Bureau of Economic Geology


September 1, 2022

1) What is the specific problem this research addresses?

The GeoH2 research program addresses four specific topics: hydrogen storage in porous reservoirs, salt cavern storage, in situ generation of hydrogen, and techno-economic and value chain analysis of hydrogen as a resource. 

Hydrogen storage in porous reservoirs 
The unique properties of hydrogen require an adaptation of existing geological storage technology to account for differences in reservoir storage capacity and integrity and requirements for hydrogen purity. Research activities include reservoir modeling coupled with laboratory experiments to understand the behavior of hydrogen in reservoirs as well as suitability analyses to identify reservoir types and fields that would be appropriate for designing and conducting pilot tests. These, in turn, would lead to potential development in collaboration with industry partners.

Salt cavern storage
Hydrogen storage in salt caverns is a proven technology, but not all salt bodies are the same. Upscaling salt cavern storage to meet greater hydrogen demand requires evaluation and ranking of prospective storage sites in terms of depth and dimension. It also requires characterization of salt deposits for cavern storage on the basis of structural attributes, salt composition, and compositional heterogeneity. Our research addresses domal and layered salt bodies.

In situ generation of hydrogen
Hydrogen can be generated from in situ combustion (ISC) of hydrocarbons. We investigate the potential of ISC for hydrogen generation in the subsurface, which would provide a direct source of hydrogen utilizing thermal energy from hydrocarbon combustion with concurrent reinjection of carbon dioxide (CO2) into nearby reservoirs. Initial research assesses feasibility using reservoir flow and reaction models. Planned research will integrate carbon capture technologies and engineering.

Techno-economic and value chain analysis
Scaling up the hydrogen sector requires a dedicated and developed transportation and storage infrastructure system. We will evaluate the technology options for hydrogen supply, demand, transportation, and storage to develop a system-level understanding to inform preferred options for the fast-emerging value chain. Our models will provide the capability to assess and analyze the interaction between the hydrogen and natural gas value chains, including power utilities as a traditional downstream segment. This work will include pilot systems that link hydrogen production to storage, transportation, and end use.

2) Why is researching this problem important?

Our society needs energy for everything that makes our way of life possible, such as food production, transportation, healthcare and medicine, and entertainment. The energy that we need is also often the source of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere, which drives climate change. GeoH2 research contributes to the establishment of hydrogen as part of a lower-carbon economy. Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be generated from electrolysis of water with electrical power and from reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas. When generated from solar, wind, nuclear, or other non-fossil-fuel-based power, the electrolytic process has a very low carbon footprint. When hydrogen is generated from fossil fuels, coupled carbon capture and storage also provides a reduced carbon footprint. The advantage of hydrogen is that it can be readily transported, stored for days to years, and used for a wide spectrum of purposes including industrial manufacturing, transportation, and backup power generation. 

3) What value will research findings have in terms of

a) furthering related or future research?

Storage of hydrogen is a fundamental part of any value chain for large-scale utilization of hydrogen as an energy carrier. Geological storage affords the means for large-capacity storage in the United States and globally, but research is required to understand how hydrogen behaves in the subsurface. GeoH2 research will enable future research on hydrogen interactions with fluids and minerals and research on developing technologies to measure and monitor hydrogen.

b) benefiting society in general?

As mentioned previously, this research supports provision of lower-carbon energy to meet society’s energy needs while mitigating climate change. The research also potentially supports the creation of hundreds of thousands of hydrogen-economy jobs by 2030.

4) What (if any) unique approaches, processes, or technologies are being employed in this research?

Unique approaches include the development of models for simulating synthetic gas generation and its flow behavior in the subsurface from in situ combustion processes, analytic techniques for gas detection in salt samples, and hydrogen monitoring techniques for field testing.

5) What related publications/information resources of importance are available regarding this area of research?

Heinemann, N., Alcalde, J., Miocic, J. M., Hangx, S. J. T., Kallmeyer, J., and 11 others, 2021, Enabling large-scale hydrogen storage in porous media—the scientific challenges: Energy & Environmental Science, v. 2021, no. 2, p. 853–864, DOI:10.1039/D0EE03536J.

Lord, A. S., Kobos, P. H., and Borns, D. J., 2014, Geologic storage of hydrogen—scaling up to meet city transportation demands: International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, v. 39, no. 28, p. 15570–15582, DOI:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2014.07.121.

U.S. Department of Energy, 2020, “H2@Scale”: Energy.gov, https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/h2scale (accessed July 13, 2022).

figure 1

Map of the hydrogen economy with inputs and outputs.

figure 2

In situ generation of hydrogen.

figure 3

The existing (methane) gas storage and transportation network of the conterminous United States.

figure 4

Chemical and physical processes in hydrogen storage within a depleted reservoir.

Name of Project: GeoH2 

Name of Research Program or IA: Bureau of Economic Geology energy research directorate

Date of project start (if applicable): January 2022

Term of project (if applicable): Not applicable 

Project PI(s): Mark Shuster 

Other key personnel: J.-P. Nicot, Ning Lin, Seyyed Hosseini, Peter Eichhubl, Lorena Moscardelli, Larry Lake, Mojdeh Delshad, Ian Duncan, Bo Ren, Kamy Sepehrnoori, Oliver Duffy, Shuvajit Bhattacharya, Jay Kipper, Tongwei Zhang, Toti Larson

Principal information contact: Mark Shuster 

Email: mark.shuster@beg.utexas.edu 

Telephone: 512-471-7090

Funding source(s): State of Texas, Bureau of Economic Geology

Other key (institutional or business) partners/collaborators: The University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering

Geographic area(s) of study: Texas, applicable throughout the United States

General discipline(s) of study: Energy geoscience, subsurface engineering, and energy economics 

Keywords (for search returns): Hydrogen energy, salt caverns, depleted reservoirs, gas storage, hydrogen economics

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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