The Dutch subsurface is suitable and has sufficient potential for the development of large-scale energy storage in the form of hydrogen and compressed air. This is one of the key findings of the research conducted by TNO with partners EBN, Gasunie, Gasterra, NAM and Nouryon in the project "Large Scale Energy Storage in Salt Caverns and Depleted Fields" (LSES). 

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Large-Scale Energy Storage in Salt Caverns and Depleted Fields: Project Findings

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Both forms of storage are already being used in some parts in the world, but not yet in the Netherlands. The results of the LSES project give a clearer picture of the amount of subsurface energy storage that will be needed in the future Dutch energy system and which challenges remain for further development (pilots, demonstrations) towards market implementation.

Why energy storage?

Further development of large-scale subsurface energy storage is essential for a robust, reliable and affordable energy system because it provides essential flexibility services to ensure security of energy supply. These services include solutions for balancing unavoidable daily to seasonal variations in supply and demand, and provision of strategic energy reserves.

FROM RESEARCH TO MARKET

To bring large-scale subsurface energy storage closer to market-readiness, steps must be taken in several areas (technology, market participation, legislation and regulation, social embedding). The LSES project addressed key technical, economic, legal and social challenges affecting the market implementation of large-scale subsurface energy storage, and identified the risks associated with using the subsurface to store energy in the form of hydrogen or compressed air.

The LSES project contributes to the accumulation of knowledge, required to safely and reliably develop and implement large-scale subsurface energy storage. It also connects industry, government and market players, and creates synergies with developments in adjacent research areas such as hydrogen production, smart energy systems, energy system integration, development of infrastructure for energy transport.

What did the Research reveal?

The results show that in a robust, reliable and cost-efficient energy system in 2050, 17-22 TWh of hydrogen should be stored in the subsurface annually, 20-25% of the total demand. We also see that small-scale storage of electricity in electric car batteries will play a major role in 2050 (around 30 TWh).

Large-scale storage of electricity, for example in the form of compressed air in salt caverns, can play an important role in stabilising the electricity grid, in shifting the use of sustainably generated electricity forward in time (so that it is not lost), and in providing electricity when other electricity production is temporarily lost.

The Dutch subsurface offers sufficient potential for the development of large-scale energy storage in the form of hydrogen (tens if not hundreds of TWhs) and compressed air (several hundred GWhs).

The challenges for the development of subsurface hydrogen storage in the Netherlands are mainly related to the risks of the interaction of hydrogen with rocks, fluids and micro-organisms in reservoirs, and the long-term effects of cyclic loading and exposure to hydrogen on well materials.

For compressed air storage, there are economic challenges related to the stacking of service revenues to different markets. In addition, for both forms, regulatory barriers must be overcome.

Finally, for the social acceptance of these forms of subsurface energy storage, it is very important that stakeholders (especially the local community) are involved well before, during and after the decision-making process surrounding new initiatives, and that the new development brings them not just burdens but also benefits.

Results and Reports

The main findings of the research are summarized in the “LSES PROJECT FINDINGS” report. The detailed results of the research are described in four English-language reports (published in the end of 2021), one for each of the themes below. 

1. Analysis of the role of large-scale storage in the future Dutch energy system: how big will the demand for large-scale storage become in the period 2020-2050, and where in our energy system (geographically) will storage be needed?

Download: The role of large-scale energy storage in the energy systems of the Netherlands 2030-2050

2. Techno-economic modelling (performance, costs, revenue models) of large-scale energy storage systems, focusing on hydrogen and compressed air energy storage in salt caverns, and hydrogen storage in depleted gas fields (analogous to natural gas storage).

Download: Techno-Economic Modelling of Large-Scale Energy Storage Systems

3. Assessment of current policy frameworks, laws and regulations, and market forces and how they support or limit the deployment of large-scale energy storage, and investigation of social embedding.

Download: Legal and societal embeddedness of large-scale energy storage

4. Identify risks associated with the use of the subsurface for storing energy in the form of hydrogen or compressed air.

Download: Inventory of risks associated with underground storage of compressed air (CAES) and hydrogen (UHS), and qualitative comparison of risks of UHS vs. underground storage of natural gas (UGS)

Partners

This project has been financed with subsidies from the Netherland Enterprise Agency (RVO) and with contributions from industry. The University of Utrecht and GovernEUR (a department of Erasmus University) contributed to the third research theme of the project.

Would you like to know more about large-scale, reliable and sustainable underground energy storage?

Get in contact with Remco Groenenberg

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