Challenges of underground hydrogen storage in porous media

Posted: January 30, 2021 by oldbrew in Energy, hydrogen, net zero, research

Another ‘net zero’ stumbling block for climate-obsessed governments is investigated by researchers. This time it’s the question of where and how to keep all the hydrogen – assuming it can be produced from renewables on an industrial scale in the first place.
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Large-scale storage of hydrogen remains largely untested but is essential if hydrogen is to realize its potential to make a significant contribution to achieving net-zero emissions, says TechXplore.

A new perspectives paper sets out the key scientific challenges and knowledge gaps in large scale hydrogen storage in porous geological environments.

These underground hydrogen reservoirs could be used as energy storages to face high demand periods.

The article, authored by Niklas Heinemann and co-authored by GEO3BCN-CSIC researchers Juan Alcalde and Ramon Carbonell, has been recently published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Hydrogen is attracting global attention for its potential to help decarbonise transport, heating and energy-intensive industries, such as chemicals and steel-making. Furthermore, it can help alleviate a key drawback of renewable energy generation: its intermittency. Excess renewable energy can be converted to hydrogen through electrolysis (green hydrogen) and stored to be converted later in electricity to be used in periods of high-energy demand.

“These energy storage facilities, for example, could help to keep electricity prices stable in unexpected situations such as cold waves occurring in winter season” says Juan Alcalde, researcher at Geosciences Barcelona—CSIC (GEO3BCN-CSIC) and co-author of the article.

The authors of the study set some of the main uncertainties that need to be addressed by future multidisciplinary research. How can hydrogen be safely stored? What will be the dynamic of the hydrogen once injected in the subsurface reservoir? Which are the chemical processes that will occur inside the reservoir and how will these affect the operations? What happens with hydrogen-consuming microbes in the reservoir?

“The paper evaluates the emerging research on hydrogen storage, identifying the key challenges that must be addressed to enable global deployment,” says Niklas Heinemann, leading author of the study and researcher of the University of Edinburgh.

“It provides an authoritative account of the factors that make hydrogen storage in porous geological media unique and addresses the unknowns that are likely to set the research agenda in future.”

Full article here.

  1. Joe Public says:

    Not forgetting volume-for-volume, hydrogen has just 30% the energy content of natural gas.

    Those who think existing natural gas storage facilities can simply be switched to storing H2 tend to forget that a facility’s energy storage capacity is then reduced by 70%.

  2. oldbrew says:

    The storage of large quantities of liquid hydrogen underground can function as grid energy storage. The round-trip efficiency is approximately 40%, (vs. 75-80% for pumped-hydro).
    . . .
    Another study…found that for large scale storage, the cheapest option is hydrogen at €140/MWh for 2,000 hours of storage using an electrolyser, salt cavern storage and combined-cycle power plant.

    Expensive and inefficient.

  3. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Leaky sneaky explosive little gas. Adding carbon atoms makes it burn better and store safely. We could call it natural gas…

  4. oldbrew says:

    Excess renewable energy can be converted to hydrogen through electrolysis

    No more constraint payments. Convert spare capacity to hydrogen, or just switch off and lose income.

  5. Gamecock says:

    ‘if hydrogen is to realize its potential to make a significant contribution to achieving net-zero emissions’

    Begging the question fallacy. Such potential is not established.

  6. JB says:

    EH? Hydrogen can’t even be kept in high pressure vessels without fatigue and leakage. Stuff it in caverns to react with other elements and create belch pockets within/without the cavern to be excited by Natural events–like electrical discharge?

    Desperados. A concatenated cantileverity worse than staged dominoes.

  7. oldbrew says:

    JB – according to Wikipedia…
    Large quantities of gaseous hydrogen have been stored in caverns by ICI for many years without any difficulties.
    = = =
    It’s a weak case for green hydrogen

    This week I attended three hydrogen webinars. By participating in these sessions I’m hoping a light comes as to what I’m missing. Not so, they all reinforce that the case for the role of hydrogen in delivering net zero is evidence weak.

  8. Johna says:

    Its just total nuts and so are the people who are dreaming this up. The best thing to do is burn our vast reserves of coal cleanly and efficiently like the Japanese and Chinese are doing and many other countries who are following suit. Coal can also used to derive town gas again and chemicals and play an important part in home produced CNG to rid our city centres of diesel particulates.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Centrica mulls storing hydrogen under North Sea
    22 January 2021

    British Gas owner, Centrica (CNA.L) is considering converting its Rough natural gas storage site off the coast of Yorkshire to store hydrogen.

    The energy supplier, which closed Rough as a natural gas storage site in 2017, is said to be considering re-purposing the site following increasing interest in the clean-burning fuel, the Telegraph reports.
    . . .
    Centrica’s closed Rough storage site is a depleted gas field about 29km off the east coast of Yorkshire, roughly six miles long and up to 117 feet deep. Gas can be pumped in and held under pressure by the surrounding rock.
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    That ‘excess’ wind power they talk about is going to have to be seriously excessive to keep churning out all the hydrogen they dream of using.

  10. It doesn't add up... says:

    A real problem for electrolysis is that it is bound to be extremely intermittent, and that you will never be able to afford to consume all the surplus power (which would entail building capacity that is almost never used), so you are going to end up curtailing a good portion anyway. Just look at these “surplus” duration curves for different multiples of wind capacity (base is 22GW):

    Then factor in that availability is highly intermittent – a few hours at a time overnight when the wind is right, or perhaps on a sunny summer Sunday from surplus solar. Intermittent operation is an enemy of efficiency for electrolysis.