Chevron announced a Series A investment in Zap Energy Inc., a Seattle-based start-up company developing a next-generation modular nuclear reactor with an innovative approach to advancing cost-effective, flexible, and commercially scalable fusion.
Chevron Technology Ventures’ investment in fusion is an opportunity to enhance the company’s focus on a diverse portfolio of low-carbon energy resources with the capacity to provide communities across the globe access to affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy.
Conventional nuclear power uses nuclear fission which involves the splitting of a large unstable nucleus into smaller elements and generates 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 2018, Zap Energy’s technology 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.
“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.
Zap Energy will use the funds raised in this round to continue technology development and grow their development team.
About Chevron Technology Ventures
Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) pursues externally developed technologies and new business solutions that have the potential to enhance the way Chevron produces and delivers affordable, reliable, and ever-cleaner energy. CTV leverages innovative companies and technologies to strengthen Chevron’s core operations and identifies new opportunities to shape the future of energy.
About Zap Energy
Zap Energy was founded in 2017. Its breakthrough plasma confinement technology is an extension of work originally pioneered by the FuZE team at the University of Washington and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy since 1998.
By stabilizing the plasma with a sheared flow—that is, with plasma flowing at different velocities at different radii—the high-temperature, high-density reactive medium can be confined long enough for the fusion reactions to occur.
Zap Energy thinks its reactor is the least expensive, most compact, most scalable solution with the shortest path to commercially viable fusion. Based on company’s progress to this point, they are on track to reach Q=1 energy breakeven plasma conditions.