Industry decarbonization moves ahead with Dow Chemical / X-energy partnership

Dow Chemical has signed a development agreement with X-energy Reactor Company to build its DOE-funded demonstration 4-pack Xe-100 advanced nuclear plant at a Dow Chemical Gulf Coast site. Dow’s very strategic move makes it one of the first industrials to acknowledge that decarbonization will not be possible without advanced nuclear energy.

This is a key watershed moment, marking the imminent arrival of an entirely new category of clean energy power plants that are entering the market with an ability to provide both carbon-free electricity and clean, high-temperature steam for industrial purposes. Dow’s interest reflects the likely appetite among large industrials for clean energy alternatives in their very hard-to-decarbonize sector and the appeal of having the DOE as a funding partner in the development of a first-of-a-kind plant.

Nuclear power has been serving the electricity needs of grid-scale utilities for six and a half decades. But until now, it has not been able to compete in the industrial process heat market. Now, X-energy and a number of other advanced nuclear ventures are designing more functional and flexible power plants that generate extra high-temperature stream. This steam can be piped directly to an industrial processing area which needs high-temperature heat for chemical processing or it can be converted into electrons with a turbine and generator to provide electricity.

Accordingly, for a company like Dow Chemical and hundreds of other industrial companies producing steel, ammonia, hydrogen, hydrocarbons or doing desalination, the Xe-100 provides a very compelling energy choice, as it can provide a lot of reliable, flexible power with stable pricing that can also feed electrons into the grid, when grid prices are high.

X-energy was one of two awardees of the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (the other awardee being TerraPower), entitling it to an initial grant of $80 million towards the demonstration of its Xe-100 power plant, consisting of four 80 MWe/200 Mwth reactors and a fuel fabrication facility within seven years (by 2028). The ARDP received an additional $2.5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the demonstrations of two advanced reactor technologies, which will build on the initial $160 million received from the Office of Nuclear Energy prior to OCED’s creation.

X-energy initially planned to build is X-100 up in Washington state, in a partnership with and at a site hosted by Energy Northwest. Since receiving the award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of its reactor and its fuel fabrication facility and is preparing to submit an application with the NRC, which has not yet happened. Meanwhile, the company has also agreed to go public via a merger with the Ares SPAC later this spring and these have likely helped give Dow Chemical the confidence to make an offer to partner with X-energy.  If that isn’t enough, the company just announced plans to open its first support center, to service its initial deployments of its Xe-100 plants.

Learn more at Power, X-energy and Dow Will Deploy a 320-MWe Xe-100 Nuclear Facility at Gulf Coast Site, by Sonal Patel, Mar 1, 2023.  See Bloomberg for “Ares SPAC is Merging with Nuclear Energy Firm X-Energy, Dec. 6, 2022. Read more about the X-Energy Plant Support Center at X-energy: X-energy to Open First Plant Support Center for Xe-100 Advanced Small Modular Reactor Fleet, March 7, 2023.  More about the DOE’s ARDP Awards.