A research hub led at the University of Bath has been awarded £11 million in funding to lead the way on the UK’s future approach to hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels.

UK-HyRES, the UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels, aims to become a global centre of excellence in hydrogen research and to deliver practical hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel technologies that are safe and environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has today announced the hub will receive £11 million as part of a larger £53 million investment in research to decarbonise the nation’s energy sector.

The hub will be led by Professor Tim Mays, from the University of Bath's Department of Chemical Engineering. Core universities within the hub include Portsmouth, Sheffield, St Andrews, Surrey, University College London and Warwick.

Finding ways to use hydrogen and hydrogen-based low-carbon liquid fuels, such as ammonia, is essential for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Hydrogen is a highly versatile clean energy carrier suitable for use in many hard-to-decarbonise sectors where other energy options, such as electricity, are not suitable.

UK-HyRES will identify, prioritise and seek sustainable solutions to research challenges that will accelerate the take-up of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels (H&ALFs) on the journey to a Net Zero economy.

Prof Tim Mays said: “Research into how we make, store, distribute and use hydrogen and other alternative liquid fuels to power the energy, heating and mobility systems in our society is absolutely essential if we are to achieve our national targets of reaching Net Zero by 2050. At Bath we have the expertise and ambition to deliver this important work, and this major funding from UKRI is crucial for us to develop the UK-HyRES hub into a research centre of national strategic importance and global impact."

UK-HyRES will also provide a network and collaboration platform for fundamental research, and be a focus for industry, policy and other stakeholder communities, to tackle research challenges that underpin the production, storage, distribution and end use of H&ALFs. The hub’s unique structure has been developed to deliver maximum impact – focusing on four technical themes (production, storage / distribution, end use and alternative liquid fuels), and four cross-cutting themes (environmental, economic and social sustainability and safety).

A pipeline of national, interdisciplinary research projects that can deliver practical H&ALF technologies will also be co-ordinated by the UK-HyRES team. This will include efforts to de-couple fossil fuels from our energy system and deliver greener energy for transport, heating, power and industrial decarbonisation. The team will develop UK-HyRES into a global centre of excellence and impact in hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel research within its five-year funding window and into the future.

Total funding for UK-HyRES now exceeds £26 million following other supporting investments from the core university partners and industrial and civic collaborators. These include the West of England Combined Authority, Ceres Power, GKN Aerospace, the Health and Safety Executive, INEOS Technologies, the Western Gateway Partnership and Siemens Energy.

Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub to draw on Bath expertise

Another of the projects funded by UKRI this week, the Supergen Energy Networks Impact (SEN) Hub, will feature Bath expertise as Professor Furong Li from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering is a Co-Director. Dr Chengong Gu and Dr Andy Shea will also contribute to the Hub's work. The Hub, which will be led at the University of Bristol, was awarded £5 million in funding.

Prof Li said: "I am thrilled to continue to play a role in developing the Hub’s international reach and collaborations by promoting the UK’s leading experience in decarbonisation and power markets to an international audience.

"We will be undertaking research in the areas of Markets & Regulation, Risk & Resilience, Digitalisation, Policy and Society. The new phase of the Hub will build on these four research pillars to underpin three major missions to propel Smart, Flexible and Digitalised Energy Systems."

Bath Beacons and wider decarbonisation research

UK-HyRES will form an important part of the University of Bath’s action to find research solutions to help the UK reach its 2050 Net Zero target.

Forming a key element of the Bath Beacon Future fuels - Hydrogen and its carriers, the hub will build on the University’s research excellence, impact and stakeholder engagement in hydrogen and its carriers.

Future Fuels is one of five multidisciplinary Bath Beacons, which have been designed to empower the Bath research community to tackle major global challenges by building consortia for large-scale funding. Other Beacons include Living well now and by 2050; 21st century public health, the Augmented human, and Sustainable and automated transport research.

Recently the University of Bath has launched the new Institute for Sustainability and six new research centres in its Faculty of Engineering & Design, including the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems. Bath is also a partner in the Industrial Decarbonisation and Research Innovation Centre (IDRIC).

The University also hosts the first Green Hydrogen manufacturing plant in the UK’s South West, based at the IAAPS research facility at the Bristol and Bath Science Park near Bristol.

The UK-HyRES hub was developed with the support of Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Bath.

Funding to decarbonise energy sector announced

The funding from UKRI for UK-HyRES is being announced today alongside awards for five other new research centres that will boost knowledge, innovation and new technologies to decarbonise the energy sector, in an investment totalling £53 million.

These include the HI-ACT Hub (Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions), which is led at the University of Newcastle. HI-ACT will evaluate routes to effective integration of hydrogen into the wider energy landscape, addressing interactions with electricity, natural gas, heat, and transport.

UKRI has stated that UK-HyRES and HI-ACT will drive forward the national effort in hydrogen research needed to facilitate this critical area of technology to meet industry and government needs.

Other centres receiving funding from UKRI are the Energy Demand Research Centre, based at the universities of Sussex and Newcastle, which will investigate how domestic, industrial and transport energy demand reduction can be delivered on a local and national level across the UK; the Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub; the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Impact Hub based at the University of Plymouth; and the University of Aston-led Supergen Bioenergy Hub.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said: “The government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, requiring rapid decarbonisation of our energy systems. UKRI is leveraging its ability to work across disciplines to support this ambition through a major portfolio of investments that will catalyse innovation and new green energy systems.

“The funding announced today will support researchers and innovators to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.”

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, added: “Our world-leading expertise and knowledge on the latest clean technologies starts in our universities.

“Today’s Government funding will support cutting-edge research across Britain, helping to deliver cleaner, cheaper home-grown renewable energy sources – helping grow our economy and boost our energy security.”