Decades of research led by Professor Colin Snape and Dr Will Meredith has yielded important results in the field of fossil fuels, helping steer product innovation and government policy. Their work has developed two innovative, high-pressure pyrolysis techniques: hydropyrolysis (HyPy) for the characterisation of organic macromolecules, and high-pressure water pyrolysis (HPWP) for simulating oil and gas generation.

HyPy creates a highly selective molecular fingerprint not possible with conventional pyrolysis techniques – thus enabling improved analysis of organic matter. In 2008, the technology was licensed and successfully commercialised in partnership with Strata Technology Ltd, distributing HyPy systems globally.

Working with a multi-national petrochemicals company, HyPy was used to characterise the origins of fuel injector deposits in diesel engines. These deposits can reduce power and increase emissions, even leading to mechanical failure. HyPy analysis identified the chemical composition of these deposits, informing the development of new fuel additives to reduce deposits and influencing the strategic direction of the business.

The team’s HPWP technique was used to produce a more robust estimate of UK shale gas, published in Nature Communications. This research concluded that British Geological Survey modelling, predicting the UK’s biggest shale formation might yield 50 years of economically recoverable shale gas, is incorrect with less than ten years of recoverable gas present based on current UK gas consumption. The research was referenced 384 times in the media across ten countries and in 2019, the Scottish Government directly cited the published research in a speech to the Scottish Parliament, where they announced their decision not to support fracking in Scotland. 



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