Hydrogen Research Programme

Why hydrogen

Hydrogen can play a major role in the transition to a low carbon economy. It is an important energy carrier of the future with several key qualities: it can be used in fuel cells with high efficiency, or combusted with near-zero emissions, as well as having useful storing and transporting qualities to complement intermittent renewables.

Hydrogen has great potential in transport, heating, and power generation, but there several technical, economic, environmental and political challenges associated with enabling a sustainable hydrogen economy. At the Sustainable Gas Institute, we examine these aspects to elucidate the potential role of hydrogen as an energy vector.

Key objectives of the hydrogen programme

  • Examine the potential roles and pathways to enabling hydrogen as an energy vector.
  • Characterise and improve the environmental and economic qualities of different hydrogen production technologies, supply chains and end uses.
  • Explore the potential to use or repurpose current natural gas infrastructures for hydrogen distribution for residential, commercial, industrial and vehicle end-uses.
  • Determine the techno-economic and environmental impacts associated with different methods of hydrogen transport, including liquefaction, pipeline, or via conversion to ammonia.
  • Investigate possible synergies between infrastructure to supply hydrogen for heat and for transport.

The hydrogen research team 

Dr Jamie Speirs 

Jamie led the Sustainable Gas Institute’s third white paper ‘A Greener Gas Grid: What Are The Options?‘, an investigation into the use of hydrogen to deliver domestic and commercial energy in the existing gas network.

 

 

Dr Francisca Jalil Vega

Francisca is studying the role of hydrogen for decarbonising energy services such as heating, cooling, and transport, in urban areas. Her areas of expertise include optimisation, spatially-resolved energy systems modelling, and infrastructure and technology trade-offs to decarbonise energy services in cities.

 

Dr Paul Balcombe

Paul conducts research on the environmental and economic impacts off different forms of hydrogen production and supply chains, be it from renewables or from fossil fuels. Paul was a co-author on the third white paper, has published articles on the role of hydrogen and fuel cells in global energy systems, and is currently conducting research into the distribution of emissions associated with hydrogen production across different regions and feedstocks.

 


Current projects

Hydrogen Grid to Vehicles (HG2V) with Cadent Gas

The HG2V project investigates the implications of transporting hydrogen through the existing UK natural gas grid for end use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Given the high purity requirements of hydrogen fuel cells, and the contaminants likely present in future hydrogen infrastructure, there may be a need to purify hydrogen before dispensing at refuelling stations. The project also considers the technical, cost and emissions implications.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) project hydrogen

This project looks at gas decarbonisation pathways in Brazil. Work Package 5 specifically explores the economic feasibility of adapting gas infrastructure for supplying hydrogen in cities. It studies the possible synergies of hydrogen infrastructure to supply different energy services such as heating, cooling, and transport, together with trade-offs with other energy vectors such as other fuels or electricity.

Estimating Hydrogen Supply Chain Emissions Under Uncertainty

Hydrogen is a key decarbonising energy vector and may be produced from a variety of sources (both renewable and fossil fuel). However, whilst direct greenhouse gas emissions are near-zero, upstream supply chain emissions may be substantial, primarily governed by the feedstock and the conversion process. There is also a significant variation in supply chain emissions within each category, caused by differing efficiencies and technologies, as well as regional and regulatory differences. This study provides an estimate of the distribution of emissions for each feedstock and process via the creation of a probabilistic and multi-parametric set of supply chain models. Recommendations for reducing emissions and uncertainties will be made from a technological and policy perspective and a regional assessment of the most suitable options for hydrogen will be carried out, where lowest emissions will be determined for regional conditions.


Publications

  • Staffell I.,  Scamman D.,  Velazquez Abad A., Balcombe P., Dodds P., Ekins P, Shah N. and Warda K. (2019) The role of hydrogen and fuel cells in the global energy system. Energy & Environmental Science. Advance Article  [download]
  • Parkinson B., Balcombe P., Speirs J. F., Hawkes A. D. and Hellgardt K.  (2018) Levelized cost of CO2 mitigation from hydrogen production routes. Energy & Environmental Science 12, 19-40 [download]
  • Balcombe P., Speirs J., Johnson E.,  Martin J., Brandon, N. A. D. Hawkes. (2018) The carbon credentials of hydrogen gas networks and supply chains. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 91; 1077-1088 [download]
  • Jalil-Vega F,  Hawkes A.D. (2018) Spatially resolved optimization for studying the role of hydrogen for heat decarbonization pathways. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering6 (5); 5835–5842 [download]
  • Speirs J., Balcombe P., Johnson E., Martin J., Brandon N.,  Hawkes A.D. (2017). A Greener Gas Grid: What are the options? Sustainable Gas Institute, Imperial College London [download]

Partnership Opportunities 

The Sustainable Gas Institute offers industry, academia, and government agencies opportunities to work with us and leverage our research expertise in hydrogen.

Sustainable Gas Institute manages the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research Hub (H2FC Supergen).

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