A $11 trillion global hydrogen energy boom is imminent. Here's what might trigger it (2023)

Sebastian Gollnow | image of the alliance | fake images

About 130 miles south of Salt Lake City, engineers are working on what will become a gigantic cavity in the ground. It is a geological formation known assalt dome, a column of salt surrounded by sedimentary layers and which, when filled with hydrogen, could become one of the largest reserves of renewable energy in the world.

Ohistoric wildfiresthat devastated California this year highlighted concerns about climate change and how to make our society sustainable. The state aims to meet all of its energy needs from clean, renewable energy by 2045, and Governor Gavin Newsom recently said that sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucksend in 2035. Under a roadmap approved by the state regulator, California will need nearly 25 gigawatts of new renewable capacity, including some 8,900 megawatts of storage, by 2030. The Utah project can help meet those goals.

OAdvanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) Projectplans to build a 1,000-megawatt clean energy storage facility, in part by putting hydrogen into underground salt caverns. Last year, gas turbine maker Mitsubishi Power and Magnum Development, owner of salt caverns for liquid fuel storage, announced that the project will combine technologies such as renewable hydrogen, solid oxide fuel cells andCompressed air energy storage.The storage facility would initially have enough power to power 150,000 homes for one year. Scheduled to come online in 2025, the first phase of the advanced clean energy storage project will provide 150,000 MWh of renewable energy storage capacity, nearly 150 times the current installed base of lithium-ion battery storage in the US. USA, according to Mitsubishi Power.

The project will also help solve a problem with the production of renewable energy: energy from fossil fuels must be used immediately because the networks lack storage capacity, which can meanreductionrenewable energy in times of low demand. Having large-scale renewable energy reserves can accelerate the shift to clean energy. If the former vice presidentJoe Bidenis elected president next month, it could come down to1.7 trillion dollars in 10 yearson measures to boost renewable energy and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced using renewable energy and zero emissions. Asthe cost of renewable energy such as solar energy falls, green hydrogen is touted as part of the energy mix that will lead to decarbonization, with applications ranging from industrial and consumer power supply to transportation and spaceflight. By 2050, US demand for hydrogen could rise from 22 million to 41 million metric tons per year, up from 10 million today, according toA studypublished this month by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

A salt mine.

Emeric Fohlen | NurPhoto | fake images

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After decades of false starts, hydrogen technology is poised to take off as falling production costs, technological improvements and a global drive toward sustainability converge, according to Bank of America. The company believes this will generate $2.5 trillion in direct revenue, or $4 trillion if revenue from associated products, such as fuel cell vehicles, is accounted for with the totalMarket potential reaching $11 trillion by 2050.

Big companies likePennsylvania,siemens energy,Conchamiliquid airthey're interested in producing green hydrogen, but part of the challenge is where to store the energy so it's ready when it's needed. That's where a project like Advanced Clean Energy Storage can help.

making holes in the ground

"California cut 150,000 to 300,000 MWh of excess renewable energy per month through spring 2020, but experienced its first sustained blackouts in August when the grid lost power," said Paul Browning, CEO of Mitsubishi Power Americas. . "Long-term energy storage projects like ours, designed to transfer excess power from periods of oversupply, like California in the spring, to periods of shortage, like California in the late summer, are essential to ensure that similar events are avoided as we continue to take significant steps toward deep decarbonization."

Fuel storage in salt caverns is nothing new, but the growing role of hydrogen in decarbonization has reinvigorated interest in the concept. The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve has long stored emergency crude oil inUnderground salt caves on the gulf coastand notes that they cost 10 times less than surface tanks and 20 times less than hard rock mines. The Preserve has 60 massive caverns, typically 200 feet in diameter and 2,500 feet high, and one "big enough to fit inside Chicago's Willis Tower with room to spare."

Caves can be created in salt domes by drilling into the salt dome and injecting water into the rock, which dissolves the salt. The resulting brine is drawn off, leaving a large cavity. The next step is to store hydrogen in the cave. Hydrogen electrolyzers can convert water into hydrogen using renewable energy from solar and other sources. Hydrogen can be stored and converted back into electricity when needed.

Part of the Advanced Clean Energy Storage project will power the adjacent Intermountain Power Project, a coal-fired power plant operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that will convert to hydrogen and natural gas, which produce nearly half of the carbon in the world. world. carbon dioxide, by 2025. It is scheduled to be all green hydrogen by 2045. If the initial phase of the project is successful, the large capacity of the salt dome could be further exploited.

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“The formation has the potential to create up to 100 caves, each capable of storing 150,000 MWh of energy,” Browning says. "It would take 40,000 battery containers to store that much energy in each cavern."

European ambitions

Despite its storage potential, low operating cost, and the fact that the underground distribution of salt is well known, only a handful of salt caverns have been created to store hydrogen. However, the concept is rapidly gaining ground in Europe, where theThe European Commission sees a greater share of hydrogen in Europe's energy mixfrom less than 2% in 2019 to 13-14% in 2050.

Funded by the German government, thealianza HYPOSof more than 100 companies and institutions intends to build a salt cave in the Central German Chemical Triangle, in Saxony-Anhalt, with around 150,000 MWh of energy from hydrogen generated by wind power. Regulators are now reviewing the plans, and when filling begins in 2023 or 2024, it could be continental Europe's first hydrogen storage cavern, according to Stefan Bergander, HYPOS project manager. Meanwhile, French gas company Teréga and Hydrogène de France have agreed to launch the HyGéo pilot project in an abandoned salt cavern in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France; it will store around 1.5 GWh of energy, enough to power 400 homes for a year.

"Storage underground, in salt caverns, or in porous media (ie, in aquifers or in depleted oil and gas fields) is the only way to handle large storage capacities," says Louis Londe, technical director of Geostock, a French company specialized in underground storage. . "Many hydrogen cavern projects for energy storage are thriving in Europe. Right now they are in the design phase. Not surprisingly, the leading countries are those where salt is most present: Germany, UK, Ireland, France, Netherlands".

Hydrogen can be produced with renewable energy from sources like solar panels and then stored underground in salt caverns for future use.

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Europe has enough salt formations on and off the coast to theoretically store about 85 petawatt hours of hydrogen power, according to afor studypublished this year in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. The number is hypothetical and does not take economics into account, but, for example, 1 PWh of hydrogen is enough to meet current electricity demand in Germany for an entire year, says Dilara Gulcin Caglayan, lead author of the study and a scientist. at the Institute of the German research center Forschungszentrum Jülich's Institute of Energy and Climate Research.

"Our calculations show that without the implementation of hydrogen salt caverns, there is no cost-effective path to achieving our climate goals," says the institute's deputy director, Martin Robinius, a co-author of the study. "By 2040, we'll need a lot of hydrogen salt caverns, but if we don't start building them now, we won't be able to build them at scale to meet those goals."

As part of its goal to be climate neutral by 2050, the European Commission recently produced a hydrogen roadmap which states that large-scale and rapid deployment of clean hydrogen is key for the European Union to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect by at least half by 2030. , adding that "investment in hydrogen will promote sustainable growth and employment, which will be essential in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis."

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"The storage issue is obviously key to the energy transition and in this sense hydrogen and hydrogen technologies have a fundamental role to play," said Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Secretary General of Hydrogen Europe, an alliance of around 250 companies. and research organizations. . that requested investment in the recovery of Covid-19 from€55 billion($65 billion) in salt cavern storage by 2030 to build 3 million metric tons of hydrogen capacity.

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What are 4 challenges that face us in using hydrogen as a fuel on a widespread basis? ›

What are the Disadvantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
  • Hydrogen Extraction. ...
  • Investment is Required. ...
  • Cost of Raw Materials. ...
  • Regulatory Issues. ...
  • Overall Cost. ...
  • Hydrogen Storage. ...
  • Infrastructure. ...
  • Highly Flammable.

What is the main challenges of hydrogen energy now? ›

Current technology and infrastructure limitations make green hydrogen production roughly 10 times as expensive as natural gas production – a non-starter for consumers. Electrolyzers are scarce, and the renewable energy required to make the process carbon free remains limited.

Why is the demand for hydrogen increasing? ›

This is because the possible uses for hydrogen are expanding across multiple sectors including power generation, manufacturing processes in industries such as steelmaking and cement production, fuel cells for electric vehicles, heavy transport such as shipping, green ammonia production for fertilizers, cleaning ...

Why do people think that hydrogen gas could be the fuel of the future? ›

One key benefit of hydrogen is the ease at which it can be stored, shipped, and used. This means that countries with little space for wind and solar equipment will still be able to benefit from carbon-free energy. Energy companies are constantly finding effective ways to store and harness the potential of hydrogen.

Is hydrogen a good investment in 2022? ›

The pipeline of hydrogen projects is continuing to grow, but actual deployment is lagging. In 2022 some 680 large-scale hydrogen project proposals, equivalent to USD 240 billion in direct investment through 2030, have been put forward – an investment increase of 50% since November 2021.

Why is hydrogen the future of energy? ›

Hydrogen can produce energy in two ways. Hydrogen is combustible and so can be used in an internal combustion engine. Or it can mix with oxygen in a so-called fuel cell to produce electricity and steam as its exhaust gas. That electricity, in turn, can power a motor to run a car or a truck.

What are 3 disadvantages of hydrogen? ›

The disadvantages of using hydrogen as fuel
  • If it is “grey”, it pollutes. If it is not produced using renewable sources, hydrogen pollutes. ...
  • It is a gas that is difficult to handle. ...
  • It is less advantageous than electric power for cars.
Jul 18, 2022

What are the two main problems with hydrogen fuel? ›

Hydrogen burns nearly invisibly, and people have unwittingly stepped into hydrogen flames. Hydrogen can cause many metals, including the carbon steel widely used in gas pipelines, to become brittle. In addition, any high-pressure storage tank presents a risk of rupture.


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