Large-Scale Hydrogen Storage in Geologic Formations: Viability

In partnership with two other national laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a team of researchers at LLNL has begun a study on the viability of large-scale hydrogen storage in geologic formations.

Over the next three years, researchers from LLNL and Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNNL) will be eligible for up to $ 6.75 million from the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

Joshua White, principal investigator and LLNL reservoir engineer said, “This project is exciting for us because it addresses a timely component of a low carbon energy future.”

“While the expertise required builds on LLNL’s decades-long experience in the subsurface working on related technologies like geologic carbon storage and natural gas storage, as well as geothermal energy,”

The SHASTA Project (Subsurface Hydrogen Storage, Assessment, and Technology Acceleration) is a significant component of this effort. It studies the safety and efficacy of subsurface reservoirs storing hydrogen and natural gas.

White and Nicola Castelletto, a fellow LLNL reservoir engineering engineer, will be focusing on subsurface modeling work. Megan Smith, Lab geochemist, will examine high-pressure, high-temperature experimental opportunities.

Hydrogen is an emerging low-carbon fuel option that can be used for transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing, and other clean energy technologies. This will help accelerate the United States’ transition towards a low-carbon economy.

But, it is crucial to ensure safe and efficient hydrogen storage. As the country transitions to a clean energy economy that is virtually carbon- and emission-free, large-scale hydrogen storage will become essential. However, underground storage of large volumes of hydrogen has been proven safe and efficient in domestic salt domes or caverns.

Some regions need the right geological conditions for salt cavity storage. However, FECM is looking at storage options in these areas in porous media similar to underground natural-gas storage reservoirs.

Recently announced projects will assess the technical feasibility and quantify the operational risks of hydrogen storage in subsurface systems.

The development of technologies and tools will reduce these risks. The research will also establish the technical foundation for porous media storage with larger capacities. It will also allow for re-using existing natural gas storage infrastructure to support the hydrogen economy.

The project could also increase the use of hydrogen by utilizing existing facilities (e.g., natural gas storage reservoirs) at storage locations across the United States.

It will tackle technological obstacles; conduct research to show the feasibility of emerging technology; and create tools and technologies that support industry and allow for the advancement of subsurface hydrogen storage.

The following are key questions that researchers will be addressing:

  • How can subsurface hydrogen storage operations be protected from environmental and technical risks?
  • What can emerging technologies be used to create an innovative, safe, and efficient hydrogen subsurface storage facility (e.g., sensors, reservoir simulators, and screening tools)?
  • What are technical, economic, and operational insights required to allow large-scale subsurface storage of pure hydrogen or hydrogen-natural gas blends?

Field experiments and simulations will be used to investigate the effects of pure and mixed hydrogen on underground storage systems. This research will examine materials compatibility, investigate core- and reservoir-scale performance, and characterize microbial interactions.


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