A consortium developing innovative hydrogen storage has been awarded £7.7m from the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio of UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
EDF UK, University of Bristol, UKAEA and Urenco will together develop a hydrogen storage demonstrator, in which hydrogen is absorbed on a depleted uranium ‘bed’, which can then release the hydrogen when needed for use. When stored, the hydrogen is in a stable but reversible ‘metal hydride’ form. The depleted uranium material is available from recycling and has been used in other applications such as counterbalance weights on aircraft.
This hydrogen storage approach is aimed at longer-term energy storage, and will enable improvements in energy storage density.
New technologies are needed to store energy so that when low-carbon generation sources are producing excess energy it can be stored and then used at peak times, thus addressing one of the major challenges for the UK power system. Electricity can be converted to hydrogen via electrolysis and stored for future use either directly as hydrogen or converted back to electricity via a fuel cell when required.
This EDF-led consortium will develop this pilot-scale HyDUS (Hydrogen in Depleted Uranium Storage) demonstrator as part of the Longer Duration Energy Storage demonstrator programme at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus.
Professor Tom Scott, one of the architects of the HyDUS technology, said: “This will be a world first technology demonstrator which is a beautiful and exciting translation of a well proven fusion-fuel hydrogen isotope storage technology that the UK Atomic Energy Authority has used for several decades at a small scale. The hydride compounds that we’re using can chemically store hydrogen at ambient pressure and temperature but remarkably they do this at twice the density of liquid hydrogen. The material can also quickly give-up the stored hydrogen simply by heating it, which makes it a wonderfully reversible hydrogen storage technology”.
Dr Antonios Banos, technical lead from the University of Bristol, said: “This energy storage technology could provide high-purity hydrogen which is essential for key applications such as transportation while also storing hydrogen for long periods with no energy losses”.
Patrick Dupeyrat, EDF R&D Director, said: “This important funding from BEIS is a clear endorsement of the credibility of the consortium and of the quality of the feasibility study phase. The novel form of long duration energy storage technology that will be demonstrated in HyDUS has excellent synergies with the nuclear supply chain and EDF’s power stations, especially within a future low-carbon electricity system, where flexibility using hydrogen will play a significant role. I’m really excited to witness the demonstration phase of this exciting technology and the collaboration across our key partners.”
The UKAEA’s Monica Jong said: “We see HyDUS as an exciting energy storage technology that will help to drive decarbonisation of the national grid. What’s even more exciting is that this is a U.K. technology and a highly exportable showcase example of how to efficiently cross-bridge technology from the nuclear and fusion sectors into the hydrogen economy proving the UK is still a global leader in energy innovation.”
David Fletcher, Head of Business Development at Urenco, said: “We are proud to be a part of this exciting project which brings together proven fusion technology and a potential commercial use for Urenco’s stock of depleted uranium tails to develop a sustainable, low carbon energy storage solution for the emerging hydrogen economy.
“We firmly believe that hydrogen production is key to the net zero transition, especially for difficult to decarbonise and heavy industries and bulk transport which cannot be electrified. In fact, independent research commissioned by Urenco, shows that producing hydrogen through a combination of nuclear and renewables can cut costs and reduce emissions in a net zero energy system by 2050”.
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EDF is helping Britain achieve Net Zero by leading the transition to a cleaner, low emission, electric future and tackling climate change. It generates low carbon electricity from five nuclear power stations and more than thirty onshore wind farms and two offshore wind farms. EDF is leading the UK’s nuclear renaissance with the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, and there are advanced plans for a replica at Sizewell C in Suffolk. Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C will provide low carbon electricity to meet 14% of UK demand and power around 12 million homes.
EDF is one of the UK’s largest investors in renewables, with more than 1GW of renewable generation in operation and over 4GW in construction, planning and development across a range of technologies including onshore and offshore wind, solar and battery storage. We are constructing our largest offshore wind farm in Britain – the 450 MW Neart na Gaoithe project in Scotland.
EDF is part of EDF Group, the world’s biggest electricity generator. In the UK, the company employs around 11,000 people at locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
About University of Bristol
The University of Bristol, through its cutting edge multidisciplinary research, are a champion for thinking differently about nuclear energy. Professor Tom Scott, a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, leads the Interface Analysis Centre at the University of Bristol. The team’s research is applied to solving real world problems, through their expertise in nuclear materials science, sensors and robotics. The HyDUS project is part of a coordinated activity to link hydrogen production and storage with nuclear sites. The University of Bristol will support the development of a system for energy storage that could have a transformative impact on the world’s future net-zero energy system. www.bristol.ac.uk
UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is the national research organisation responsible for the development of fusion energy. Fusion energy has great potential to deliver safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for generations to come. It is based on the same processes that power the sun and stars, and would form part of the world’s future energy mix. Achieving this is a major technical challenge that involves working at the forefront of science, engineering, and technology.
UKAEA’s programmes include the MAST-Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) fusion experiment and the JET (Joint European Torus) fusion research facility, operated for scientists from around Europe in Culham, Oxford. STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) is UKAEA’s ambitious programme to accelerate the delivery of fusion energy, with plans to deliver a prototype powerplant producing net electricity in the 2040s in Nottinghamshire. UKAEA also undertakes cutting edge work with academia, other research organisations, and the industrial supply chain in a wide spectrum of areas, including robotics and materials. The Hydrogen3 Advance Technology (H3AT) Business Unit of UKAEA has been involved in the transport and storage of Hydrogen isotopes (including tritium), including the design and build of uranium beds for such purposes. www.gov.uk/ukaea
Urenco is an international supplier of enrichment services and fuel cycle products with sustainability at the core of its business. Operating in a pivotal area of the nuclear fuel supply chain for 50 years, Urenco facilitates zero carbon electricity generation for consumers around the world.
With its head office near London, UK, Urenco’s global presence ensures diversity and security of supply for customers through enrichment facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. Using centrifuge technology designed and developed by Urenco, and through the expertise of our people, the Urenco Group provides safe, cost effective and reliable services; operating within a framework of high environmental, social and governance standards, complementing international safeguards.
Urenco is committed to continued investment in the responsible management of nuclear materials; innovation activities with clear sustainability benefits, such as nuclear medicine, industrial efficiency and research; and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers.