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NETL to Investigate Subsurface Hydrogen Storage in Collaboration with Other DOE National Laboratories

In June 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management announced up to $6.75 million in funding for the Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage, and Technology Acceleration (SHASTA) project, which will leverage the unique capabilities and demonstrated expertise of NETL, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to determine the viability, safety, and reliability of storing pure hydrogen and challenges associated with hydrogen/natural gas blends in subsurface environments.

Hydrogen is emerging as a low-carbon fuel option for transportation, power generation, and manufacturing applications; however, a key challenge is to ensure its safe and effective geologic storage to ensure reliability and fuel security. To support wide scale deployment of hydrogen, geologic storage will be necessary at a scale that could compare to the size of the domestic natural gas storage industry today.  Domestically, large-volume underground hydrogen storage has been demonstrated as safe and effective only in salt dome structures or caverns. However, not all regions of the United States have the proper geological prerequisites for salt dome and/or cavern storage, so FECM is exploring storage opportunities in geologic porous media akin to underground natural gas storage reservoirs.

The SHASTA project will determine the technical feasibility and quantify operational risks associated with hydrogen gas storage in subsurface systems and develop technologies and tools for safe and reliable performance. It also will establish the technical basis for large-volume, field-scale storage within porous media, as well as the ability for potentially re-using already deployed natural gas storage infrastructure to enable a hydrogen economy.

Furthermore, SHASTA could help accelerate and expand the use of hydrogen by leveraging existing facilities (e.g., operational natural gas storage reservoirs) as storage sites across the United States. It will address critical technological hurdles, conduct research to demonstrate the feasibility of this emergent technology and develop enabling tools and technologies to advance domestic subsurface hydrogen storage.

Key questions the project will address include:

  • How can the technical and operational risks associated with subsurface hydrogen storage be mitigated so that operations are protective of humans and the environment?
  • How can emerging technologies be leveraged to enable a smart, safe and reliable hydrogen subsurface storage system (e.g., sensors, reservoir simulators and screening tools)?
  • What technical, operational and techno-economic insights are needed to enable large-scale subsurface storage for pure hydrogen and challenges of hydrogen/natural gas blends in gas storage fields?

The project will conduct both field experiments and modeled simulations to study pure hydrogen and hydrogen-natural gas blends to determine impacts on underground storage systems. The research will focus on quantifying storage infrastructure materials compatibility, investigating core- and reservoir-scale performance and characterizing microbial interactions in the subsurface.

The SHASTA project will consider key operational uncertainties including the potential impacts on well integrity from interaction with hydrogen and microbial communities, near-well biogeochemical reactions and reservoir-performance issues due to multicomponent flow in porous media. The project will also investigate enabling technologies that can enhance hydrogen subsurface storage success by evaluating operational hazards and costs, including advanced real-time sensor technologies, reservoir simulator tools and facility performance screening tools.

For many years, NETL has researched hydrogen production, delivery and storage, with ongoing activities in fuel cell development, manufacturing, systems analysis and integration, safety, standards and education. NETL expects to bring this experience, along with the talent of its scientists and engineers, to great effect throughout the project’s duration.

FECM funds research, development, demonstration and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial sources, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use. To learn more, visit the FECM website and sign up for FECM news announcements. More information about the National Laboratories is available on their websites: NETL website; PNNL website; LLNL website.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.