Actuation Lab wins government contract to develop leak-free H2 hardware

Actuation Lab has been awarded a £218,000 contract by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to tackle one of the most significant issues holding back the sustainable transition to H2.

H2 leakage is a serious issue for the H2 supply chain, as H2 leaks much faster than natural gas, of which it’s estimated 80 MMtpy is lost to atmosphere.

As H2 has a low ignition energy and a global warming potential 11x that of CO₂, we cannot sustainably transition to H2 use at scale without some clever innovation in the equipment used to distribute it.

This is notably true of valves. Traditional valves have a stem, a shaft that connects the internal valve to a handle or actuator that opens and closes it. Up to 50% of fugitive emissions from industrial processes are estimated to come from worn valve stem seals. If this same dated valve technology is applied to the growing H2 supply chain, the rate of leakage will be significantly higher owing to greater ease of H2 escape.

The aim of Actuation Lab is to get rid of the components of traditional hardware that wear out, and to replace them by mechanisms designed to last a lifetime and eliminate emissions.

The Bristol-based start-up is developing the Dragonfly Valve, whose origami-inspired design removes all the leak paths found in traditional valves, reducing emissions to nil.

As part of the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 competition – Stream 1 Phase 1, the BEIS has awarded Actuation Lab £218,000 to carry out a feasibility study and develop the Dragonfly Valve for H2 supply.

CEO Simon Bates said “Hydrogen has the potential to help us completely decarbonize our hard-to-electrify sectors, but only if we can stop it from escaping. As well as advancing our technology, this government support is allowing us to work with the energy industry and research institutions to define the scale of the challenge that hydrogen leakage will present in a decarbonized world, and how to best address it through hardware innovation.”

Progress is being made through partnerships with other leading companies in their fields:

This project runs alongside the collaboration between Actuation Lab and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, with the support of the Net Zero Technology Centre, that focuses on innovative actuation techniques for the Dragonfly Valve.

Both initiatives will advance the technical and commercial readiness of the Dragonfly Valve and facilitate the building of a consortium of innovative manufacturers and trial partners in the UK H2 sector to demonstrate the technology in 2023–2024.