Geoscientists from the University of Edinburgh have received £1.4m funding from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) to investigate the underground storage of hydrogen in porous rocks.
The project, HyStorPor (Hydrogen Storage in Porous Media), is designed to increase understanding of the whole hydrogen storage system, from fundamental physical and chemical processes to social acceptability.
Whilst commercial scale underground storage of hydrogen has never been tried before researchers claim that it could be one of the keys to overcoming the intermittency issues associated with wind and solar energy.
The large-scale generation and storage of hydrogen, generated from excess renewable energy or steam reformation of methane with carbon capture and storage (CCS), could also replace methane for domestic heating, thereby reducing carbon emissions from one of the UK’s largest sources.
Led by Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, and also including scientists from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and Imperial College London the team will use advanced experimental facilities in Edinburgh to investigate a number of questions affecting the commercial development of hydrogen storage.
Areas to be explored include whether hydrogen could react with the rocks into which it is injected; how effectively the gas migrates through water-filled porous media; and how much of the injected hydrogen can actually be recovered from the rock.
The group will also use digital computer models of fluid flow adapted from hydrocarbon simulation to scale up from laboratory experiments to an underground storage site. These models can calculate how efficiently the hydrogen can be injected, and predict how much of the hydrogen can be recovered during operation.
The project, which comes at a time of increasing interest in the potential of hydrogen energy storage, was launched at Aberdeen’s first Hydrogen Festival, an event aimed at helping companies, including the oil and gas sector, explore new business opportunities with hydrogen.
Outputs from the project will be coordinated by Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) at a new multidisciplinary information hub on hydrogen usage and storage, based at the University of Edinburgh.
Commenting on the project Prof Haszeldine said: “On the pathway to cleaner air and in the fight against climate change, it is very likely that the UK will change heating in homes and industry from high-carbon methane gas to zero-carbon hydrogen and ammonia. Storing hydrogen made in the summer for use in the winter is a very important part of that change. HyStorPor is the UK’s first project to investigate the basic science we need to make that storage work effectively.”