The water regulator for England and Wales, Ofwat, has awarded funding to a Cranfield project in the first Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC).  

Receiving up to £250,000, the collaborative research will investigate organics ammonia recovery. The project will recover ammonia in wastewater and turn it into green hydrogen fuel – a first for the industry. Northumbrian Water will lead the study, partnering with Anglian Water Services Ltd, Organics Group, Cranfield University, Warwick University and Wood Group UK Ltd. 

Professor Ewan McAdam, Cranfield’s Professor of Membrane Science and Technology, explained the research: “Ammonia is a primary contaminant in wastewater, and its treatment consumes around 30% of the energy needed in wastewater treatment. Thermal recovery technology can selectively extract ammonia, using the waste heat available onsite and so ammonia recovery can be energy free. The recovered ammonia will be cracked via catalysis to form hydrogen and dinitrogen gas.” 

Hydrogen has been highlighted as a critical fuel for decarbonising heat and transport fuel and the thermal recovery technology avoids energy consumption and creates a new energy stream. It can therefore contribute toward net zero for the water sector and support the UK commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

The £200 million Innovation Fund aims to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate, enabling it to meet the evolving needs of customers, society, and the environment.

Notes for editors

Run by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, and supported by Arup and Isle Utilities, the IWC was the first competition this year within Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund. 

To find out more about the IWC and the winning entries, including the full list of project partners, visit the Ofwat Innovation Fund website.