Funding aims to support development and commercialisation of nascent technology

The government has unlocked £5m of funding to support the rollout of innovative new technologies that will generate hydrogen fuel from biomass and waste feedstocks, it announced this morning.

The new funding programme is open to operators who plan on developing technologies that can produce the low carbon hydrogen using biomass plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) that can prevent emissions created in the process from reaching atmosphere.

The funding competition is open to small and large companies as well as research institutions and universities, who will be able to bid for up to £250,000 to develop their project plans and demonstrate the feasibility of their proposed innovation, the government said.

The “most promising projects” to win funding will be invited to apply for further funding as part of the second phase of the programme, it added.

Low carbon hydrogen is seen as an alternative to fossil fuels that can decarbonise industries not amenable to electrification, such as shipping, long-haul aviation, chemicals, cement and steelmaking. It can be produced with zero emissions using renewable electricity to power the electrolysis of water, or with low emissions by reacting fossil fuel gas with water at high pressure in a process called ‘steam reforming’, with ensuing greenhouse gas emissions captured.

However, biomass gasification with carbon capture and storage is another hydrogen production method that is being explored by researchers as companies look to ramp up production of the low carbon fuel. It uses a controlled process involving heat, steam, and oxygen to convert biomass – which can include energy crops or agricultural, municipal, or industrial waste – to hydrogen and carbon dioxide, without the need for combustion.

The UK government said hydrogen production with bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technologies presented a “key opportunity” for the UK and predicted the funding programme would enable the nascent technology to be developed and scaled up ready for commercialisation.

“This innovative technology offers incredible potential for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, crucial to reaching our net zero goals,” said energy and climate change minister Greg Hands. “This government funding will help support the development of this new technology in the UK, boosting green jobs and investment while slashing carbon emissions.”

The government is aiming to fund schemes that are exploring how to optimise biomass and waste feedstocks for use in ‘advanced gasification technologies’, as well as projects looking to improve the components of advanced gasification technologies. It will also allocate funds to companies and research teams exploring the development of new biohydrogen technologies which can be combined with carbon capture, for instance through anaerobic digestion, waste water treatment, and ‘dark fermentation’ technologies, it said.

The competition has been launched less than a week after UK waste-to-fuel start-up Hydrogen Utopia raised £3m in an initial public offering to fund the construction of a plastic-to-hydrogen plant in Poland.

The funding for the competition is drawn from the government’s £1bn Net Zero Innovation portfolio, which aims to commercialise innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s.

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