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BLOG: ETP member university hosts workshop on energy storage and carbon reduction

The Energy Storage & Innovation: Delivering a Clean Transition in Scotland, poster prize winner and PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh, Jonathan Scafidi, blogs about what took place at the event.  

It was a beautiful sunny morning as registration began for the Energy Storage & Innovation: Delivering a Clean Transition in Scotland Conference which was jointly hosted by the Energy Technology Partnership (ETP), the Centre for Innovation and Energy Storage (CIES) and the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association at the University of St Andrews. Derek Watson of the University kicked things off by firmly planting the ETP member University on the energy transition map with an update on the University’s plans to become the UK’s first energy carbon neutral university. John Irvine (University of St Andrews) argued the case for using waste heat and CO2 to make fuels. This is certainly something that can be tested at the new Eden Centre, a multi-million pound energy research centre being built just outside of St Andrews. Ammonia is the fuel of the future according to Bill David (University of Oxford) who joined us remotely. Ports around the world are able to handle and store large amounts of ammonia, and due to its use as a fertiliser there is a lot of technical experience at all scales. This makes it the perfect low carbon shipping fuel, with leading ship engine manufacturer MAN stating that conversion of existing engines would be relatively easy.

If you’ve seen large holes in the streets with stacks of yellow polyethelene pipes next to them then you’ve seen one of the biggest infrastructure upgrades in the UK. Unlike the old iron pipes the new ones are hydrogen compatible says Stuart Mackay (Scottish Government) and could be used for low carbon fuel for heating and transport. The Scottish Government’s vision on hydrogen and electricity to 2030 expects both to be a major part of the decarbonisation effort with a whole systems approach coupling methane reformation with CCS.

Karen Turner (University of Strathclyde) provided an update on the value of pumped hydro from the RSE inquiry into Scotland’s energy future. The RSE inquiry makes several recommendations including more capacity and a range of storage options to improve energy security in the UK which must be music to the attendees’ ears. Karen also worked on the CEP report on reframing the value case for CCUS which argues that 26,000 jobs currently associated with the oil and gas industry could be sustained by a CCUS industry. John Clipsham (EMEC) gave a colourful and entertaining presentation on the Orkney Islands and the many energy related projects that are taking place there. Despite access to lots of renewable resources, the legacy of net energy importation in Orkney makes exporting it difficult without new infrastructure. John is also working on ReFlex, a project to digitally link renewable generation to flexible demand via a virtual energy system.

Katriona Edlmann (University of Edinburgh), introduced the attendees to large-scale seasonal storage of hydrogen. Making the case for storage in porous rocks, Katriona argues that large-scale storage makes sense in terms of balancing renewable energy production on seasonal timescales. As the technology required already exists and is very well understood for natural gas storage and, to a lesser degree carbon dioxide, there are no major barriers to implementation.
Alasdair Macleod (University of Highlands and Islands) presented an impressive large-scale model of energy systems in the Hebrides. The key message is that storage is required to make any scenario work, with hydrogen and pumped hydro being the obvious choices. He concluded with an interesting discussion on overtopping, which uses tides and barriers to trap water at high tide and release it at low tide to produce energy.

After lunch, attendees were treated to a sneak peek of the Scottish Government’s net zero by 2050 legislation by Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Heriot-Watt University). The main focus was on the coupling of CCUS with hydrogen and the potential for low carbon jet fuel. Microbes and chemical manufacture form an unlikely but effective alliance according to Reuben Carr (Ingenza). As a geologist, I won’t pretend to have understood the technical details here, but suffice to say that reducing the energy requirements for chemical production while sequestering carbon dioxide by getting microbes to do all the work sounds like an excellent business case. ETP’s own Stephen-Mark Williams presented some of the funding opportunities available for SMEs, students, and ECRs through the ETP as well as the ways they are encouraging engagement between industry and academia. Most might assume that a talk on legal challenges for energy storage would be no laughing matter. However, Raphael Heffron (University of Dundee) proved otherwise with an engaging and fascinating talk about the knock-on effects of policy on jobs and home energy generation, the over-valuation of oil and gas assets that don’t include decommissioning costs.

Finally, Veronica Noone (Scottish Enterprise) discussed the economic development opportunities from the low carbon transition. The Scottish Government recently announced its ambitious zero by 2045 initiative, with CCS, CCUS, and hydrogen all to be demonstrated at commercial scale by 2030. In order to achieve this, stimulation of investment, skills development, inclusive growth, and the oil and gas industry will all play major roles in taking Scottish development to a global market. Overall this was a fascinating and positive day of learning and I left with the realisation that there are a lot of very talented people, from many different walks of life all headed in the same direction with the same aim: decarbonisation.

By Jonathan Scafidi ( | @jonafushi)
PhD Candidate, Seasonal storage of hydrogen in porous rocks, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

The Energy Storage & Innovation: Delivering a Clean Transition in Scotland took place on Friday 7 June 2019 at the University of St Andrews. ETP gratefully acknowledges support from the University of St Andrews in hosting this event.

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