Cryogenic energy storage

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Cryogenic energy storage (CES) is the use of low temperature (cryogenic) liquids such as liquid air or liquid nitrogen to store energy.[1][2] The technology is primarily used for the large-scale storage of electricity. Following grid-scale demonstrator plants, a 250 MWh commercial plant is now under construction in the UK, and a 400 MWh store is planned in the USA.

Grid energy storage[edit]


When it is cheaper (usually at night), electricity is used to cool air from the atmosphere to -195 °C using the Claude Cycle to the point where it liquefies. The liquid air, which takes up one-thousandth of the volume of the gas, can be kept for a long time in a large vacuum flask at atmospheric pressure. At times of high demand for electricity, the liquid air is pumped at high pressure into a heat exchanger, which acts as a boiler. Air from the atmosphere at ambient temperature, or hot water from an industrial heat source, is used to heat the liquid and turn it back into a gas. The massive increase in volume and pressure from this is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.[3]


In isolation the process is only 25% efficient, but this is increased to around 50% when used with a low-grade cold store, such as a large gravel bed, to capture the cold generated by evaporating the cryogen.[4] The cold is re-used during the next refrigeration cycle.[3]

Efficiency is further increased when used in conjunction with a power plant or other source of low-grade heat that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere. Highview Power claims an AC to AC round-trip efficiency of 70%, by using an otherwise waste heat source at 115 °C.[5] The IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) agrees that these estimates for a commercial-scale plant are realistic.[6] However this number was not checked or confirmed by independent professional institutions.


The system is based on proven technology, used safely in many industrial processes, and does not require any particularly rare elements or expensive components to manufacture. Dr Tim Fox, the head of Energy at the IMechE says "It uses standard industrial components - which reduces commercial risk; it will last for decades and it can be fixed with a spanner."[7]



The technology is only economic where there is large variation in the wholesale price of electricity over time. Typically this will be where it is difficult to vary generation in response to changing demand. The technology thus complements growing energy sources like wind and solar, and allows a greater penetration of such renewables into the energy mix. It is less useful where electricity is mostly provided by dispatchable generation, like coal or gas-fired thermal plants, or hydro-electricity.

Cryogenic plants can also provide grid services, including grid balancing, voltage support, frequency response and synchronous inertia.[8]


Unlike other grid-scale energy storage technologies which require specific geographies such as mountain reservoirs (pumped-storage hydropower) or underground salt caverns (compressed-air energy storage), a cryogenic energy storage plant can be located just about anywhere.[9]

To achieve the greatest efficiencies, a cryogenic plant should be located near a source of low-grade heat which would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere. Often this would be a thermal power station that could be expected to be also generating electricity at times of peak demand and the highest prices. Colocation with a source of unused cold, such as an LNG regasification facility is also an advantage.[10]

Grid-scale demonstrators[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

In April 2014, the UK government announced it had given £8 million to Viridor and Highview Power to fund the next stage of the demonstration.[11] The resulting grid-scale demonstrator plant at Pilsworth Landfill facility in Bury, Greater Manchester, UK, started operation in April 2018.[12] The design was based on research by the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage (BCCES) associated with the University of Birmingham, and has storage for up to 15 MWh, and can generate a peak supply of 5 MW (so when fully charged lasts for three hours at maximum output) and is designed for an operational life of 40 years.

United States[edit]

In 2019, the Washington State Department of Commerce's Clean Energy Fund announced it would provide a grant to help Tacoma Power partner with Praxair to build a 15 MW / 450 MWh liquid air energy storage plant. It will store up to 850,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen to help balance power loads.[13]

Commercial plants[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

In October 2019, Highview Power announced that it planned to build a 50 MW / 250 MWh commercial plant in Carrington, Greater Manchester.[14] [15] Construction began in November 2020,[16] [9] with commercial operation planned for 2022.[8] At 250 MWh, the plant would match the storage capacity of the world's largest existing lithium-ion battery, the Gateway Energy Storage facility in California.[17] In November 2022 Highview Power stated that they were still trying to raise money "to construct a storage plant in Carrington that has a 30 megawatts capacity and can store 300 megawatt hours of electricity" with commissioning planned for "the end of 2024."[18]

United States[edit]

In December 2019, Highview announced plans to build a 50 MW plant in northern Vermont, with the proposed facility able to store eight hours of energy, for a 400 MWh storage capacity.[19]


In June 2021, Highview announced that it was developing a 50MW / 500MWh storage plant in the Atacama region of Chile.[20]



Both liquid air and liquid nitrogen have been used experimentally to power cars. A liquid air powered car called Liquid Air was built between 1899 and 1902 but it couldn't at the time compete in terms of efficiency with other engines.[21]

More recently, a liquid nitrogen vehicle was built. Peter Dearman, a garage inventor in Hertfordshire, UK who had initially developed a liquid air powered car, then put the technology to use as grid energy storage[6] The Dearman engine differs from former nitrogen engine designs in that the nitrogen is heated by combining it with the heat exchange fluid inside the cylinder of the engine.[22][23]

Electricity storage pilots[edit]

In 2010, the technology was piloted at a UK power station.[24] A 300 kW, 2.5 MWh storage capacity[25] pilot cryogenic energy system developed by researchers at the University of Leeds and Highview Power[26] that uses liquid air (with the CO2 and water removed as they would turn solid at the storage temperature) as the energy store, and low-grade waste heat to boost the thermal re-expansion of the air, operated at an 80 MW biomass power station in Slough, UK, from 2010 until 2014 when it was relocated to the university of Birmingham.[6][25][27] The efficiency is less than 15% because of low efficiency hardware components used, but the engineers are targeting an efficiency of about 60 percent for the next generation of CES based on operation experiences of this system.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 2011 Energy & Environment Winner -CES". The Engineer. 2011-12-02. Archived from the original on 2015-10-03. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  2. ^ Rebecca Boyle (2010-08-11). "Grid Could Meet Sudden Energy Demands By Storing Power As Liquid Oxygen". Popsci.
  3. ^ a b "Process". company website. Highview Power Storage. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
  4. ^ Chen, Yu; Feng, Juan; Liu, Rui; Chen, Jingyu; Jiang, Zhaomin; Yu, Chengbiao; Chen, Xiaoyuan; Shen, Boyang; Fu, Lin (2023). "Hybrid photovoltaic-liquid air energy storage system for deep decarbonization". Energy Science & Engineering. 11 (2): 621–636. doi:10.1002/ese3.1349. S2CID 253754740. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  5. ^ "Cryo Energy System". company website. Highview Power Storage. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
  6. ^ a b c Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment analyst (2012-10-01). "Liquid air 'offers energy storage hope'". BBC News, Science and Environment. BBC. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
  7. ^ "Liquid air 'offers energy storage hope'". BBC News. 2 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b Junior Isles (September 2020). "Really cool storage" (PDF). The Energy Industry Times. 13 (5): 15. ISSN 1757-7365. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Highview Power Breaks Ground on 250MWh CRYOBattery Long Duration Energy Storage Facility". Company News and Announcements. Highview Power. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Non-standard applications (waste heat/waste cold)". Highview Power. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  11. ^ "£8 million boost for energy storage innovation".
  12. ^ "Plants". company website. Highview Power. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  13. ^ "Commerce announces $10.6 million in state Clean Energy Fund grants for grid modernization". Washington State Department of Commerce. 2019-04-16. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  14. ^ "How liquid air could help keep the lights on". BBC News. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Highview Power to Develop Multiple Cryogenic Energy Storage Facilities in the UK and to Build Europe's Largest Storage System". Highview power. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  16. ^ Roger, Harrabin (6 November 2020). "UK energy plant to use liquid air". BBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  17. ^ Klender, Joey (August 21, 2020). "Tesla gives up crown for world's biggest battery".
  18. ^ Harry Dempsey (16 November 2022). "UK group plans first large-scale liquid air energy storage plant". Financial Times.
  19. ^ Danigelis, Alyssa (2019-12-19). "First Long-Duration Liquid Air Energy Storage System Planned for the US". Environment + Energy Leader. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  20. ^ "Highview Enlasa Developing 50MW/500MWh Liquid Air Energy Storage Facility in the Atacama Region of Chile". Highview Power. 10 June 2021. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  21. ^ "The Liquid Air Energy Network". Liquid Air Energy Network (LAEN). 2015.
  22. ^ Raili Leino (2012-10-22). "Mullistava idea: Tulevaisuuden auto voi kulkea typpimoottorilla". Tekniikka&Talous (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 2013-09-01. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  23. ^ "The Technology". Dearman Engine Company. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-22.
  24. ^ "Electricity Storage" (PDF). Institution of Mechanical Engineers. May 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
  25. ^ a b Darius Snieckus (2011-12-06). "Liquid air energy-storage set for the big time after German deal". Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  26. ^ "Energy storage project wins major award". University of Leeds. 2011-12-06. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  27. ^ "Liquid air energy storage: Supporting the low carbon electrical network webcast". Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2022.