University of Bath: Bath to lead new research into UK take-up of greener hydrogen-based fuels

An important new research project into how the UK could increase its use of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels, as part of the country’s commitment to reaching Net Zero in 2050, is set to begin at the University of Bath.

From 1 April, Professor Tim Mays, from Bath’s Department of Chemical Engineering, will head up a new project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) aimed at tackling the research challenges blocking the wider use of these low carbon fuels in the UK.

Professor Mays will become one of two UK Hydrogen Research Co-ordinators who aim over the next six months to establish national Centres of Excellence based at their home institutions. The other co-ordinator project exploring better systems integration of these fuels will be headed up at Newcastle University by Professor Sara Walker.

Professor Mays said: “A thriving, low carbon hydrogen sector is essential for the government’s plans to build back better, with a cleaner, greener energy system. 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. Much research is required, and we will work collaboratively across multiple disciplines to help meet these challenges.”

EPSRC funding at Bath, initially totalling over £400k, will be used to support research activities including UK-wide stakeholder engagement workshops. Professor Mays’ team will bring together high-impact, multidisciplinary, multi-site projects, with the aim of building longer-term research alliances. The committed team includes Co-Investigators Professor Rachael Rothman from the University of Sheffield, and Professor Shanwen Tao from the University of Warwick.

There is a strong engagement from industry, with high-profile project partners including ITM Power, Health and Safety Executive, Jaguar Land Rover, GKN Aerospace, Wales and West Utilities, Siemens Energy and the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association.

Engaging with policy makers and industry
The Co-ordinator project team will engage stakeholders and use a ‘theory of change’ process to map the greatest research challenges, as well as potential solutions to these challenges and their impacts. They will focus on the potential for these fuels to decarbonise land, water and air transport, electricity generation and domestic and industrial heating as well as high CO2 emitting industries such as the manufacture of steel, cement, glass, and fertilisers. Together these areas make up about 90% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Hence the potential impact of the project is enormous specially to support the country meeting its demanding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Professor Ian White, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bath, said: “I was delighted to hear from the UKRI of Professor Mays’ success in receiving funding for their highly competitive Research Challenges Coordinator Call. We should be proud of not only his recent funding success, but his contribution to hydrogen research in the UK.

“This project, aligned to our primary institutional research theme of sustainability, supports the strategic pillars of our University strategy, including driving high-impact research and enhancing strategic partnerships. Moreover, it lays the foundation for the creation of a UK centre of research excellence in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels to be based at Bath.”

Key role in decarbonisation
Dr Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Director for Cross-Council Programmes said: “There is a growing consensus that these fuels will play a key role in the deep decarbonisation of all sectors of the UK economy, as exemplified by the publication of 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.

“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.”

It was also recently announced that Professor Mays will lead a Bath Beacon at the University of Bath entitled Future Fuels: Hydrogen and its Carriers, an initiative aligned to national priorities that empowers our research community to tackle major global challenges by building consortia for large-scale funding. The Hydrogen Research Co-ordinator project is an important step in that journey.

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