iX Challenge: Automated hydrogen production and storage at Sky Blu logistics hub

iX is supporting the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to identify solutions to innovation challenges. This current challenge relates to the need to replace the existing fossil fuel at the Sky Blu Logistics hub on Antarctica with hydrogen. BAS would like to explore novel systems that automate the production and storage of zero carbon hydrogen at Sky Blu.

Opportunity Details


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Successful applicants will have the opportunity to connect with British Antarctic Survey and assess the viability of hydrogen production capability in extreme environments. Feasibility studies will be funded for successful applicants.

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BAS delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistical capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. BAS is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Sustainability is a key driver in the modernisation of all BAS facilities, with a target set for all buildings to be designed and operating at net-zero carbon by 2040 (UKRI Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2020).


Sky Blue Logistics Facility in the British Antarctic Territory.

Sky-Blu (74° 51’ 23” S 71° 35’ 13” W) is an area of blue ice situated close to Sky-Hi Nunataks (800 miles from the Rothera research station) suitable for use as an ice runway for wheeled aircraft. It is used as a logistics facility, allowing BAS aircraft to refuel before moving on to research stations. In support of the runway, there is a small camp which comprises a “melon” hut together with several tents, a garage, food depot, radio aerial, toilet facility etc.

The site is unmanned for 9 – 10 months a year. Weather at the site is very sunny, solar hours have not been recorded. It is also very windy, with wind speeds of 0 to 30m/s. Temperatures are below zero degrees all year round.


Globally it is becoming increasingly likely that hydrogen will form part of the net zero energy supply. However, hydrogen is difficult to transport to air-supported locations in Antarctica such as Sky Blu. BAS would therefore like to explore the feasibility of automated production and storage of hydrogen at the Sky Blu logistics facility to enable the refuelling of their aircraft.

Proposed solutions should include the whole automated process;

  • Snow and ice collection to produce meltwater
  • Energy generation to melt the snow and ice
  • Generation of hydrogen from the meltwater
  • Storage of hydrogen fuel (hydrogen gas, hydrate, ammonia etc)

The automated solution should be technically feasible in the environmental conditions of Antarctica. However, given the nascent nature of the hydrogen sector, BAS is open to systems that are currently at TRL6 or below (prototype) which require demonstration.

The automated solution should aim to produce 1kg of green hydrogen with the ability to scale up to 10,000kg per annum once proven at scale.

Out of Scope

  • Nuclear based hydrogen production solutions
  • Technologies that can’t operate in the climate as described above.
  • Hydrogen generated elsewhere and transported to the site.

Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their proposed solution online to BAS in May 2022. Following the pitch BAS will fund feasibility studies with a select number of companies whose proposed solutions meet the expectations, to assess the viability of trialling the solution at the Sky-Blu logistics facility.


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