Methane leaks, emissions, omicron and Amazon dominate Business headlines

Methane leaks, emissions, omicron and Amazon dominate Business headlines

Methane continues to leak from oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin, prompting action by industry and government to rein in the powerful greenhouse gas.

The Environmental Defense Fund reported that 40 percent of nearly 900 oil and gas wells surveyed in the Permian Basin by helicopter Nov. 12-21 were emitting “significant plumes” of methane. The flyover found emissions from about a third of surveyed pipelines and about half of processing and transportation operations. It also found that a third of smaller wells had emissions that persisted for days, according to the EDF, which has been surveying oil fields in West Texas with a infrared camera mounted to a helicopter since 2019.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, questioned the Environmental Defense Fund’s findings, and questioned the study’s methodology and data.

Omicron disrupts hospitality industry

The highly contagious omicron variant swept into Houston just in time to steal Christmas from area restaurants and bars finally starting to rebound from coronavirus slowdowns.

The businesses were already struggling with labor shortages, and now that servers, bartenders and chefs are falling ill, it is making it difficult for them to stay open.

EPA gets tough with automakers

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency announced tough new emissions standards on cars and light-duty trucks, putting the U.S. auto industry on notice it needs to rapidly shift to electric vehicles.

Under new standards set to take effect next year, carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles are required to reduce by 5 percent to 10 percent per year, reaching the equivalent of 40 miles per gallon by 2026.

The move comes as President Joe Biden seeks to get the United States on the path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid century, in an effort to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Solar energy added to Amazon’s portfolio

Amazon will build solar energy projects in Wharton and Matagorda counties that could generate enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes on a hot summer day, the online retailer said.

The projects are among 18 new utility-scale wind and solar projects Amazon plans to build in the U.S., Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Combined, they will generate about 5,600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than a million homes.

Abilene, Lancium team up for $2.4B data campus

A Houston-based energy technology and infrastructure company is teaming up with the city of Abilene for a $2.4 billion renewable energy-powered data center campus, one of the largest projects in the area’s history.

Lancium, announced plans to invest $2.4 billion over 20 years in Abilene and Taylor County. The project will begin at 200 megawatts with an expansion capacity to over 1 gigawatt, according to a release.

The company and its customers also plan to create 57 full-time jobs and build its “Clean Compute Campus” on 800 acres in the region. Abilene in Central Texas is roughly six hours northwest of Houston and two and half hours from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The rise of omicron

A wave of breakthrough infections spurred a rush for COVID tests and vaccines in Houston. The omicron variant of COVID-19 had hospitals turning to new antibody treatments, pharmacies struggling to keep home tests on shelves, and people rushing for booster shots.

The omicron variant drives a new wave of infections across Houston and it was infecting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. With public anxiety rising, leading public health officials urged people to get vaccinated, but also receive booster shots that provide protection against the variant and serious illnesses.

Gas prices take a tumble

Gasoline prices were falling as people drove away for the holidays. But the lower pump prices were because of omicron.

As another wave of COVID came in time for the holidays, people weighed whether to travel. The answering was a resounding yes, with AAA saying air travel would nearly triple from last year.

Coworking space expanding in Midtown

Sesh Coworking, a female-centered and LGBTQ+-affirming coworking space founded by Maggie Segrich and Meredith Wheeler, will move to a 20,000-square-foot location in Midtown next month.

The company worked with real estate developer, The Deal Co., to customize the space at 2808 Caroline St.

The new location includes 25 offices, three conference rooms, four phone booths, an amphitheater, library, demo kitchen, pop-up retail shop, locker room and interactive art installations. Its office spaces can accommodate teams of up to 15 people.

From staff reports.

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