Sustainable fuels from renewable energies

Research led by Dimitri Mignard at the Institute for Energy System (IES)

What we are doing and why it is important

Our research is focusing on the practicalities of utilising variable renewable energies such as wind, wave or tidal, for the synthesis of fuels and chemicals (e.g. alcohol fuels, petrol or hydrogen).

This approach has the potential of solving two severe problems that the world is now facing regarding its economic development:

The first point regarding the current lack of sizeable alternatives to fossil fuels is illustrated by the current high price of food staples, partly encouraged by the increased production of biofuels. It has been argued that biofuels would not be able to meet a substantial proportion of our needs for transport fuels without causing havoc to our food supplies or our ecosystems. However, alternatives can and must be developed, utilising sustainable sources of carbon (the chemical backbone of liquid fuels) such as CO2 and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), and chemically combining this carbon with hydrogen derived from renewable energies such as wind, marine or solar. Both sources of carbon have availability that is much greater than could be hoped for from energy crops. An interesting figure: The energy content of the Municipal Solid Waste generated each year in the UK represents a third of the UK's energy consumption in petrol and diesel.

Regarding the second point, there are two main applications:

Some of the research results so far

We have conducted feasibility studies in the area of

Some of this work was conducted under the first phase of the EPSRC's SuperGEN Marine Energy Programme, and regarded the chemical storage and transmission of remotely generated marine or wind energy. A summary of results achieved as part of this programme of work can be found here.

A particularly attractive application for processes for the production of 'hybrid biofuels' would regard the utilisation of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).

Ongoing work

We are currently conducting experimental work on


[1] Mignard D. and Pritchard C.L., 2006. Processes for the Synthesis of Liquid Fuels from CO2 and Marine Energy. Chemical Engineering Research and Design, Special Issue: Carbon Capture and Storage, 84(A9), 828-836
[2] Mignard D. and Pritchard C.L., 2007. A review of the sponge iron process for the storage and transmission of remotely generated marine energy, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 32(18), 5039-5049
[3] Mignard D., Harrison G.P, and Pritchard C.L, 2007. Contribution of wind power and CHP to exports from western Denmark during 2000 to 2004 . Renewable Energy, 32(15), 2516-2528
[4] Mignard D. and Pritchard C.L., 2008. On the use of electrolytic hydrogen from variable renewable energies for the enhanced conversion of biomass to fuels. Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 86(5), 473-487

For more recent references (2014) please return to the main page.

Still under construction - D. Mignard, 09/06/2008