The launch of three White Papers comissioned by the H2FC Supergen

The H2FC Supergen launched three White Papers at the London City Hall on 17th March 2017. Watch the entire event here.

In front of an audience of Government, Industry and Academic representatives, authors from leading UK universities presented their findings on The Role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in i) Delivering Energy Security for the UK, ii) The Future Energy Systems and iii) Creating Economic Impact for the UK.

Dennis Hayter, who hosted the launch as the Vice Chair of Hydrogen London, then presented the ways in which hydrogen and fuel cells were being employed (in buses and stationary applications) to address the challenges of air pollution and CO2 emission reduction in London.

The key technology messages from the presentations of the three white papers can be summarized as:

  • Hydrogen is versatile like electricity and can play a major role alongside electricity in the low-carbon economy. Hydrogen can enable deeper decarbonisation through providing low-carbon flexibility and storage.
  • Modelling suggests that both hydrogen and fuel cells form part of the least-cost solution to decarbonising the UK economy out to 2050. With no government intervention they offer the best-value route to decarbonising heavy goods vehicles, some industries and peak power generation. However, with consistent long-term commitment as much as 50% of final energy demand could be met by hydrogen in 2050, with wide-ranging uses across transport, heat and industry.
  • Fuel cell vehicles are now being produced on assembly lines by major manufacturers.
  • Decarbonising heat faces several challenges, with strong user requirements that hydrogen boilers and fuel cells can meet.
  • Hydrogen technologies can support low-carbon electricity systems dominated by intermittent renewables and/or electric heating demand. Fuel cells provide controllable capacity that helpfully offset the additional peak demand of heat pumps.
  • The ‘hydrogen economy’ is not necessary for hydrogen and fuel cells to flourish and fuel cells can contribute to UK energy system security, both now and in the future.
  • Hydrogen can be produced using a broad range of feedstocks and production processes, including renewable electricity. Thus, adopting hydrogen as an end-use fuel in the long term increases UK energy diversity.
  • The export potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is significant and a move away from current UK use of refined fuels towards hydrogen can be expected to yield a valuable increase in GDP and employment.
  • Low-cost strategic investments can be made to ‘keep the door open’ for hydrogen technologies. The option to use hydrogen in strategically important sectors can be retained for a slight increase in decarbonisation cost. This can reinforce energy security and provide insurance against other technologies failing to deliver as anticipated (e.g. carbon capture or heat pumps). Hydrogen technologies have a familiar look and feel for consumers, enabling greater personal choice in decarbonisation.

The key policy messages from the presentations include the following:

  • UK firms are international leaders in power-to-gas, fuel cell vehicles, alkaline fuel cells and component supply chains for the hydrogen industry. Despite this, and in contrast with competing countries, UK energy and industrial policy implicitly neglects the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
  • Supporting the electricity, heating and transport systems with hydrogen and fuel cells, through power-to-gas and peak generation, will lead to closer interactions between the power, gas and transport sectors in the future. It is advised that energy policy, especially the energy security strategy, should consider these interactions by taking a more holistic view of these markets and of the energy system as a whole.
  • Indications by the Government of future policies in hydrogen and fuel cells are needed to support the long-term perspective of the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • While hydrogen and fuel cells are now being deployed for mainstream applications, now that the UK is leaving the EU, pre-commercialisation funding needed to drive full scale commerilisation is at risk. Currently, most of this funding is supplied by the European Commission.
  • The UK might wisely choose to buy into continuing participation in these EU support mechanisms, through UK parties involved in successful support bids (Norwegian/Swiss model). In order to make UK support for this nascent sector more coordinated, the establishment of a single cross-cutting support agency – one similar to the German ‘NOW’ organisation/model, is recommended.

Following the presentations, Celia Greaves (UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association – UK HFCA) talked about the activities of the UK HFCA to gain policy and public support for the development of hydrogen and fuel cells in UK.

Paul Ekins (Professor of Resources and Environment Policy at UCL), who chaired the session, concluded the launch with an important message to the policy makers:

“We are at a very exciting time now for hydrogen and fuel cells, because people are realistic and pragmatic. Today there are real products, there are private vehicles, buses, all sorts of stationary applications, and there are forklifts trucks – where these products are being installed.

Policy making has an absolutely crucial role to play at this moment – the UK has a lot of strength in this area but at the moment it is considerably behind its main industrial and commercial competitor countries. This represents a threat for the country –  for instance if the automotive industry globally decides to use hydrogen and fuel cells in the future we might find ourselves importing rather than exporting vehicles in the new hydrogen and fuel cell age.”

The White Papers can be downloaded on the Hub website here.

The authors of the White Paper on: The Role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Delivering Energy Security for the UK. Left to right: Prof. Robert Steinberger-Wilckens (University of Birmingham), Dr. Paul E. Dodds (UCL), Dr. Zeynep Kurban (Imperial College London), Dr. Anthony Velazquez Abad (UCL)

 

The authors of the White Paper on: The Role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in The Future Energy Systems. Left to right:  Dr. Daniel Scamman, Dr. Paul Dodds, Dr. Anthony Velazquez Abad (all from UCL), Dr. Iain Staffell, Prof. Nilay Shah (both from Imperial College London) and Prof. Paul Ekins (UCL).

 

The authors of the White Paper on: The Role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Creating Economic Impact for the UK. Left to right: Dr. Paul E. Dodds (UCL), Prof. John Irvine (University of St-Andrews), Dr. Oluwafisayo Alabi, Prof. Karen Turner (both from University of Strathclyde).

 

Five Years

Unbelievable as it may seem, it has been five years since the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells SUPERGEN was set up to help address the challenges facing the hydrogen and fuel cell sector in the UK. To celebrate this milestone, Imperial College will host an anniversary event on Friday 28th April to showcase half a decade of achievement in the H2FC research field. The H2FC Hub Management Board and other speakers will be presenting key research progress made in the area of hydrogen and fuel cells, illustrating the real world impacts of their work. The topics will range from developments in hydrogen production, storage and safety to SOFC and PEMFC advances, as well as the socioecomic and policy impact enabled by the Hub.

This event will also mark the launch of the ‘Five Years Impact Report’, which will be made available in hard-copy to attendees, as well as being put up online.

Tickets to the anniversary event are free, but spaces are limited so make sure you register your attendance in good time. To find out more details and to register your interest, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/h2fc-supergen-five-year-anniversary-tickets-31933448805.

London police to use fuel cells to FIGHT CRIME

In a lighter piece of news today, fuel cell manufacturer Intelligent Energy announced a technology trial with London’s Metropolitan Police Force to supply them with hydrogen-powered Suzuki Burgman motorbikes. The scooters are equipped with 4kW air cooled fuel cells, making them lightweight but capable of meeting the police force’s safety and performance standards.

The clean bikes would be an important symbol for a city which is struggling to clean up its air pollution from traffic. More seriously, it shows an increasing institutional acceptance of hydrogen, helping to push the technology towards greater take-up.

Opportunity – Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking Call for Proposals

CALL DEADLINE: THURSDAY 20TH APRIL 2017

The FCH Joint Undertaking have issued a Call for proposals providing up to €116 million funding, across 24 topics. This includes 7 transport topics, 12 energy topics, and 5 topics for cross-cutting. More information on the call and the 24 topics can be found on the page of Call 2017.

Update: An information day was held in Brussels on the 2nd February. Presentations from that event are available for download at http://www.fch.europa.eu/page/info-day-2017.

Solid metal hydrogen announcement makes global headlines

Have a pair of Harvard scientists created the most powerful form of energy storage known to humanity?

Hydrogen hit the headlines this weekend, as Harvard researchers Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera published a paper in Science claiming to have transmuted hydrogen into a solid metal (Observation of the Wigner-Huntington transition to metallic hydrogen). The pair first announced their discovery in October last year, but the full details have not been made available until now and the breakthrough is causing quite a stir.

Researchers have been attempting to produce solid metal hydrogen since it was first theorised in 1935 (E. Wigner, H. B. Huntington, On the possibility of a metallic modification of hydrogen. J. Chem. Phys. 3, 764–770 (1935)). Silva and Dias claim to have at last achieved success by slowly ratcheting up the pressure in a diamond vice to 495 GPa, 50% higher than the pressure in the centre of the Earth. Under these conditions their team observed the material changing from transparent to black to a shiny red; evidence enough for a metallic solid, according to their paper.

There is nothing new in submitting hydrogen to extreme pressure, but Silva and Dias believe they succeeded where others failed by cutting back on high-intensity laser spectroscopy, which can destroy the diamond or the hydrogen it is trained on. Instead they initially used a low intensity laser to avoid damaging the sample:

For fear of diamond failure due to laser illumination and possible heating of the black sample, we only measured the Raman active phonon at the very highest pressure of the experiment (495 GPa) after the sample transformed to metallic hydrogen and reflectance measurements had been made.

The potential for metallic hydrogen could be huge, as it is predicted to be a room-temperature superconductor which could revolutionise materials science. Its potential for storing energy could also be phenomenal. In a previous paper, Silvera suggested that hydrogen compressed to a metal could pack so much energy that it could be ‘The Most Powerful Rocket Fuel Yet to Exist’.

Much of this potential depends on whether or not metallic hydrogen is metastable and would retain its solid form once extreme pressure was released. As it stands, the paper offers no answer to this question. Having reached the critical pressure required to create their sample, the team have not yet modified their set-up for fear of destroying the sample. This has left a lot of questions unanswered – is it really a solid? Is it stable?

Big claims require big evidence, and the team has come in for criticism from several quarters for a lack of follow-through on their experiment. Science’s online announcement of the news gave rise to the kind of heated comments threads usually found on political news reports. Nonetheless, Silver and Dias stand by their results, saying that they wanted to announce the news before a second-round of tests potentially destroy their sample. ‘If people disagree, they should go to measure it and try to show that it’s different than what was claimed’, Silvera suggested.

Teams across the world will undoubtedly be throwing themselves into that very task, so we can expect more news on this subject as the year unfolds. If nothing else, the Harvard group have our attention.

EMSA study analyses fuel cell applications in shipping

The European Maritime Safety Agency released a technical study this week, reviewing 23 maritime Fuel Cell projects and assessing which technologies hold the most promise for improving shipping in the future. The report, which was conducted and prepared by DNV-GL, concluded that the three most promising hydrogen technologies were first Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs), followed by High Temperature PEMFCs and then Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs).

Low-temperature PEMFCs won the gold for being a mature, safe and relatively cheap technology. High temperature PEMFCs were judged as more efficient but less safe, while SOFCs scored relatively poorly on cycling tolerance and cost.

However the report acknowledged that different technologies could complement each other, and that

“Smaller and medium applications may favour low and medium temperature technology, such as PEM and high temperature PEM. Larger applications which can more easily accommodate waste heat solutions, such as industrial and large maritime, are better for the high temperature solutions such as molten carbonate or solid oxide fuel cells.”

The full study, which also included a regulatory analysis and safety assessment for different fuel cell technologies on board ship, can be downloaded here.

Opportunity: Hydrogen Trade Mission to Aragon (Spain)

The Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) has established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the corresponding trade association in the Spanish region of Aragon: the Aragon Hydrogen Foundation (FHA). A reciprocal trade mission with Aragon is now being planned, for the purpose of forging better links and nurturing trade and technology partnership opportunities. The date for this mission is February 2017, travelling out on Wednesday 15th February for a series of meetings and activities on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th February 2017 in and near Zaragoza, the principal city of Aragon. The mission is also likely to include a visit to the FHA facilities in Huesca, located about 30 miles from Zaragoza.

Arrangements are currently being put in place for this trade mission. It will be comprised of representatives from the Scottish Government and their agencies, together with a number of SHFCA members who have active interest in building trade and partnership links. However, there may still be a couple of places available, along with some financial support available towards meeting travel and accommodation costs.

If you or your organisation would like to take part in this mission to Aragon in February 2017 and have not already expressed interest, please email Nigel Holmes at nigel.holmes@shfca.org.uk, with ‘SHFCA Member Interest in Aragon Mission’ included in the message header.

The Aragon Hydrogen Foundation (FHA) has a very similar number and composition of members as SHFCA, for information about FHA members and their regional strategy for hydrogen and fuel cells please take a look at the FHA website, which also includes other details and links to the Aragon 2016-2020 Masterplan: http://hidrogenoaragon.org/en/master-plan/.

BEIS contract opportunity: ‘Hydrogen supply chain technical evidence and modelling tool’

Closing date: Monday 13th February 2017, 3:00pm

Estimated total value: £250,000, divided into 2 lots.

The UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are seeking tenders for work on Hydrogen supply chain technical evidence and modelling tool. The procurement documents are available for unrestricted and full direct access at: http://www.delta-esourcing.com/tenders/UK-UK-London:-Research-services./62B97ZCU8C.

The main aim of this project is to improve our current understanding of the technical-infrastructural requirements, and associated energy system costs, for a transition towards a reliance on low carbon hydrogen to meet the demand for heat. This will involve:

  1. collating and assessing the evidence base and
  2. developing a modelling tool.

The primary focus of this work will be to assess hydrogen infrastructure evidence for heat in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The tool should also be able to incorporate the appropriate functionality to allow it to model geographical demands.

Contract start date: 6 March 2017

Contract end date: 14 August 2017

Find out more and register your interest here.

New Hydrogen Council launches in Davos

As the hydrogen industry takes its place on the world phase, a symbolic launch of new industry group The Hydrogen Council took place at Davos yesterday. The newly-formed council was the brainchild of the EU’s ‘Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking’, and consists of Chairpeople and CEOs from 13 major companies with a commercial interest in hydrogen. The Council’s stated goal is to work together to accelerate investment in commercial fuel cell and hydrogen projects. The represented companies are:

  • Air Liquide,
  • Alstom,
  • Anglo American,
  • BMW GROUP,
  • Daimler,
  • ENGIE,
  • Honda,
  • Hyundai Motor,
  • Kawasaki,
  • Royal Dutch Shell,
  • The Linde Group,
  • Total
  • Toyota

Collectively this group represents over a trillion Euros in revenues and a combined workforce of 1.72 million people. It marks a serious push into the hydrogen sector, by serious players.

The Council plans to provide recommendations to policy makers, business people, international agencies and civil society to achieve their goals of commercialising hydrogen and keeping global warming to within 2 degrees above historical averages. After its first meeting at Davos, the Council released two statements for its co-Chairs: the CEO of Air Liquide and the Chairman of Toyota.

“The 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change is a significant step in the right direction but requires business action to be taken to make such a pledge a reality. The Hydrogen Council brings together some of the world’s leading industrial, automotive and energy companies with a clear ambition to explain why hydrogen emerges among the key solutions for the energy transition, in the mobility as well as in the power, industrial and residential sectors, and therefore requires the development of new strategies at a scale to support this. But we cannot do it alone. We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own – for example through large-scale infrastructure investment schemes. Our call today to world leaders is to commit to hydrogen so that together we can meet our shared climate ambitions and give further traction to the emerging Hydrogen ecosystem.”

  • Benoît Potier, CEO, Air Liquide.

“The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world. It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public. At Toyota, we have always tried to play a leading role in environmental and technological advances in the automotive industry, including through the introduction of fuel cell vehicles. Moreover, we know that in addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain. The Hydrogen Council aims to actively encourage this transition.”

  • Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota.

To further mark their creation, the newly-formed council has released a report titled ‘How Hydrogen empowers the energy transition‘, now available for download in our Library page.

Tandem electrodes improves efficiency for ‘photosynthesised’ hydrogen

In a piece of good news to start off the year, researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany have announced an efficiency breakthrough for their ‘artificial leaf’ project, which is really more like artificial seaweed. The research, published in Nature Communications, looks at mimicking aquatic plant photosynthesis to split water into its constituent elements.

The theory of solar water splitting is well understood, but finding the right photoelectrode materials has proved difficult. The Korean/German team favoured metal oxide semiconductors for their robustness and low cost, but needed to enhance their poor solar-to-hydrogen conversion rates. The team’s approach was to combine two established metal oxide photoanodes (BiVO4 and Fe2O3), which complement each other’s receptive properties on the solar spectrum. Unfortunately, when the materials were combined directly in a bilayer formation, their performance dropped markedly. Instead, the team came up with a ‘hetero-type dual photoelectrode (HDP)’, in which the materials were placed in parallel to form a tandem cell. BiVO4 as the front photoanode can utilise smaller wavelength photons, while longer wavelengths pass through to be collected by the Fe2O3 layer.

Interestingly, the idea mimics the behaviour of seaweed colonies and marine algae, which have evolved to layer themselves in different coloured bands at different depths in the sea. Green seaweed floats in the shallows and is receptive to red light, while the deeper-penetrating blue light is picked up by red weed. A single seaweed colony can vary its colours selectively as it descends in depth, optimising its photosynthesis for each layer.

The tandem cell set a new performance benchmark for metal oxide photoanodes, and the team believe that the HDP concept could prove a route to practical solar hydrogen production. “We aim to achieve 10% enhanced light harvesting efficiency within three years,” said Professor Jae Sung Lee. “This technology will greatly contribute to the establishment of the renewable-energy-type hydrogen refueling station by supplying cheap fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.