Examples of Projects Underway
Below are a list of the Energy Theme's recent and ongoing projects, organised under topics, although many projects are cross-cutting. As examples of research currently underway:
Building on the IPCC’s 2007 report, the 2009 Copenhagen scientific conference on climate change made clear both the urgency and radical scale of reductions in greenhouse gases necessary if global society is to avoid the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change. The scale and immediacy of the mitigation challenge outlined in Copenhagen leaves no option but for all major sectors to implement measures to stabilise their emissions in the short-term before beginning a steep decline in absolute emissions within the coming decade.
Reinforcing this view, the first report from the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change in 2008 emphasised the need for global emissions to peak as early as 2016, similar to the 2015 date suggested in the influential Stern report. Against this backdrop, the challenge for shipping, as a fundamental factor in delivering globalisation, is stark.
This proposal tackles the challenge head on: how can global society’s dependence on a rapidly growing shipping industry be reconciled with the scale and rate of mitigation outlined in Copenhagen and more quantitatively described from a UK perspective by the Committee on Climate Change’s carbon budget approach and related pathways? Thus the aim of the project is to apply an interdisciplinary, whole-systems perspective to develop robust methods for determining the emissions arising from UK shipping and to explore potential technological and operational step-changes in international shipping to accelerate progress towards avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’.
Duration: April 2010 to September 2013
Use life cycle assessment (LCA) tools to determine the environmental benefits and feasibility of producing ammonia fertiliser from biomass gasification, compared to using natural gas. Ammonia is used for the production of nitrogen based fertilisers and whilst the fertiliser improves crop yield, the production process is energy intensive and produces 0.93 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The biomass system analysed includes energy crop cultivation under typical UK agronomic practice, gasification in a fast internally circulating fluidised bed gasifier to produce syngas, steam reforming to convert the syngas into a H2 rich feedstock and combination with N2 separated from air, to produce ammonia using the Haber-Bosch process. The GWP is quantified using LCA software, along with other notable impacts on biodiversity.
Results are also presented for the net energy balance of the system, which is a significant consideration in determining the most appropriate use of biomass amongst the sometimes competing pathways of heat, electricity or transport fuel production.
Duration: - April 2011
Funder: SuperGen Bioenergy (EPSRC)
New nuclear power plants are being discussed as part of the solution to climate change and energy security problems in the UK. The large, light water reactors being considered for construction can only convert ~35% of the thermal energy generated into electricity, with nearly two thirds lost as waste heat.
This is within the context of a heat supply and demand system that currently accounts for around three quarters of non-transport energy consumption in the UK almost entirely through fossil fuel combustion. This project explores the potential scenarios for heat utilisation at Hartlepool and Oldbury reactor sites. Particular focus is given to non-technical barriers through case study analysis and applying innovation and transition theoretical approaches.
Duration: Oct 2008-Oct 2011
The overall aim of the project is to develop an integrated decision-support framework for assessing the sustainability of nuclear power relative to other energy options, considering both energy supply and demand. Taking a life cycle approach, the project aims to develop a methodology and multi-criteria decision-support framework for an integrated assessment of the sustainability of nuclear power. The framework brings together technical, environmental, economic, social and governance perspectives to assess the sustainability of nuclear power relative to other energy options within a process of stakeholder engagement. The Tyndall Manchester team is contributing a set of energy scenarios to 2070 describing varying levels of nuclear power within different energy system profiles for the UK.
Spring is a Consortium project, led by the University of Manchester (School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science) in collaboration with City University, London and the University of Southampton.
Duration: February 2008 to January 2011
The Supergen Biomass and Bioenergy consortium aims to provide a recognized focus for UK biomass and bioenergy activities that unites key stakeholders and academia through leading edge research into renewable energy. The consortium studies production of different types of biomass, investigating their behaviour in thermal conversion processes designed to service demands across the heat, electricity, transport fuel and industrial demand sectors.
Tyndall Manchester leads the theme on systems analysis, which evaluates the performance, cost and socio-economic benefits of a wide range of bioenergy chains. These range from use of domestic energy crops for home heating through to imported biomass for large scale electricity supply and consideration of advanced biorefinery concepts.
For each system greenhouse gas balances, environmental life cycle impacts, techno-economic analyses and social assessments are carried out, which inform an overall assessment of sustainability and policy development options.
Duration: 2007 -2011
This project uses whole systems analysis techniques to investigate new technologies to exploit the large amount of unused low grade heat available from UK process industries.
The wider project involves mapping of potentially available heat and consumers, development of technologies such as industrial condensing boilers, evaluation of district heating potential and detailed process modelling. Tyndall Manchester leads the task on environmental and socio-economic issues, which aims to quantify the greenhouse gas and other benefits of different process efficiency options and analyze barriers to their implementation. This involves stakeholder engagement and workshops, focus groups with heat users and detailed life cycle assessment of different process efficiency options.
Duration: 2009 -2011
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This UK study is titled Bio-Cap UK: Air/Oxy Biomass Combustion with CO2 Capture Technology. Converting biomass to electricity with carbon capture and storage (bio-CCS) could facilitate large scale power generation with substantial “negative” CO2 emissions. However, there is very little experience of biomass behaviour under operating conditions in the proposed systems, capital costs are anticipated to be very high and the actual level of greenhouse gas reductions achievable varies significantly across the different technology options. This project aims to accelerate deployment of bio-CCS systems by providing experimental data on biomass thermal behaviour and CO2 capture with a biomass-derived flue gas. This data will be used to inform bio-CCS plant simulation work, which will facilitate a realistic life cycle assessment of the real GHG reduction potential of the bio-CCS systems. This will be combined with techno-economic assessment of key technology options to benchmark the potential cost-effectiveness of bio-CCS compared to other low carbon energy technologies.
Jan 2013 (for 24 months)
EPSRC (SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub and UK CCS Hub)
Shipping is recognised as the most efficient form of freight transport. For that reason the prominence of shipping emissions may have been overlooked in comparison with other modes of transport. While recent efforts have been focused on assessing emissions at the global level, shipping is also pivotal for bottom up or activity based analyses, particularly in relation to lifecycle and product chain analyses. This project seeks to address potential deficiencies in how shipping is dealt with in such analyses. The impact of differing ship type, size, speed and utilization will determine the emissions allocated to the movement of shipped goods. This will be complemented by emission estimates for subsequent stages in the product chain such as cargo handling and onward transport. Identifying the most important determinants of emissions associated with products carried on ships will assist in future lifecycle and product based analyses and comparisons.
Funder: The Sustainable Consumption Institute (University of Manchester)
Duration: Completion August 2011
Smart Homes are becoming a reality with information and communication technologies increasingly present in our homes. Smart Home technology can provide a range of services including safety, security, comfort, healthcare and energy management, and are seen by companies across the world as a potential new and emerging market. This project - called REFIT - is studying how the development and deployment of Smart Homes can potentially help reduce household energy demand and consumer energy bills.
REFIT is an ambitious, interdisciplinary research project with the long-term aim of creating a step-change in uptake rates of retrofit technology measures in UK homes. The project brings together a diverse research team with internationally renowned expertise in buildings, energy, information and communication technologies, people, and design. REFIT will study the Smart Home concept and its ability to provide personalised, valued, tailored and trustworthy information on building retrofit, energy efficiency and on-site renewable technology options for UK homes.
Charlie Wilson, Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin
May 2012 to April 2015
This project assessed the opportunities and barriers for the UK tidal energy sector from the perspective of a wide range of stakeholders. In addition, it considered competing views on which organisations have the responsibility and ability to facilitate development. Approximately 20 individuals from a range of organisations were interviewed including: trade associations, academic research projects, testing facilities, regional and national government, utilities, funding bodies, regulators, and technology developers. The project identified key areas of consensus and disagreement within the industry around a number of topics, including: the degree of progress, availability and structure of finance, assessing environmental impact, international competition, competition within UK nations and testing facilities.
Funder: Tyndall Centre (EPSRC, NERC and ESRC)
Duration: completed in May 2010