The liquid air study has been published by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures. It proposes that liquid air may be an exciting new energy storage technology which could help to meet some of our toughest energy challenges including energy security and zero emissions transport. The paper, entitled ‘Liquid Air in the future energy mix: A new industry for UK PLC,’ investigates whether the technology could provide a credible alternative to existing energy storage systems and low carbon transport solutions in order to better harness renewable energy and deliver energy security. It also considers the technology’s economic value to the UK.
The Liquid Air technology was originally developed by inventor Peter Dearman in his garage as a possible means of powering vehicles. The technology was then further developed by a specially created company, Highview Power Storage, and has since been deployed in a two-year pilot study at the back of a power station near Slough in Berkshire, part-funded by the government. In October last year the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) held a conference to discuss the use of ‘cryogenic liquids’ and how they can help the development of a low carbon economy.
These cryogenic liquids are already widely used in industry but their potential for use as an energy vector is only just beginning to be explored. Consequently, discussion concerning liquid air is not yet part of the mainstream energy debate, despite the apparent huge potential the technology offers. For example it is uniquely able to recover low grade waste heat from sources such as thermal generation, data centres and industrial processes as well as vehicle engines. This heat can then be turned into power and a number of British organisations are developing ways to exploit the technology as a zero emission store and transport fuel. This would in turn create a huge economic opportunity for the UK.
“An urgent debate is needed around the opportunities that liquid air may offer in providing a step-change (down) in the cost of providing secure energy storage” said Professor Richard A. Williams, OBE, FREng, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, “especially as an alternative to battery technologies in vehicles - and to provide a real solution to the challenges of relying on renewable energy resources. Critically the UK has world class expertise in both mechanical engineering and cryogenics. There is a unique economic opportunity for us to develop a UK-centric industry, which requires limited investment in new expertise or manufacturing plant.”
The paper includes contributions from a wide range of energy experts from world-class consultancies such as Arup, Poyry and Ricardo, the German industrial gases company Messer and various academics from the Universities of Leeds, Birmingham, Strathclyde, Brighton and Imperial College. It discusses whether there is a need for a new energy vector, how the new technology actually works, its potential economic value and further explores comparisons with existing technologies.
The conference will explore the opportunities and potential impacts of liquid air for grid and infrastructure, industrial and transport applications. It will also discuss the manufacturing and industry opportunities, current initiatives, possible future actions and challenges. A series of panel question-and-answer sessions will be held throughout the day. There will also be a champagne reception with an opportunity for networking from 5pm onwards.