Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Storing Hydrogen Underground Could Boost Transportation, Energy Security

10.12.2014

Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

Geologic storage of hydrogen gas could make it possible to produce and distribute large quantities of hydrogen fuel for the growing fuel cell electric vehicle market, the researchers concluded.


Sandia National Laboratories

Salt caverns such as the one depicted here could provide a low-cost solution for the geologic storage of hydrogen. The colors in the illustration represent depth, with blue as the deepest part of the cavern and red the most shallow.

Geologic storage solutions can service a number of key hydrogen markets since “costs are more influenced by the geology available rather than the size of the hydrogen market demand,” said Sandia’s Anna Snider Lord, the study’s principal investigator.

The work, Lord said, could provide a roadmap for further research and demonstration activities, such as an examination of environmental issues and geologic formations in major metropolitan areas that can hold gas. Researchers could then determine whether hydrogen gas mixes with residual gas or oil, reacts with minerals in the surrounding rock or poses any environmental concerns.

Storage seen as key to realizing hydrogen’s market growth

Should the market demands for hydrogen fuel increase with the introduction of fuel cell electric vehicles, the U.S. will need to produce and store large amounts of cost-effective hydrogen from domestic energy sources, such as natural gas, solar and wind, said Daniel Dedrick, Sandia hydrogen program manager.

As Toyota, General Motors, Hyundai and others move ahead with plans to develop and sell or lease hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, practical storage of hydrogen fuel at large scale is nessesary to enable widespread hydrogen-powered transportation infrastructure. Such storage options, Dedrick said, are needed to realize the full potential of hydrogen for transportation.

Additionally, installation of electrolyzer systems on electrical grids for power-to-gas applications, which integrate renewable energy, grid services and energy storage will require large-capacity, cost-effective hydrogen storage.

Storage above ground requires tanks, which cost three to five times more than geologic storage, Lord said. In addition to cost savings, underground storage of hydrogen gas offers advantages in volume. “Above-ground tanks can’t even begin to match the amount of hydrogen gas that can be stored underground,” she said.

The massive quantities of hydrogen that is stored in geologic features can subsequently be distributed as a high-pressure gas or liquid to supply hydrogen fuel markets.

Model helps identify the most favorable storage locations

While geologic storage may prove to be a viable option, several issues need to be explored, said Lord, including permeability of various geologic formations.

A geologist in Sandia’s geotechnology and engineering group, Lord for years has been involved in the geologic storage of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the world’s largest emergency supply of crude oil.

For her study on geologic storage, Lord and her colleagues analyzed and reworked the geologic storage module of Argonne National Laboratory’s Hydrogen Delivery Scenario Analysis Model. To help refine the model, Lord studied storing hydrogen in salt caverns to meet peak summer driving demand for four cities: Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

She determined that 10 percent above the average daily demand for 120 days should be stored. She then modeled how much hydrogen each city would need if hydrogen met 10, 25 and 100 percent of its driving fuel needs.

Los Angeles has three times the population of Detroit and more than six and a half times the population of Pittsburgh, but the nearest salt formations are in Arizona, so Lord included the cost of getting the stored hydrogen from Arizona to Los Angeles.

Even so, Los Angeles’ modeled costs are significantly less than those for Detroit and Pittsburgh. Salt formations in Arizona are thicker than those for Detroit and Pittsburgh, with larger and fewer caverns. Houston has the best conditions of the four cities because the Gulf Coast offers large, deep salt formations.

To examine the cost of geologic hydrogen storage, Lord started by selecting geologic formations that currently store natural gas. Working with Sandia economist Peter Kobos, Lord analyzed costs to store hydrogen gas in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, aquifers, salt caverns and hard rock caverns.

Their paper, “Geologic storage of hydrogen: Scaling up to meet city transportation demands,” was published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

A geologic solution for peak period storage

Other fuels are already stored geologically. Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, for example, is held in large man-made caverns along the Gulf Coast. Natural gas is stored in more than 400 geologic sites to meet winter heating demands.

Lord envisions that excess hydrogen produced throughout the year could be brought to geologic storage sites and then piped to cities during the summer, when the demand for driving fuels peaks.

Depleted oil and gas reservoirs and aquifers initially seem the most economically attractive options, she said. “Just looking at numbers, because they can hold such a larger volume relative to any cavern you create, they look cheaper,” she said.

But hydrogen gas is a challenging substance to store. “Because it’s a smaller molecule than methane, for example, it has the potential to leak easier and move faster through the rock,” Lord said.

Depleted oil and gas reservoirs and aquifers could leak hydrogen, and cycling – filling a storage site, pulling hydrogen out for use and refilling the site – can’t be done more than once or twice a year to preserve the integrity of the rock formation, Lord said.

With a salt cavern or hard rock cavern, “there are no permeability issues, there’s really no way anything can leak,” she said. “You can bring more product in and out, and that will, in the long run, decrease your costs.”

Hard rock caverns are relatively unproven; only one site holds natural gas. But salt caverns, which are created 1,000 to 6,000 feet below ground by drilling wells in salt formations, pumping in undersaturated water to dissolve the salt, then pumping out the resulting brine, are used more extensively and already store hydrogen on a limited scale, Lord said.

Future challenges

Lord said her work could lead to demonstration projects to further cement the viability of underground hydrogen storage. Salt caverns are the logical choice for a pilot project due to their proven ability to hold hydrogen, she said. Environmental concerns such as contamination could also be further analyzed.

However, salt formations are limited. None exist in the Pacific Northwest, much of the East Coast and much of the South, except for the Gulf Coast area. Other options are needed for development of a nationwide hydrogen storage system.

Lord’s work adds to Sandia’s capabilities and decades of experience in hydrogen and fuel cells systems. Sandia leads a number of other hydrogen research efforts, including the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project co-led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a maritime fuel cell demonstration, a development project focused on hydrogen-powered forklifts and a recent study of how many California gas stations can safely store and dispense hydrogen.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Mike Janes, mejanes@sandia.gov, (925) 294-2447

Contact Information
Mike Janes
Communications Officer
mejanes@sandia.gov
Phone: 925-294-2447

Mike Janes | newswise

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>