Dutch gas giant begins storing hydrogen in underground salt cavern

Operated by Gasunie, the underground storage facility is located near Veendam in the province of Groningen and should be fully operational in 2026. Tests will be run until spring 2022.

September 21, 2021

Dutch natural gas infrastructure and transportation company Gasunie has begun storing hydrogen at its underground storage facility at Zuidwending, near Veendam in the Netherlands’ northeastern province of Groningen.

“Underground hydrogen storage in salt caverns is a safe, efficient and reliable way to store large quantities of energy, also for a longer period of time,” the company said in a statement. “The Zuidwending site in the province of Groningen offers unique conditions for preparing large-scale hydrogen storage for the envisaged development of the hydrogen market.”

The Dutch gas provider explained that it is injecting hydrogen into the cavern over a six-week period and that further tests will be run from November to spring 2022. “The pressure was gradually increased to more than 200 bar,” it specified. “Materials and components required for gas storage were also assessed for their suitability for hydrogen storage.”

If the testing phase is successful, the company plans to make the cavern fully operational by 2026. An investment decision is expected to be made next year. Eventually, Gasunie will build four caverns by 2030, which would bring the site’s total capacity to up to 4 GW. “However, Gasunie will have to make pre-investments,” it added. “Among other things, the necessary infrastructure must be ready for an end situation with four salt caverns.” Gasunie added that, in order to use a cavern for storage, large volumes of hydrogen are needed as “cushion gas” to allow the technology to work properly. “In both cases, these are costs that cannot be recovered immediately,” it added.

Gasunie is also part of a Dutch consortium that aims to create a hydrogen exchange market in the Netherlands.

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A recent study by the Jülich Institute for Energy and Climate Research (IEK-3) stated that salt caverns offer a flexible, efficient option for hydrogen storage. The research group estimated that Europe has the technical potential to store 84.8 PWh of hydrogen in bedded salt deposits and salt domes.

Most of the continent’s salt caverns, on and offshore, are in Northern Europe. Germany accounts for the largest share, followed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and Poland. There are other sites in Romania, France, Spain and Portugal.

The IEK-3 researchers said the proximity of the caverns to the coast is helpful, as brine disposal remains economical up to 50 km from the sea. The caverns in the Carresse-Cassaber area of southwestern France, planned for the HyGéo project, are around 48 km from the coast.

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