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August 11, 2011 
Sutherland LTIle

Hello, Houston! Allow us to introduce ourselves: Bisnow is now the largest commercial real estate publication and event producer in the US and we ply our trade in more than a dozen major metros. We're so excited to launch our new Energy Bisnow publication.


Robots are invading! (Not exactly, but we're channeling Orson Welles.) The streets of Houston are seeing more and more vehicles fueled by electricity and natural gas, and eVgo president Arun Banskota, hopes it'll revolutionize how we think, speak, and feel about getting from A to B.


Arun's thinking something along the lines of how Windows 95 brought a quantum leap to computers. Tuesday we snapped him recharging his EV—that’s "electric vehicle" (though it could also stand for "Eu-stick-the-plug where?! Vehicle"). He was doing it at his HQ located at an old Hummer dealership on the Katy Freeway. (Hold on, let's just pick that irony up off the floor.) eVgo is a start-up subsidiary of NRG—which owns Reliant Energy. Automakers are dead serious about the EV market and eVgo is building charging stations (about 50 planned) all over town. Keep in mind your primary refueling station is your own garage. By 2013, one out of 40 cars produced will be an EV. With no transmissions, no catalytic converters, and no fuel pumps, can we even call them cars? Front-end costs are high, but fuel costs (10 cents/kwh) can offset that. Users pay $89 a month for unlimited charge, which can take as long as 30 minutes.

Sutherland Mini

CenterPoint Energy is taking a different approach, looking to commercial fleets as its entry point into the natural gas vehicle market. We snapped this truck yesterday at the Clean Energy natural gas fueling station on Washington Avenue. CenterPoint, Apache, Anadarko, Southwestern Energy, and UH partnered to create the Greater Houston Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance led by Dr. Jim Granato. The think tank at UH group noodles the data and confers with CenterPoint’s Ana Hargrove, manager of marketing and sales. Fleets were chosen because they are thirstier and it makes a station like this (which costs $1M to build) viable. There are three like it in Houston, with more on the way. Automakers are making dedicated NGVs, while there is a dealer in Tomball that can retrofit a gasoline engine. 

Ana and Jim dared to leave the AC so we could snap them in this bi-fuel (natural gas and gasoline) car. This vehicle holds nine gallons of compressed natural gas ($2.50/gallon) and can get 25 miles per gallon. Fill-up time? The usual five minutes. Ana said NGVs will be more mainstream in two to three years. Are gasoline cars going away anytime soon? No, but President Obama said during his State of the Union that we should have one million EVs in the US by 2015. The difference is that this time very serious and very large Houston energy companies are on board with the knowledge that mind-blowing dollars are ripe for the taking. (It may not be easy being green, but it can be lucrative.)


Engineering firm Haynes Whaley Associates has seen unprecedented growth to its bottom line (about 30%) because big energy companies are expanding, consolidating, and upgrading their facilities, client development director Derick Thompson tells us. Bouncing back from layoffs in 2009, the firm landed the Exxon Mobil campus project, "the most significant project we have ever had in 35 years." It's also working on big expansion projects for Halliburton— two Houston campuses as well as campuses in Singapore and Malaysia. They also have finished upgrading ConocoPhillips’s Woodcreek campus. Low construction costs coupled with higher energy prices created a demand for facility improvements. Plus energy companies see cutting-edge campuses as a way to attract younger talent. (Perhaps Derick's 15-week-old daughter might be interested in a position at ConocoPhillips.)

Baker Tilly’s Barbara McDuffie sent in the resume of BC grad Molly Shotwell, whom we just hired! Barbara gets a $1,000 referral fee, which she’s asked us to give to the Lombardi Cancer Center. We snapped her in our office with The Scene Bisnow publisher Margot Machol. (We promise to send the real check to Lombardi.) We hope you’ll refer people as good as Molly to Bisnow so we can send you a check, too. And we won’t tell if you decide to keep it.


Though falling oil prices may have Sam Houston looking miffed, the Houston job market in the energy sector continues to bring smiles. Greater Houston Partnership VP of research Patrick Jankowski tells us local hiring at E&P firms has been spurred by higher gas prices ($80 now compared to $35 in late ’08). The region has added more than 2,300 E&P jobs over the past 12 months and oilfield services has added 4,400. Since the recession ended in January ’10, E&P has added 3,000 jobs, while oilfield services has added 7,300. Patrick says intense drilling activity in various oil and gas shale plays continues to support growth in oilfield services employment. The North American rig count has climbed from a low of 876 in June ’09 to 1,920 last week. But what about the long-term outlook? Patrick says this industry will remain robust. (Sam Houston declined to comment.)

Thus ends Energy for 08/11. People will speak of this day with reverence and we will smile only slightly and know we were there. Email news ideas to greg.miller@bisnow.com
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