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article imageMajor oil companies quietly investing in clean energy startups

By Karen Graham     Aug 15, 2017 in Business
The energy choices we make today will have a huge impact on our health, our climate and our economy for decades to come. This is why major oil companies have joined Silicon Valley in backing clean energy technology startups.
Wind and water, the heat and light from the sun, the warmth from deep within the Earth, and even the carbohydrates made by plants — All these are energy resources that can provide us with our needs in a clean and sustainable way, says the Union of Concerned Scientists.
As we well know, there are a variety of methods involved in converting these renewable sources into energy, and each one has a different set of technologies, along with benefits and challenges. However, renewable, sometimes called green or clean energy has the power to not only reduce pollution and slow global warming but create new, innovative technologies while creating new industries and jobs.
Oil companies step up to invest in clean energy
Many of the world's biggest investor-owned petroleum companies are now actively investing in clean energy. From Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Corporation to Total SA and British Petroleum, these companies are, as Bloomberg says, "dribbling money into ventures" that probe the edge of clean energy technologies.
Shale producers and their technology are teming up with Wall Street investors to increase oil and ga...
Shale producers and their technology are teming up with Wall Street investors to increase oil and gas production.
The petroleum companies are also showing a great deal of interest in projects that would improve the electrical grid and new fuel technologies using renewable sources. Right now, the investments are small, especially when compared to the $7.5 billion venture capital and private equity have poured into the clean energy technology market, but it is a start.
“In the energy industry, small companies have quite a lot of disruptive power,” Geert van de Wouw, managing director of Shell Technology Ventures, said in an interview. “We always have to look over our shoulder to make sure that we stay ahead of the game.”
Here are a few of the clean energy startups that have drawn the interest of major oil companies.
A Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) gas station near the interchange of California State Route 46 and In...
A Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) gas station near the interchange of California State Route 46 and Interstate 5 near Lost Hills, California.
Shell Technology Ventures
According to van de Wouw, who declined to detail his annual budget, but the clean energy fund’s total size is “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. (Shell splits its spending equally between oil and gas technology and clean energy).
1. Kite Power Systems: Shell is a co-investor in this company that says it can generate electricity using kites to capture the power of the wind high above the Earth. This British startup was founded in 2011 and received a joint £5 million investment from three energy firms, including Shell.
2. Glasspoint Solar Inc: Is a California-based company founded in 2009 that designs, manufactures and installs solar steam generators for the oil and gas industry globally. Their unique system can reduce an oil field's gas consumption and carbon emissions by up to 80 percent.
3. Sense: Sense is a tech company that designs, develops and manufactures a neat little brick-sized product that allows you to track energy usage in your home. Using the device, you can see which appliances are running up your electricity bill.
CC License: Attrition  No derivative wrik
CC License: Attrition, No derivative wrik
Total Energy Ventures
Total Energy Ventures International SAS
Founded in 2007, Total Energy Ventures International SAS operates as an investment arm of Total SA. They invest is a wide assortment of energy technologies, preferring to hold a minority stake. Its $160 million in investment funds have mostly gone into North America.
1. AutoGrid: This California-based company, established in 2011, has developed a suite of Energy Internet applications allows utilities, electricity retailers, renewable energy project developers and energy service providers.
2. United Wind: Based in Brooklyn, New York, United Wind leases small-scale wind turbines to retail customers and small businesses. The company was formed in 2013 as a combination of assets and talent from the two industry-leading small wind companies: Talco Electronics and Wind Analytics. This year they were named to the top 100 global clean tech companies.
An Exxon sign in Manassas  Virginia.
An Exxon sign in Manassas, Virginia.
Karen Bleier, AFP
Exxon Mobil Corp.
Besides being the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, it likes to do its own research and development, using partners rather than buying minority stakes in startups. However, they are interested in biofuels, carbon capture and storage, energy-efficiency processes and energy-saving materials, according to company spokesman William Holbrook.
1. Synthetic Genomics Inc: The company, along with the Colorado School of Mines and Michigan State, is part of Exxon's joint research collaborations focused on algae-based biofuels. They are also exploring biomass conversion processes that could be used with non-food based feedstocks such as whole cellulosic biomass, algae feedstocks, and cellulose-derived sugars.
2. FuelCell Energy Inc: Fuel Cell Energy is a global company that is developing carbonate fuel cells to capture CO2 emissions from natural gas plants while also producing electricity. They develop fuel cell solutions for the supply, recovery, and storage of energy for utility companies, municipalities, universities, government entities and a variety of industrial and commercial enterprises.
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