Global engineering consultancy, Arup, and leading privately-owned industrial gas company, Messer Group, sponsor first Liquid Air Energy report.
A group including leading academics, research institutions, industry and policy experts is producing a White Paper to explore the energy and economic potential of liquid air, and whether it should - and can - become a new strategic sector in the global ‘clean tech’ ecosystem.
Liquid air is a new energy storage technology that experts believe could solve some of our toughest energy challenges - including grid balancing and zero-emission transport. The technology enables energy to be ‘warehoused’, or stored particularly helpful in harnessing off-peak energy and peaks and troughs in demand. It can also harness low-grade waste heat from co-located processes, converting it into additional power.
Global engineering consultancy, Arup, and the Messer Group - the largest privately managed industrial gases specialist - are bringing their expertise to the project as well as sponsoring the report. The project is also supported by The Institution for Mechanical Engineers and the Centre for Low Carbon Futures.
As Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, explains, “As we look to run our homes and cars, businesses and factories on zero or low carbon energy, we need new solutions to capture and essentially warehouse green energy so it can be used when and where required either on the grid or in a vehicle.”
“At one end of the scale, pumped hydro provides very large scale energy storage but is limited geographically by requiring mountains; while at the other end of the spectrum, batteries can fit in vehicles but currently are expensive and take hours to recharge. Liquid air and liquid nitrogen are an exciting alternative we should explore to store energy. It seems to address many of the challenges we face and is affordable, uses mature components and is highly scalable.”
Although cryogenic liquids are widely used in industry, their adoption as an energy vector is only just beginning, and liquid air is not yet part of the mainstream energy debate. However the potential appears huge. Furthermore liquid air technology is also uniquely able to recover low grade waste heat from sources such as thermal generation, data centres and industrial processes, or IC engines in vehicles and convert it into power.
“Europe leads the global cryogenic industry today and indeed has done so since the patenting of liquefaction processes in the UK, France and Germany in the 19th century. The Messer Group has itself been developing, building and operating cryogenic production plants, both air separation plants and liquefiers, for well over a century now and such facilities, often incorporating large cryogenic storage tanks, exist today in reach of almost every major industrial centre around the world,” explains Tim Evison, vice president for Group Business Development within Messer Group.
“It is certainly an intriguing idea that these existing facilities might find themselves able in the future to provide their industrial customers and the power grid with additional services, including reserve power, balancing and storage,” he muses. “If, as predicted, adequate round-trip efficiency can be demonstrated at commercial scale, then cryogenic storage systems could in future be built into the grid wherever needed: there are no geographic limitations.”
Energy storage and zero emission – or reduced emissions – powertrains for transport are both industries worth tens of billions of English pounds and tens of thousands of jobs. Critically the UK and Europe has world class expertise in both mechanical engineering and cryogenics.
Steve Saunders, Associate Director, Arup says, “Liquid air energy storage has the potential to have a significant impact on any industry that has peaks and troughs in energy demands. We’re excited to be contributing to and supporting this report and are looking forward to presenting and discussing the findings.”