Cranfield University: seeking hydrogen’s potential

By William Girling
Cranfield University, a research-based facility in Bedford, UK, has unveiled that it is examining hydrogen as the clean fuel of the future. The postgra...

Cranfield University, a research-based facility in Bedford, UK, has unveiled that it is examining hydrogen as the clean fuel of the future.

The postgraduate university will start its HyPER (Hydrogen Production by Sorbent Enhanced Steam Reforming) project by building a 1.5MWth plant to produce hydrogen using specially-designed equipment. 

Receiving £7.5mn in funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme, Cranfield’s project will also include low-carbon tech specialist Doosan Babcock and US-based GTI, a leading R&D organisation with over 1,300 patents.

Meeting energy demand and saving the environment

Already being adopted by recognised names in the automotive industry, such as Toyota, Hyundai and BMW, hydrogen fuel cells are already powerful enough to compete with petrol/diesel engines and can be almost twice as efficient.

Global demand for hydrogen is expected to increase as more industries investigate options for low-carbon fuel. The most abundant element on Earth, hydrogen can be sourced from water, plants or as the byproduct of energy production. 

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“Each year the world consumes 74 million tonnes of hydrogen and demand will increase as countries seek to decarbonise their economies,” explained Professor Phil Hart, Director of Energy and Power at Cranfield University. 

“The kind of technology we are exploring could open up this market across the globe and make the production, storage and transportation of low-carbon hydrogen a widespread reality.”

Inferring the superiority of hydrogen to other options, Mike Rutkowski, GTI Snr VP, added, “Energy companies want to meet the reliability, cost, and safety needs that their customers demand at the same time they are reducing the impact on the environment. Hydrogen is a great solution for that.”

Scaling-up the technology

Cranfield University’s pilot plant is set to start construction in 2020 and be completed to an operational standard by 2021. Dr Peter Clough, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield, believes that the project will produce an exclusive and valuable learning opportunity.

“The pilot plant will be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the scale-up of the technology and process, and to offer a unique teaching and research facility for students at Cranfield University.”

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