Sheffield University to be biggest green hydrogen producer and drive development of sustainable aviation fuels

posted on 16th August 2023 by William Hallowell
Sheffield University to be biggest green hydrogen producer and drive development of sustainable aviation fuels

The University of Sheffield is set to produce more green hydrogen than any other UK research centre, thanks to new equipment that will support vital research to help decarbonise the aviation industry.

Sheffield’s Energy Institute is installing a new hydrogen electrolyser – technology that produces hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The equipment will be used in research to develop and test new hydrogen-based sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

The electrolyser is being installed in the university’s Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre (SAF-IC) – the UK’s first research and development (R&D) facility that is able to develop, test, validate and help certify new fuels all in one location.

Along with the new electrolyser, the facility gives the UK much-needed R&D capabilities in SAFs and can play a major role in helping reduce the environmental impact of air travel.

SAFs are seen as a vital step in reducing global carbon emissions and the aviation industry is responsible for around seven per cent of total carbon emissions in the UK alone – this number is growing fast.

However, aviation’s reliance on fossil fuels makes it a challenging sector to decarbonise and new fuels are subject to strict standards and regulations before they can be approved for use.

Researchers from Sheffield will work with partners in the aviation industry to develop new hydrogen and CO2-based fuels that meet these strict standards.

They will also work with other industries across the UK to help them switch fuels and decarbonise.

With the new electrolyser, the university is capable of producing nearly 140Nm3 per hour of green hydrogen with storage capacity of 1450Nm3 – equivalent to the electricity required to power 200 homes.

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, director of the University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute, said: “In order to drive forward a decarbonised future, we must understand more about the possibilities and capabilities of green hydrogen, particularly with regards to sustainable aviation fuels.

“With this new electrolyser at our SAF-IC facility, we can work with industry and fellow academics to discover and demonstrate the best way to make a hydrogen economy, and a greener future, a reality.

“We are thrilled to have the capacity to produce the green hydrogen in our site, so that our research and development into SAFs (especially via Power-To-SAF), industrial fuel switching and decarbonisation can continue.

“We’re also pleased to work with IMI VIVO on this project, and we are now having discussions with the team that could lead to future international collaborations and projects.”

The university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) recently announced one of the North of England’s biggest ever research projects as part of the UK government’s first investment zone in South Yorkshire.

The project will develop new ways to manufacture lightweight aircraft components, which is another step in reducing the environmental impact of aviation.

Sheffield University is also part of a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic that is set to lead the world’s first 100 per cent SAF transatlantic flight, scheduled to fly this November.

Through the university’s research facilities, South Yorkshire is fast becoming the UK’s leading hub for sustainable aviation R&D.

The equipment that has been installed at the university is a PEM-based green hydrogen electrolyser from IMI Remosa under the new brand IMI VIVO.

Giuseppe Buscemi, president of IMI Critical Engineering Europe, said: “The aviation industry is responsible for around seven per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions and this figure continues to rise.

“Developing new fuels and solutions will therefore be essential to reversing this trend and decarbonising the sector.

“We are proud that the IMI VIVO electrolyser will prove vital to upgrading the University of Sheffield’s research and development capabilities, helping break the aviation industry’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“We expect this technology, both here and in other applications, to play a pivotal role in reducing emissions across multiple sectors as part of our commitment to providing breakthrough engineering for a better world.”

Image credit: University of Sheffield