The University of Manchester Leading Innovation in Hydrogen Economy

By June 6, 2023 5   min read  (1004 words)

June 6, 2023 |

the university of manchester leading innovation in hydrogen economy

The University of Manchester will lead an international team to build and demonstrate a new technology to produce syngas and pure hydrogen with nearly zero direct carbon dioxide emissions.

This £ 5.1 million collaborative project funded by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, specifically part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), also involves five world-leading industrial partners in the area of engineering for sustainable development: Johnson Matthey, TotalEnergies OneTech, Kent, Helical Energy and Element Energy.

The RECYCLE project (REthinking low Carbon hYdrogen production by Chemical Looping rEforming) will construct and test a fully integrated innovative hydrogen production pilot unit at The University of Manchester.

The technology is based on chemical looping reforming using fixed bed reactors which allow modular units and cost-effective solutions for hydrogen production using different feedstocks, with inherent carbon dioxide capture and separation at high purity.

The final demonstration is planned for the second half of 2024 in the pilot area of the James Chadwick Building at The University of Manchester.

The UK is leading the industrial revolution to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In the recently published Powering Up Britain: Energy Security Plan, the UK government is expecting to have two gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in operation or construction by 2025 and 10 gigawatts in 2030, subject to affordability and value for money. In this context, the RECYCLE project in Manchester represents an opportunity to to show continued innovation in the development of resilient and cost effective solutions for a low carbon future.

Dr Vincenzo Spallina, Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester and Principal Investigator of the RECYCLE project, said: “The feasibility study carried out during Phase 1 demonstrated great potential for low carbon hydrogen in the UK market and it has huge implications for several industrial stakeholders. This project will demonstrate its feasibility at a pre-commercial scale to increase awareness of the next steps towards commercial implementation.

“The demonstration plant will be installed in the James Chadwick Building where we are currently renovating the existing pilot hall area to establish the Sustainable Industrial Hub for Research and Innovation on sustainable process technologies. Our students will have the fantastic opportunity to see the next-generation hydrogen plant in operation as a unique teaching and learning experience. “

Professor Alice Larkin, Head of the School of Engineering at The University of Manchester, added: “Our University is committed to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2038 as part of its Environmental Sustainability Strategy and supported by activity through our  Advanced Materials and Energy research beacons. This collaborative project will boost the prestige of our academic community to secure clean and sustainable development through Science and Innovation in close partnerships with industries.”

“Our students will have the fantastic opportunity to see the next-generation hydrogen plant in operation as a unique teaching and learning experience.”
Dr Vincenzo Spallina

Silvian Baltac, Associate Partner and Industrial Decarbonisation lead at Element Energy, an ERM Group company, said: “We are delighted to continue supporting the University of Manchester and the RECYCLE Consortium with the Phase II of the project. Element Energy, a leading low-carbon consultancy, will help develop the go-to-market strategy for the RECYCLE technology, as well as support the Consortium with strategic communications and engagement, ensuring learnings from the project are disseminated with industry, academia, and the wider energy sector.”

Mark Wickham, CEO of HELICAL ENERGY, commented: “Our business is fully committed to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2038, by helping to develop and build neutral and negative carbon emissions technologies. This exciting collaborative project with the University of Manchester and industry partners will broaden our knowledge and experience in translational energy and build upon the work we are currently doing with other universities on carbon capture and hydrogen from biogenic fuels. RECYCLE is a fantastic innovative project that will make a significant contribution to carbon neutrality.”

Les Newman, Engineering & Consulting Managing Director at Kent, said: “We are delighted to be part of this cutting-edge project.  It is aligned with Kent’s purpose to be a catalyst for energy transition and an exciting addition to our blue hydrogen project portfolio.  We look forward to working with the University of Manchester and the consortium partners to advance the progress of this novel low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture technology.”

Suzanne Ellis, Innovation Director for Catalyst Technologies at Johnson Matthey, said: “Johnson Matthey works with partners around the world to apply our expertise in synthesis gas, process technology and catalysis to enable a transition to a net zero future. We are delighted to be part of this consortium led by University of Manchester, exploring the potential for this promising next generation technology to be moved through to industrial impact, whilst also inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Hugues Foucault, CO2 Capture R&D manager from TotalEnergies, said: “TotalEnergies  is supporting R&D in the Chemical Looping Combustion technology and it is involved in the Phase 2 of the RECYCLE project to technically and economically assess this process of blue hydrogen production with inherent carbon dioxide capture.”

Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance Lord Callanan said: “Hydrogen, known as the super fuel of the future, is critical to delivering UK energy security and clean, sustainable growth.

“I’m delighted that we have awarded funding to The University of Manchester so that they can build and test their first-of-a-kind hydrogen technology. This will generate opportunities for UK businesses to export their expertise around the world whilst supporting our ambition to have amongst the cheapest energy in Europe.”

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero provides dedicated leadership focused on delivering security of energy supply, ensuring properly functioning markets, greater energy efficiency and seizing the opportunities of net zero to lead the world in new green industries.

The funding from the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 programme comes from the  department’s  £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which provides funding for low-carbon technologies and systems and aims to decrease the costs of decarbonisation helping enable the UK to end its contribution to climate change.


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