A project to decarbonise the cold chain in the UK using hydrogen

The University of Nottingham is looking to develop dual-use energy storage technology capable of supplying hydrogen to a fuel cell and generating direct cooling for refrigeration applications. 

The University of Nottingham in the UK will start a project to develop a new energy storage technology to reduce CO2 emissions in the UK cold chain. According to the University of Nottingham’s press release, 1.2% of the country’s CO2 emissions are caused by commercial refrigeration operations (or 30 to 60% of electricity consumption). 


This energy storage technology will have a dual purpose: to supply hydrogen for fuel cells and to generate direct cooling for the cold chain. 


The three key objectives of the projects are:  


  • Formulate a new intermetallic alloy suitable for dual-use hydrogen storage system for different applications in the UK food industry. 
  • Design and develop a prototype dual-use intermetallic alloy-based hydrogen store. 
  • Survey key operators in the UK food transport industry to identify barriers to using hydrogen technology to decarbonise current practices. 


The currently known barriers to the use of hydrogen in fuel cells are linked to its high production cost and to the techniques used to separate it from the chemical elements with which it is associated: most of these techniques are still emitting  a lot of CO2 at the moment. 

The most frequently used technique is steam methane reforming, which is carried out at very high temperature (between 700 and 1000°C). Its cost is estimated at €1.5/kg, which is three times the production cost of natural gas (excluding carbon tax). (1)


However, the new energy storage technology developed by the University of Nottingham could help reduce the dependency of the British food cold chain on imported energy and could accelerate the large-scale roll-out of hydrogen fuel cells for heavy duty vehicles.


(1) https://www.connaissancedesenergies.org/fiche-pedagogique/production-de-lhydrogene (in French)


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