As the world embarks on a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, hydrogen has emerged as a crucial component of the clean energy mix. Storage of hydrogen is a pivotal component of a stable and reliable energy supply and will rely especially on vast underground caverns. On the European landscape, Vallourec is playing a major role in almost every salt cavern hydrogen storage project as part of its Vallourec® New Energies strategy.
The rise of hydrogen energy is fueled by its diverse applications across various sectors, making it a pivotal player in the global pursuit of decarbonization. Serving as a versatile solution when finding utility in industrial processes, transportation, and energy storage, hydrogen presents unparalleled potential to reshape the energy landscape.
More than 50 countries are now implementing hydrogen strategies, this is a great indicator of the global importance of hydrogen. We estimate that the global hydrogen market today is around €150 billion, and that’s going to rise significantly in the near term.Vincent Designolle Hydrogen Director at Vallourec® New Energies
Despite this positive outlook, the current challenge lies in the fact that less than 5% of today’s hydrogen can be considered clean and low-carbon. “One of the low-hanging fruits in this battle is replacing gray hydrogen with green or low-carbon alternatives,” Vincent says. “It’s an area that our teams at Vallourec have focused our attention on.”
As hydrogen energy is increasingly produced cleanly, the question arises: where to store it all? “Hydrogen storage is of the utmost importance,” Vincent says. “When you look at natural gas, already 10-15% goes through underground facilities. It could be even more with hydrogen, considering variabilities in production by electrolysis, but even taking lower assumptions imply very large storage needs! This is where we come in.”
With numerous projects now emerging to meet the rise of hydrogen, the development of storage solutions for salt caverns, as well as the mastery of technical challenges, is crucial.
Hydrogen storage poses unique challenges, these are primarily related to leakage risks and material compatibility. Given the element's small molecular size, hydrogen is more prone to leaking compared to other gases.Justine Bernard Hydrogen Storage Technical Manager for Vallourec
Another complexity is that steel, commonly used in traditional energy applications, can be susceptible to embrittlement when in contact with hydrogen.
To overcome these challenges, Vallourec leverages both its deep expertise in metallurgy and its rigorous R&D testing of steel grades to withstand exposure to the element. The result: the validation of specialized materials and connections tailored explicitly for hydrogen environments.
Vallourec is committed to support the development of underground storage projects, being repurposing of salt caverns, the creation of new caverns where, Vallourec is already supplying tubing used for the leaching and debrining operations during construction of a new salt cavern, or even new storages in porous media like aquifers and depleted fields.
We are ready for the numerous upcoming hydrogen storage projects across Europe, as well as in other regions of the world. Leveraging our tested and proven products, we are proud to be at the forefront of this crucial energy transition to decarbonization. We are also bringing this expertise to the development of our vertical storage solution, which uses similar technology to provide safe and compact solutions for onsite storage for hydrogen producers and users.Vincent Designolle Hydrogen Director at Vallourec® New Energies
To fortify its commitment, the Group unveiled Vallourec® New Energies, a new strategic outlook and roadmap to best support collaboration across all renewable energy projects. This strategy fosters the development of Vallourec’s cutting-edge solutions for hydrogen, carbon capture and geothermal energy, while streamlining the tender process for prospective renewable energy ventures. Hydrogen storage thus plays a major role in Vallourec’s strategy for the future of the energy transition.
Vallourec’s unwavering dedication to industry leading hydrogen storage solutions solidifies its leadership in this transformative industry, particularly across Europe. As other markets, like the US and South America, begin to catch up, Vallourec’s experts are ready to offer their expertise, particularly in the evolving landscape where demands for distributed local storages and vertical solutions are growing.
With hydrogen assuming its rightful place in the global energy landscape, Vallourec remains committed to pioneering cleaner and more sustainable solutions, contributing to the collective goal of a greener future.