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UCL hydrogen research programme

12 July 2017

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UCL ISR is a core member of the EPSRC-funded Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub

Hydrogen has the potential to act as a cost-effective, low-carbon energy carrier for use as a transport fuel. Moreover, several other important uses of hydrogen are receiving increasing attention including power-to-gas (to make use of excess electricity generation from intermittent technologies such as wind turbines) and the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise gas supplied from the gas networks. UCL is leading efforts to better understand the potential contribution of hydrogen in these areas.

We use a variety of approaches to understand the possible implications of moving towards the widespread use of hydrogen, and to understand the drivers, barriers and policy instruments that are relevant for a possible hydrogen transition. Our research has focused on two major themes:

  1. Energy systems and scenarios
  2. Innovation and technological change

Our projects include:

  • Core member of the EPSRC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Hub (H2FC Hub).
  • Leading the EPRSC Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System (HYVE) project.
  • Leading the H2FC Hub Green Hydrogen Standard project.
  • Leading the publication of the first H2FC Hub White Paper on the potential for H2FC technologies to contribute to low-carbon heating.
  • Contributing to the second H2FC Hub White Paper on the implications of H2FC technologies for UK energy security.

Projects

The team has been involved in a series of projects funded by the EPSRC’s ‘Supergen’ programme.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub

The team is a member of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub, which will run from 2012-2017, along with collaborating institutions (Imperial College, University of Birmingham, University of Bath; University of St. Andrews; Newcastle University; University of Ulster). The UCL team is the lead institution on socio-economic package of work under the hub. For this work, the team is developing a new energy systems model, UKTM-UCL, and is using it to understand the potential roles for hydrogen inter-seasonal energy storage, and possible transition pathways for hydrogen energy for the transport sector.

The project has produced four sucessful White Papers on energy security, energy systems and the economic implications of adopting hydrogen and fuel cells: 

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub is producing a series of evidence-based white papers to inform key stakeholders, especially policy makers, of the roles and potential benefits of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

UCL led the production of the first White Paper, on the potential contribution of hydrogen and fuel cells for heating. We were also partners in the second forthcoming White Paper on the implications of hydrogen and fuel cells for UK energy security:

  1. The role of hydrogen and fuel cells in providing affordable, secure low-carbon heat (2014)
  2. The role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in delivering Energy Security for the UK (2017)
  3. The role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Future Energy Systems (2017)
  4. The Economic Impact of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the UK (2017)
Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System (HYVE)

The HYVE (Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System) project aims to find out how hydrogen might contribute to a transition to a low carbon economy.

We are estimating the potential demand for hydrogen in transport, industry, electricity and heat markets. We are also examining how hydrogen might be produced and supplied.

At the end of the project, we will have a much clearer idea about how a transition to a hydrogen-fuelled economy could be brought about.

Green Hydrogen Standard

The Green Hydrogen Standard project is considering how to define a green hydrogen standard for the UK and how this might be used in policy instruments in the future. It is working closely with the government–industry Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Outputs

Journal papers, books and book chapters

Dodds and McDowall (2013) The future of the UK gas network. Energy Policy. 60:305-16.
Dodds and Demoullin (2013) Conversion of the UK gas system to transport hydrogen. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 38:7189-200.

Working papers
Dodds (2013) Review and disaggregation of the UK MARKAL residential sector heat provision to assess the prospects for using hydrogen in the built environment. H2FC Working Paper No. 1. UCL Energy Institute, London, UK. Weeks (2015) Review of the prospects for using hydrogen as a fuel source in internal combustion engines. H2FC Working Paper No. 2. UCL Energy Institute, London, UK.

Dodds, P. E. (2014) Integrating housing stock and energy systems models as a strategy to improve heat decarbonisation assessments. Applied Energy 132:358-369.
Dodds, P. E. and W. McDowall (2014)
Methodologies for representing the road transport sector in energy system models. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 39(5):2345-2358.
Dodds, P. E. and P. Ekins (2014)
A portfolio of power-trains for the UK: an energy systems analysis. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 39(26):13941-13953.
Dodds, P. E., Staffell, I. Hawkes, A. D., Li, F., Grünewald, P., McDowall, W., Ekins, P. (2015)
Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for heating: a review.  International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 40(5):2065–2083.

Impact

The UCL team works closely with stakeholders in government and industry in all of our projects:

  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Committee on Climate Change and a number of gas companies are members of the HYVE Project Advisory Board.
  • The H2FC Hub White Papers are specifically targeted at policy makers. DECC and the H2FC industry had a strong representation at the launch of the first White Paper.
  • The Green Hydrogen Standard project is working closely with the government–industry Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group, which is facilitated by DECC.
  • The UKTM-UCL energy system model being partly developed by the H2FC Hub will be used to inform the Government's 5th Carbon Budget report.
  • The UCL team ran a UKERC-funded workshop in 2013 on the future of the gas networks, which included 40 attendees from government and industry.

Beyond these direct links with policymakers, our research directly feeds into existing UCL energy system models, which play an important role informing UK policymakers (e.g. providing analytic support to energy reviews and white papers, and to carbon budget processes). The comprehensive research into hydrogen systems over the last decade at UCL is reflected in the representation of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the UKTM-UCL energy system model of the UK and the global TIAM-UCL model (e.g. through better representation of transport technologies, hydrogen and natural gas infrastructures, and hydrogen production technologies). This means that our research will continue to be used in our contributions to major policy processes.