I am pleased to announce that I have two new grants which have started in 2022 and are now ongoing in 2023. The first grant is SAVECAES - Sustainable, Affordable and Viable Compressed Air Energy Storage – a £1.1 million award from the EPSRC. This is a collaborative project, for which I am the Principal Investigator, between Loughborough, the University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester and the British Geological Survey (BGS).
The project is all about developing the large scale, long duration energy storage that the UK needs to become majority (or totally) renewables powered in future. We have identified that Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) has significant potential for this since the power and energy in a CAES system can be de-coupled. Hence, unlike for storage like electrochemical batteries, you can increase the energy storage capacity without also paying for additional power generation capacity. This means that CAES is a much cheaper option for storage where you want to be able to provide power for periods longer than 8 hours.
In the project, we explore several ways of improving the performance of CAES systems, which is currently too low to be useful without the additional use of fossil fuels. These include the development of isobaric CAES systems and investigating Ultra High Pressure (UHP) CAES. On top of this, partners at BGS are performing an extensive study of the thermo-mechanical properties of caverns for CAES, using rock samples from a number of different underground caverns throughout the UK. This will help us understand the UK salt cavern resource in much more detail, and at a deeper level than before.
As a part of the SAVECAES project we are designing an experimental CAES setup to test isobaric and isochoric operation.
The second grant is GasNetNew - The role of the gas network in a future decarbonised UK, another EPSRC grant with a value of £1.3 million. I am the Loughborough Co-Investigator for this research. The aim of this project is to undertake a major review of the role of the gas network in future, since we cannot continue to heat our buildings with natural gas if we are to reach net zero. The whole project considers a number of new solutions, including some out-of-the-box thinking such as using the gas network to distribute non-potable water which could be used as a low temperature sink for heat pumps, increasing their performance above air source heat pumps.
Within the project, our role at Loughborough is to lead work packages on thermochemical energy storage compounds. We are particularly interested in compounds which could be used for domestic thermal energy storage, so salt hydrates are promising due to their properties and costs. These are compounds like Potassium Carbonate, or Calcium Fluoride which release heat when water is added to their anhydrous form, and can be easily reconverted from their hydrated form back to the anhydrous form using low temperature heat.
We also are investigating whether parts of the gas network could be used to store high pressure compressed air. This is interesting since the air expansion could provide power and cooling, which may be important in a future UK climate. You also don’t have to extract the power at exactly the same location where you put it in, however the geographical limit on this is likely to be fairly strict.
If you are interested in this work, please get in touch with me. I am anticipating hiring a Research Associate to work on the GasNetNew project within the next few months and am also looking to supervise a PhD student in each area.