Aggregate Industries, Innovatium and the University of Birmingham team up to develop PRISMA liquid air energy storage system

A consortium comprising Aggregate Industries, Innovatium and the University of Birmingham has successfully secured Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funding for an industry-first application of liquid air energy storage (LAES) energy efficiency technology under the government’s Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) programme.


The IEEA programme, administered by the Carbon Trust on behalf of BEIS, will provide more than £350,000 of government funding to deliver a new compressed air system utilising innovative LAES technology from initial laboratory testing to full operation in an industrial environment for the very first time, as part of the government’s drive to bring new energy efficiency technologies to market through industrial demonstration partnerships.  

PRISMA (Peak Reduction by Integrated Storage and Management of Air) by Innovatium is an innovative LAES technology that stores energy in liquid air form to provide compressed air, allowing inefficient partially-loaded, variable-demand compressors to be turned off, thus improving the total system efficiency by up to 30%.

The system will be installed at Aggregate Industries’ Bardon Hill quarry in Leicestershire. Aggregate Industries, as a large employer both in Leicestershire and nationally, is investing in the future of the quarry through a multi-million pound extension, which started in 2015, and at the same time is investing in pioneering energy efficiency technology as part of its commitment to sustainable development.    

Pablo Libreros, Managing Director at Aggregate Industries, commented: “Sustainability is at the heart of our business and we are committed to leading the charge in creating a sustainable energy future for our industry. As we have seen, the onslaught of climate change demonstrates just how important it is to look at how we produce and consume energy. Making dramatic changes, such as investing in energy efficient solutions, is the only way to make a lasting positive impact and we are proud to stand with our partners on the PRISMA project to spearhead the installation and support of this pioneering technology.”

The PRISMA system will bring together an innovative latent energy cold storage tank, filled with a phase change material (PCM) to store thermal energy, and a number of other off-the-shelf components to form a system that will work with Aggregate Industries’ existing compressed air network. The integration of the equipment and components in an industrial setting, for the provision of compressed air, has never been attempted before.

Richard Eaton, Energy Manager at Aggregate Industries, commented: “Supporting energy efficiency and carbon reduction innovations is at the heart of our renewed energy strategy. The PRISMA project and LAES is a key part of this approach and is something that we are passionate about. The project will help to address the ‘energy trilemma’ of managing energy efficiency, energy cost and energy security by; significantly improving the energy efficiency of our compressed air system; managing electricity costs by running the compressors out-of-hours, when electricity is cheaper; and helping to smooth and reduce the peak electrical demand on site. We are therefore very excited to be the first industrial partner to install the PRISMA system at our Bardon Hill quarry in Leicestershire.”

The 24 month project will involve the development of the PCM at the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering as well as the design, manufacture and assembly of multiple system components by Innovatium before installation of the system at Bardon Hill.

Professor Yulong Ding, Professor of Chemical Engineering & Director of Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy, University of Birmingham, commented: “Phase change materials (PCMs) can be used for the storage of both hot and cold forms of thermal energy. They (PCMS) are growing in importance but to date the focus has been on hot forms of thermal energy and technology deployment has taken place outside of the United Kingdom. This new project focuses on cold forms of thermal energy storage, allowing us, with Innovatium, to establish a platform to deliver a global first-of-a-kind system in the U.K. with the potential to revolutionise the industrial energy space.”

The PRISMA Project has currently only been deployed in a simulated environment and is said to be at ‘Technology Readiness Level 5’ (TRL5), in terms of the development and commercialisation of the technology. The funding provided through the IEEA will take the PRISMA system to ‘proven deployment in an operational environment’ (TRL7) – a crucial step towards full commercialisation of the technology.

Following successful delivery of the project, this scalable technology has multi-sectoral applications for compressed air systems both in the UK and globally. In the UK, the compressed air market is estimated at 1.3 GW of installed electrical capacity across c.4,500 sites and over 55,000 individual compressor units. 

Simon Branch, CEO and CoFounder at Innovatium, commented: “We at Innovatium are delighted to be collaborating with Aggregate Industries and the University of Birmingham who are recognised global leaders in sustainability and technology, utilising BEIS  funding to enable the rapid commercialisation of our PRISMA technology. Following the successful initial deployment at Aggregate Industries’ Bardon Hill Quarry, we anticipate the demonstration of PRISMAs energy efficiency and carbon reduction capability will show proven commercial and environmental benefits over current compressed air systems offering a cost saving alternative.”