A team of researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), in collaboration with two other national laboratories, has launched a project investigating the feasibility of large-scale hydrogen storage within geological formations.
Researchers from LLNL, Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNNL) and National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) raised nearly $ 7 million in funding froml US Department of Energy. A three-year project that will evaluate the possibility of caves and natural formations as hydrogen storage sites.
It is an exciting project for us, as it addresses a critical component of the energy future a low emissions carbon. Subsurface expertise in related technologies will be needed: geothermal energy, carbon and natural gas storage.Joshua White, LLNL engineer and principal researcher of the project
SHASTA, put the hydrogen underground
Called SHASTA project (Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage, and Technology Acceleration), it will be a multidisciplinary effort. White and his colleague in LLNL Nicola Castelletto will conduct subsoil modeling work. The colleague geochemistry Megan Smith will conduct experiments on high pressure and high temperature.
The importance of hydrogen storage
Hydrogen is emerging as a low-carbon fuel option for transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing applications and clean energy technologies that can accelerate the planet's transition to a low-carbon economy . The key challenge at this point is to ensure the safe and effective storage of hydrogen. Large-scale hydrogen storage will be needed as we move to a clean energy economy. However, large volume underground hydrogen storage has proven safe and effective only in salt dome structures or caves.
Where can we find the natural structures that serve to store hydrogen?
Not all regions and areas of the world have the adequate geological prerequisites for hydrogen storage in salt cavities: for this reason a project like SHASTA serves to determine the technical feasibility of the use of underground systems and will quantify the operational risks associated with storage. in such systems. Not only that: it will develop technologies and tools that will reduce these risks, and will also evaluate the possibility of using structures used today for the storage of natural gas.
Key questions the researchers will address include:
- How can the technical and operational risks associated with underground hydrogen storage be mitigated so that operations protect humans and the environment?
- How can emerging technologies be exploited to enable an intelligent, safe and efficient underground hydrogen storage system (e.g. sensors, tank simulators and screening tools)?
- What technical, operational and economic insights are needed to enable large-scale underground storage for pure hydrogen or hydrogen-natural gas blends?
Both field experiments and simulations will be conducted to study the impact of pure hydrogen and mixed hydrogen on underground storage systems. Research will focus on quantifying material compatibility, and more. Attention also to the analysis of the performance on a scale of the nucleus and the tank and on the characterization of microbial interactions.
A road that is not easy to follow, but which is very necessary. If successful, the model developed by these American laboratories could be useful to researchers around the world. These criteria can also be applied in the search for natural structures in other places. I would not say a gamble (and maybe I am already doing it), but in Italy similar structures could be present in Sicily.