Liquid air could unlock £1bn industry

09 May 2013

Liquid air is a proven energy storage technology that could play a critical role in Britain’s low carbon energy future, according to a major new report from business and academic experts.

Arup contributed to the report which reveals that the use of liquid air could increase UK energy security, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and create a storage industry worth at least £1bn pa as well as 22,000 jobs.

The report, published by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF), concludes that liquid air technologies could also significantly increase the efficiency of road vehicles, particularly in Britain’s fleets of buses, vans and refrigerated lorries.

Liquid Air is a pioneering solution to the problem of energy storage, which captures ‘wrong time’ energy – such as excess renewable energy produced at night when there is too little demand – and storing it to provide peak time electricity and/or low carbon transport fuel.

The report highlights the opportunity for a nation-wide network of Liquid Air energy storage plants that are charged by surplus energy at night, feeding the energy back into the system when it is needed most during the day. The plants would be built from standard industrial equipment and technologies in which the UK is a world leader.

Such a network could develop into a business worth at least £1bn per year by 2050 and create 22,000 jobs in the grid electricity storage sector alone, and the Government has recognised this as a major growth opportunity for British industry.

“Energy usage and the cost of energy is a concern to many of our clients. Liquid air energy storage has the potential to have a significant impact on industry and we’re excited to be contributing to and supporting this important debate.”

— Steve Saunders, Head of Energy Storage, Arup.

Liquid air in the short term could:

  • Strengthen UK energy security: a single gasometer-style tank of liquid air could make good the loss of 5GW of wind power for three hours - equivalent to almost 10% of the UK’s peak electricity needs – and help to protect British homes from black-outs.
  • Reduce diesel consumption in buses or freight vehicles by 25% using a liquid air dearman engine/diesel hybrid.
  • Cut emissions from refrigeration on food lorries by 80%.

It also raises the possibility of zero-emission Liquid Air city cars filling up at road-side forecourts at a fraction of current fuel costs and with lower lifecycle vehicle emissions than either electric or hydrogen powered vehicles.

The report was launched at a conference at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 9 May 2013. It can be viewed online at



Charlotte Schofield

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