Commonwealth’s $84mn funding round brings fusion step closer
Fusion energy, it’s often sai...
Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off Commonwealth Fusion Systems intends to develop commercial fusion energy.
Fusion energy, it’s often said, has been twenty years away forever. The technology, which differs from conventional nuclear power by fusing rather than splitting atoms, has utopian associations of infinite, low cost, clean energy, capable of powering humanity into a new future. That’s if it can ever be commercialised, of course.
Nuclear fusion, the process which powers the Sun, has repeatedly been demonstrated here on earth, only always requiring more energy put in than is put out, making it quite useless for power generation.
Commonwealth Fusion Systems has entered the race (or is it a marathon?) to crack this central nut. It is developing high-temperature superconducting magnets as part of its development of what it hopes to be the world’s first net-energy-gain fusion system, which it calls SPARC, in collaboration with MIT’s PLasma Science and Fusion Center. 2021 is the target to demonstrate a successful magnet, from which the company intends to springboard to a successful reactor and then a power plant known as ARC.
Its approach has won it significant backing since its foundation in 2018, with almost $200mn raised. Its latest Series A2 round has brought in $84mn from lead investor Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, as well as numerous others including The Engine, Starlight Ventures, Schooner Capital, Safar Partners, Moore Strategic Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Hostplus, Future Ventures and Equinor.
The company said it would use the funding to grow its capabilities in eventually offering fusion power plants, fusion engineering services, and HTS magnets.
"Even in these challenging times, we are thrilled to have this group of new investors including a global investment company and a world-leading energy company committed to the long-term investment in commercial fusion, enabling CFS to remain aggressive in building the first net-energy fusion machine as fast as possible," said Bob Mumgaard, CEO, CFS, in a press release. "This funding is further evidence of a growing fusion industry and the important transition that is taking place as fusion expands from public-funded research to the private companies that will drive commercial fusion to market to help solve climate change."
Denmark marine group explores methanol fuel cell scalability
Fuel cell maker Blue World Technologies, Alfa Laval and vessel owners DFDS, Maersk Drilling and Hafnia are developing fuel cells based on High-Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) technology to assess their potential as a source of marine auxiliary power.
Funded by the Danish Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program, testing will be held at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg.
The aim of the project is to establish a highly efficient and cost-effective HTPEM fuel cell solution, giving marine vessels a realistic alternative to combustion-based auxiliary power in future.
The fuel cell test setup will have a power of 200kW, but the fully developed and modular design should be possible to scale up incrementally to a level of 5 MW.
HTPEM fuel cells have a higher tolerance for thermal cycling than other fuel cell types and will provide clean operation with no particulate emissions, will use carbon-neutral renewable methanol as fuel.
Methanol is one of the most promising fossil-free fuels available for future shipping and is already being used in testing at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre. The fuel cell system concept, however, could be possible to adapt for fuels such as LNG and ammonia.
Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Head of Technology Development, Energy Solutions, Alfa Laval Marine Division, said: "Building on the scalability of automotive applications, we are convinced that methanol fuel cell systems can drastically reduce maritime climate and environmental impact. By further developing our technology in partnership with marine colleagues, and by ramping up our production capacity at the same time, we can deliver a fuel cell solution that is green, operationally sound and also commercially viable."
The three vessel owners will contribute insights regarding the operational and commercial implementation of the HTPEM fuel cell system.
- DFDS, owner of one of Europe’s largest shipping networks, is actively moving away from fossil fuels and brings experience from other fuel cell projects.
- Maersk Drilling, a Danish owner and operator of drilling rigs, has a strong focus on energy efficiency and brings experience of using auxiliary power for special applications.
- Hafnia, owner of one of the world’s largest product tanker fleets, has a strategy of transitioning to viable future marine fuels and believes strongly in methanol. Hafnia brings deep knowledge of methanol bunkering and operations.
Mads Friis Jensen, Chief Commercial Officer and Co-founder, Blue World Technologies, said: "Fuel cells have the potential to expedite the green transformation of shipping. The technology will enable a new generation of very simple and reliable ships that will be much easier to digitize than the ships we have today. This will open up for exciting new opportunities."
Last week Alfa Laval opened a 1,600sqm Application & Innovation centre in Kolding to accelerate hygienic fluid handling technology (click here) for food and pharmaceutical applications.
The power of partnerships and alliances
ABB recently announced a strategic investment and development agreement with AFC Energy to further the advancement of fuel cell technology integration into its high-growth eMobility and data center segments (click here).
The partnership will work towards a zero emission, sustainable turn-key power solution for the growing number of current and prospective data centers currently servicing the world’s data storage and processing requirements. End-user spending on global data center infrastructure is projected to increase 6 percent in 2021 from the previous year.
SFC Energy became the newest member to join the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance this month.
"By joining the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance we want to contribute our know-how and experience to drive the development of the market for clean hydrogen technologies in Europe. At the same time, we look forward to a continuous and enriching dialogue with representatives from politics and industry", said Dr. Peter Podesser, CEO of SFC Energy.