City’s bid to become leading UK centre for future fuels

21 October 2020

Derby has declared its ambition to become the UK’s centre of excellence for future fuel technologies, using the city’s advanced manufacturing expertise to revolutionise the way low-carbon energy is used to power businesses, transport and homes.

The city is assembling a partnership of leading companies and academics to drive forward its plans. It believes Derby’s high-tech businesses are uniquely placed to develop the equipment and infrastructure that will allow communities to generate low-carbon power and to capture, store and utilise by-product or waste energy.

It wants to adopt the technologies in Derby and use the city as a living showcase of what can be achieved.

Those behind the plan say it will create new jobs, reduce energy costs for domestic and commercial customers, assist with UK energy security and support key pillars of Derby’s coronavirus economic recovery plan by diversifying the economy and decarbonising the city.

The proposals build on the city’s status as one of the UK’s leading centres for advanced manufacturing and recognise work already underway locally to harness the potential of nuclear and hydrogen power.

The initiative is being led by Derby City Council but discussions have already begun with other key partners in industry and academia and a workshop will be held next month (November 2020) to bring other stakeholders to the table.

The authority has commissioned a study to look at the potential of hydrogen as part of the future fuel landscape in the region covered by the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership.

It is also considering the purchase of a city site where an integrated energy approach can be launched and demonstrated, linking clean energy and by-product power sources to commercial and domestic users. It would also include a low-carbon public transport hub.

Derby City Council leader Councillor Chris Poulter said the city’s strengths in innovation and engineering meant it was well-placed to lead on development of this new technology.

“From our recovery work, we are developing an ambition to establish our region as a UK centre for future fuel technology. We are driving this forward because we believe this is a genuine opportunity to sustain and grow our economy and make a huge leap forward in the commitment to deliver de-carbonisation,” he said.

“Derby is uniquely placed with the existing research, development and manufacturing skills to make and deliver market-ready products for the integration of future fuels into an energy system. Key partners are here in the city and surrounding region.

“The transport sector is likely to see the early adoption of future fuels to replace petrol and diesel. But there is real potential and growing commercial demand to move rapidly beyond transport

“Transport, commercial or domestic activities are basically consuming energy. In most cases they also produce uncaptured energy, which is another important potential for future fuels and the integration of technologies,” added Councillor Poulter.

“Our ambition is for Derby to become the leading centre for development, manufacturing of energy equipment and infrastructure. We will be the first to showcase future developments in transport, commercial and domestic energy systems, maximising local low-carbon power generation, capturing and using byproduct energy and reducing energy waste.

“This will be something that Derby is famous for making for the next 100 years.”

Councillor Poulter said the city’s focus would be on producing the technology to enable widespread use of future fuels rather than as a large-scale generator of the fuels themselves.

Energy sources being considered include renewables, advanced micro nuclear, advanced gas, friction, batteries and hydrogen – with consultants already appointed to look at a detailed five-year roadmap for hydrogen across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire over the next five years and an outline plan for a further 15 years.

“Hydrogen, specifically, is exciting as by-product, currently waste energy can be captured to produce hydrogen, which can then be stored as an energy source. Hydrogen as a fuel offers much of the same convenience as current mainstream fuel sources but its by-product is water,” added Councillor Poulter.

Manufacturers, technology companies and universities are being invited to become partners in developing the future fuels strategy.

Bombardier Transportation said: “This is an exciting and ambitious initiative for a city that has been at the centre of technological innovation for hundreds of years, and a maker of trains for 180 years.

“As a major city employer, we are proud that we design and build electric trains here, and we are looking forward to playing our part in making Derby the UK centre for a decarbonised future.’  

The initiative is also being supported by Porterbrook: “Porterbrook is committed to helping the rail industry meet demanding air quality and decarbonisation targets. Many of our Pride Park based employees are working on delivering battery and hybrid powered trains, as well as overseeing the fitment of exhaust aftertreatment technology to older rolling stock. 

“Porterbrook has also introduced HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen powered train. We welcome Derby’s aspiration to become the UK’s centre for future fuel technologies and look forward to seeing how these plans develop and how we might support them”.

Professor Warren Manning, Provost – Innovation and Research at the University of Derby, added: “This proposal is a natural extension of Derby’s legacy, stretching back for more than a century, as a centre of ingenuity in transport, engineering and power generation.

“It builds on the work already being done here which fuses together the expertise the University has in advanced manufacturing and decarbonising technology, with the industrial strengths of our city.

“Whether it be working with our SME sector to reduce its carbon footprint through the  De-carbonise Project, driving innovation and efficiency in rail transport, or working alongside colleagues from the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre when it establishes its new base here at Infinity Park, the University is already making important contributions.

“The FutureFuel vision is something we can embrace with the confidence that we already have the knowledge and desire here to make it a reality.”

Councillor Poulter said that although the project was in its early stages, the city was committed to its success.

“This is a key strategic statement of what Derby is doing to respond to the climate emergency. The economic benefits would be revolutionary for the future of manufacturing in the city and this has the potential to drive decarbonisation at an accelerated pace,” he added.