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Hydrogen coordinator

How can we realise the true potential of low-carbon liquid fuels?

Published on: 18 March 2022

Newcastle University is to lead one of two research projects that will help enable the future take-up of greener, hydrogen-based fuels in the UK.

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

The research projects involve multidisciplinary teams tackling the research and systems integration challenges to the wider use of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels in the UK. The projects are funded by the Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is providing provide £615k over the next six months to fund two hydrogen fuel research coordinators.

Professor Sara Walker, of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering will lead a team to explore ways to achieve greater systems integration, while the research challenges will be tackled by a team led by Professor Tim Mays at the University of Bath.

Sara Walker is Professor of Energy and Director for the Newcastle University Centre of Research Excellence in Energy. The project she leads will focus on the role of these fuels in the net zero transition in providing connectivity and flexibility across the energy system.

Bringing expertise in energy systems integration, Professor Walker aims to analyse the landscape, the challenges and the demand for these fuels, to identify viable investment priorities. Her team aims to deliver a fundamental shift in the critical analysis of the role of hydrogen in the context of the overall energy landscape, by using digital and virtual engagement across stakeholders to bring fresh perspectives on future hydrogen pathways.

Professor Walker said: “I am delighted to take this role as lead for the Centre for Systems Integration of Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels. There are a multitude of potential uses for hydrogen within the energy sector. Newcastle University is undertaking world-leading research on whole energy systems, and our team of researchers is ideally placed to tackle the complex challenge of decarbonisation and the role of hydrogen within that”.

Both coordinators will work for six months from 1 April 2022 and use this time to build high-impact, multi-disciplinary, multi-site teams, with the aim of building longer-term research alliances.

Professor Mays will work with a group of special advisors to engage and partner with policy makers and industry from across the supply chain. His team will engage stakeholders and use a “theory of change” process to map the greatest research challenges, as well as potential solutions to these challenges and their impacts. They will focus in particular on the potential for these fuels to help decarbonise transport, electricity generation and domestic and industrial heating.

Dr Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Director for Cross-Council Programmes said: “There is a growing consensus that these fuels will play a key role in the deep decarbonisation of all sectors of the UK economy – as exemplified by the publication of the Government's 2021 UK Hydrogen Strategy.

"Over the next six months the two hydrogen fuel research coordinators will pull together work from across the country and create a consolidated, focused, multi-stakeholder plan to take us closer towards a time when hydrogen is a key component of the UK's energy mix."


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