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Linking Geological and Infrastructural Requirements for Large-scale Underground Hydrogen Storage in Germany


Hydrogen storage might be key to the success of the hydrogen economy, and hence the energy transition in Germany. One option for cost-effective storage of large quantities of hydrogen is the geological subsurface. However, previous experience with underground hydrogen storage is restricted to salt caverns, which are limited in size and space. In contrast, pore storage facilities in aquifers -and/or depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs- could play a vital role in meeting base load needs due to their wide availability and large storage capacity, but experiences are limited to past operations with hydrogen-bearing town gas. To overcome this barrier, here we investigate hydrogen storage in porous storage systems in a two-step process: 1) First, we investigate positive and cautionary indicators for safe operations of hydrogen storage in pore storage systems. 2) Second, we estimate hydrogen storage capacities of pore storage systems in (current and decommissioned) underground natural gas storage systems and saline aquifers. Our systematic review highlights that optimal storage conditions in terms of energy content and hydrogen quality are found in sandstone reservoirs in absence of carbonate and iron bearing accessory minerals at a depth of approx. 1,100 m and a temperature of at least 40°C. Porosity and permeability of the reservoir formation should be at least 20% and 5 × 10−13 m2 (~500 mD), respectively. In addition, the pH of the brine should fall below 6 and the salinity should exceed 100 mg/L. Based on these estimates, the total hydrogen storage capacity in underground natural gas storages is estimated to be up to 8 billion cubic meters or (0.72 Mt at STP) corresponding to 29 TWh of energy equivalent of hydrogen. Saline aquifers may offer additional storage capacities of 81.6–691.8 Mt of hydrogen, which amounts to 3.2 to 27.3 PWh of energy equivalent of hydrogen, the majority of which is located in the North German basin. Pore storage systems could therefore become a crucial element of the future German hydrogen infrastructure, especially in regions with large industrial hydrogen (storage) demand and likely hydrogen imports via pipelines and ships.

Funding source: This work is part of the flagship project TransHyDE supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF) with the grant number: 03HY202H.
Countries: Austria

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