NERC Environmental Response to Hydrogen Emissions Call

Closing Date: 16/06/2022

Call for projects 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.

Leakage of hydrogen into the atmosphere during its production, storage, distribution and use will affect atmospheric composition, reducing the climate benefit and impacting air quality. Furthermore, the atmospheric response to the adoption of a hydrogen economy will be dependent on the scale of this leakage as well as how co-emissions of species such as methane, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides change according to different hydrogen production and use pathways.

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. Due to the interlinked nature of the topics, it is required that projects share information with each other, and, in addition, work with the knowledge exchange (KE) fellow funded as part of the programme.

Applicants wishing to use NERC services and facilities are required to contact the relevant facility at least two months prior to the submission of a grant application in order to discuss the proposed work and receive confirmation that the required services can be provided within the grant timeframe.

Funding body Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
Maximum value £1,350,000
Reference ID S23622
Category Engineering and Physical Sciences
Natural Environment

Fund or call Fund