How to build a hydrogen ecosystem

How to build a hydrogen ecosystem

While we enjoy sharing stories about how hydrogen is revolutionising transport, industry, and energy (plus the occasional hydrogen-fuelled sports car) it is also vital that we talk about the less glamorous end of the business.

The hydrogen economy will be enabled by companies that produce, transport and store clean hydrogen at scale. While hydrogen storage may be at the bottom of many people’s lists of concerns, it is a vital part of the infrastructure that will enable us to enjoy hydrogen-powered buses, slash the carbon footprint of steel and chemicals production, and store renewable energy.

The importance of storage has not escaped RWE, Germany’s largest energy utility, which is developing a new facility at Gronau, between Hamburg and Frankfurt, to be completed by 2027. Most of the project will be built at RWE’s site at Kottiger Hook and includes a salt cavern.

The connection of the cavern to the above-ground facility as well as connection to a future hydrogen transport network will be made through pipelines outside the storage site.

The project is part of the GET H2 initiative, which aims to establish a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure in Germany, made up of companies involved in the production, transport, storage and purchase of green hydrogen.

GET H2 has drawn up plans to build a 5,100 km network of hydrogen infrastructure connecting refineries, steelworks, and chemical facilities across Germany.

The hydrogen economy will be enabled by companies that produce, transport and store clean hydrogen at scale.  UK company Ryze Hydrogen specialise in the transportation and distribution of hydrogen to end users.

Fortunately, salt caverns of the kind used to store natural gas are well suited to storing hydrogen, meaning there is already a great deal of capacity ready to be transformed for hydrogen. A salt cavern in Teesside has been used for this purpose for the past 50 years. Other underground storage options, such as depleted porous rock reservoirs and aquifers, are also potential options, according to a recent study.

However, because hydrogen is less dense than natural gas, it requires more space to store than natural gas. Maximum possible hydrogen storage capacity in the 19 EU countries plus Switzerland and the UK using existing gas storage sites could reach 264.7 TWh by 2050, according to GIE, well below the 466.4 TWh that will be needed, based on the ratio of gas storage capacity to estimated demand.

There are alternatives to natural underground facilities, including higher density storage, such as liquid hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia, as this paper explains. However, they all take time to develop.

The bottom line is that we need to start investing in hydrogen storage now, so we can enjoy the tangible benefits of the hydrogen economy tomorrow.

For more information about Ryze Hydrogen click here.

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