Chevron invests in nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy to reduce world’s carbon footprint
Oil giant Chevron Corp announced Wednesday it is investing in Seattle, Washington-based nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy. Chevron joins Italy’s ENI and Norwegian state oil company Equinor who have also backed nuclear fusion startups to reduce their carbon footprint. Zap Energy will use the funds raised in this round to continue technology development and grow their development team. The company did not disclose the amount of the investment.
Unlike the conventional nuclear power that uses nuclear fission which involves the splitting of a large unstable nucleus into smaller elements and generates long-lived radioactive waste, nuclear fusion is a process that releases large amounts of energy with no greenhouse gas emissions and limited long-lived radioactive waste.
Nuclear fusion occurs when nuclei of lightweight elements (typically hydrogen) collide with enough force to fuse and form a heavier element – a process that releases substantial amounts of energy with no greenhouse gas emissions and limited long-lived radioactive waste.
Founded in 2017 by Benj Conway, Brian Nelson, and Uri Shumlak, Zap Energy’s fusion reactor stabilizes plasma using sheared flows rather than magnetic fields. Driving electric current through the flow creates the magnetic field, which confines and compresses the plasma. The higher the current, the greater the pressure and density in the plasma. Zap Energy’s reactor is the least expensive, most compact, most scalable solution with the shortest path to commercially viable fusion.
Chevron’s decision to invest in nuclear fusion startups comes as energy companies face increasing pressure from investors to reduce emissions, spend more on low-carbon energy and disclose the impact of their fossil fuel production on climate change.
“Chevron Technology Ventures’ investment in fusion is an opportunity to enhance the company’s focus on a diverse portfolio of low-carbon energy resources,” Chevron said in a statement. “We see fusion technology as a promising low-carbon future energy source,” said Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures. “Our Future Energy Fund investment in Zap Energy adds to Chevron’s portfolio of companies we believe are likely to have a role in the energy transition.”
This investment marks the 10th investment by Chevron’s Future Energy Fund, which was launched in 2018 to explore breakthrough technologies that enable macro decarbonization, the mobility-energy nexus, and energy decentralization.
“Our Future Energy Fund investments provide us with strategic insight into power generation markets and potentially disruptive impacts of innovative approaches, like fusion, geothermal, wind, and solar, on the conventional power value chain,” said Burger.
“We see fusion technology as a promising low-carbon future energy source,” said Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures. “Our Future Energy Fund investment in Zap Energy adds to Chevron’s portfolio of companies we believe are likely to have a role in the energy transition.”