Hydrogen storage caves

Britain must set up a vast network of hydrogen-filled caves to guard against the risk of blackouts under the net zero shift, according to the country’s premier science body. The Royal Society has said 900 caverns filled with hydrogen will be needed to ensure the UK can keep the nation’s lights on during periods of low wind and sunshine…

“The UK’s need for long-term energy storage has been seriously underestimated. Large-scale energy storage is essential to mitigate variations in wind and sunshine, particularly long-term variations in the wind, and to keep the nation’s lights on. Storing hydrogen, in salt caverns, would be the cheapest way of doing this.”

The report finds that up to 100 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of storage will be needed by 2050, roughly equivalent to the energy contained in 1.2 billion Tesla car batteries.

DB2

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Rant Alert!

Without a doubt storage is a key ingredient for the successful adoption of renewable energy. But why mega projects? Life learned to store energy locally, tree by tree, animal by animal. I think the Royal Society is dismissing local storage without first giving it some though. 900 caverns filled with hydrogen require a lot more grid capacity than everyone having local storage. Transmission (grid) is the other key infrastructure but the less the country needs to depend on it, the safer it is.

The other consideration is illustrated by the size requirement of storm sewers. Building for average storms is a recipe for disaster. Statistics uses two standard deviations as a reasonable risk level. Maybe that’s how the Royal Society got to their conclusion even with lots of local storage.

No need to fly off the handle, the transition will take decades, time enough to make smallish mistakes on the road to Energy Nirvana. When you jump the gun like Germany did by shutting down the nuclear plants, you are shooting yourself in the foot. This is one reason I fear politicians, they have more agenda that sense.

The Captain

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What the Captain said.

And…needed is storage of energy, but why does that mean hydrogen? Anybody know why the Royal is stuck on hydrogen and seems closed to the huge list of other candidates?

david fb

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fuel cells said as cryptically as possible for the locals.

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Hydrogen is clean energy. Burns to water vapor. When energy sources are intermittant, hydrogen can be produced and stored for steady use at a later time.

Yes, you can stockpile coal, natural gas, oil, but they are not clean. The best alternative is batteries.

Pumped storage works well but is hard to get enough space to be practical.

Many others are described experimentally. Compressed air. Lifting weights,

What alternatives do you have in mind?

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It doesn’t. Here’s one that uses water & gravity. Pumped storage is nothing new, but finding the sites for it is a problem. This scheme aims to put them, well, almost anywhere.

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Compressed air and pumped water mostly, because I have experience with each, but also all the rest of the lists, including goofyhoofys clever contender. And at this point, before the massive investments needed are fully committed, I think it useful to keep open to all contenders and put all of them to real practical implementation. I like hydrogen as well, but it too has problems and limitations.

david fb

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Some years ago, a very prominent, USian “thought leader” who could lead thoughts from a “bully pulpit”, was a tireless promoter of H2, to the exclusion of everything else. He advocated no funding for other energy sources/storage, because of the promise of H2.

My cynical take was H2 was the least mature technology, that would take the longest to scale, and that is assuming no additional problems are discovered. Translation: H2 was an excuse to stay married to hydrocarbon fuels over the near term, rather than adding wind/solar/whatever to the mix now.

Not surprisingly, that “thought leader” was closely associated with the oil and gas interests.

So, did the crown sell out to Shell and BP?

Steve

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An alternative to hydrogen is converting it to ammonia and storing that, which has a higher energy density

They should check out what these guys have to say about it

Mike

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Most likely, in the end, a combination of various energy storage techniques will be used. No reason to use only one of them, especially when the various options each have different advantages and disadvantages. It’s also good to use multiple paths because the research then can continue on each technique and gradually improve them.

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Building the wrong plants that then must be scrapped is a waste. Better to build a few pilot facilities to get good numbers and then expand the best. We seem to be in the exploration stage. Not ready for major expansion.

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Also sand batteries. Enhanced geothermal systems could provide dispatchable power in suitable locations.

And it isn’t crazy to suggest that carbon capture technology will be advanced enough by 2050 it could be used to provide dispatchable carbon-free power.

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Research led by Professor John Underhill at the University of Aberdeen and Malcolm Butler at the UK Onshore Geophysical Library (UKOGL) concluded that the Cousland gas field in Midlothian fails to meet the criteria for safe subsurface storage…

Professor Underhill, who is Director of the University’s Center for Energy Transition, said, “Hydrogen has been proposed as a possible green energy vector in the transition, but it forms a small, nimble molecule and is very difficult to contain. It can be stored safely in subsurface geological sites, but so far these have largely been limited to man-made hermetically sealed soluble caverns in halite (rock salt) deposits. The absence of salt deposits onshore in Scotland is what has led to the proposal that former and now depleted hydrocarbon fields such as the Cousland gas field, could be used.”

DB2

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The small size of an H2 molecule has been a known issue for a long time, due to it’s ability to leak out of almost anything. Some years ago, a POTUS was constantly pumping H2 as an environmental panacea. My suspicion was he was using H2 as an excuse to not support any other alternative to conventional hydrocarbon fuels, knowing that the handling difficulties, among other issues, made H2 the least adoptable in the near term.

Steve

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Certainly natural gas has been stored underground for years. In St Louis, Spire has a large under ground reservoir presumbly in Missouri’s many limestone cave. Refinery in Wood River, IL reportedly has under ground storage for seasonal propane.

First step is presurize with nitrogen. See if you have leaks and learn to seal them. Then store more valuable material and see if pressure falls. Not easy but standard technology. Not difficult. Requires attention to detail.

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Natural gas weights between 16-19g/mole. H2 weighs only 1gram/mole. Much easier to seal in the larger molecules.

Nitrogen weighs 14g/mole. The big selling point of filling your tires with nitrogen is that the nitrogen molecules are so large that they don’t leak out of a tire as readily as the other gasses in air.

As Boeing keeps demonstrating, attention to detail costs money, so a profit-maximizing organization will seek to minimize attention to detail.

Steve

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Stop paying top management. An “overlooked detail” to save a LOT of money. They are “unaffordable”.

Psst. Hydrogen is diatomic and weighs two grams per mole.

Yes, small molecules are more difficult but the same methods are used anyway.

Part of the Hindenburg problem was the coating used to keep hydrogen in the gas bags. The technology is known. And there is much time for improvements.

Again not easy, but requires attention to detail.

You’re point about hydrogen been a small molecule and hence prone to leakage is true, but that’s not the selling point behind using nitrogen in your tires. Air is basically 80/20 nitrogen and oxygen and oxygen is an even bigger molecule. The reason is that oxygen is reactive and nitrogen is inert (essentially).

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The selling point of putting nitrogen in your tires is $$$ … for the company selling it to you. That’s the only point, because regular air is mostly nitrogen anyway.

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