Oil majors can bring experience from scaling-up renewables and project management expertise, as well as early-stage capital, event told
Oil giants such as Equinor and Shell could play a key role in scaling up and commercialising nuclear fusion power, a conference discussing the future of the technology often dubbed the energy transition’s ‘magic bullet’ was told.
The ventures arms of Norway’s Equinor and supermajor Shell – two of the world’s biggest oil & gas players – are backing fusion technology pioneers CFS and Zap Energy respectively, as they work to harness the reactions that fuel the sun in an effort to produce unlimited, on-demand, zero-carbon energy.
Kjetil Skaugset, a senior adviser on technology management at Equinor, told the FusionXInvest event in London: “We have a strategy of shaping the future of energy – if fusion’s not part of that what is?”
Skaugset claimed fusion fits into a “strategic portfolio” for Equinor that also includes renewables and hydrogen, with “our experience in offshore wind important in the context” as it moves to roll-out new technologies such as floating wind globally.
Once the first commercial fusion devices are operating – which most don’t expect to see before the early 2030s – Skaugset said “we need scale, we need for that to roll out globally. That’s a daunting task.”
The Equinor executive added: “Say we have ‘x’ number of devices that have proved themselves, you need to make them at a scale and in a manner that really helps the energy transition.”
Asked how backing fusion fits into a global decarbonisation push led by renewables and Equinor’s plans in the home Norwegian market, he said: “There’s an intermittency issue with [renewables], which you need to overcome by either storage or, like in Norway, hydropower, which is backing it with a baseload. [In the future] fusion is the baseload. So there’s a potential interaction there as well.”
Skaugset added: “It makes perfect sense. Norway is where we come from but Equinor is in more than 30 countries.”
Shell Ventures venture principal Liliia Chechel told the event that in her view strategic investors could play a role as “patient capital [and] long term investors” in fusion as it edges towards commercial reality.
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