Fusion energy 'four times cheaper than nuclear'
Inertial confinement fusion could deliver Levelised Cost Of Energy (LCOE) as low as $25/MWh compared with $50/MWh for onshore wind and $100/MWh for nuclear energy, according to new research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Fusion energy could be the most cost-effective solution for clean baseload power, complementing the need to continue rolling out renewable energy technologies as fast as possible to achieve a zero carbon global energy system by 2050.
Previous research had estimated inertial confinement fusion could deliver a LCOE of approximately $80/MWh, based on a cost and engineering analysis that assumed the need for a pulse or "shot" (i.e. firing a projectile at a target at massive speed to create the conditions required for fusion to take place) every five seconds. The research, authored by Dr. Nicholas Hawker, founder of First Light Fusion, identified new designs with higher fusion energy yield per shot, meaning fewer shots are required for the same amount of energy generated.
The paper demonstrates how this change leads to a new optimum power plant design, working at lower frequency, with a pulse every 60 seconds, and can reach economic viability with a smaller power output of 150 MWe. The solution offers both lower cost and much reduced engineering risk due to the smaller plant size and low shot frequency.
First Light Fusion is currently working on a First Of A Kind (FOAK) power plant design based on this new research. This initial pilot plant will not have a LCOE at this level – First Light will provide further technical and cost updates as the pilot design plans progress.
Dr Nick Hawker, CEO of First Light Fusion, said: "We have always believed fusion energy is not just deliverable but has the potential to revolutionise energy. This new work shows how fusion can be cost competitive with all generation technologies."
He added the most exciting aspect is the lower frequency changes the options for the core technology. "While we continue our work to demonstrate fusion, we are accelerating plans for developing the engineering of this new design. Those plans are already well advanced with detailed engineering work scoped. Our ambition remains to be grid ready this decade."
Gianluca Pisanello, COO of First Light, said achieving a zero-carbon global energy system by 2050 is achievable but will require significant investment in both existing renewables and new clean energy technologies. "This new research is hugely encouraging because in many parts of the world, wind, solar and hydro power alone will not be able to meet projected energy demand."
Analysis conducted by system-change advisory and investment firm SYSTEMIQ on behalf of First Light in 2019 concurs, suggesting fusion will be essential if we are to meet the Paris Agreement commitments and that achieving a zero carbon global energy system by 2050 is possible with significant investment.
The same analysis also concluded that while the rapid and maximum deployment of renewables is key to achieving the 2050 target, in certain parts of the world – including the UK – wind and solar power alone will not be able to meet projected energy demand, opening up a market for clean baseload power to complement renewables. Global power demand is expected to double by 2040 and could increase fivefold by 2060 when new technologies enable the electrification of a wider range of applications.
The low LCOE identified by this new research is made possible by First Light's inertial confinement fusion approach which overcomes three potential "showstoppers" of other fusion technologies: managing the intense heat flux, preventing neutron damage to structural materials, and generating the required tritium fuel, which all add massive cost.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.