Queen Mary University of London researcher receives UKRI funding for methane monitoring project

13 March 2024

Dr Paul Balcombe
Dr Paul Balcombe
An illustration demonstrating Methane Monitoring
An illustration demonstrating Methane Monitoring

Dr Paul Balcombe has secured £750,000 in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for his project on improving methane monitoring.

Dr Balcombe, a Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering and Renewable Energy at Queen Mary University of London's School of Engineering and Materials Science, will lead the project titled 'EMPreSS: Enhanced Methane Monitoring Precision with a Multi-Agent UAV System Solution.'

The announcement comes as part of a £12 million investment by UKRI to develop new technologies for monitoring the UK's natural environment, including waterways, habitats, soil, and air.

Dr Balcombe's project is among the first cohort of 13 proposals to receive funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Defra, which will be used to improve capabilities in monitoring:

  • Biodiversity and invasive species
  • Water quality
  • Soil health
  • Greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane

This investment aims to harness the potential of new technologies in sensing, monitoring, artificial intelligence, and high-performance computing to create information services for research, government agencies, and businesses.

Dr Balcombe’s EMPreSS project will create a new high-tech methane emissions monitoring system using multiple autonomous drones to make the way we measure our emissions much more accurately. This new product has the potential to upscale our ability to understand methane emissions, which is crucially needed if we are going to meet our climate targets.

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Executive Chair of NERC, said: "This investment by NERC and Defra will help to deliver a step-change in environmental monitoring, modelling, and analysis. It supports our ambition to help businesses grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services, supported by an outstanding research and innovation ecosystem."

Dr Paul Balcombe said: "I'm thrilled to receive this funding and be part of this exciting push for better environmental monitoring. EMPreSS will involve an exciting collaboration with Queen Mary’s robotics and chemical engineering researchers, as well as the Royal Holloway University of London, and I believe we can really raise the bar in tracking methane emissions, a crucial step in tackling climate change."

The UKRI funding is a testament to Dr Balcombe's expertise in methane emissions and tackling industry-related greenhouse gases, and his commitment to developing innovative solutions for environmental challenges. The project is expected to make significant contributions to the UK's efforts to combat climate change and achieve its environmental goals.

Contact:Paul Balcombe
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