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Impact of Experimentally Measured Relative Permeability Hysteresis on Reservoir-scale Performance of Undergound Hydrogen Storage (UHS)


Underground Hydrogen Storage (UHS) is an emerging large-scale energy storage technology. Researchers are investigating its feasibility and performance, including its injectivity, productivity, and storage capacity through numerical simulations. However, several ad-hoc relative permeability and capillary pressure functions have been used in the literature, with no direct link to the underlying physics of the hydrogen storage and production process. Recent relative permeability measurements for the hydrogen-brine system show very low hydrogen relative permeability and strong liquid phase hysteresis, very different to what has been observed for other fluid systems for the same rock type. This raises the concern as to what extend the existing studies in the literature are able to reliably quantify the feasibility of the potential storage projects. In this study, we investigate how experimentally measured hydrogen-brine relative permeability hysteresis affects the performance of UHS projects through numerical reservoir simulations. Relative permeability data measured during a hydrogen-water core-flooding experiment within ADMIRE project is used to design a relative permeability hysteresis model. Next, numerical simulation for a UHS project in a generic braided-fluvial water-gas reservoir is performed using this hysteresis model. A performance assessment is carried out for several UHS scenarios with different drainage relative permeability curves, hysteresis model coefficients, and injection/production rates. Our results show that both gas and liquid relative permeability hysteresis play an important role in UHS irrespective of injection/production rate. Ignoring gas hysteresis may cause up to 338% of uncertainty on cumulative hydrogen production, as it has negative effects on injectivity and productivity due to the resulting limited variation range of gas saturation and pressure during cyclic operations. In contrast, hysteresis in the liquid phase relative permeability resolves this issue to some extent by improving the displacement of the liquid phase. Finally, implementing relative permeability curves from other fluid systems during UHS performance assessment will cause uncertainty in terms of gas saturation and up to 141% underestimation on cumulative hydrogen production. These observations illustrate the importance of using relative permeability curves characteristic of hydrogen-brine system for assessing the UHS performances.

Funding source: This research is a result of collaboration between the University of Queensland (UQ), Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) through The 1st International Summer School on Underground Hydrogen Storage held at TU Delft in 2022. The Centre for Natural Gas at UQ and ADMIRE group at TU Delft are acknowledged for the travel funds for Zhenkai. In addition, Zhenkai acknowledges the University of Queensland and Energi Simulation for the University of Queensland Research Training Stipend and Research Higher Degree Top Up Scholarships. Hadi Hajibeygi also acknowledges the support of Energi Simulation through the chair in Subsurface Storage and Multiscale Modeling at TU Delft
Countries: Australia ; Netherlands

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