EGU General Assembly 2020
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Hydrogen storage in porous media: learnings from analogue storage experiences and knowledge gaps

Juan Alcalde1, Niklas Heinemann2,3, Michelle Bentham4, Cornelia Schmidt-Hattenberger5, and Johannes Miocic6
Juan Alcalde et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera ICTJA-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain (
  • 2University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 3Bonn University, Bonn, Germany
  • 4British Geological Survey, Keyworth, United Kingdom
  • 5GFZ, German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 6Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

Underground hydrogen storage (UHS) in porous media has been proposed as an effective and sustainable energy storage method to balance renewable energy supply and seasonal demand. To determine the potential for and conduct realistic risk assessments of the UHS technology, learnings from more mature underground fluid storage technologies, such as underground storage of natural gas (UGS) or CO2 (UCS), can be used. Here we discuss the caveats related to the use of these technologies as analogues to UHS and highlight current knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in future research to make UHS a secure and efficient technology.

Abiotic and biotic reactions between the rock and the fluids, often not considered in UCS and UGS operations, play an important role in UHS and can change the chemical environment in the reservoir dramatically. The mineralogy of the reservoir and cap rocks, as well as the in-situ pore fluid chemistry, is of vital importance and the characterisation efforts should not be limited to the reservoir quality.

The risk assessment of UHS operation may follow similar production cycles as in UGS, but there are important lessons to be learnt from UCS. UCS aims to store injected gas permanently and different CO2 trapping mechanisms are contributing to storage security. Residual trapping, which locks parts of the CO2 within the pore space, may reduce the commercial profitability in UHS, but can assist to mitigate potential leakage of hydrogen. The dissolution of hydrogen in the pore water will likely play a minor role in UHS compared to UCS, while the precipitation of minerals containing hydrogen during UHS has not yet been appropriately investigated.

The main storage process in gas storage is the accumulation of buoyant fluid underneath a low-permeability cap rock in a three-dimensional trap. Storage sites are determined by different parameters: UGS is mainly used in depleted gas fields (hence sites with proven gas storage security), while UCS sites are usually located deeper than 800m for efficiency reasons, under conditions at which CO2 is present as a high-density supercritical phase. None of these restrictions are a pivotal for UHS and a new set of constrains should be formulated specifically designed to the properties of hydrogen. These must involve:

  • The unique properties of hydrogen (high diffusivity and low density and, thus, high buoyancy) require potential storage sites to have well-understood cap rocks with minimal diffusion and capillary leakage risk.
  • A reservoir architecture and heterogeneity that guarantees economically sensible injection and withdrawal rates by choosing sites, which minimise the isolation of hydrogen from the main plume during UHS operations.
  • Site monitoring protocols will also need to be re-evaluated for different scales, as well as for the dynamic properties of hydrogen, such as low density and fluid mobility.

It is certain that leakage along abandoned wells, the main risk for leakage in UCS and UGS, will also pose a risk to the containment of injected hydrogen. Therefore, hydrogen storage site locations require a comprehensive investigation into abandoned and operational (deep) petroleum and (shallow) water exploration and production wells.

How to cite: Alcalde, J., Heinemann, N., Bentham, M., Schmidt-Hattenberger, C., and Miocic, J.: Hydrogen storage in porous media: learnings from analogue storage experiences and knowledge gaps, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19141,, 2020

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