Development of a High Grade Heat Store for integration with Liquid Air Energy Storage

Project Details


This project is part of a long-term collaboration between Highview Enterprises and the University of Brighton investigating and bringing the benefits of Liquid air energy storage.

Liquid air energy storage (LAES) is a class of thermo-mechanical energy storage that uses the thermal potential stored in a tank of cryogenic fluid.The need for storing heat within LAES may appear counter intuitive, but as a thermal process it can recycle heat to improve efficiency and can also integrate well with other thermal processes. As such, a 'mid temperature range' storage concept that is efficient, low cost and scalable is required. 

The research and development of the LAES cycle began in 1977 with theoretical work at Newcastle University, was further developed by Hitachi in the 1990s and culminated in the building of the first pilot demonstration plant by Highview Power Storage in 2010. [See Morgan, R. (2016). Liquid air energy storage – from theory to demonstration. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 72(3), 469-480.; Morgan, R., Nelmes, S., Gibson, E., & Brett, G. (2015). An analysis of a large-scale liquid air energy storage system. Proceedings of the ICE - Energy, 168(2), 135-144.] 

The Highview Power Plant in Bury, Greater Manchester, was the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant and opened in 2017 using technology components developed in partnership with the University of Brighton. 

The key objectives of this project, undertaken after the opening of Highview, were to:
> Develop a baseline design (including costing and footprint) based on a low pressure water concept
> Investigate alternative novel HGHS solutions (main area of focus being molten salts) suitable for the use at LAES waste heat recovery temperatures (100-230 degC and potentially above)
> Critically evaluate arising innovative HGHS solution(s), against the baseline concept, in particular with regards to CAPEX, OPEX (including e.g. degradation impact on maintenance), footprint, thermodynamic performance, environmental
> Select one innovative concept for further evaluation, modelling and design, including laboratory scale testing and model validation
> Outputs from the project would be design and modelling (including costs) criteria for the selected option, and the baseline, to include engineering design/specification developed with suppliers i.e. FEED ready.

The project plan meant that Highview would collaborate with the University of Brighton to follow a planned programme of industrial research to develop a High Grade Heat Store for LAES. The aim was to design a baseline solution based on existing technologies, and to compare this with more novel and innovative solutions storing higher temperature heat, thus improving system performance, operation, footprint and costs.

The work at the university of Brighton would focus on the selection of the fluid blend considering a range of environmental, economic and safety constraints as well as thermo- fluid performance.

The main impact of the research was to be a reduction in the cost of delivering a low carbon power network through improved efficiency when the supply is from intermittent renewable generation assets.

Research had shown energy storage enables the network to operate more efficiently and requires less generating capacity, reducing costs and potentially CO2 if fossil fuel based sources are used to provide back up power.

The project plan would also impact the UK economy through the support to Highview, a tech start up. If successful, Highview was to become a provider of high value services to the UK and international energy sector generating jobs and export revenues
benefiting the UK economy.

The project would also impact on key policy decisions. The future generating mix and the required capacity was unclear as there are so many technical and market uncertainties. The project would provide better definition of the Highview Liquid Air technology - a potentially game changing long duration storage solution than offers unique capital and operating cost characteristics.

This information would aid researchers in power networks and policy makers in government and regulatory functions make informed decisions.

Academically, the research would benefit researchers working in thermal energy storage and groups working on energy systems, of which storage plays a critical role. Groups working in energy storage , in particular the Cryogenic Energy Storage group at Birmingham would benefit from this complementary research to their research in novel nano and phase change materials. This project would provide additional data to benchmark that research along with groups working in smart power grids, such as the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial, UKERC and other groups via the supergen hub. Better data on the cost and performance of an important energy storage such as LAES would provide essential data for smart grid modelling research.

Longer term, the university of Brighton is leading an initiative as part of its role as an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) spoke to investigate how future sustainable fuels interact with the wider energy network. How future fuel production competes for energy and potentially works with grid storage is a new area of research and this project would provide data and promote dialogue with other interested research groups.

Key findings

Gareth Brett, CEO at Highview Power said “The market opportunity for LAES technology is exciting – we estimate that 60% of the global energy storage market comprises long-duration, grid connected storage and that our LAES technology is ready to meet almost half of this (45%).

“The LAES plant in Bury has already played a key role in the breakthrough of LAES technology and will continue to do so. Utilities from around the world who have for some time been assessing our unique solution for their storage challenges, are now using the operating data to confirm their expectations. We are therefore already in detailed negotiations to build plants ten times the size of this one for utility customers of several nationalities and for various different applications.”
Effective start/end date1/04/181/04/19


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