Energy crisis has led UK to 'foothills of recession' says expert

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The UK is currently focussing on building new renewable energy projects to tackle the rising pressures of the fossil fuel energy crisis and Russia’s influence on the natural gas markets. While wind, solar and nuclear power are often touted as the major players in generating renewable energy, a new startup is trying to create an efficient source of power using fertiliser.

Engineers at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) are developing a green ammonia plant that can efficiently generate ammonia using only intermittent renewable energy as the source of power.

While ammonia has traditionally been used as a fertiliser, researchers are now exploring its uses as a carrier for hydrogen, which is tipped to be the future replacement for natural gas.

This project is also backed by the UK Government, having received £284,000 in funding through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 Competition, which aims to create a complete and ready-made design for industry.

Aside from a hydrogen carrier, ammonia can also be used directly as a fuel in internal combustion engines, gas turbines and fuel cells.

According to STFC’s statement: “As such, it looks set to play a significant role in hard to decarbonise industries including shipping, non-electrified rail and electric vehicle charging, as well as a fuel alternative for current methane fired power stations.”

Ammonia does have certain advantages over hydrogen gas or liquid, as it can be stored and transported at higher energy density and lower cost, and it has an existing manufacturing and distribution network that has a good safety and reliability record.”

STFC’s Executive Director for National Laboratories: Large Scale Facilities, Dr Alan Partridge, said: “As the world moves towards Net Zero, this collaboration is a perfect example of how we can use cutting edge technology allied with our national science infrastructure to develop alternative fuel solutions to meet the future energy needs of UK industry.

“By combining the expertise of the STFC technology team on our RAL campus with that of our private sector project partners we are able to deliver novel energy solutions.”

Dr Tristan Davenne, Senior Research Engineer in STFC’s Energy Research Unit said: “Although ammonia-based technology is advancing at a lightning rate and looks set to be a major player in a carbon-free future, currently its production creates a significant amount of greenhouse gas.

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“To make ammonia fuel truly green and sustainable, we need to think about making the production process carbon-free as well.

“Our aim is to design a flexible scalable plant which is optimised to generate green ammonia from intermittent renewable power sources such as wind and solar.”

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