Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage

The Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage (BCCES) is the first in the UK to have a research facility for energy storage using cryogenic liquids, comprising new laboratories, state of the art equipment, and a major demonstration plant.

The University of Birmingham won a total of £12.3m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and industry to create a centre to develop the technology. BCCES has built an excellent relationship with industry since its inception, creating partnerships with Highview Power Storage, the Dearman Engine Company, Air Products, Energy Generation and Supply KTN, ARUP, and the Energy Technologies Institute.

Though thermal energy storage has been commonly thought of in terms of heating (relative to ambient), energy can just as well be stored by cooling materials. Cryogenic energy storage systems use off-peak electricity to liquefy air. The cryogenic liquid that is formed is stored in a vessel then vapourised into a gas during an expansion process, which drives a turbine. This system generates electricity when it is most needed; taking off-peak electricity and using it at peak times will help to solve the ‘wrong-time wrong-place’ energy generation and supply problem.

Cryogenic liquid can additionally be used to improve the efficiency of diesel generators, routinely used as reserve capacity for the National Grid. The system is also an efficient method of generating electricity from low-grade waste heat from power stations or industrial processes. Furthermore, CES can be built alongside liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to recover cold energy. Unlike some other energy storage technologies, CES does not require scarce resource, and is not limited by geography or geology.

The early work behind CES was undertaken in the UK by Prof. Yulong Ding, the incoming Chamberlain Chair at the University of Birmingham, who holds patents covering CES and cryogenic engines. A recent report ‘Liquid Air in the Energy and Transport Systems’ (Centre for Low Carbon Futures, May 2013) and major conference at The Royal Academy of Engineering drew on expertise from academia and industry to share the contribution CES could make to the energy system, and its benefit for the UK economy.

Research projects

The research activity is focused on four main areas, namely; novel materials, thermodynamics and generation processes, systems integration, control and optimization, and a pilot-scale test bed facility.

  • Novel materials will be explored to reduce the footprint of CES plants by increasing energy density, increasing power density of the power output, and increasing stability of operation during the discharge process.
  • Thermodynamics and generation processes research aims to reduce the size of the current heat exchange units, to increase the stability of the discharge process, to reduce the energy losses of the heat exchange processes, and to increase the scalability of the CES system.
  • Systems integration, control and optimization research is focused on assessing and optimising the performance of a CES system on the grid and in the energy market, under current and future energy system scenarios.
  • Pilot-scale test bed facility to be installed on campus at the university and will demonstrate the application of CES technology. This will enable new findings in novel materials and systems development to be applied to a real system and develop the next generation of commercial CES plant.

People

Member Role
 Professor Yulong Ding Chair in chemical Engineering
 Dr Jonathan Radcliffe Senior Research Fellow, Energy Storage
 Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang
 Professor Hanshan Dong Chair in Surface Engineering
                   Dr Yu-Lung Chiu Lecturer, School of Metallurgy and Materials

Dr Bushra Al-Duri Reader, School of Chemical Engineering
 Dr Raya Al-Dadah  Lecturer of Thermofluids, School of Mechanical Engineering

Dr Saad Mahmoud  Honorary Research Fellow, School of Mechanical Engineering

Dr Karl Dearn  Lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering
 Dr Athanasios Tsolakis  Reader in Thermodynamics, School of Mechanical Engineering
 Professor Hongming Xu  Chair in Energy and Automotive Engineering and the Head of Vehicle and Engine Technology Centre
 Dr David Book Reader in Energy Materials, School of Metallurgy and Materials
 Dr Yongliang Li Lecturer in School of Chemical Engineering

Dr Meihong Wang Reader in Process/Energy Systems Engineering and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), University of Hull

Advisory Board members