Aston driving forward low carbon research and technology

EBRI sigining of Memorandum with Oldenwald
7th May 2009

Aston University is at the forefront of carbon cutting research, which is set to see bio-energy power plants built in the UK, mainland Europe and India.

Harnessing power from alternative and renewable energy sources to help reduce carbon emissions was the message outlined by Professor of Chemical Engineering, Andreas Hornung, in his inaugural lecture ‘Shaping the Green Empire’, held at Aston.

Professor Hurnung, Head of the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University said that an initial three combined heat and power plants will individually, help to tackle energy poverty in India, explore alternative energy sources in Oldenwald, Germany and help the City of Birmingham reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2026.

The plants will all be powered by a range of waste products derived from renewable and sustainable substances including sewage, algae, agricultural and municipal waste and crops grown on marginal land. These fuel sources will be converted into bio-energy through the process of combustion and pyrolysis for potential use in a number of areas including heat, electricity and hydrogen to power vehicles.   All areas have been carefully chosen to overcome the difficulties of competition with food resources, inherent in many existing biomass energy chains.

Birmingham 2026
A Research Councils UK Science Bridges award of £3m will allow the creation of two decentralised energy systems in West Bengal, India and in Birmingham, UK.

Work is set to begin on Aston University’s combined heat and power plant this September, with £1.5m secured towards the project build from Advantage West Midlands.
The facility to be based on Aston’s campus in Birmingham, will be powered by heat and electricity from renewable sources, and will be used as a demonstration test centre. Its state-of-the-art laboratories will explore a range of alternative fuels including algae, biogas, wood, leaves, sewage, which can be used for range of possibilities such as heating, power, synthetic natural gas and hydrogen powered cars.

The Centre, to be built by October 2010, would be the third combined heat and power plant in operation in Birmingham, with a plant already based in the City’s entertainment district on Broad Street and another planned for the City’s Children’s Hospital.

The Aston facility will contain a 1MW gasifier and will help the City of Birmingham reach its ambitious plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2026 -a reduction from 6.6 tonnes per capita to 3.8 tonnes per capita. Universities which will be working along EBRI to explore bio—energy, will include Aston University’s School of Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Warwick University and Harper Adams University College.

The potential long term scheme is to create a ‘thermal’ ring around Birmingham with the use of 15 mini power plants. This would offer 580Gwh of power (the current energy consumption of Birmingham City Council) for the City, create a hydrogen grid with up to 60 tonnes per day and consume 300,000 tonnes of biomass per year. This waste could include generating power from areas such as converting sewage, provided by Severn Trent. 

India Partnership
In India, the Aston University team will be working alongside the Indian Institute of Technology to tackle the problem of unreliable energy supplies through the creation of a ‘mini’ plant, which will be fuelled by local renewable and waste sources and solar-thermal energy. This will provide steam and refrigeration for food processing factories and with it create regular and reliable job opportunities for around 100 people.

Germany Partnership
EBRI has just signed a memorandum of understanding with Odenwaldkreis, which will see a large scale pilot combined heat and power plant planned at Odenwald in Germany.
This combined heat and power plant, which is to be built on an old military storage base, will be used to explore alternative energy, including the production of algae as a source of power.
This new facility is set to allow placement opportunities for Aston students and will be used as an education centre for people to discover more about alternative power technologies.  The test facilities and laboratories will be able to produce 50 tonnes of algae per day.

For further information on the work of EBRI click here
For further information on Chemical Engineering at Aston, click here