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Bardon Hill Quarry in pioneering LAES project

Bardon Hill Quarry

Aggregate Industries part of consortium developing PRISMA liquid air energy storage system

A CONSORTIUM comprising Aggregate Industries, Innovatium and the University of Birmingham has successfully secured Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funding for an industry-first application of liquid air energy storage (LAES) energy-efficiency technology under the Government’s Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) programme.

The IEEA programme, administered by the Carbon Trust on behalf of BEIS, will provide more than £350,000 of government funding to deliver a new compressed-air system utilizing innovative LAES technology from initial laboratory testing to full operation in an industrial environment for the very first time, as part of the Government’s drive to bring new energy-efficiency technologies to market through industrial demonstration partnerships.  

PRISMA (Peak Reduction by Integrated Storage and Management of Air) by Innovatium is an innovative LAES technology that stores energy in liquid air form to provide compressed air, allowing inefficient, partially loaded, variable-demand compressors to be turned off, thus improving the total system efficiency by up to 57%.

The system will be installed at Bardon Hill Quarry, in Leicestershire, where Aggregate Industries are investing in the future of the site through a multi-million-pound extension, which started in 2015, and at the same time are investing in pioneering energy-efficiency technology as part of their commitment to sustainable development.    

Pablo Libreros, managing director of Aggregate Industries, commented: ‘Sustainability is at the heart of our business and we are committed to leading the charge in creating a sustainable-energy future for our industry.

‘As we have seen, the onslaught of climate change demonstrates just how important it is to look at how we produce and consume energy. Making dramatic changes, such as investing in energy-efficient solutions, is the only way to make a lasting positive impact and we are proud to stand with our partners on the PRISMA project to spearhead the installation and support of this pioneering technology.’

The PRISMA system will bring together an innovative latent energy cold storage tank, filled with a phase change material (PCM) to store thermal energy, and a number of other off-the-shelf components to form a system that will work with Aggregate Industries’ existing compressed-air network. The integration of the equipment and components in an industrial setting, for the provision of compressed air, has never been attempted before.

Richard Eaton, energy manager at Aggregate Industries, commented: ‘Supporting energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction innovations is at the heart of our renewed energy strategy. The PRISMA project and LAES is a key part of this approach and is something that we are passionate about.

‘The project will help to address the ‘energy trilemma’ of managing energy efficiency, energy cost and energy security by: significantly improving the energy efficiency of our compressed-air system; managing electricity costs by running the compressors out of hours, when electricity is cheaper; and helping to smooth and reduce the peak electrical demand on site.

‘We are, therefore, very excited to be the first industrial partner to install the PRISMA system at our Bardon Hill Quarry in Leicestershire.’ 

The 24-month project will involve the development of the PCM at the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering as well as the design, manufacture and assembly of multiple system components by Innovatium before installation of the system at Bardon Hill.

Yulong Ding, Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy at the University of Birmingham, commented: ‘Phase change materials (PCMs) can be used for the storage of both hot and cold forms of thermal energy. They [PCMs] are growing in importance but to date the focus has been on hot forms of thermal energy and technology deployment has taken place outside the UK.

‘This new project focuses on cold forms of thermal energy storage, allowing us, with Innovatium, to establish a platform to deliver a global first-of-a-kind system in the UK with the potential to revolutionize the industrial energy space.’

The PRISMA project has currently only been deployed in a simulated environment and is said to be at ‘technology readiness level 5’ (TRL5), in terms of the development and commercialization of the technology. The funding provided through the IEEA will take the PRISMA system to ‘proven deployment in an operational environment’ (TRL7) – a crucial step towards full commercialization of the technology.

Following successful delivery of the project, this scalable technology has multi-sectoral applications for compressed-air systems both in the UK and globally. In the UK, the compressed-air market is estimated at 1.3GW of installed electrical capacity across some 4,500 sites and more than 55,000 individual compressor units.  

Simon Branch, chief executive officer and co-founder of Innovatium, commented: ‘We at Innovatium are delighted to be collaborating with Aggregate Industries and the University of Birmingham who are recognized global leaders in sustainability and technology, utilizing BEIS funding to enable the rapid commercialization of our PRISMA technology.

‘Following the successful initial deployment at Aggregate Industries’ Bardon Hill Quarry, we anticipate the demonstration of PRISMA’s energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction capability will show proven commercial and environmental benefits over current compressed-air systems, offering a cost-saving alternative.’

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