Blog search results for Tag: energy

Sustainability & Environment

When you live in a cold country, you think of hot days as a blessing. Air conditioning units are for those in far-away places – humid countries where the baked earth smell rises to meet you when you step off the plane.

But cooling comes at a cost. According to the UN Environment Programme, it accounts for 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Some of us are visual learners; so, the sheer cost of cooling really hit me when I stared up at an apartment building in Hong Kong with hundreds of air conditioning units perched above the windows like birds.

And it isn’t just the Hong Kongers feeling the heat. The cooling industry as a whole is under pressure to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency expects emissions from cooling to double by 2030 due to heat waves, population growth, urbanisation, and the growing middle class. By 2050, it forecasts that space cooling will consume as much electricity as China and India do today.

SCIblog 1 April 2021 - The Cool Coalition feels the heat - image of Air conditioning units cling to a building

Air conditioning units cling to a building

All of this was captured by the Cooling Suppliers: Who's Winning the Race to Net Zero report released by the Race to Zero campaign, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), Carbon Trust and other partners in the UN Environment Programme-hosted Cool Coalition.

This report's authors found that only five of the 54 cooling companies they assessed have committed to net-zero targets. The document outlines three areas that must be addressed on the Cooling Climate Pathway: super-efficient appliances, ultra-low global warming refrigerants, and the widespread adoption of passive cooling measures such as clever home design and urban planning.

So, while builders adjust window sizes, introduce trees for shading, and choose materials (such as terracotta cooling systems) thoughtfully to temper the sun’s gaze, others are availing of different methods.

For example, the COP26 (the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference) Champions Team has just released its Net Zero Cooling Action Plan that includes a Cool Calculator tool to help companies and governments run simple calculations to see where they could decarbonise their cooling systems. Similarly, the UK's Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has launched a net-zero cooling product guide that showcases energy-efficient products run on natural refrigerants.

SCIblog 1 April 2021 - The Cool Coalition feels the heat - image of building green walls

Green walls are one of many passive cooling approaches used to reduce our reliance on mechanical systems.

However, it’s clear that the softly-softly approach won’t suffice. The EIA has called on governments to do more to encourage organisations to adopt sustainable cooling, to make concrete policy commitments, and speed-up the phase-out of climate-warming refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons.

“The development and expansion of net-zero cooling is a critical part of our Race to Zero emissions,” said Nigel Topping, UK High Level Champion for COP26. “In addition to technological breakthroughs and ambitious legislation, we also need sustainable consumer purchasing to help deliver wholesale systems change.”

We all love the technological panacea – innovations that will cure all the climate ills we have inflicted on the world. But the solution will also involve stodgy government regulations and changing consumer habits, and a reliance on the continued fall in renewable power generation.

For those in traditionally cooler climes, it’s no longer someone else’s problem. It was a balmy 22°C in London this week and we’re not even in April yet. So, it’s certainly time to turn up the heat on the cooling industry.

Sustainability & Environment

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the Blue Economy as ‘all economic sectors that have a direct or indirect link to the oceans, such as marine energy, coastal tourism and marine biotechnology.’ Other organisations have their own definitions, but they all stress the economic and environmental importance of seas and oceans.

Header image: Our oceans are of economic and environmental importance

To this end there are a growing number of initiatives focused on not only protecting the world’s seas but promoting economic growth. At the start of 2021 the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) joined forces to support clean and sustainable ocean initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, and ultimately contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals and the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

Both institutions will finance activities aimed at promoting cleaner oceans ‘through the reduction of land-based plastics and other pollutants discharged into the ocean,’ as well as projects which improve the sustainability of all socioeconomic activities that take place in oceans, or that use ocean-based resources.

ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Bambang Susantono, said ‘Healthy oceans are critical to life across Asia and the Pacific, providing food security and climate resilience for hundreds of millions of people. This Memorandum of Understanding between the ADB and EIB will launch a framework for cooperation on clean and sustainable oceans, helping us expand our pipeline of ocean projects in the region and widen their impacts’.

SCIblog - 23rd February 2021 - Blue Economy - image of trade port at sunrise

The blue economy is linked to green recovery

In the European Union the blue economy is strongly linked to the bloc’s green recovery initiatives. The EU Blue Economy Report, released during June 2020, indicated that the ‘EU blue economy is in good health.’ With five million people working in the blue economy sector during 2018, an increase of 11.6% on the previous year, ‘the blue economy as a whole presents a huge potential in terms of its contribution to a green recovery,’ the EU noted. As the report was launched, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Research Committee said; ‘We will make sure that research, innovation and education contribute to the transition towards a European Blue Economy.’

The impact of plastics in oceans is well known and many global initiatives are actively tackling the problem. At the end of 2020 the World Economic Forum and Vietnam announced a partnership to tackle plastic pollution and marine plastic debris. The initiative aims to help Vietnam ‘dramatically reduce its flow of plastic waste into the ocean and eliminate single-use plastics from coastal tourist destinations and protected areas.’ Meanwhile young people from across Africa were congratulated for taking leadership roles in their communities as part of the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge. Participants in the challenge have raised awareness of the impact of plastic pollution in general.

But it isn’t just the health of our oceans that governments and scientists are looking at. There is growing interest in the minerals and ore that could potentially be extracted via sea-bed mining. The European Commission says that the quantity of minerals occupying the ocean floor is potentially large, and while the sector is small, the activity has been identified as having the potential to generate sustainable growth and jobs for future generations. But adding a note of caution, the Commission says, ‘Our lack of knowledge of the deep-sea environment necessitates a careful approach.’ Work aimed at shedding light on the benefits, drawbacks and knowledge gaps associated with this type of mining is being undertaken.

With the push for cleaner energy and the use of batteries, demand for cobalt will rise, and the sea-bed looks to have a ready supply of the element. But, the World Economic Forum points out that the ethical dimensions of deep-sea cobalt have the potential to become contentious and pose legal and reputational risks for mining companies and those using cobalt sourced from the sea-bed.

SCIblog - 23rd February 2021 - Blue Economy - image of aerial view tidal power plant

Energy will continue to be harnessed from the sea.

But apart from its minerals, the ocean’s ability to supply energy will continue to be harnessed through avenues such as tidal and wind energy. During the final quarter of 2020, the UK Hydrographic Office launched an Admiralty Marine Innovation Programme. Led by the UK Hydrographic Office, the programme gives innovators and start-ups a chance to develop new solutions that solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges as related to our oceans.

The UK’s Blue Economy is estimated to be worth £3.2 trillion by the year 2030. Marine geospatial data will be important in supporting this growth by enabling the identification of new areas for tidal and wind energy generation, supporting safe navigation for larger autonomous ships, which will play a vital role in mitigating climate change, and more.

Energy

Where once a country might have wanted to strike gold, now hitting upon a hydrocarbon find feels like a prize. But finding a hydrocarbon is only the beginning of the process and might not be worth it — as Lebanon is discovering.

First, a little background: for some time, Lebanon has been experiencing an energy crisis. Without resources of their own, the industry (which is government-owned) is reliant on foreign imports, which are expensive. Electricity in early 2020 was responsible for almost 50% of Lebanon's national debt. Major blackouts were common.

This contributed to a spiralling financial crisis, prompting public protests and riots as the middle class disappeared and even wealthier citizens struggled. Before Covid-19 and the devastating August 2020 blast in Beirut, Lebanon was in crisis.

The idea that the country might be able to switch from foreign oil to local gas was understandably appealing, especially when a major find was literally right there on the Lebanese shore. In 2019, a consortium of Israeli and US firms discovered more than 8tcm of natural gas in several offshore fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, much of it in Lebanese waters.

SCIblog 22 February 2021 - Hydrocarbon resources - image of pigeon rocks raouche beirut lebanon

A hydrocarbon find off the Beirut coast has failed to live up to its early promise.

But a find is only the beginning. With trust in Lebanese politicians low (the country ranks highly in most government corruption indexes) and a system that has repeatedly struggled to deliver a stable government, there are additional difficulties, not least a delay in the licensing rounds and a lack of trust — both internally, from citizens, and externally, from potential bidders. Meanwhile, Lebanon's neighbours race ahead to exploit their own finds, which ratchets up tensions.

Amid all that, a drilling exploration managed to go ahead last summer. But the joint venture between Total, ENI, and Novatek, which operated a well 30km offshore Beirut and drilled to approximately 1,500 metres, did not bring back the hoped-for results. The results confirmed the presence of a hydrocarbon system generally but did not encounter any reservoirs of the Tamar formation, which was the target.

Offshore exploration is a long process, with a lot of challenges and uncertainties and Ricardo Darré, Managing Director of Total E&P Liban, said afterwards, "Despite the negative result, this well has provided valuable data and learnings that will be integrated into our evaluation of the area". But the faith national politicians have long put in the hydrocarbon find, selling it as an answer to all Lebanon's problems, seems to have only worsened the domestic situation since.

And domestic politics is just the start of the problems…

SCIblog 22 February 2021 - Hydrocarbon resources - image of oil pipeline desert qatar middle east

Unlike other countries in the Middle East, Lebanon has no pipeline infrastructure of its own.

Israel, Egypt, and Jordan already have pipelines, which go to Italy. Turkey is working with Libya on a pipeline. Lebanon has no pipeline infrastructure of its own yet, although Russia has storage facilities and pipelines in the country and an eye on possible competition in the gas market.

None of that is an issue if the supply is intended for domestic use but that might not be profitable enough for investors and the Lebanese government would struggle to underwrite production on its own. Cyprus has encountered similar issues exploiting its share of the find.

Lebanon has also set an ambitious goal of having 30% of domestic energy mix sourced from renewable energy by 2030. The hoped-for gas was intended to support the renewable energy mix but, with the clock ticking, it might be that priorities shift to focusing on renewables. The Covid-19 pandemic will significantly impact the budgets of drilling companies and the push for renewable energy, both from governments and investors, seems to be growing as a way to boost economic recovery.

It may be that, after all the excitement around the hydrocarbon find, Lebanon starts to look elsewhere for its energy provision.

Energy

Introduction

The Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC) is funded by UK government through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. One aim is to enable the deployment of low-carbon technology, at scale, by the mid-2020’s [1]. This challenge supports the Industrial Clusters Mission which seeks to establish one net-zero industrial cluster by 2040 and at-least one low-carbon cluster by 2030 [2]. This latest SCI Energy Group blog provides an overview of Phase 1 winners from this challenge and briefly highlights several on-going initiatives across some of the UK’s industrial clusters.

Phase 1 Winners

In April 2020, the winners for the first phase of two IDC competitions were announced. These were the ‘Deployment Competition’ and the ‘Roadmap Competition’; see Figure 1 [3].

 Phase 1 Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge

Figure 1 - Winners of Phase 1 Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Competitions.

Teesside

Net-Zero Teesside is a carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) project. One aim is to decarbonise numerous carbon-intensive businesses by as early as 2030. Every year, up to 6 million tonnes of COemissions are expected to be captured. Thiswill be stored in the southern North Sea which has more than 1,000Mt of storage capacity. The project could create 5,500 jobs during construction and could provide up to £450m in annual gross benefit for the Teesside region during the construction phase [4].

For further information on this project, click here.

 Industrial Skyscape of Teesside Chemical Plants

Figure 2 – Industrial Skyscape of Teesside Chemical Plants

The Humber

In 2019, Drax Group, Equinor and National Grid signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which committed them to work together to explore the opportunities for a zero-carbon cluster in the Humber. As part of this initiative, carbon capture technology is under development at the Drax Power Station’s bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot. This could be scaled up to create the world’s first carbon negative power-station. This initiative also envisages a hydrogen demonstrator project, at the Drax site, which could be running by the mid-2020s. An outline of the project timeline is shown in Figure 3 [5].

For further information on this project, click here.

 Overview of Timeline for Net-Zero Humber Project

Figure 3 - Overview of Timeline for Net-Zero Humber Project

North West

The HyNet project envisions hydrogen production and CCS technologies. In this project, COwill be captured from a hydrogen production plant as well as additional industrial emitters in the region. This will be transported, via pipeline, to the Liverpool Bay gas fields for long-term storage [6]. In the short term, a hydrogen production plant has been proposed to be built on Essar’s Stanlow refinery. The Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) is expected to be completed by March 2021 and the plant could be operational by mid-2024. The CCS infrastructure is expected to follow a similar timeframe [7].

For further information on the status of this project, click here.

Scotland

Project Acorn has successfully obtained the first UK COappraisal and storage licence from the Oil and Gas Authority. Like others, this project enlists CCS and hydrogen production. A repurposed pipeline will be utilised to transport industrial COemissions from the Grangemouth industrial cluster to St. Fergus for offshore storage, at rates of 2 million tonnes per year. Furthermore, the hydrogen production plant, to be located at St. Fergus, is expected to blend up to 2% volume hydrogen into the National Transmission System [8]. A final investment decision (FID) for this project is expected in 2021. It has the potential to be operating by 2024 [9].  

For further information on this project, click here.

 Emissions from Petrochemical Plant at Grangemouth

Figure 4 - Emissions from Petrochemical Plant at Grangemouth

SCI Energy Group October Conference

The chemistry of carbon dioxide and its role in decarbonisation is a key topic of interest for SCI Energy Group. In October, we will be running a conference concerned with this topic. Further details can be found here.

Sources: 

[1] https://www.ukri.org/innovation/industrial-strategy-challenge-fund/industrial-decarbonisation/

[2]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/803086/industrial-clusters-mission-infographic-2019.pdf

[3] https://www.netzeroteesside.com/project/

[4] https://www.zerocarbonhumber.co.uk/

[5]https://hynet.co.uk/app/uploads/2018/05/14368_CADENT_PROJECT_REPORT_AMENDED_v22105.pdf

[6]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/866401/HS384_-_Progressive_Energy_-_HyNet_hydrogen.pdf

[7]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/866380/Phase_1_-_Pale_Blue_Dot_Energy_-_Acorn_Hydrogen.pdf

[8] https://pale-blu.com/acorn/


Sustainability & Environment

Introduction

This latest SCI Energy Group blog introduces the possible avenues of carbon dioxide utilisation, which entails using carbon dioxide to produce economically valuable products through industrial processes. Broadly, utilisation can be categorised into three applications: chemical use, biological use and direct use. For which, examples of each will be highlighted throughout.

Before proceeding to introduce these, we can first consider utilisation in relation to limiting climate change. As has been discussed in previous blogs, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is crucial. Therefore, for carbon dioxide utilisation technologies to have a beneficial impact on climate change, several important factors must be considered and addressed.

1) Energy Source: Often these processes are energy intensive. Therefore, this energy must come from renewable resources or technologies.

2) Scale: Utilisation technologies must exhibit large scaling potential to match the limited timeframe for climate action.

3) Permanence: Technologies which provide permanent removal or displacement of CO2 emissions will be most impactful¹.

 CO2 sign

Figure 1: CO2 sign 

Chemical Uses

Carbon dioxide, alongside other reactants, can be chemically converted into useful products. Examples of which include urea, methanol, and plastics and polymers. One of the primary uses of urea includes agricultural fertilisers which are pivotal to crop nutrition. Most commonly, methanol is utilised as a chemical feedstock in industrial processes.

 Fertilizing soil

Figure 2: Fertilizing soil

One of the key challenges faced with this application of utilisation is the low reactivity of CO2 in its standard conditions. Therefore, to successfully convert it into products of economic value, catalysts are required to significantly lower the molecules activation energy and overall energy consumption of the process. With that being said, it is anticipated that, in future, the chemical conversion of CO2 will have an important role in maintaining a secure supply of fuel and chemical feedstocks such as methanol and methane².

Biological Uses

Carbon dioxide is fundamental to plant growth as it provides a source of required organic compounds. For this reason, it can be utilised in greenhouses to promote carbonic fertilisation. By injecting increased levels of COinto the air supplied to greenhouses, the yield of plant growth has been seen to increase. Furthermore, COfrom the flue gas streams of chemical processes has been recognised, in some studies, to be of a quality suitable for direct injection³.

 Glass greenhouse

Figure 3: Glass greenhouse planting vegetable greenhouses

These principles are applicable to encouraging the growth of microorganisms too. One example being microalgae which boasts several advantageous properties. Microalgae has been recognised for its ability to grow in diverse environments as well as its ability to be cultured in numerous types of bioreactors. Furthermore, its production rate is considerably high meaning a greater demand for CO2 is exhibited than that from normal plants. Micro-algal biomass can be utilised across a range of industries to form a multitude of products. These include bio-oils, fuels, fertilisers, food products, plant feeds and high value chemicals. However, at present, the efficiency of CO2 fixation, in this application, can be as low as 20-50%.

 Illustration of microalgae

Figure 4: Illustration of microalgae under the microscope

Direct Uses

It is important to note that, at present, there are many mature processes which utilise CO2 directly. Examples of which are shown in the table below.

 CO2 processes

Summary

Many carbon dioxide utilisation technologies exist, across a broad range of industrial applications. For which, some are well-established, and others are more novel. For such technologies to have a positive impact on climate action, several factors need to be addressed such as their energy source, scaling potential and permanence of removal/ displacement of CO2.

The chemistry of carbon dioxide and its role in decarbonisation is a key topic of interest for SCI Energy Group. In the near future, we will be running a webinar concerned with this. Further details of this will be posted on the SCI website in due course.

Links:

1. http://co2chem.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/CCU%20in%20the%20green%20economy%20report.pdf

2. https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-10-ways-to-use-co2-and-how-they-compare

3. https://www.intechopen.com/books/greenhouse-gases 



Energy

Batteries have an important role as energy sources with environmental advantages. They offset the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels or nuclear-based power; they are also recyclable. These attributes have led to increasing research with the aim of improving battery design and environmental impact, particularly regarding their end of life. In addition, there is a desire to improve battery safety as well as design batteries from more sustainable and less toxic materials.

New research shows that aluminium battery could offer several advantages:

Aluminium metal anode batteries could hold promise as an environmentally friendly and sustainable replacement for the current lithium battery technology. Among aluminium’s benefits are its abundance, it is the third most plentiful element the Earth’s crust.  

To date aluminium anode batteries have not moved into commercial use, mainly because using graphite as a cathode leads to a battery with an energy content which is too low to be useful.

This is promising for future research and development of aluminium as well as other metal-organic batteries.

 Battery Charging

Battery Charging

New UK battery project is said to be vital for balancing the country’s electricity demand

Work has begun on what is said to be Europe’s biggest battery. The 100MW Minety power storage project, which is being built in southwest England, UK, will comprise two 50MW battery storage systems. The project is backed by China Huaneng Group and Chinese sovereign wealth fund CNIC. 

Shell Energy Europe Limited (SEEL) has agreed a multi-year power offtake agreement which will enable the oil and gas major, along with its recently acquired subsidiary Limejump, to optimise the use of renewable power in the area.

 Renewable power

Renewable power 

In a statement David Wells, Vice President of SEEL said ‘Projects like this will be vital for balancing the UK’s electricity demand and supply as wind and solar power play bigger roles in powering our lives. 

 Battery

Battery

The major hurdles for battery design, states the EU’s document, include finding suitable materials for electrodes and electrolytes that will work well together, not compromise battery design, and meet the sustainability criteria now required. The process is trial and error, but progress is being made.

For more information, click here.

Reference:

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/towards_the_battery_of_the_future_FB20_en.pdf 


Sustainability & Environment

Introduction

In November 2020, the UK is set to host the major UN Climate Change summit; COP26. This will be the most important climate summit since COP21 where the Paris Agreement was agreed. At this summit, countries, for the first time, can upgrade their emission targets through to 20301. In the UK, current legislation commits government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels by 2050, under the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment)2.

Hydrogen has been recognised as a low-carbon fuel which could be utilised in large-scale decarbonisation to reach ambitious emission targets. Upon combustion with air, hydrogen releases water and zero carbon dioxide unlike alternative heavy emitting fuels. The potential applications of hydrogen span across an array of heavy emitting sectors. The focus of this blog is to highlight some of these applications, and on-going initiatives, across the following three sectors: Industry, Transport and Domestic.

Please click (here3) to access our previous SCI Energy Group blog centred around UK COemissions.

 climate change activists

Figure 1: climate change activists 

Industry

Did you know that small-scale hydrogen boilers already exist?4

Through equipment modification, it is technically feasible to use clean hydrogen fuel across many industrial sectors such as: food and drink, chemical, paper and glass.

Whilst this conversion may incur significant costs and face technical challenges, it is thought that hydrogen-fuelled equipment such as furnaces, boilers, ovens and kilns may be commercially available from the mid-2020’s4.

 gas hydrogen peroxide boiler line vector icon

Figure 2:  gas hydrogen peroxide boiler line vector icon

Domestic

Did you know that using a gas hob can emit up to or greater than 71 kg of COper year?5

Hydrogen could be supplied fully or as a blend with natural gas to our homes in order to minimise greenhouse gas emissions associated with the combustion of natural gas.

As part of the HyDeploy initiative, Keele University, which has its own private gas network, have been receiving blended hydrogen as part of a trial study with no difference noticed compared to normal gas supply6.

Other initiatives such as Hydrogen 1007 and HyDeployare testing the feasibility of delivering 100% hydrogen to homes and commercial properties.

 gas burners

Figure 3: gas burners

Transport

Did you know that, based on an average driving distance of approximately 11,500 miles per annum, an average vehicle will emit approximately 4.6 tonnes of COper year?9

In the transport sector, hydrogen fuel can be utilised in fuel cells, which convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are already commercially available in the UK. However, currently, form only a small percentage of Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) uptake10.

Niche applications of hydrogen within the transport sector are expected to show greater potential for hydrogen such as buses and trains. Hydrogen powered buses are already operational in certain parts of the UK and hydrogen trains are predicted to run on British railways from as early as 202211.

 h2 combustion engine

Figure 4:  h2 combustion engine for emission free ecofriendly transport

Summary

This blog gives only a brief introduction to the many applications of hydrogen and its decarbonisation potential. The purpose of which, is to highlight that hydrogen, amongst other low-carbon fuels and technologies, can play an important role in the UK’s transition to net-zero emissions.

Stay tuned for further SCI Energy Group blogs which will continue to highlight alternative low-carbon technologies and their potential to decarbonise.

Links to References:

1. https://eciu.net/briefings/international-perspectives/cop-26

2. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2019/9780111187654

3. https://www.soci.org/blog/2019-08-09-Understanding-UK-Carbon-Dioxide-Emissions/

4. http://www.element-energy.co.uk/2020/01/hy4heat-wp6-has-shown-that-switching-industrial-heating-equipment-to-hydrogen-is-technically-feasible-with-large-potential-to-support-initiation-of-the-hydrogen-economy-in-the-2020s/

5. https://www.carbonfootprint.com/energyconsumption.html

6. https://hydeploy.co.uk/hydrogen/

7. https://sgn.co.uk/about-us/future-of-gas/hydrogen/hydrogen-100

8. https://www.hy4heat.info/

9. https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle

10. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/794473/veh0202.ods

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/news/hydrogen-fuel-cell-trains-run-british-railways-2022/


Science & Innovation

2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today’s blog focuses on Beryllium.

Beryllium alloys are strong and temperature resistant. These qualities make them highly valued across several sectors.

Beryllium copper alloys account for a huge percentage of the beryllium used in the United States. As these alloys are good conductors of electricity and heat, they are used in making connectors, switches and other electrical devices for use in many sectors including aerospace, automobile, computer, defense and medical.

Beryllium

Originally posted by konczakowski

Beryllium metal is very light and stiff and maintains its shape in both high and low temperatures. This makes it the ideal material for use as mirrors of the Spitzer Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due to be launched in the next few years.  The key mirror of the JWST comprises 18 hexagonal segments- each must maintain its shape even at - 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Automobile and Aircraft

 Aircraft

Additionally, Beryllium alloy connectors are used in the electrical systems of automobiles, as they are reliable and improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

In commercial aircraft, the strength of beryllium copper provides many advantages, as it can handle wear forces and exposure to corrosive atmospheres and temperatures. Beryllium copper also allows bearings to be made lighter and smaller, which also improves fuel efficiency. 

 xray equipment

Medical uses

Beryllium copper’s strength and stability makes it ideal for medical technologies and x-ray equipment.

As imaging technology progresses, beryllium copper will continue to play an important role in x-ray tube windows.

Other medical uses of beryllium:

•Pacemakers

•CAT scanners

•MRI machines

•Laser scalpels

•Springs and membranes for surgical instruments


Careers

This latest instalment of SCI Energy Group’s blog delves deeper into the working life of one of its own members and SCI ambassador – Reace Edwards. She is currently pursuing an industry funded PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester and, through this blog, answers some questions to shed some light on her experience so far.

 Reace Edwards

Reace Edwards: Head shot 

Can you please provide a brief summary of your research?

My research is concerned with the establishment of a hydrogen gas network, in the North West, as a method of large-scale decarbonisation. This cross-disciplinary work will examine different elements of the hydrogen economy from production to end-use and explore the opportunities and barriers possessed by the region. Whilst technical and economic considerations are key components of this, policy, regulatory and social aspects will also be explored.

 Reace Edwards on bike

Reace Edwards: Riding a bike that generates hydrogen from pedalling

What does a day in the life of a Chemical Engineering PhD Student look like?

“It’s hard to define a typical day for a PhD student as no one day is ever the same.

At the beginning of the PhD, I spent a lot of time reading literature to help contextualise my research and appreciate its importance at a local, national and international scale.  

Within time, I began to not only read but review and analyse this literature, which ultimately led to the construction of my literature review (this is regularly updated still)! Through this process, I identified research gaps, helping me focus my research questions, and inspired my field research and methodology.

Since then, I have applied for, and gained, ethical approval.  At my current stage, I have chosen semi-structured interviews for data collection. So, now, my typical day consists of conducting interviews and transcribing the recordings.

Alongside this, there have always been ample opportunities to attend conferences and networking events, which, provides another form of skills development. So, there’s lots going on. But, what’s for sure, is that though each day is busy, the results are definitely rewarding.” 

How did your education prepare you for this experience?  

“In 2018, I graduated, from the University of Chester, with a first-class bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Therefore, I was eligible to apply for the PhD studentship when it was advertised.”

 reace edwards graduation

Reace Edwards: Graduation 

What are some of the highlights so far?

For me, one of my main highlights had been to travel abroad to deliver a presentation on my work at an international conference.

Another highlight was the opportunity to co-author a conference article with a colleague from my industrial sponsor, and others, which was presented at another major, international conference.

In addition to this, I’ve done a TEDx talk and appeared on the BBC politics show. Where, on both accounts, I have discussed the opportunities for hydrogen.

Without doing this PhD, none of this would have even been possible!

 reace edwards tedx

Reace Edwards: After delivering TEDx talk 

What is one of the biggest challenges faced in a PhD?

Time management is definitely a challenge, from two different perspectives.

Firstly, there are many different things that you can be tasked with at one time. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to prioritise these things and assign your time accordingly.

But, as well as that, because of your passion for the research, it can be very tempting to work exceedingly long hours. Whilst this may be necessary at times, it is important to give yourself some rest to avoid becoming run down.

 reace edwards interview

Reace Edwards: Whilst being interviewed by BBC 

What advice would you give to someone considering a PhD?

“If you’re passionate about the subject – do it!

You won’t regret it


Materials

2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today’s blog focuses on sodium and its role in the next series of innovative nuclear energy systems.

 sodium

Sodium; the sixth most abundant element on the planet is being considered as a crucial part of nuclear reactors. Implementing new safety levels in reactors is crucial as governments are looking for environmentally friendly, risk-free and financially viable reactors. Therefore, ensuring new safety levels is a main challenge that is being tackled by many industries and projects.

safety sign gif

Originally posted by contac

In the wake of Fukushima, several European nations and a number of U.S plants have shut down and switched off their ageing reactors in order to eliminate risk and safety hazards.

The sodium- cooled fast reactor (SFR), a concept pioneered in the 1950s in the U.S, is one of the nuclear reactors developed to operate at higher temperatures than today’s reactors and seems to be the viable nuclear reactor model. The SFR’s main advantage is that it can burn unwanted byproducts including uranium, reducing the need for storage. In the long run, this is deemed cost-competitive as it can produce power without having to use new natural uranium.

 nuclear reactor

 Nuclear reactor. Source: Hallowhalls

However, using sodium also presents challenges. When sodium comes into contact with air, it burns and when it is mixed with water, it is explosive. To prevent sodium from mixing with water, nitrogen - driven turbines are in the process of being designed as a solution to this problem.

colourful explosion gif

Originally posted by angulargeometry

A European Horizon 2020 Project, ESFR-SMART project (European Sodium Fast Reactor Safety Measures Assessment and Research Tools), launched in September 2017, aims to improve the safety of Generation-IV Sodium Fast Reactors (SFR). This project hopes to prove the safety of new reactors and secure its future role in Europe. The new reactor is designed to be able to reprocess its own waste, act more reliably in operation, more environmentally friendly and more affordable. It is hoped that this reactor will be considered as one of the SFR options by Generation IV International Forum (GIF), who are focused on finding new reactors with safety, reliability and sustainability as just some of their main priorities.

 EU flag

European Horizon. Source: artjazz

Globally, the SFR is deemed an attractive energy source, and developments are ongoing, endeavouring to meet the future energy demands in a cost-competitive way.  


Materials

2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today’s blog focuses on lead and its place in the battery industry.

lead

2019 is a critical year for the European Battery Industry. As policymakers set priorities to decarbonise the energy systems, whilst boosting Europe’s economic and technical performance, lead-acid batteries have become a viable player in the battery industry. 

Increased government action and ongoing transformations to address the environmental situation has furthered global interest in the lead battery market, as they remain crucial in the battle to fight against the adverse effects of climate change. Subsequently, reliance on fuel technologies is lessening as we see a rise in the lead battery industry which had a market share of 31% in year 2018 with an annual growth rate of 5.4%.

earth temperature gif

Originally posted by spacetimewithstuartgary

According to reports by Reports and Data, the Global Lead- Acid Battery market is predicted to reach USD 95.32 Billion by 2026. Rising demand for electric vehicles and significant increases of this battery use in sectors including automotive, healthcare, and power industries, are a large push behind the growth in this market. 

Thus, expansion of these sectors and particularly the automobile sector, means further development in this market will be underway, especially as it is the only battery technology to meet the technical requirements for energy storage on a large market scale. 

 tesla car

Lead-acid battery is a rechargeable cell, comprising plates of lead and lead oxide, mixed in a sulfuric acid solution, which converts chemical energy into electrical power. The oxide component in the sulfuric acid oxidizes the lead which in turn generates electric current.

funny gif

Originally posted by bringmesomepie56

In the past, lead has fallen behind competing technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries which captured approximately 90% of the battery market. Although lithium-ion batteries are a strong opponent, lead still has advantages. Lead batteries do not have same fire risks as lithium-ion batteries and they are the most efficiently recycled commodity metal, with over 99% of lead batteries being collected and recycled in Europe and U.S. 

 lead battery cell

Researchers are trying to better understand how to improve lead battery performance. A build-up of sulfation can limit lead battery performance by half its potential, and by fixing this issue, unused potential would offer even lower cost recyclable batteries. Once the chemical interactions inside the batteries are better understood, one can start to consider how to extend battery life. 


Energy

Having previously explored the various ways in which energy is supplied in the UK, this article highlights UK energy consumption by fuel type and the sectors it is consumed in. 

national grid

But before proceeding, it is important to first distinguish between the terms ‘primary energy consumption’ and ‘final energy consumption’. The former refers to the fuel type in its original state before conversion and transformation. The latter refers to energy consumed by end users.

Primary energy consumption by fuel type

 oil rig

Oil consumption is on the decline.

In 2018, UK primary energy consumption was 193.7 m tonnes of oil equivalent. This value is down 1.3% from 2017 and down 9.4% from 2010. This year, the trend has continued so far. Compared to the same time period last year, the first three months of 2019 have shown a declination of 4.4% in primary fuel consumption.

It is also important to identify consumption trends for specific fuels. Figure 1 below illustrates the percentage increases and decreases of consumption per fuel type in 2018 compared to 2017 and 2010.

 

Figure 1 shows UK Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel Type in 2018 Compared to 2017 & 2010. Figure: BEIS. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

As can be seen in 2018, petroleum and natural gas were the most consumed fuels. However, UK coal consumption has dropped by almost 20% since 2017 and even more significantly since 2010. But perhaps the most noticeable percentage change in fuel consumption is that of renewable fuels like bioenergy and wind, solar and hydro primary electricity. 

In just eight years, consumption of these fuels increased by 124% and 442%, respectively, thus emphasising the increasingly important role renewables play in UK energy consumption and the overall energy system.

Final energy consumption by sector

Overall, the UK’s final energy consumption in 2018, compared to 2017, was 0.7% higher at a value of approximately 145 m tonnes of oil equivalent. However, since 2010, consumption has still declined by approximately 5%. More specifically, figure 2 illustrates consumption for individual sectors and how this has changed since.

 uk energy consumption statistics 2

Figure 2 from UK Final Energy Consumption by Sector in 2018 Compared to 2017 & 2010. Figure: BEIS. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Immediately, it is seen that the majority of energy, consumed in the UK, stems from the transport and domestic sector. Though the domestic sector has reduced consumption by 18% since 2010, it still remains a heavy emitting sector and accounted for 18% of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. 

Therefore, further efforts but be taken to minimise emissions. This could be achieved by increasing household energy efficiency and therefore reducing energy consumption and/or switching to alternative fuels.

 loft insulation

Loft insulation is an example of increasing household energy efficiency.

Overall, since 2010, final energy consumption within the transport sector has increased by approximately 3%. In 2017, the biggest percentage increase in energy consumption arose from air transport. 

Interestingly, in 2017, electricity consumption in the transport sector increased by 33% due to an increased number of electric vehicles on the road. Despite this, this sector still accounted for one-third of total UK carbon emissions in 2018.  

 electric vehicle charging

Year upon year, the level of primary electricity consumed from renewables has increased and the percentage of coal consumption has declined significantly, setting a positive trend for years to come.


Energy

Energy is critical to life. However, we must work to find solution to source sustainable energy which compliments the UK’s emission targets. This article discusses six interesting facts concerning the UK’s diversified energy supply system and the ways it is shifting towards decarbonised alternatives.

Finite Resources

1. In 2015, UK government announced plans to close unabated coal-fired power plants by 2025.

 A coalfired power plant

A coal-fired power plant 

In recent years, energy generation from coal has dropped significantly. In March 2018, Eggborough power station, North Yorkshire, closed, leaving only seven coal power plants operational in the UK. In May this year, Britain set a record by going one week without coal power. This was the first time since 1882!

2. Over 40% of the UK’s electricity supply comes from gas.

 A natural oil and gas production in sea

A natural oil and gas production in sea

While it may be a fossil fuel, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions compared to that of coal and oil upon combustion. However, without mechanisms in place to capture and store said carbon dioxide it is still a carbon intensive energy source.

3. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 8% of UK energy supply.

hazard gif

Originally posted by konczakowski

Nuclear power generation is considered a low-carbon process. In 2025, Hinkley Point C nuclear power-plant is scheduled to open in Somerset. With an electricity generation capacity of 3.2GW, it is considerably bigger than a typical power-plant.

Renewable Resources

In 2018, the total installed capacity of UK renewables increased by 9.7% from the previous year. Out of this, wind power, solar power and plant biomass accounted for 89%.

4. The Irish Sea is home to the world’s largest wind farm, Walney Extension.

 The Walney offshore wind farm

The Walney offshore wind farm.

In addition to this, the UK has the third highest total installed wind capacity across Europe. The World Energy Council define an ‘ideal’ wind farm as one which experiences wind speed of over 6.9 metres per second at a height of 80m above ground. As can be seen in the image below, at 100m, the UK is well suited for wind production.

5. Solar power accounted for 29.5% of total renewable electricity capacity in 2018.

 solar panels

This was an increase of 12% from the previous year (2017) and the highest amount to date! Such growth in solar power can be attributed to considerable technology cost reductions and greater average sunlight hours, which increased by up to 0.6 hours per day in 2018. 

Currently, the intermittent availability of both solar and wind energy means that fossil fuel reserves are required to balance supply and demand as they can run continuously and are easier to control.

6. In 2018, total UK electricity generation from bioenergy accounted for approximately 32% of all renewable generation.

 A biofuel plant in Germany

A biofuel plant in Germany.

This was the largest share of renewable generation per source and increased by 12% from the previous year. As a result of Lynemouth power station, Northumberland, and another unit at Drax, Yorkshire, being converted from fossil fuels to biomass, there was a large increase in plant biomass capacity from 2017.


Energy

Energy is critical to life. However, we must work to find solution to source sustainable energy which compliments the UK’s emission targets. This article discusses six interesting facts concerning the UK’s diversified energy supply system and the ways it is shifting towards decarbonised alternatives.

Finite Resources

1. In 2015, UK government announced plans to close unabated coal-fired power plants by 2025.

 A coalfired power plant

A coal-fired power plant 

In recent years, energy generation from coal has dropped significantly. In March 2018, Eggborough power station, North Yorkshire, closed, leaving only seven coal power plants operational in the UK. In May this year, Britain set a record by going one week without coal power. This was the first time since 1882!

2. Over 40% of the UK’s electricity supply comes from gas.

 A natural oil and gas production in sea

A natural oil and gas production in sea

While it may be a fossil fuel, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions compared to that of coal and oil upon combustion. However, without mechanisms in place to capture and store said carbon dioxide it is still a carbon intensive energy source.

3. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 8% of UK energy supply.

hazard gif

Originally posted by konczakowski

Nuclear power generation is considered a low-carbon process. In 2025, Hinkley Point C nuclear power-plant is scheduled to open in Somerset. With an electricity generation capacity of 3.2GW, it is considerably bigger than a typical power-plant.

Renewable Resources

In 2018, the total installed capacity of UK renewables increased by 9.7% from the previous year. Out of this, wind power, solar power and plant biomass accounted for 89%.

4. The Irish Sea is home to the world’s largest wind farm, Walney Extension.

 The Walney offshore wind farm

The Walney offshore wind farm.

In addition to this, the UK has the third highest total installed wind capacity across Europe. The World Energy Council define an ‘ideal’ wind farm as one which experiences wind speed of over 6.9 metres per second at a height of 80m above ground. As can be seen in the image below, at 100m, the UK is well suited for wind production.

5. Solar power accounted for 29.5% of total renewable electricity capacity in 2018.

 solar panels

This was an increase of 12% from the previous year (2017) and the highest amount to date! Such growth in solar power can be attributed to considerable technology cost reductions and greater average sunlight hours, which increased by up to 0.6 hours per day in 2018. 

Currently, the intermittent availability of both solar and wind energy means that fossil fuel reserves are required to balance supply and demand as they can run continuously and are easier to control.

6. In 2018, total UK electricity generation from bioenergy accounted for approximately 32% of all renewable generation.

 A biofuel plant in Germany

A biofuel plant in Germany.

This was the largest share of renewable generation per source and increased by 12% from the previous year. As a result of Lynemouth power station, Northumberland, and another unit at Drax, Yorkshire, being converted from fossil fuels to biomass, there was a large increase in plant biomass capacity from 2017.


Sustainability & Environment

In an era of glass and steel construction, wood may seem old-school. But researchers are currently saying its time to give timber a makeover and bring to use a material that is able to store and release heat.

Transparent wood could be the construction material of choice for eco-friendly houses of the future, after researchers have now created an even more energy efficient version that not only transmits light but also absorbs and releases heat, potentially saving on energy bills.

 open window gif

Originally posted by dinsintegration

Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm reported in 2019 that they would add polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) to the formulation to stabilise the wood.

PEG can go really deep into the wood cells and store and release heat. Known as a phase change material, PEG is a solid that melts at 80°F – storing energy in the process. This process reverses at night when the PEG re-solidifies, turning the window glass opaque and releasing heat to maintain a constant temperature in the house.

Transparent wood for windows and green architecture. Video: Wise Wanderer

In principle, a whole house could be made from the wooden window glass, which is due to the property of PEG. The windows could be adapted for different climates by simply tailoring the molecular weight of the PEG, to raise or lower its melting temperature depending on the location.



Materials

2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today we look at copper and some of its popular uses.


A brief history

 copper

Copper was one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans. According to the US Geological Survey, copper ranks as the third most consumed industrial metal in the world, dating back to around 5000BC.

Around 5500BC, early ancestors discovered the malleable properties of copper, and discovered they could be fashioned into tools and weapons – a discovery that allowed humans to emerge out of the stone age and drift into the age of metals.

 volcanic rocks

Volcanic rocks in Tenerife, Spain.

Approximately two-thirds of the Earth’s copper is found in volcanic rocks, while approximately one-quarter occurs in sedimentary rocks. 

Th metal is malleable, meaning it can conduct heat and electricity, making copper an extremely useful industrial metal and is used to make electronics, cables and wiring.


What is it used for?

 copper tools

Since 4500BC humans have made and manufactured items from copper. Copper is used mostly as a pure metal, but its strength and hardness can be adjusted by adding tin to create a copper alloy known as bronze. 

In the 1700s, pennies were made from pure copper; in the 1800s they were made from bronze; and today, pennies consist of approximately 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.

 

Copper is utilised for a variety of industrial purposes. In addition to copper’s good thermal and electric conductivity, copper now plays an important role in renewable energy systems. 

As copper is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, power systems use copper to generate and transmit energy with high efficiency and minimal environmental impacts.


Antimicrobial properties

 E Coli cultures on a Petri dish

E. Coli cultures on a Petri dish.

Copper plays an important role as an anti-bacterial material. Copper alloy surfaces have properties which are set out to destroy a wide range of microorganisms.

Recent studies have shown that copper alloy surfaces kill over 99.9% of E.coli microbes within two hours. In the interest of public health, especially in healthcare environments, studies led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have listed 274 different copper alloys as certified antimicrobial materials, making copper the first solid surfaced material to have been registered by the EPA.

bye gif

Originally posted by nursegif

Copper has always maintained an important role in modern society with a vast list of extensive uses. With further development of renewable energy systems and electric vehicles, we will likely see an ongoing increase in demand for copper.


Sustainability & Environment

This is the first in a series of blog articles by SCI’s Energy group. As a group, they recognise that the energy crisis is a topic of large magnitude and therefore have set out to identify potential decarbonisation solutions across multiple dimensions of the overall energy supply chain, which include source, system, storage and service.

 wind turnbine

Throughout the series, you will be introduced to its members through regular features that highlight their roles and major interests in energy. We welcome you to read their series and hope to spark some interesting conversation across all areas of SCI.


Global emissions

 factory burning fossil fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), by the end of 2018, their observatory at Muana Loa, Hawaii, recorded the fourth-highest annual growth of global CO2 emissions the world has seen in the last 60 years.

Adding even more concern, the Met Office confirmed that this trend is likely to continue and that the annual rise in 2019 could potentially be larger than that seen in the previous two years.

 atmospheric co2 data

Forecast global CO2 concentration against previous years. Source: Met Office and contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Large concentrations of COin the atmosphere are a major concern because it is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation from solar energy from the sun and less is emitted back into space. Because the influx of radiation is greater than the outflux, the globe is warmed as a consequence.

Although CO2 emissions can occur naturally through biological processes, the biggest contributor to said emissions is human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and cement production.

 co2 emissions data

Increase of CO2 emissions before and after the Industrial Era. Source: IPCC, AR5 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2014, Fig. 1.05-01, Page. 3


Climate Change

 field

Weather impacts from climate change include drought and flooding, as well as a noticeable increase in natural disasters.

This warming has resulted in changes to our climate system which has created severe weather impacts that increase human vulnerability. One example of this is the European heat wave and drought which struck in 2003. 

The event resulted in an estimated death toll of over 30,000 lives and is recognised as one of the top 10 deadliest natural disasters across Europe within the last century.

In 2015, in an attempt to address this issue, 195 nations from across the globe united to adopt the Paris Agreement which seeks to maintain a global temperature rise of well below 2C, with efforts to  limit it even further to 1.5C.

 

 

The Paris Climate Change Agreement explained. Video: The Daily Conversation  

In their latest special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained that this would require significant changes in energy, land, infrastructure and industrial systems, all within a rapid timeframe.

In addition, the recently published Emissions Gap report urged that it is crucial that global emissions peak by 2020 if we are to succeed in meeting this ambitious target.


Are we further away then we think?

 co2 graphic

As well as the Paris Agreement, the UK is committed to the Climate Change Act (2008) which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 baseline levels. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by over 40%, while the economy has grown by 72%.

To ensure that we meet our 2050 target, the government has implemented Carbon Budgets, which limit the legal emissions of greenhouse gases within the UK across a five-year period. Currently, these budgets run up to 2032 and the UK is now in the third budget period (2018-2022).

cars gif

Originally posted by worldoro

The UK has committed to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

At present, the UK is on track to outperform both the second and third budget. However, it is not on track to achieve the fourth budget target (2023-2027). To be able to meet this, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) urge that UK emissions must be reduced annually by at least 3% from this point forward.

We may not be sure which technologies will allow such great emission reductions, but one thing is for certain – decarbonisation is essential, and it must happen now!

 

Sustainability & Environment

This is the first in a series of blog articles by SCI’s Energy group. As a group, they recognise that the energy crisis is a topic of large magnitude and therefore have set out to identify potential decarbonisation solutions across multiple dimensions of the overall energy supply chain, which include source, system, storage and service.

 wind turnbine

Throughout the series, you will be introduced to its members through regular features that highlight their roles and major interests in energy. We welcome you to read their series and hope to spark some interesting conversation across all areas of SCI.


Global emissions

 factory burning fossil fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), by the end of 2018, their observatory at Muana Loa, Hawaii, recorded the fourth-highest annual growth of global CO2 emissions the world has seen in the last 60 years.

Adding even more concern, the Met Office confirmed that this trend is likely to continue and that the annual rise in 2019 could potentially be larger than that seen in the previous two years.

 atmospheric co2 data

Forecast global CO2 concentration against previous years. Source: Met Office and contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Large concentrations of COin the atmosphere are a major concern because it is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation from solar energy from the sun and less is emitted back into space. Because the influx of radiation is greater than the outflux, the globe is warmed as a consequence.

Although CO2 emissions can occur naturally through biological processes, the biggest contributor to said emissions is human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and cement production.

 co2 emissions data

Increase of CO2 emissions before and after the Industrial Era. Source: IPCC, AR5 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2014, Fig. 1.05-01, Page. 3


Climate Change

 field

Weather impacts from climate change include drought and flooding, as well as a noticeable increase in natural disasters.

This warming has resulted in changes to our climate system which has created severe weather impacts that increase human vulnerability. One example of this is the European heat wave and drought which struck in 2003. 

The event resulted in an estimated death toll of over 30,000 lives and is recognised as one of the top 10 deadliest natural disasters across Europe within the last century.

In 2015, in an attempt to address this issue, 195 nations from across the globe united to adopt the Paris Agreement which seeks to maintain a global temperature rise of well below 2C, with efforts to  limit it even further to 1.5C.

 

 

The Paris Climate Change Agreement explained. Video: The Daily Conversation  

In their latest special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained that this would require significant changes in energy, land, infrastructure and industrial systems, all within a rapid timeframe.

In addition, the recently published Emissions Gap report urged that it is crucial that global emissions peak by 2020 if we are to succeed in meeting this ambitious target.


Are we further away then we think?

 co2 graphic

As well as the Paris Agreement, the UK is committed to the Climate Change Act (2008) which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 baseline levels. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by over 40%, while the economy has grown by 72%.

To ensure that we meet our 2050 target, the government has implemented Carbon Budgets, which limit the legal emissions of greenhouse gases within the UK across a five-year period. Currently, these budgets run up to 2032 and the UK is now in the third budget period (2018-2022).

cars gif

Originally posted by worldoro

The UK has committed to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

At present, the UK is on track to outperform both the second and third budget. However, it is not on track to achieve the fourth budget target (2023-2027). To be able to meet this, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) urge that UK emissions must be reduced annually by at least 3% from this point forward.

We may not be sure which technologies will allow such great emission reductions, but one thing is for certain – decarbonisation is essential, and it must happen now!

 

Science & Innovation

Robotic technology has a large part in the UK’s chemical industry in reducing individual’s exposure to ionising radiation, from nuclear decommissioning to synthesis of radiopharmaceuticals.

robotic technology

Improvements in robots and robotic technologies has fuelled huge advancements across many industries in recent years. The UK Industrial Strategy has several Sector Deals in which robotic innovations play a role, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Life Sciences and Nuclear.

cartoon gif

Originally posted by various-cartoon-awesomeness

Innovative robotics have a place in all industries to improve efficiency and processes, however, in industries where radioactive materials are commonly used, using robots can help to manage risk. This could be by limiting exposure of employees to radioactive substances or preventing potential accidents.

In the UK, legislation exists as to how much exposure to ionising radiation employees may have each year – an adult employee is classified, and therefore must be monitored, if they receive an effective dose of greater than 6mSv per year. The average adult in the UK receives 2.7 mSv of radiation per year.

Snake-like robot is used to dismantle nuclear facilities. Video: Tech Insider

Through using robots, very few professionals in the chemical industry come close to this limit, and are subsequently safe from long-term health effects, such as skin burns, radiation sickness and cancer.


Sustainability & Environment

The UK’s efforts to move towards clean energy can be seen around the UK, whether it’s the wind turbines across the hills of the countryside or solar panels on the roofs of city skyscrapers. There is, however, a technology that most people will never see, and it is set to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in a low-carbon economy yet.

Deep in the North Sea are miles of offshore pipelines, once used to transport natural gas to the UK. The pipelines all lead to a hub called the St Fergus Gas Terminal – a gas sweetening plant used by industry – that sits on the coast of north-east Scotland.

 St Fergus Gas Terminal in NorthEast Scotland

St Fergus Gas Terminal in North-East Scotland. 

This network has now been reimagined as a low-cost, full-chain carbon capture, transport and offshore storage that will provide the UK will a viable solution to permanent carbon capture and storage (CCS) called the Acorn project.

CCS is a process that takes waste CO2 produced by large-scale, usually industrial, processes and transports it to a storage facility. The site, likely to be underground, stops the waste CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, storing it for later use for another purpose, such as the production of chemicals for coatings, adhesives or jet fuel.

Carbon Capture Explained | How It Happens. Video: The New York Times  

High levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been linked to global warming and the damaging effects of climate change, and CCS is one of the only proven solutions to decarbonisation that industry can currently access.

Taking advantage of existing infrastructure means that the Acorn project is running at a much lower cost and risk to comparable projects and is expected to be up and running by 2023. It is hoped the project will bring competitiveness and job retention and creation across the UK, particularly in the industrial centres of Scotland.  


Sustainability & Environment

The UK’s efforts to move towards clean energy can be seen around the UK, whether it’s the wind turbines across the hills of the countryside or solar panels on the roofs of city skyscrapers. There is, however, a technology that most people will never see, and it is set to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in a low-carbon economy yet.

Deep in the North Sea are miles of offshore pipelines, once used to transport natural gas to the UK. The pipelines all lead to a hub called the St Fergus Gas Terminal – a gas sweetening plant used by industry – that sits on the coast of north-east Scotland.

 St Fergus Gas Terminal in NorthEast Scotland

St Fergus Gas Terminal in North-East Scotland. 

This network has now been reimagined as a low-cost, full-chain carbon capture, transport and offshore storage that will provide the UK will a viable solution to permanent carbon capture and storage (CCS) called the Acorn project.

CCS is a process that takes waste CO2 produced by large-scale, usually industrial, processes and transports it to a storage facility. The site, likely to be underground, stops the waste CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, storing it for later use for another purpose, such as the production of chemicals for coatings, adhesives or jet fuel.

Carbon Capture Explained | How It Happens. Video: The New York Times  

High levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been linked to global warming and the damaging effects of climate change, and CCS is one of the only proven solutions to decarbonisation that industry can currently access.

Taking advantage of existing infrastructure means that the Acorn project is running at a much lower cost and risk to comparable projects and is expected to be up and running by 2023. It is hoped the project will bring competitiveness and job retention and creation across the UK, particularly in the industrial centres of Scotland.  


Sustainability & Environment

The concept of a hydrogen economy is not new to anyone involved or familiar with the energy sector. Until the 1970s, hydrogen was a well-established source of energy in the UK, making up 50% of gas used. For several reasons, the sector moved on, and a recent renewed interest into the advantages of hydrogen has put the gas at the forefront in the search for green energy.

Confidence behind the viability of hydrogen was confirmed last October when the government announced a £20m Hydrogen Supply programme that aims to lower the price of low carbon hydrogen to encourage its use in industry, power, buildings, and transport.

Hydrogen - the Fuel of the Future? Video: Real Engineering

‘In a way, hydrogen is more relevant than ever, because in the past hydrogen was linked with transportation,’ UCL fuel cell researcher Professor Dan Brett explained to The Engineer. ‘But now with the huge uptake of renewables and the need for grid-scale energy storage to stabilise the energy system, hydrogen can have a real role to play, and what’s interesting about that […] is that there’s a number of things you can do with it.

‘You can turn it back into electricity, you can put it into vehicles or you can do a power-to-gas arrangement where you pump it into the gas grid.’

Sustainability & Environment

Transparent solar cells that can convert invisible light wavelengths into renewable energy could supply 40% of the US’ energy demand, a Michigan State University (MSU) engineering team have reported.

In contrast to the robust, opaque solar panels that take up a large amount of space – whether on rooftops or on designated solar farms – the transparent solar cells can be placed on existing surfaces, such as windows, buildings, phones, and any other object with a clear surface.

 Traditional solar panels

Traditional solar panels require large amounts of space. 

‘Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar cell applications,’ says Richard Lunt, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU.

‘We analysed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles, and mobile electronics.’

 the sun

Solar, or photovoltaic, cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Image: Pixabay

Currently, the cells are running at 5% efficiency, says the team, compared to traditional solar panels that have recorded efficiencies between 15-18%. Lunt believes that with further research, the capability of the transparent cells could increase three-fold.

‘That is what we are working towards,’ says Lunt. ‘Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years.’

 apple iphone

The cells can be added to any existing transparent surface, including mobile phones. Image: Max Pixel

While solar panels may be more efficient at converting energy than the group’s transparent cells, Lunt says that the latter can be easily applied to more surfaces and therefore a larger surface area, increasing the overall amount of energy produced by the cells.

‘Ultimately,’ he says, ‘this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.’

Transparent solar cells. Video: Michigan State University

Together, and with further work on its efficiency, the authors of the paper believe that their see-through cells and traditional solar panels could fulfil the US’ energy needs.

‘The complimentary deployment of both technologies could get us close to 100% of our demand if we also improve energy storage,’ Lunt says.


Sustainability & Environment

Transparent solar cells that can convert invisible light wavelengths into renewable energy could supply 40% of the US’ energy demand, a Michigan State University (MSU) engineering team have reported.

In contrast to the robust, opaque solar panels that take up a large amount of space – whether on rooftops or on designated solar farms – the transparent solar cells can be placed on existing surfaces, such as windows, buildings, phones, and any other object with a clear surface.

 Traditional solar panels

Traditional solar panels require large amounts of space. 

‘Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar cell applications,’ says Richard Lunt, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU.

‘We analysed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles, and mobile electronics.’

 the sun

Solar, or photovoltaic, cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Image: Pixabay

Currently, the cells are running at 5% efficiency, says the team, compared to traditional solar panels that have recorded efficiencies between 15-18%. Lunt believes that with further research, the capability of the transparent cells could increase three-fold.

‘That is what we are working towards,’ says Lunt. ‘Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years.’

 apple iphone

The cells can be added to any existing transparent surface, including mobile phones. Image: Max Pixel

While solar panels may be more efficient at converting energy than the group’s transparent cells, Lunt says that the latter can be easily applied to more surfaces and therefore a larger surface area, increasing the overall amount of energy produced by the cells.

‘Ultimately,’ he says, ‘this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.’

Transparent solar cells. Video: Michigan State University

Together, and with further work on its efficiency, the authors of the paper believe that their see-through cells and traditional solar panels could fulfil the US’ energy needs.

‘The complimentary deployment of both technologies could get us close to 100% of our demand if we also improve energy storage,’ Lunt says.


Energy

Renewables outstripped coal power for the first time in electricity generation in Europe in 2017, according to a new report. The European Power Sector in 2017 – by think-tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende – predicts renewables could provide half of Europe’s electricity by 2030.

Wind, solar and biomass generation collectively rose by 12% in 2017 – to 679 Terawatt hours  – generating 21% of Europe’s electricity and contributing to 30% of the energy mix. ‘This is incredible progress considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass,’ the report says.

image

Hydroelectric power is the most popular renewable energy source worldwide. Image: PxHere

However, growth is variable. The UK and Germany alone contributed to 56% of the expansion in the past three years. There is also a ‘bias’ for wind, with a 19% increase in 2017, due to good wind conditions and huge investments, the report says. 

‘This is good news now the biomass boom is over, but bad news in that solar was responsible for just 14% of the renewables growth in 2014 to 2017.’

New analysis by trade group WindEurope backs up the findings on wind power, showing that countries across Europe installed more offshore capacity than ever before: 3.14GW. This corresponds to 560 new offshore wind turbines across 17 wind farms. Fourteen projects were fully completed and connected to the grid, including the first floating offshore wind farm. Europe now has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15.78GW.

The EU’s 2030 goals for climate and energy. Video: European Commission 

Germany remains top of the European league, with the largest total installed wind-power capacity; worth 42% of the EU’s new capacity in 2017, followed by Spain, the UK, and France. Denmark boasts the largest share of wind in its power mix at 44% of electricity demand.

Energy

Renewables outstripped coal power for the first time in electricity generation in Europe in 2017, according to a new report. The European Power Sector in 2017 – by think-tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende – predicts renewables could provide half of Europe’s electricity by 2030.

Wind, solar and biomass generation collectively rose by 12% in 2017 – to 679 Terawatt hours  – generating 21% of Europe’s electricity and contributing to 30% of the energy mix. ‘This is incredible progress considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass,’ the report says.

image

Hydroelectric power is the most popular renewable energy source worldwide. Image: PxHere

However, growth is variable. The UK and Germany alone contributed to 56% of the expansion in the past three years. There is also a ‘bias’ for wind, with a 19% increase in 2017, due to good wind conditions and huge investments, the report says. 

‘This is good news now the biomass boom is over, but bad news in that solar was responsible for just 14% of the renewables growth in 2014 to 2017.’

New analysis by trade group WindEurope backs up the findings on wind power, showing that countries across Europe installed more offshore capacity than ever before: 3.14GW. This corresponds to 560 new offshore wind turbines across 17 wind farms. Fourteen projects were fully completed and connected to the grid, including the first floating offshore wind farm. Europe now has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15.78GW.

The EU’s 2030 goals for climate and energy. Video: European Commission 

Germany remains top of the European league, with the largest total installed wind-power capacity; worth 42% of the EU’s new capacity in 2017, followed by Spain, the UK, and France. Denmark boasts the largest share of wind in its power mix at 44% of electricity demand.

Policy

In July 2017, the UK government announced plans to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, but there’s a long way for the electric vehicle market to go before that target can be reached – low-emission vehicle sales still account for just 0.5% of total car sales.

Last week, the European Commission announced a new Innovation Deal that could go some way to overcoming barriers to electric vehicle development and acceptance by consumers.

Entitled ‘From e-mobility to recycling: the vitreous loop of the electric vehicle’, it is designed to help innovators address regulatory obstacles to the recycling and re-use of propulsion batteries in second-life applications, such as energy storage.

The deal comprises a multi-disciplinary working group of partners across industry and government in France and the Netherlands. In France, Renault, Bouygues and the Ministries for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition and Economy and Finance; in the Netherlands, renewable energy technology company LomboXnet, the Provice of Utrecht, and the Ministries of Infrastructure and Water Management, Economic Affairs, and Climate Policy.

twitterpost

Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, ‘The electric vehicle revolution is a testimony to how innovation generates growth and fundamentally changes society for the better. In order for Europe to stay in the lead of this innovation race, we need to work together with innovators and authorities to make sure our laws do not hamper innovation. This Innovation Deal will clarify the regulatory landscape in this area, and boost demand for electric vehicles.’

Robin Berg, founder of LomboXnet is one such innovator set on fundamentally changing society for the better. In Utrecht, the Netherlands, his company has set up a smart solar charging network that allows excess solar power harvested via rooftop photovoltaic panels to be stored in electric vehicle batteries – the energy can then be transferred between car and home as demand requires.

‘Enhancing the economic value of car batteries through vehicle-to-grid applications, second-life battery projects and smart solar charging of cars, creates huge business opportunities,’ Berg said.

‘The Smart Solar Charging consortium in Utrecht Region led by LomboXnet together with Renault seeks to increase these opportunities to spur the transition to a renewable energy system and a zero-emission mobility future. Europe is leading in these developments; this Innovation Deal offers a chance to further strengthen Europe’s leadership.’

Pure electric vehicle sales were down in the first two months of 2018 compared with the previous year – although sales of plug-in hybrid cars, which combine a conventional petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor that can be charged at an outlet or on the move, were up by 40% over the same period.

Energy

Renewable energy has long been known as a greener alternative to fossil fuels, but that doesn’t mean that the former has no negative environmental impacts. Hydropower, for instance, has been known to reduce biodiversity in the land used for its systems.

Now, a team of Norwegian-based researchers have developed a methodology that quantifies the environmental effects of hydropower electricity production.

UllaFrre

Ulla-Førre – Norway’s largest hydropower station.

Martin Dorber, PhD candidate in Industrial Ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is part of the team that developed the analytic tool. ‘Some hydropower reservoirs may look natural at first. However, they are human-influenced and if land has been flooded for their creation, this may impact terrestrial ecosystems,’ he said,

The Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, can be used by industry and policymakers to identify the trade-offs associated with current and future hydropower projects. Norway is one of the top hydropower producers in the world, with 95% of its domestic electricity production coming from hydropower.

 Hoover Dam station

Generations inside the Hoover Dam station. Image: Richard Martin/Flickr

Many hydropower facilities include a dam –  many purpose-built for hydropower generation – which stores fresh water from lakes or rivers in a reservoir.

Reducing biodiversity in the areas where hydropower development is being considered is one of the main disadvantages of the renewable source. Reduced freshwater habitats and water quality, and land flooding are among the damaging effects – all of which are difficult to assess, says the team.

‘Land use and land use change is a key issue, as it is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, because it leads to loss and degradation of habitat for many species,’ said Dorber.

 Hydropower development

Hydropower development can be damaging to freshwater habitats. Image: Pexels

Using reservoir surface area data from the Norwegian Water Resources and Water Resources Directorate and satellite images from the NASA-USGS Global Land Survey, the team were able to create a life cycle inventory that showed the amount of land needed to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

‘By dividing the inundated land area with the annual electricity production of each hydropower reservoir, we calculated site-specific net land occupation values for the life cycle inventory,’ said Dorber.

‘While it’s beyond the scope of this work, our approach is a crucial step towards quantifying impacts of hydropower electricity production on biodiversity for life cycle analysis.’

While this study is exclusive to hydropower reservoirs in Norway, the team believe this analysis could be adopted by other nations looking to extend their hydropower development and assess the potential consequences.

Pumped-storage hydropower. Video: Statkraft

‘We have shown that remote sensing data can be used to quantify the land use change caused by hydropower reservoirs,’ said Dorber. ‘At the same time our results show that the land use change differs between hydropower reservoirs.’

‘More reservoir-specific land use change assessment is a key component that is needed to quantify the potential environmental impacts.’

Energy

Renewable energy has long been known as a greener alternative to fossil fuels, but that doesn’t mean that the former has no negative environmental impacts. Hydropower, for instance, has been known to reduce biodiversity in the land used for its systems.

Now, a team of Norwegian-based researchers have developed a methodology that quantifies the environmental effects of hydropower electricity production.

UllaFrre

Ulla-Førre – Norway’s largest hydropower station.

Martin Dorber, PhD candidate in Industrial Ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is part of the team that developed the analytic tool. ‘Some hydropower reservoirs may look natural at first. However, they are human-influenced and if land has been flooded for their creation, this may impact terrestrial ecosystems,’ he said,

The Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, can be used by industry and policymakers to identify the trade-offs associated with current and future hydropower projects. Norway is one of the top hydropower producers in the world, with 95% of its domestic electricity production coming from hydropower.

 Hoover Dam station

Generations inside the Hoover Dam station. Image: Richard Martin/Flickr

Many hydropower facilities include a dam –  many purpose-built for hydropower generation – which stores fresh water from lakes or rivers in a reservoir.

Reducing biodiversity in the areas where hydropower development is being considered is one of the main disadvantages of the renewable source. Reduced freshwater habitats and water quality, and land flooding are among the damaging effects – all of which are difficult to assess, says the team.

‘Land use and land use change is a key issue, as it is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, because it leads to loss and degradation of habitat for many species,’ said Dorber.

 Hydropower development

Hydropower development can be damaging to freshwater habitats. Image: Pexels

Using reservoir surface area data from the Norwegian Water Resources and Water Resources Directorate and satellite images from the NASA-USGS Global Land Survey, the team were able to create a life cycle inventory that showed the amount of land needed to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

‘By dividing the inundated land area with the annual electricity production of each hydropower reservoir, we calculated site-specific net land occupation values for the life cycle inventory,’ said Dorber.

‘While it’s beyond the scope of this work, our approach is a crucial step towards quantifying impacts of hydropower electricity production on biodiversity for life cycle analysis.’

While this study is exclusive to hydropower reservoirs in Norway, the team believe this analysis could be adopted by other nations looking to extend their hydropower development and assess the potential consequences.

Pumped-storage hydropower. Video: Statkraft

‘We have shown that remote sensing data can be used to quantify the land use change caused by hydropower reservoirs,’ said Dorber. ‘At the same time our results show that the land use change differs between hydropower reservoirs.’

‘More reservoir-specific land use change assessment is a key component that is needed to quantify the potential environmental impacts.’

Sustainability & Environment

Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, have developed an innovative method for capturing renewable natural gas from cow and pig manure for use as a fuel for heating homes, powering industry, and even as a replacement for diesel fuel in trucks.

It is based on a process called methanation. Biogas from manure is mixed with hydrogen, then run through a catalytic converter, producing methane from carbon dioxide in the biogas through a chemical reaction.

 A biogas plant

A biogas plant. Image: Pixabay

The researchers claim that power could be taken from the grid at times of low demand or generated on-site via wind or solar power to produce the hydrogen. 

The renewable natural gas produced would yield a large percentage of the manure’s energy potential and efficiently store electricity, while emitting a fraction of the gases produced when the manure is used as a fertiliser.

‘The potential is huge,’ said David Simakov, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Waterloo. 'There are multiple ways we can benefit from this single approach.’

See a Farm Convert Pig Poop Into Electricity. Video: National Geographic

Using a computer model of a 2,000-head dairy farm in Ontario, which already collects manure and converts it into biogas in anaerobic digesters before burning it in generators, the researchers tested the concept. 

They estimated that a $5-million investment in a methanation system would have a five-year payback period, taking government subsidies for renewable natural gas into account.

'This is how we can make the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy using existing infrastructure, which is a tremendous advantage,’ Simakov said.

Energy

Hailed by some as the future of clean energy, nuclear fusion is an exciting area of research, supported in the UK by the Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) – a government department that aims to establish the UK as a leader in sustainable energy. Here are five things you need to know about nuclear fusion. 

1. It powers the sun.

Nuclear fusion occurs when two or more atomic nuclei of a low atomic number fuse to form a heavier nucleus at high energy, resulting in the release of a large amount of energy. However, it is only possible at an extremely high temperature and pressure, which means that currently the input energy required is too high to produce energy commercially. It’s the same process that powers the stars – the sun fuses 620 million tons of hydrogen and makes 606 million metric tons of helium every second. 


2. The largest successful reactor is in Oxford. 

 MASCOT

The MASCOT telemanipulator is the main workhorse for all remote handling activities in JET. Image: The Naked Cat Fighter/Wikimedia Commons

The Joint European Torus (JET) is managed by the UKAEA at the Culham Science Centre in Oxford, UK. JET is a tokamak – a donut-shaped vessel designed around centrally placed fusion plasma, a fourth fundamental state of matter after solid, liquid, and air, containing the charged particles essential for nuclear fusion to occur. 

Using strong magnetic fields, the tokamak confines the plasma to a shape that allows it to reach temperatures up to 20 times that of the sun. While still not commercially viable, it is the only operational reactor that can generate energy from nuclear fusion. 


3. JET’s successor is due to launch in 2025

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), based in Provence, southern France, is the EU’s successor project to JET – a collaboration between all 28 EU member states as well as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the US. Its first experiment is due to run in 2025 and, if successful, it will be the world’s largest operating nuclear fusion reactor, producing upwards of 500MW. 


4. ITER is the feasibility study for large-scale, carbon-free energy

cells gif

Originally posted by bntspn

By 2025, ITER will produce its first plasma, with tritium and deuterium (a combination with an extremely low energy barrier) to be added in 2035, in the hope of allowing the facility to efficiently generate 100% carbon-free, reliable energy on a large scale. 


5. The UK’s future role in the nuclear sector rests on Brexit negotiations

 JET2

The JET magnetic fusion experiment in 1991. Image: EFDA JET

Despite the UKAEA’s essential work in supporting the success of JET and continued commitment to investing in the project, Brexit makes the  continuation of JET and the UK’s role in ITER uncertain.

Director of ITER, Bernard Bigot, has said his concerns lie with the extension of JET. ‘If JET ends after 2018 in a way that is not coordinated with another global strategy for fusion development, clearly it will hurt ITER’s development,’ he said. ‘For me it is a concern.’

In a statement on the future of JET, the UK government said: ‘The UK’s commitment to continue funding the facility will apply should the EU approve extending the UK’s contract to host the facility until 2020.’

With hopes for JET’s funding to continue until at least 2023, and the UK government announcing its intentions to leave Euratom last year, the future of the UK’s ability to compete in the nuclear sector rests on the progress of Brexit negotiations in the coming months.

 

Sustainability & Environment

The Haber process currently helps feed more than half the world, producing 150m tonnes of ammonia a year. This is forecast to rise further, in line with the food demand of a growing world population.

And yet, it has serious drawbacks. In its traditional form, the process requires high temperatures – around 500°C – to make the extremely stable molecule nitrogen reactive.

fire gif

Originally posted by foreverfallll

The Haber process takes place at extremely high temperatures, similar to that of an average fire.

It also needs high pressure to shift the equilibrium towards the desired product. The process is sensitive to oxygen, meaning that nitrogen and hydrogen must be introduced as purified elements, rather than as air and water.

These requirements together make the process extremely energy-hungry; estimated to consume between 1% and 2% of global primary energy production. In 2010, the ammonia industry emitted 245m tonnes of CO2 globally, corresponding to half the UK’s emissions. 

 Carl Bosch

The Haber process was developed by Carl Bosch (left) and Fritz Haber (right) in the early 20th century. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In nature, the process relies on the highly complex enzyme nitrogenase, operating at an ambient pressure and temperature. But using the entire biological system would not be economical for large-scale industrial synthesis, and thus the search for an inorganic system that matches the performance of the biological has become an important challenge.  

In recent years, novel electrochemical approaches and new catalysts have yielded promising results suggesting that, at least for small-scale synthesis, other ways may have a future.

The chemical reaction that feeds the world. Video: TED-Ed  

‘The last [few] years brought some spectacular results on ammonia synthesis research,’ comments Hans Fredriksson from Syngaschem at Eindhoven, Netherlands.

‘On the catalyst side, there is the discovery of ‘super promoters’, helping N2 dissociation, allowing lower process temperatures, while optimised catalyst formulations yield significant improvements in activity. 

‘Perhaps even more exciting are new approaches in processing, for example by electrochemistry, or simply running the reaction in an electric field, or bringing plasmas into play,’ he said.

electricity gif

Originally posted by mondo80s90spictorama

In 2013, Shanwen Tao, then at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, and colleagues demonstrated for the first time the production of ammonia from air and water, at ambient temperature and pressure, using a proton-conducting Nafion membrane in an electrochemical approach. 

Nafion, a Teflon-like material that conducts cations but neither electrons nor anions, is also used in fuel cells. 

‘Electrochemical synthesis of ammonia is an important new approach for efficient synthesis of ammonia using green renewable electricity as the energy source. This could be a key technology for a possible ‘ammonia economy’,’ where ammonia replaces or complements hydrogen as an energy carrier, says Tao.

 renewable energy

Researchers hope new approaches will be supported by renewable energy, reducing CO2 emissions. Image: Pexels

Separate efforts using different routes are being developed in Japan, with a particular focus on ruthenium as an efficient catalyst. One approach is to apply super promoters to provide electrons that destabilise nitrogen by weakening the triple bond and making the molecule more reactive for ammonia synthesis.

This was first reported in 2012 by Hideo Hosono’s group at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who used ruthenium catalysts in combination with ‘electrides’ – a new class of ionic materials where electrons serve as the anions.

The method operates at atmospheric pressure and temperatures between 250 and 400°C, and hydrogen poisoning of ruthenium catalysts is no longer a problem.

 Ruthenium

Ruthenium is a type of metal in the platinum group. Image: Metalle-w/      Wikimedia Commons

‘This catalyst exhibits the highest activity and excellent long-term stability,’ says Hosono, who sees the future of his methods in distributed, small-scale applications of ammonia synthesis.

Hans Niemantsverdriet, director of SynCat@Beijing, China, acknowledges the rapid progress being made, but also strikes a note of caution.

‘In spite of interesting discoveries, I find it hard to imagine that these improvements will be able to replace the current large-scale and fully optimised technology,’ he says. ‘In the fertiliser area, novel technology will at best become a niche market for very special situations. Also, the CO2 footprint is hardly diminished.’

 fertiliser3

Ammonia is a core component of fertiliser, feeding nitrogen to plants for photosynthesis. Image: Maurice van Bruggen/Wikimedia Commons

In the long term, Niemantsverdriet has hope for the ammonia economy as championed by Tao and others, providing carbon-free hydrogen from renewable energies. 

‘I strongly believe that there will be scope for large industrial parks where this technology can be cleverly integrated with gasification of coal in China, and perhaps biomass elsewhere,’ he says. ‘If dimensioned properly, this has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint in the future.’

 

Energy

Determining the efficacy of organic solar cell mixtures is a time-consuming and tired practice, relying on post-manufacturing analysis to find the most effective combination of materials.

Now, an international group of researchers – from North Carolina State University in the US and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology – have developed a new quantitative approach that can identify effective mixtures quickly and before the cell goes through production.

 thinfilm solar cell

Development of a thin-film solar cell. Image: science photo/Shutterstock

By using the solubility limit of a system as a parameter, the group looked to find the processing temperature providing the optimum performance and largest processing window for the system, said Harald Ade, co-corresponding author and Professor of Physics at NC State.

‘Forces between molecules within a solar cell’s layers govern how much they will mix – if they are very interactive they will mix but if they are repulsive they won’t,’ he said. ‘Efficient solar cells are a delicate balance. If the domains mix too much or too little, the charges can’t separate or be harvested effectively.’

tea gif

Originally posted by itadakimasu-letmeeat

‘We know that attraction and repulsion depend on temperature, much like sugar dissolving in coffee – the saturation, or maximum mixing of the sugar with the coffee, improves as the temperature increases. We figured out the saturation level of the ‘sugar in the coffee’ as a function of temperature,’ he said.

Organic solar cells are a type of photovoltaic –  which convert energy from the sun into electrons – that uses organic electronics to generate electricity. This type of cell can be produced cheaply, and is both lightweight and flexible, making it a popular option for use in solar panels.

 Photovoltaic systems

Photovoltaic systems are made up of organic solar cells that convert sunlight into energy. Image: Pxhere

However, difficulties in the production process, including an effective process to determine efficiency of potential material combinations, is stalling its development.

‘In the past, people mainly studied this parameter in systems at room temperature using crude approximations,’ said Long Ye, first author and postdoctoral researcher at NC State. ‘They couldn’t measure it with precision and at temperatures corresponding to processing conditions, which are much hotter.’

Faces of Chemistry: Organic solar cells at BASF. Video: Royal Society of Chemistry

‘The ability to measure and model this parameter will also offer valuable lessons about processing and not just material pairs.’

But the process still needs refinement, said Ade. ‘Our ultimate goal is to form a framework and experimental basis on which chemical structural variation might be evaluated by simulations on the computer before laborious synthesis is attempted,’ he said.

Energy

 Patagonia

Patagonia, Argentina, is the site of Vaca Muerta, a geological formation known for its oil and gas reserves. Image: Gervacio Rosales  

Since taking office in late 2015, Argentinean president Mauricio Macri has prioritised investment in the energy sector to help reverse a costly energy deficit. Argentina’s abundant shale resources have attracted a growing number of major international companies, and attention has mostly been focused on the Vaca Muerta shale fields. Located in Patagonia they are one of the world’s largest reserves of shale gas.

The proposed investments revealed in YPF’s strategic plan for 2018-2022 indicate that the company intends to contribute $21.5bn directly, with the remainder coming from partnerships and associated companies.

 Mauricio Macri

Mauricio Macri has focused on increasing investment into Argentinian energy during his tenure as President.  Image: Marcos Corrêa/PR

YPF intends to ramp up oil production and continue the development of Argentina’s huge shale resources. The company said its non-conventional production is expected to grow by 150% over the period 2018-2022, with half of its hydrocarbon production coming from shale and tight oil and gas by 2022. The lifting of shale gas output will be helped by the continued fall in development costs.

Shale gas growth will increase the availability of natural gas liquids (NGLs) for chemical production. YPF estimates that the growth in shale gas will result in a 45% increase in its supply of NGLs between 2017 and 2022. YPF indicated that it has identified opportunities to invest in petrochemicals in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

 Shale oil and gas

Shale oil and gas is accessed though hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’. Image:    

These investments would take advantage of the regional market imbalance together with shale gas growth, it said in its strategic plan, presented to investors in October 2017. ‘The region is a net petrochemical importer with room for a world scale complex,’ it added. 

There is room for one or two more ethylene sites, one or two methanol sites and two or three urea sites in the region, according to YPF.

The company said it is also developing opportunities to stimulate demand for natural gas, because demand in Argentina is highly seasonal. Opportunities include power generation, exports to Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, as well as petrochemical investments.

 YPF

YPF is Argentina’s largest petrochemicals producer, with a capacity of 2.2m t/year. It has three plants, located in Ensenada, Plaza Huincul and Bahía Blanca. Output includes benzene, toluene, mixed-xylene, ortho-xylene, cyclohexane, solvents, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), 1-butene, oxo alcohols, tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), linear alkylbenzene (LAB), linear alkylbenzene sulfonate (LAS), polyisobutylene, maleic anhydride, methanol and urea. The Bahía Blanca site is operated by nitrogen fertiliser producer Profertil, a 50:50 joint venture with Canadian company Agrium.

Argentina’s potential for new petrochemicals investments was highlighted recently by Marcos Sabelli, president of the Latin American Petrochemical and Chemical Association (APLA). 

petrochemicals gif

Originally posted by randomlabs

Speaking at the Latin American Energy Organization’s Forum on Regional Energy Integration in Buenos Aires, he said development of the Vaca Muerta shale fields improves the potential for steady feedstock supplies. 

‘We are proposing that we replicate the US model,’ he said. The US shale boom enabled the US to move from an importer to an exporter of petrochemicals. ‘Argentina has this potential. There is feedstock, market and companies,’ he added.

YPF said it is the largest shale operator outside North America, with a daily production exceeding 67,400 barrels of oil equivalent. The company participates in 50% of Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale gas and oil reserves area, with more than 550 producing wells; 168 are horizontal. 

 The Green River Formation

The Green River Formation, Colorado, US, is one of the richest oil deposits in the world. Image: National Park Service

Conventional hydrocarbons will remain the basis of the company’s production, with the development of more than 29 projects and the drilling of more than 1600 wells, it said. YPF has three refineries, accounting for 50% of Argentina´s capacity.

The company expects its production of oil and gas to grow by 5%/year over the next five years, reaching 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2022. Exploration efforts will continue, with reserves targeted to rise by 50%. YPF also intends to boost its electricity production, much of it through renewables, as part of efforts to become a fully integrated energy company. YPF is pledging the investments at a time when President Macri’s pro-market government is on a drive to attract investments to consolidate an economic rebound after six years of stagnation.

 oil and gas

YPF are hoping to up its production of oil and gas as energy resources by 5% a year by 2022. Image: Pixabay

Argentina’s GDP is forecast to grow by 2.9% in 2017 and 3.2% in 2018, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The country’s shale gas boom, combined with economic growth, could make it an attractive candidate for a major new petrochemicals project.

Energy

Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs. 

But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.

By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.

 Local Growth Fund

In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.

 

Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.

‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’

Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.

100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.

 

Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.

‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’

The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.

Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low. 

Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components. 

 Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science

The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.

The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system. 

Energy

Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs. 

But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.

By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.

 Local Growth Fund

In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.

 

Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.

‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’

Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.

100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.

 

Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.

‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’

The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.

Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low. 

Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components. 

 Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science

The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.

The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system. 

Energy

Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs. 

But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.

By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.

 Local Growth Fund

In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.

 

Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.

‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’

Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.

100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.

 

Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.

‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’

The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.

Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low. 

Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components. 

 Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science

The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.

The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system. 

Science & Innovation

In 1942 the Leverhulme Trust endowed a lecture in memory of the first Viscount Leverhulme, founder of the Lever Brothers 

The Lecture is given every three years before the Liverpool and North West Regional Group to promote chemical or technological research or education.

Prof Maitland is the 20th recipient of this prestigious award and gave his lecture on ‘Avoiding catastrophic climate change; Paris 2015 set the targets, can the UK deliver?’.

Read our full write-up on the lecture here   

 Board of Trustees

Geoffrey Maitland (second left) receives his award from Alan Bayliss, Chair of the Board of Trustees, with Trevor Rhodes (left), Chair of SCI’s Liverpool and North West Group, and Sharon Todd, SCI’s Executive Director. Image: Mike Halliday

 Chemical Engineering degree

Reace Edwards, from Chester University, collects her award from Prof Maitland. She is the top scoring second year student on the BEng/MEng Chemical Engineering degree course. Image: Mike Halliday

 Oliver Stanfield

Oliver Stanfield won his award for highest-achieving third year student on the BSc Chemistry with Industrial Experience course at the University of Bangor. Image: Mike Halliday

 Aaisha Patel

Aaisha Patel, from Liverpool John Moores University, is the best second year student on the BSc (Hons) Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science programme. Image: Mike Halliday

Energy

Compared with other renewable energy resources – take solar or wind power as examples – tidal energy is still in the first stages of commercial development. But as the world moves towards a greener economy, tidal power is becoming more in demand in the competitive renewables market.

Currently, the very few tidal power plants in the world are based in Canada, China, France, Russia, South Korea, and the UK, although more are in development. Experts predict that tidal power has the potential to generate 700TWh annually, which is almost a third of the UK’s total energy consumption.


How does it work?

Tidal energy is produced by the natural movement of ocean waves during the rise and fall of tides throughout the day. Generally, generating tidal energy is easier in regions with a higher tidal range – the difference between high tide, when the water level has risen, and low tide, when levels have fallen. These levels are influenced by the moon’s gravitational pull.

 The moons gravitational pull

The moon’s gravitational pull is responsible for the rise and fall of tides. Image: Public Domain Pictures

We are able to produce energy from this process using tidal power generators. These generators work similarly to wind turbines by drawing energy from the currents of water, and are either completely or partially submerged in water.

One advantage of tidal power generators is that water is denser than air, meaning that an individual tidal turbine can generate more power than a wind turbine, even at low currents. Tides are also predictable, with researchers arguing that it is tidal power is potentially a more reliable renewable energy source.

What is tidal power and how does it work? Video: Student Energy

There are three types of tidal energy systems: barrages, tidal streams, and tidal lagoons. Tidal barrages are structured similar to dams and generate power from river or bay tides. They are the oldest form of tidal power generation, dating back to the 1960s.

However, there is a common concern that generators and barrages can damage the environment, despite producing green energy. By creating facilities to generate energy, tidal power centres can affect the surrounding areas, leading to problems with land use and natural habitats.

 Fleet tidal lagoon in Dorset

Fleet tidal lagoon in Dorset, UK. Image: Geograph

Since then, technologies in tidal streams and lagoons have appeared, which work in the same fashion as barrages but have the advantage of being able to be built into the natural coastline – reducing the environmental impact often caused by the construction of barrages and generators.

However, there are no current large-scale projects with these two systems, and output is expected to be low, presenting a challenge to compete with more cost-effective renewable technologies.

Science & Innovation

It has been a year since Prime Minister Theresa May announced the launch of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund at CBI’s annual conference. At the time, May said the fund would ‘help to address Britain’s historic weakness on commercialisation and turning our world-leading research into long-term success’.

Since then, Innovate UK has worked closely with the government and research councils to identify the great innovation challenges the UK faces.

‘Innovate UK have been in this right from the very beginning,’ said Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, speaking at Innovate 2017. McKernan explained that the organisation has held several engagement events to find out what ‘industry and researchers see as the challenges of the future and where economic growth can be developed in the UK’.

city gif

Originally posted by juliendouvier

The first three challenges sponsored by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund were announced in April this year: The Faraday challenge, medicines manufacturing, and robotics and autonomous systems.

Andrew Tyrer, Interim Director of Robotics and Autonomous Systems is now responsible for the £69m investment into research on AI in extreme conditions.

Research projects in this cohort include robotics in deep mining, space exploration, and off-shore energy. ‘One of the challenges is that you cannot put people in these environments,’ he said.

 Space

Space is just one of the dangerous environments being researched in robotics projects. Image: NASA

However, the UK does not currently have the research capacity to access the global market, Tyrer explained. For example, he said ‘the nuclear decommissioning market in five years will be at £150bn a year in Europe alone’ – a market the UK is currently struggling to make an impact.

‘The programme is about taking academic and business excellence, linking those value chains together, and building those industries,’ Tyrer said.

On the other end of the spectrum, is the Faraday Challenge – a ‘commitment’ to research into the battery development of driverless cars and an area of research the UK has already seen success in – headed by Jacqui Murray and Kathryn Magnay.

 petrol and diesel vehicles

The UK have pledged to have all petrol and diesel vehicles off roads by 2040. Image: Wikimedia Commons

‘Automotive has been a real success story in the UK in the last 10 years,’ said Murray, with the UK reaching ‘world-class’ in productivity levels.

However, there are ways the UK needs to improve, said Magnay. ‘In the UK we have a huge gap between the research that we do and how you scale that up in the manufacturing process,’ she said.

This is the inspiration for the upcoming £65m Faraday Battery Institute, which will serve as a hub for universities, as well as other academic institutions and industry partners, to further their science. Magnay said that Innovate UK wants to ‘provide a facility that companies and researchers can go to and take their ideas to trial them at scale’.

Will smart energy solutions be the next challenge?

Further challenges under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund are currently unknown, although there are rumours of an early 2018 announcement. Which challenge will be next?

Sustainability & Environment

Latin America is setting the pace in clean energy, led by Brazil and Mexico. Renewables account for more than half of electricity generation in Latin America and the Caribbean – compared with a world average of about 22% – according to the International Energy Agency. 

Brazil is one of the world’s leading producers of hydropower, while Mexico is a leader in geothermal power. Smaller countries in the region are also taking a lead. In Costa Rica, about 99% of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources, while in Uruguay the proportion is close to 95%.

 The Itaipu hydroelectric dam

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam, on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, generated 89.5TWh of energy in 2015. Image: Deni Williams

At the same time, countries such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina have adjusted their regulations to encourage alternative energy without having to offer subsidies. Some have held auctions for generation contracts purely for renewables.   

Latin America’s renewable energy production is dominated by an abundance of hydropower, but there is strong growth potential for other sources of renewable energy. Wind and solar power are expected to account for about 37% of the region’s electricity generation by 2040, compared with current levels of about 4%, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). 

Total electricity generation in Latin America is forecast to grow by 66% by 2040, and renewable energy is expected to account for the vast majority of the new capacity. While Brazil has significant solar water heating, solar PV is virtually non-existent. But consumer-driven rooftop PV is expected to account for 20% of Brazil’s electricity generation by 2040, it says. This compares with an expected 24% in the leading country, Australia, followed by 15% in Germany and 12% in Japan. Meanwhile, in Mexico, solar is forecast to overtake gas and hydro to dominate Mexico’s capacity mix.

Brazil is the world’s third largest producer of renewable power, after China and the US, and has the world’s second largest hydropower capacity, after China, according to a report issued by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). Brazil also ranks fourth in terms of bio-power generation - after the US, China and Germany - and fifth in terms of solar water heating collector capacity. 

Rio do Fogo wind farm

Rio do Fogo wind farm, Brazil. Image: The Danish Wind Industry

Short-term decline

However, the recent economic downturn in Brazil, combined with declining electricity demand, has dampened growth in investments in renewable power in the country in the short-term. Although substantial hydropower capacity was commissioned in Brazil in 2016, the country’s renewable energy auction scheduled for 2016 was cancelled, and many projects awarded contracts in tenders through 2015 were stalled. 

In the wind power sector, a shift is expected away from Brazil to other countries in the region. The unstable politic and economic climate in Brazil coincides with unprecedented auction activity in Mexico, Argentina and Chile, says Make Consulting, part of Wood Mackenzie. It expects more than 47GW of new wind power capacity to be commissioned in Latin America by 2026. But following the cancellation of Brazil’s reserve power auction planned for 2016, wind power installations in Brazil in 2019 are expected to be half the size of 2014 and 2016.