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Technical potential of salt caverns for hydrogen storage in Europe

: Caglayan, D.G.; Weber, N.; Heinrichs, H.U.; Linßen, J.; Robinius, M.; Kukla, P.A.; Stolten, D.


International journal of hydrogen energy 45 (2020), Nr.11, S. 6793-6805
ISSN: 0360-3199
Fraunhofer IEG ()
Salt caverns; Salt structures; Technical storage potential; Hydrogen storage

The role of hydrogen in a future energy system with a high share of variable renewable energy sources (VRES) is regarded as crucial in order to balance fluctuations in electricity generation. These fluctuations can be compensated for by flexibility measures such as the expansion of transmission, flexible generation, larger back-up capacity and storage. Salt cavern storage is the most promising technology due to its large storage capacity, followed by pumped hydro storage. For the underground storage of chemical energy carriers such as hydrogen, salt caverns offer the most promising option owing to their low investment cost, high sealing potential and low cushion gas requirement. This paper provides a suitability assessment of European subsurface salt structures in terms of size, land eligibility and storage capacity. Two distinct cavern volumes of 500,000 m3 and 750,000 m3 are considered, with preference being given for salt caverns over bedded salt deposits and salt domes. The storage capacities of individual caverns are estimated on the basis of thermodynamic considerations based on site-specific data. The results are analyzed using three different scenarios: onshore and offshore salt caverns, only onshore salt caverns and only onshore caverns within 50 km of the shore. The overall technical storage potential across Europe is estimated at 84.8 PWhH2, 27% of which constitutes only onshore locations. Furthermore, this capacity decreases to 7.3 PWhH2 with a limitation of 50 km distance from shore. In all cases, Germany has the highest technical storage potential, with a value of 9.4 PWhH2, located onshore only in salt domes in the north of the country. Moreover, Norway has 7.5 PWhH2 of storage potential for offshore caverns, which are all located in the subsurface of the North Sea Basin.