Hydrogen research hub awarded £11 million to help UK reach Net Zero targets

The University of Sheffield is one of several partners in a new research hub aiming to become an international leader in hydrogen research.

A graphic with the partners of UK-HyRES on it
The hub involves The University of Bath, The University of Sheffield, University College London, University of Portsmouth, St Andrews University, University of Surrey and University of Warwick.

The UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels (UK-HyRES) has been awarded an £11 million grant to pave the way on the UK’s future approach to hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels (H&ALFs).

Led by the University of Bath’s Professor Tim Mays, the UK-HyRES also includes Professor Joan Cordiner, Professor Rachael Rothman and Dr Alasdair Campbell from The University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The hub aims to become an international leader in hydrogen research and to deliver practical hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel technologies that are safe, acceptable, and environmentally and economically sustainable.

Hydrogen and hydrogen-based, low-carbon liquid fuels, such as ammonia, are essential for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Hydrogen is a highly versatile energy vector suitable for use in many hard-to-decarbonise sectors where other energy options, such as electricity, are not suitable.

The UK-HyRES Hub will identify, prioritise and deliver solutions to research challenges that will accelerate the take up of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels. This hub will also provide a network and collaboration platform to tackle research challenges that underpin the production, storage distribution and end use of H&ALFs.

It will be a focus for industry, policy and other stakeholder communities, to tackle research challenges that underpin the production, storage, distribution and end use of H&ALFs. 

The hub’s unique structure has been developed to deliver maximum impact – focusing on four technical themes (production, storage / distribution, end use and alternative liquid fuels), and four cross-cutting themes (environmental, economic and social sustainability and safety).

A pipeline of national, interdisciplinary research projects that can deliver practical H&ALF technologies will also be co-ordinated by the UK-HyRES team. This will include efforts to de-couple fossil fuels from our energy system and deliver greener energy for transport, heating, power and industrial decarbonisation. The team will develop UK-HyRES into a global centre of excellence and impact in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel research within its five-year funding window and into the future.

Other partner universities: University College London, University of Portsmouth, St Andrews University, University of Surrey and University of Warwick.

Total funding for UK-HyRES now exceeds £26 million following other supporting investments from the core university partners and industrial and civic collaborators. These include the West of England Combined Authority, Ceres Power, GKN Aerospace, the Health and Safety Executive, INEOS Technologies, the Western Gateway Partnership and Siemens Energy.

Professor Rothman said: “Hydrogen will be a hugely important part of the future as we move towards net zero and it's important to work out where, when and how it makes sense to produce, transport and use it. 

“I am very excited to co-Direct the UK-HyRES Hub and lead on the environmental theme. We will be analysing process and technology alternatives to ensure their implementation really will reduce carbon and other environmental emissions. This helps to find truly sustainable solutions and avoid unintended consequences.”

Professor Cordiner added: “This is a really important investment as it allows us to really study the issues that using hydrogen as a part of our net zero future raises in safety. As safety theme lead, along with my co-investigator Dr Alasdair Campbell, we will study the net zero processes looking at risks, developing models to understand and mitigate these risks and provide a toolbox for companies. 

“Being able to design, build, operate and maintain assets using or making H2 is critical and our research and toolkit will address this. 

“We look forward to collaborations with the Health and Safety Executive and many industry and process safety professionals through this project.”

The funding comes as part of a wider £53 million investment announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This is spread across six separate research hubs that will boost knowledge, innovation and new technologies to decarbonise the energy sector.

These other hubs are: the HI-ACT Hub, which is led at the University of Newcastle; the Energy Demand Research Centre, based at the universities of Sussex and Newcastle; the University of Bristol-based Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub; the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Impact Hub based at the University of Plymouth; and the University of Aston-led Supergen Bioenergy Hub.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said: “The government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, requiring rapid decarbonisation of our energy systems. UKRI is leveraging its ability to work across disciplines to support this ambition through a major portfolio of investments that will catalyse innovation and new green energy systems.

“The funding announced today will support researchers and innovators to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.”

More information on the UK-HyRES.

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