselining for enterprise-level emissions monitoring was discussed. This involves identifying value-adding opportunities and prioritizing strategies for sustainable emissions reductions across global operations. Integrated oil and gas companies excel at managing complex projects and addressing lifecycle challenges with commitments to sustainability, reliability, innovation, and efficiency. Leveraging relationships within the energy sector and beyond, along with developing holistic solutions at scale, was emphasized. Collaboration and intentionality in engaging with vulnerable communities are essential components of the energy transition.

Measuring and Managing Emissions in the Energy Industry

The second session, “Measuring and Managing Emissions in the Energy Industry,” explored the voluntary markets for sustainably sourced crude oil and natural gas, driven by investor and consumer expectations. Early adopters are achieving ROI by leveraging emissions management and continuous monitoring technologies throughout the energy supply chain. Accurate emissions quantification and reporting are paramount, and technology plays a crucial role in achieving this accuracy. Companies must evolve from monitoring, detecting, and measuring emissions to implementing forecasting and actions for emissions prevention, reduction, and optimization.

Innovation in Decarbonization: Houston-Based Startups Discuss the Landscape of Digital Solutions

In the final session, “Innovation in Decarbonization: Houston-Based Startups Discuss the Landscape of Digital Solutions,” panelists emphasized that emissions reduction and decarbonization are the future. Startups play a vital role in helping companies identify the right decarbonization challenges to address. These startups require access to funding and facilities for demonstration and pilot projects to scale up and create comprehensive solutions. Partnerships between energy majors, infrastructure companies, and the workforce in Houston are fostering innovation in decarbonization. Policy and regulatory support, as well as industry standards hubs and clusters, are critical enablers for investment in infrastructure connecting producers with consumers.

Hydrogen Track – Sponsored by Deloitte

The Hydrogen Track delved into supercharging decarbonization across the entire value chain and the pivotal role of clean hydrogen in reducing emissions in the Houston region. The potential for Houston to become a clean hydrogen hub was discussed, as the city possesses significant industrial demand for hydrogen, export potential through the Port, and existing energy infrastructure. Collaboration among stakeholders is essential to fully capitalize on hydrogen opportunities in Houston. State-level subsidies could accelerate regional clean hydrogen hub development.

Hydrogen Hubs

The first session, “Hydrogen Hubs,” highlighted Greater Houston’s assets, including industrial hydrogen demand, export potential, and existing energy infrastructure. The session emphasized the need for collaboration among stakeholders, permitting acceleration, and access to the necessary products for Houston’s clean hydrogen hub to thrive.

Houston Hydrogen Hub Update

In the second session, “Houston Hydrogen Hub Update,” attendees learned about Houston’s access to existing energy infrastructure, renewable energy resources, and a skilled energy market workforce that will support the city’s hydrogen hub development. Collaboration and shared objectives among stakeholders in Houston are vital. The absence of state-level subsidies may present challenges, but their implementation could drive growth and competitiveness.

Future Generation of Hydrogen Technology Development

The final session in the Hydrogen track, “Future Generation of Hydrogen Technology Development,” discussed unconventional technologies that could further accelerate hydrogen growth and disrupt the energy landscape. Technologies such as light-energized photocatalysts and nuclear technology in hydrogen production were explored. Byproducts resulting from hydrogen production, like carbon black, were highlighted for their potential value.

Climate Equity Track

The Climate Equity Track emphasized that a successful energy transition goes beyond emissions reductions. It should also drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for all Houstonians. The City of Houston’s initiatives, such as the Sunnyside Solar Farm and Building Decarbonization Policy, are key steps in the right direction. Scaling these efforts to the private sector with clear messaging and urgency is crucial. Connecting with minority communities through outreach and educational programs is necessary to address workforce needs in essential fields. Public-private partnerships are integral in ensuring equity is an integral part of the energy transition conversation.

In conclusion, the Future of Global Energy Conference provided a comprehensive view of the evolving energy landscape and the pivotal role Houston can play in shaping it. With a focus on carbon capture, decarbonization, hydrogen, and climate equity, the conference highlighted opportunities, challenges, and the collaborative efforts needed to transition to a low-carbon, energy-rich future.