The multi-disciplinary Ocean-REFuel: Ocean Renewable Energy Fuels project, which will explore ways of converting ocean energy into fuels for use in heating, energy storage and difficult-to-decarbonise transport applications.
The consortium includes world-leading research teams from the Universities of Nottingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Imperial College London. The project is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, industry, and the partner universities, who have also pledged a total of nine linked PhD studentships.
The Ocean-REFuel project will address challenges associated with energy storage, renewable heat and the decarbonisation of transport such as road, marine and aviation.
Renewable energy technologies such as wind are impacted by intermittency and production issues and this project will explore storage solutions, such as hydrogen and ammonia, that can help manage the issue of intermittent supply. Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier and can be produced from a variety of sources including seawater and used as a source of energy or fuel.
It could also allow the stored energy to be fed back into the grid, and potentially channel renewable energy to difficult-to-decarbonise sectors such as renewable heat and transport, which account for more than 60% of UK energy demand.
A report in 2020 from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult claimed that even if only offshore wind-to-hydrogen is considered, the exports to Europe alone could reach an annual value of up to £48bn.
The five-year collaboration, which involves 28 industrial partners, including BP, Scottish Power, National Grid, ENI along with the UK Health & Safety Executive, will also produce a blueprint for the first integrated Ocean Renewable Fuel production facility.
Professor Feargal Brennan, head of naval architecture, Ocean & Marine Engineering at the University of Strathclyde and the Ocean-REFuel project lead, said: “The Ocean-REFuel project has come at precisely the right time to build on the successes of offshore wind and has the potential to create a step-change in how we consider our whole energy system.
“The team will aim to use their vast experience to provide international thought-leadership on how to best develop this enormous energy potential in a safe, environmentally sensitive and responsible manner to provide maximum benefit to local communities whilst contributing in a major way to net-zero.
“The challenges are immense, and we are acutely aware of the importance of getting this right, given the backdrop of the climate emergency and the global consequences unless step changes can be achieved.”