UKRI to fund low-carbon fuels research

UKRI is funding research to investigate hydrogen and alternative low-carbon fuels, aiming to build two Centre of Excellences in Bath and Newcastle.

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Beginning 1 April, Professor Tim Mays from Bath’s Department of Chemical Engineering will head up research at Bath University, which aims to tackle research challenges blocking the wider use of low-carbon fuels in the UK.

Professor Mays will become one of two UK Hydrogen Research Co-ordinators, who aim to establish National Centres of Excellence at their home institutions over the next six months.

The other co-ordinator project will be headed up at Newcastle University by Professor Sara Walker, School of Engineering, whose team will explore ways to achieve greater systems integration.

“A thriving, low carbon hydrogen sector is essential for the government’s plans to build back better, with a cleaner, greener energy system,” said Prof Mays. “Large amounts of low carbon hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels such as ammonia will be needed, which must be stored and transported to points of use.”

EPSRC funding at Bath, initially totalling over £400k, will support research activities including UK-wide stakeholder engagement workshops. Professor Mays’ team will bring together multidisciplinary multi-site projects with the aim of building longer-term research alliances.

Industry project partners include ITM Power, the Health and Safety Executive, Jaguar Land Rover, GKN Aerospace, Wales and West Utilities, Siemens Energy and the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association.

The team will use a ‘theory of change’ process to map the greatest research challenges, as well as their potential solutions and resulting impacts.

Research will focus on potential for green low-carbon fuels to decarbonise land, water and air transport, electricity generation and domestic and industrial heating, as well as high CO2-emitting industries such as manufacture of steel, cement, glass and fertilisers.

At Newcastle, Professor Walker will focus on the role of these fuels in the net zero transition in providing connectivity and flexibility across the energy system.

Bringing expertise in energy systems integration, she will aim to analyse the landscape, the challenges, and the demand for these fuels, to identify viable investment priorities. The team will use digital and virtual engagement across stakeholders to bring fresh perspectives on future hydrogen pathways.

Dr Kedar Pandya, EPSRC director for Cross-Council Programmes said there is a growing consensus that these low-carbon fuels will play a key role in decarbonisation of all UK economy sectors, as exemplified by the government’s 2021 UK hydrogen strategy.

“Over the next six months, the hydrogen research coordinators will work across the UK to build an understanding, and galvanise expertise, in research and systems integration,” Dr Pandya said.

“The focussed, multi-stakeholder plan they create will support the consideration of hydrogen as a key component of the UK’s energy mix and inform EPSRC’s future plans for an integrated, ambitious research and innovation programme working across the hydrogen value chain and its major use sectors in partnership with business.”