DOE National Laboratories Investigate Subsurface Hydrogen Storage

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) will leverage the unique capabilities and demonstrated expertise of three National laboratories—National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)—to determine the viability, safety, and reliability of storing pure hydrogen or hydrogen-natural gas blends in subsurface environments. The project, Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage, and Technology Acceleration (SHASTA), will receive up to $6.75 million over three years through 2024.

Hydrogen is emerging as a low-carbon fuel option for transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing applications, and clean energy technologies that will accelerate the United States’ transition to a low-carbon economy.  However, a key challenge is to ensure the safe and effective storage of hydrogen.

Large-scale hydrogen storage will be required as the Nation transitions to a virtually carbon- and emissions-free clean energy economy. Domestically, however, large-volume underground hydrogen storage has been demonstrated safe and effective only in salt dome structures or caverns. Not all regions have the proper geological prerequisites for salt cavity storage; however, FECM is exploring storage opportunities in these areas, including in porous media, which are similar to underground natural gas storage reservoirs.

The project announced today will determine the technical feasibility of hydrogen storage in subsurface systems and quantify the operational risks associated with storage in those systems.  It will also develop technologies and tools that will reduce those risks.  At the same time, the research effort will establish the technical basis for using the much larger capacities available in porous media storage, as well as the ability to re-use existing natural gas storage infrastructure for the hydrogen economy.

Finally, the project could help accelerate and expand the use of hydrogen by leveraging existing facilities (e.g., existing natural gas storage reservoirs) at storage sites across the United States. It will address critical technological hurdles; conduct research to demonstrate the feasibility of emergent technology; and develop tools and technologies to support industry and enable the advancement of subsurface hydrogen storage. Key questions researchers 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 efficient 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 or hydrogen-natural gas blends?

Both field experiments and modeled simulations will be conducted to study pure hydrogen and blended hydrogen as well as natural gas impact on underground storage systems. The research will focus on quantifying materials compatibility, investigating core- and reservoir-scale performance and characterizing microbial interactions.

The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management funds research and development projects to advance fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about our programs, visit the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management website or sign up for FECM news announcements. More information about the National Laboratories is available on their websites: NETL website; PNNL website; LLNL website.