The top 25: Barbara Burger, president, Chevron Technology Ventures

Since mid-2013, Barbara Burger has been president of Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), the 20-year-old strategic investment arm of oil and gas producer Chevron.

The unit launched the $100m Future Energy Fund in June 2018. “The investment focus for Future Energy Fund will be different from our earlier funds,” Burger said in an interview with Global Corporate Venturing.

“It will be focused on technologies that enable emissions reduction in oil and gas operations as well as investments in technologies that may break through or disrupt the energy vertical in the future.

“We have had investments in this space in the past but having a parallel fund in our organisation brings specific focus to this area. We will, however, manage the fund using the practices we have developed over nearly 20 years.”

Burger said in a statement at the time: “Chevron has long put its financial strength to work at critical moments that shape the future of energy.

“The Future Energy Fund will inform our continuously evolving perspective on the energy landscape through investment in research and innovation. To prepare for the future, the work starts now.”

Burger told Houston Business Journal in June 2018: “While [the Future Energy Fund] can have a direct intersection with our current business…it is also directed at strategic bets relative to the future energy landscape.”

CTV had previously invested in startups producing biofuels and fuel cells, but this new fund will be purely dedicated to funding alternative energy technologies. “We have been monitoring this space for a long time,” Burger said. The fund intends to seek out technologies that could have a major impact on the industry in 25 years’ time.

A Luminary member of the GCV Leadership Society, CTV is an active agent in the innovation ecosystem in Houston. At GCV’s Venture Houston in November 2018, Burger spoke about the future of energy innovation.

She said that although CTV’s parent Chevron is headquartered in California, it had more employees and contractors based in Houston than in any other place in the world. Innovation in technology in the oil and gas industry required change, such as more digitised value chains and energy efficiency.

As a result, CTV had a much greater interest in engaging with external innovation, particularly in the digital arena, and Chevron was increasingly leveraging from technologies developed by its innovation unit. “In today’s world,” Burger emphasised, “status quo is not acceptable – change is the new norm.”

Burger told Dow Jones in January 2019 that, unlike previous years, only in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months, the unit could learn of a startup’s activities and evaluate its technology. “The pace and amount of innovation and the abundance of information about innovation have increased dramatically,” she said.

In early 2019, CTV backed Canada-based cleantech producer Carbon Engineering, whose technology transforms carbon dioxide into fuels, in a $68m round.

It was the second public deal CTV made through the Future Energy Fund, after participating in late 2018’s $240m series H round for US-based electric vehicle charging network operator ChargePoint.

“We are interested in looking at innovations around carbon capture,” Burger told Financial Times in January. As carbon engineering uses carbon dioxide to produce clean, synthetic fuels, she added that this technology was especially important in Chevron’s downstream business.

Burger started as a research chemist in Chevron’s Richmond Laboratory. She went on to a number of management positions, including in lubricants, where she was vice-president for the global supply chain and base oils.

She is on the board of the Houston Technology Centre, a technology and business incubator, and also on the US Department of Energy National Renewable Laboratory External Advisory Council and the governing board of the MIT Energy Initiative.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF