Market-focused UK innovation in fuel cells and H2, as funded by Innovate UK
Michael Priestnall, Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the UK Government's innovation agency. Global market opportunities for the products of UK research and Innovations are created by the need for clean, affordable and resilient energy. Commercially-focussed innovations in fuel cells and hydrogen technologies in development by UK business and research communities are in scope for the Energy Catalyst and other Innovate UK competitions. A selection of these innovations will be presented.
Green hydrogen and solar to fuels
Professor James Durrant FRS, Imperial College London, UK
Harnessing renewable energy sources to drive the synthesis of energy dense fuels and chemical feedstocks has the potential to address several key challenges for reducing CO2 emissions: providing a scalable strategy for energy storage in chemical bonds (the most energy dense storage strategy by mass), providing carbon neutral pathways to sustainable fuels for transport applications and feedstocks for the chemical industry and, where targeted on CO2 reduction to chemicals, providing a market for carbon dioxide utilisation. ‘Green hydrogen’ produced by the electrolysis of water powered by photovoltaics or wind turbines is already being demonstrated in the UK, with significant ongoing cost reductions. In the longer term, rapid scientific progress is being made in directly harnessing sunlight to drive the photolysis of water, and the reduction of carbon dioxide to carbon based fuels. My talk will review recent advances in the science and technology which can enable such pathways, and discuss their future potential.
The role of ‘green’ ammonia in decarbonising energy
Dr Rene Banares-Alcantara, University of Oxford, UK
The main challenge to substitute fossil fuels with renewable energy (RE) sources is the intermittency of the latter. Energy storage (ES) systems have been proposed as a solution to bridge intermittency as they can store RE, and use it when the energy demand is higher than the supply. Several types of ES technologies are available, and they differ in terms of their energy density, charge time, self-discharge, capacity, efficiency and cost. There are two important questions that need to be answered when selecting the most appropriate ES technology for a given problem: the amount of energy that needs to be stored, and the duration distribution of the stored energy. Both of these quantities depend on how well the RE and demand profiles match, but there is little discussion that both short and long term duration ES are needed in most situations.
We have been studying methods (a) to determine the distribution of short vs long duration storage requirements for different geographical locations, and (b) to size and cost long duration ES technologies. Our research focus has been the production of ‘green’ ammonia (using H2 produced via water electrolysis powered by RE) as opposed to ‘brown’ ammonia (using H2 from steam methane reforming (SMR)). ‘Green’ ammonia can be used as an energy storage vector, but in its current use as raw material for the production of fertilisers could also avoid the large amount of CO2 emissions originating from SMR (an estimated 1.3% of worldwide CO2 emissions).
The production of ‘green’ ammonia has been technically feasible for many years, but it has not been competitive economically. Recent models indicate that reductions in the cost of RE begin to make it possible to produce ‘green’ ammonia economically, but a competitive ammonia-based ESS would also need to account for the effect of intermittency as it affects the size and operation of the ESS. We have identified a number of key variables that influence the levelised cost of ammonia (LCOA) and have developed a model to quantify the dependence of LCOA with respect to those variables: energy source mix (solar PV, wind and grid), LCOE, electrolyser CAPEX, relative size of the ESS components, and load ramping capabilities for each of those components.
The talk will also briefly discuss future technologies that will provide further opportunities to reduce the cost of ‘green’ ammonia such as new electrolyser technologies and improved reactor design for ammonia synthesis.