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Funding Success – Cracking the decarbonisation of the Cement Industry using Ammonia as the Vector for Hydrogen.

Stopford together with Heidelberg Materials UK and Cranfield University have been awarded funding by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to carry out a 12-month research and feasibility project, focusing on the use of ammonia as a hydrogen carrier to be cracked into a hydrogen fuel for use in cement kilns.

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding award forms part of the Future Economy Net Zero Programme, to focus on the development of the hydrogen economy.

This project will assess the use of ammonia as a low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen carrier, evaluating the most economical method of on-site ammonia cracking to generate hydrogen for use in kilns in the cement industry.

The UK's net zero strategy for decarbonisation requires all sectors of the UK economy to meet the net zero target by 2050. The UK's concrete and cement industry produced 7.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018 and currently accounts for around 1.5% of the UK's total CO2 emissions (Mineral Products Association: UK Concrete and Cement Industry Roadmap to beyond Net Zero. 2020).

Fuel switching to low-carbon fuels in this sector could potentially reduce emissions by 16%. The cement industry has made significant progress with fuel switching to hydrogen, with previous studies demonstrating technical feasibility. However, the storage and transportation of hydrogen is technically challenging, and hydrogen fuel costs are prohibitive.

The project innovation lies in using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier with novel local autothermal cracking of ammonia into a hydrogen fuel for use in cement manufacturing. This technically and commercially innovative approach has the potential to make hydrogen use available and economically viable on sites across the UK.

The collaborative project will also investigate the various tiers of the UK's existing ammonia supply chain network for the suitable transportation, offloading and storage of ammonia as a hydrogen carrier in meeting the cement industry's needs.

Deb Pal, Stopford’s Consultancy Director said: “Ammonia is rapidly being considered the most promising hydrogen vector for global energy markets, I am looking forward to working with our project partners to spearhead innovation in the cement industry and help to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen by other UK industries”.

Marian Garfield, Sustainability Director, Heidelberg Materials UK, said: “This is another example of our involvement in breaking new ground as we continue on our journey to decarbonisation. If the project proves viable, further work can be carried out to explore the commercial viability of using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier for combustion within cement manufacturing”.

Dr Mingming Zhu, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering in the Centre for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy, is leading the research at Cranfield University. The collaboration team will design the ammonia cracker and analyse the ammonia supply chain to establish performance assessment protocols and a toolkit for implementation. Dr Zhu said: “This project will bring us another step closer to enabling manufacturing operations to use hydrogen fuel, helping to decarbonise industry. Although there are clear challenges with making hydrogen feasible for industrial use, innovative collaborations such as this will certainly move us closer to widespread adoption.”


About Innovate UK

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth.

We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.  

For more information visit: Innovate UK


About Stopford

Stopford are world class innovators, with over 40 years’ experience in the process industry, specalising in Process Safety in the hydrogen, chemicals, oil & gas, cement & minerals, renewables, fuel storage and water industries. Established in 1982 an international multi-disciplinary consultancy, engineering design and project management services company with a proven track record in developing innovative process technologies and process solutions for commercially successful innovation.

For more information visit: Stopford


About Heidelberg Materials UK

Heidelberg Materials is one of the world's largest integrated manufacturers of building materials and solutions with leading market positions in cement, aggregates, and ready-mixed concrete. We are represented in more than 50 countries with around 51,000 employees at almost 3,000 locations. At the centre of our actions lies the responsibility for the environment. As the front runner on the path to carbon neutrality and circular economy in the building materials industry, we are working on sustainable building materials and solutions for the future. We enable new opportunities for our customers through digitalisation.

In the UK, Heidelberg Materials UK (formerly Hanson UK) is split into five business lines – aggregates (crushed rock, sand, and gravel), concrete, asphalt and contracting, cement and recycling – which together operate around 280 manufacturing sites and employ more than 3,500 people.

For more information visit: Heidelberg Materials UK


About Cranfield University 

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. The most recent Research Excellence Framework results demonstrate Cranfield University’s excellence with 88% of research rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

For more information visit:  Cranfield University

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