Sandia Labs: Underground Geologic Formations Hold Future Of Hydrogen Storage

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
sandia labs underground geologic formations hold future of hydrogen storage

Part of hydrogen becoming a viable energy option in the United States is infrastructure, which isn’t much at present. Should business pick up, however, hydrogen would need to be stored as cheaply as possible to facilitate greater adoption.

Sandia Labs suggests storing hydrogen in salt and other underground geologic formations over above-ground tanks, as the latter costs three to five times more than simply tossing the gas down a cavern. Volume also plays a role, as underground structures are quite roomy over a pressurized tank near a fueling station, and such structures can be linked to electrical grids through electrolyzer systems, as well.

For this idea to be a success, the laboratory looked at salt caverns in four locations to determine permeability amid peak summer demand. It found that 10 percent above average demand over 120 days would be best. Further, salt was chosen over other geological formations in the first place, as the mineral is best at keeping hydrogen molecules from leaking out.

The main limitation is quantity: there are few salt formations in the U.S. to store the fuel. Thus, other options will need to be considered for a comprehensive national hydrogen reserve to happen.

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13 of 27 comments
  • FormerFF FormerFF on Dec 11, 2014

    Figure out how to make the stuff first.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Dec 11, 2014

    Expect this no sooner than 2050. They will need EPA approval, after all. And, what if....

    • See 8 previous
    • JimC2 JimC2 on Dec 14, 2014

      @shaker "When running on CNG, a gasoline engine loses about 20% of its power..." While true, in this era of 200-300hp family sedans, I don't think this is an issue. "... and efficiency." Actually, I think the efficiency is comparable. If you're talking the range on one fill-up, well, yes, the range of a family car on one gas cylinder (or two, or three) is less than the 400+ mile range we've grown accustomed to on one tank of gasoline.

  • Makuribu Makuribu on Dec 11, 2014

    This is all part of a hydrogen economy fantasy industry that's been burning through money (as if it's a limitless resource) for years. Hydrogen is the smallest atom, and H2 is the smallest molecule in the universe. It is devilishly hard to contain, it finds leaks easily. Rock formations are porous, and even salt caverns have cracks.

  • Shaker Shaker on Dec 11, 2014

    They should be thinking about pumping CO2 into those caverns - oh, wait... No money in that.