• University of Texas researchers identify geological formations as potential means of hydrogen storage

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

A preliminary study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has identified a number of potential solutions to roadblocks in establishing hydrogen as a key part of the energy economy. The paper, published in the Oil & Gas Journal, has come as US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm announced a goal for the price of ‘clean’ hydrogen to fall from the present US$5/kg to $1/kg within a decade, with UoT economist Dr Ning Lin stressing that for that goal to be met, hydrogen projects would need to be deployed rapidly so that innovation and economies of scale could have their necessary effect. Apart from cost, another of the challenges the paper identifies is that hydrogen carries only around one-third of the energy per unit volume that natural gas does, and so replacement of the latter by the former is not at all straightforward in a technical sense – more volume and storage space will be required. One potential solution to this is that geological storage is used for hydrogen rather than tanks or batteries, with the gas being moved via pipeline. (Such geological storage is not uncommon for natural gas and there are already three sites storing hydrogen.) The UoT study also repeats what other studies have pointed out: that a transitionary period of using ‘blue’ hydrogen will be a stepping stone to ‘green’ hydrogen, and that mixing the elemental gas with natural gas in distribution systems will also help develop the industry.