NERC Environmental Response to Hydrogen Emissions Call

This call for projects wishes to investigate the issues, uncertainties and gaps in knowledge regarding the use of hydrogen as an alternative to carbon-containing fossil fuels.

The Environmental Response to Hydrogen Emissions Call has been issued by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to explore the environmental response to hydrogen emissions. The call is funded by NERC and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The funders (NERC and BEIS), along with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT), will establish a Programme Executive Board (PEB) to oversee the progress of the programme.

It is acknowledged that replacing carbon-containing fossil fuels (eg natural gas) with hydrogen would lead to reductions in carbon dioxide and methane emissions and therefore have a significant climate benefit. The implementation of a hydrogen economy will be a critical part of delivering net zero by 2050 in the UK.

However, there are issues, uncertainties and gaps in knowledge regarding the use of hydrogen that need to be urgently addressed in order to understand the implications of hydrogen use and enable unintended consequences of the delivery of a hydrogen economy to be minimised.

This funding call aims to address the uncertainties and gaps in knowledge through the following topics:

  • Topic A: Increasing certainty of atmospheric composition, radiative forcing and global warming potential of hydrogen emissions. An extensive modelling study is required to interrogate existing modelling approaches and assumptions, using different atmospheric models with different chemistry schemes. This is in order to increase validity and certainty of the direct and indirect impacts of hydrogen emissions on the atmosphere and ecosystems. The research approach for topic A should be entirely modelling based.
  • Topic B: Addressing the role of the terrestrial hydrogen sink. Hydrogen has an atmospheric lifetime of one to two years and is understood to be primarily removed from the atmosphere by soils. The research challenge for applications addressing topic B is understanding the processes controlling the role of the soil sink. This research approach for topic B is anticipated to be largely experimental, with observational and modelling components also included.
  • Topic C: Impacts of hydrogen use scenarios on the atmosphere and impacts on air quality. Research is needed to develop scenarios of the future national, regional and global hydrogen economy and model how hydrogen usage may affect co-emissions concentrations and therefore how this has a knock-on impact on ground level tropospheric ozone. The research approach under topic C is anticipated to be through small modelling studies.

Individual proposals may address elements of the above scope but do not need to cover its entirety. NERC is looking to fund a balanced suite of complementary projects to cover the full scope and objectives of the programme.

Projects are required to have a Principal Investigator based in a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding (ie approved higher education institutions, research council institutes, independent research organisations and public sector research establishments). NERC individual eligibility rules apply (refer to Section C of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook).

The scheme’s total budget is £3,850,000. The full economic cost of the project can be up to £1,687,500. NERC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

It is anticipated that six awards across the three call topics will be funded as follows:

  • Topic A: One project, with a maximum budget to UKRI of £900,000.
  • Topic B: One project, with a maximum budget to URKI of £1,350,000.
  • Topic C: At least four projects, with a maximum budget to UKRI of £400,000 each.

The minimum grant amount is £400,000. Projects will be funded for one year and must start in October 2022.

The call opens on 8 April 2022. Applications must be submitted by the deadline of 16 June 2022 (16:00).

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)