Government awards £37m to biomass and hydrogen innovation projects

The government has awarded £37m in funding to projects that can increase UK production of sustainable biomass feedstocks and hydrogen, as it looks to accelerate the development of two sectors that could play a critical role in the net zero transition.

In an announcement yesterday the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that 12 projects are receiving £32m under Phase 2 of the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Program, while a further 22 projects have been awarded a share of £5m of funding as part of the Hydrogen BECCS (biomass energy with carbon capture and storage) Programme.

“Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels,” said Energy Minister Greg Hands. “This £37m of government investment will support innovation across the UK, boosting jobs whilst ensuring greater energy security for years to come.”

The use of biomass feedstocks to generate energy or produce fuels remains controversial in some quarters, with critics arguing that soaring demand for land to produce the energy crops or wood chips used by biomass and biofuel firms can lead to increased emissions.

However, the government maintains that sustainable biomass feedstocks can be harnessed to deliver significant net reductions in emissions, while the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has indicated that it sees some forms of biomass playing a role in the net zero transition.

As such, the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Program aims to support projects that can identify and scale up new forms of sustainable biomass feedstocks. Phase 2 of the program is set to support projects that can be developed from the design stage into working prototypes. BEIS said the chosen projects would then be used to showcase new and innovative methods of growing sustainable biomass materials, which can be used to produce low-carbon energy.

One of the projects to receive funding includes an Aberystwyth University-led program dubbed ‘Miscanspeed’, which aims to explore methods for accelerating the breeding of high-yielding, resilient miscanthus grass varieties that are well-suited for biomass use.

Meanwhile, SeaGrown Limited in Scarborough is to receive harvest more than £2.8m to develop new techniques to farm and seaweed off the North Yorkshire coast for use as a biomass feedstock.

In addition, BEIS yesterday confirmed it is to award £5m in funding to support innovation in low carbon hydrogen technologies through its Hydrogen BECCS Innovation Programme.

The government said the funding would support organizations working on projects which can produce hydrogen from biogenic feedstocks that are combined with carbon capture capabilities to ensure minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

The £5m of funding is available through Phase 1 of the programme, which will provide up to £250,000 per project for scoping and development work.

The Hydrogen BECCS Innovation Program forms part of the BEIS £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which it said aims to accelerate the commercialization of innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s.

During Phase 1 of the programme, 22 organizations have been awarded, including start-ups and small-and-medium-sized enterprises.

Funding will be used to support the development of project proposals aimed at delivering commercially viable innovative hydrogen BECCS technology solutions across three main categories.

These include feedstock pre-processing, which features the development of low cost, energy and efficient material technologies which will optimize biogenic feedstocks for use in advanced gasification technologies. The development of advanced gasification technology components focusing on improving syngas quality and upgrading for generation of hydrogen are also being explored. And the development of novel biohydrogen technologies, such as dark fermentation, anaerobic digestion, and waste-water treatment, which can be combined with carbon capture.

Projects which received part of the £5m funding package included a University of Hull led project dubbed ‘Project Bluegen’, which explores the production of bio-refinery waste through the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass.

“This government backing for innovation in biomass production will help support the government’s plans to scale up and accelerate clean, renewable energy in the UK, to protect the UK’s domestic energy security,” BEIS said. Supporting trailblazing hydrogen BECCS technology will help further the government’s ambition to see hydrogen as the clean super-fuel of the future, while also encouraging green investment into the UK and supporting the creation of new jobs.”


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