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Achieving Net-Zero - Hydrogen as a key factor for energy resilience and emission reduction for the UK water sector

  • Full or part time
    Prof Bruce Jefferson
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, July 06, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This exciting fully-funded PhD, with an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum and working in collaboration with Scottish Water and Anglian Water, will research the means of developing an evidence-based strategy for the UK water sector to switch towards a hydrogen economy aligned to achieving carbon neutrality. Students will benefit from being part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe), a world-leading collaboration between three universities ( The WIRe programme includes a bespoke training programme in technical and personal skills development and provides opportunities for overseas travel and access to world-leading experimental facilities (PhD Programmes under this scheme are for a duration of four years).

The commitment of the UK water industry to achieve zero-carbon emissions will require a transformational move in the way the sector operates, changing from energy-intensive operations to resource and energy recovery factories embedded in a number of circular economic systems. Hydrogen is a key element for the transition to a low carbon economy based on renewable energy. Hydrogen produces energy with no carbon emissions, can be used for energy storage and remains an important feedstock for the chemical industry to produce fertilizers and building blocks. The supply of “green” hydrogen (by sustainable processes not emitting greenhouse gases) is therefore fundamental for a low carbon economy, a renewable energy supply system and a green chemical industry. Sustainable green hydrogen can be extracted both from water, sludge and waste via a variety of electrochemical (electrolysis), thermo-chemical (e.g. gasification, wet oxidation) and biological (e.g. biophotolysis, photo-fermentation, dark fermentation, microbial electrolysis cells) processes that are applicable at various points of traditional and future sewage treatment plants. The water sector can, therefore, play a key role for the supplying of sustainable green hydrogen to the market, contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions and enhancing the operational and energy resilience of the industry.

The overall aim of the project is to develop an evidence-based strategy for the UK water sector to switch towards a hydrogen economy aligned to achieving carbon neutrality.

The challenge is understanding the current limitations to the implementation of carbon-neutral (green) hydrogen production processes and define solutions delivering carbon emission reduction, process and energy resilience.

The project is an exciting collaboration between Cranfield University, Scottish Water and Anglian Water as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe).

A robust scientific basis to understand how to develop a hydrogen strategy.

An assessment of technologies for hydrogen production in sewage treatment works with clear steps for implementations, favourable economic and regulatory conditions and definition of operational parameters and innovative designs.

The definition of the carbon reduction potential that a green hydrogen strategy can deliver and the benefits from the interlinks with the energy and chemical industries.

As part of the WIRe doctoral centre, students will benefit from an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, undertake a bespoke training programme within a cohort of up to 12 students and have access to world-leading experimental facilities and observatories, as well as close collaboration with industry and end-user partners.

At the end of the project, you will be very well positioned to have a highly successful career in the water sector or in an academic role. We will help you develop into a dynamic, confident and highly competent researcher with wider transferable skills (communication, project management and leadership) that will be highly desirable for future employability.

Funding Notes

Sponsored by EPSRC, Scottish Water and Anglian Water, this studentship will provide a bursary of £19,000 per annum (tax-free) plus fees* for four years.

Applicants should have a first or upper second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as engineering, chemistry, environmental sciences, or water science. The ideal candidate should have some understanding of water and wastewater treatment and of hydrogen production processes.

The candidate should be self-motivated, have good communication skills for regular interaction with other stakeholders, with an interest for industrial research.

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