16/02/2021 - Renewables
by Vincent Designolle, Guillaume Néel and Florian Thébault
Renewable hydrogen has a central role to play in the energy transition, with enormous potential to help carbon-heavy industry shift towards clean, alternative energy. However, the hydrogen supply chain is still developing, and questions remain around the feasibility of large-scale hydrogen storage in countries worldwide. In an effort to identify potential areas for hydrogen storage, and provide safe, cost-effective storage solutions, Vallourec is lending its expertise to the landmark HyStorIES project.
Industry players around the world are increasingly turning to hydrogen as a potential source of green energy. Hydrogen is a stable chemical energy carrier with the highest energy content by weight of any fuel and is a zero-carbon fuel source when produced renewably. This makes developing and scaling up the hydrogen value chain a top priority for carbon-heavy sectors, such as transportation and heavy industry.
A key aspect of the renewable hydrogen supply chain that remains underexplored is hydrogen storage. The only large-scale solution for hydrogen storage to date is underground salt caverns, a practice that has existed since the 1970s. However, salt caverns are an uncommon geological feature, appearing mostly in Northern Europe, Africa and parts of North America. This leaves large swaths of the globe without access to crucial storage areas, limiting their ability to develop hydrogen storage projects and accelerate their transition to clean fuels.
Exploring new hydrogen storage areas
The HyStorIES project – part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 initiative – aims to go beyond salt caverns, exploring alternative subsurface solutions for hydrogen storage. Spearheaded by Geostock Group, the two-year project brings together a range of global energy providers, materials experts, engineers, equipment manufacturers and researchers, including experts from Vallourec. Their goal is to determine the feasibility of storing hydrogen in aquifers and depleted oil and gas fields, identifying challenges and opportunities associated with these subsurface areas.
The first phase of the project, which focuses on geological and technical challenges, began in January 2021 with the selection of relevant testing sites. This is being followed by an assessment of the hydrodynamic and chemical issues related to the injection of hydrogen into aquifers and depleted oil and gas wells. Experts will analyze the microbial processes associated with underground storage, classifying different techniques and determining the H2-stimulation potential of bacteria. Materials experts will then evaluate tubing and casing materials, determining the best equipment for avoiding corrosion, and ensuring safety and integrity in the pressurized, potentially dangerous environment of hydrogen storage.
The second phase of the HyStorIES project will determine the economic potential of having underground renewable hydrogen storage throughout Europe. A model of Europe’s future energy system will be developed, accounting for renewable energy demand, regulatory concerns, and the availability of hydrogen production, storage and distribution technologies. Using data from the first phase, experts will be able to provide a detailed ranking of safe, cost-effective geological sites suited to hydrogen storage to the European Commission.
Vallourec steps in with key expertise
In January, Vallourec became a member of the advisory board for the HyStorIES project, with participants joining from our Paris headquarters and our R&D center in northern France. We will be a key partner for Geostock, as well as Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria, which will be in charge of the technical work package. Vallourec will provide particular expertise for the materials and corrosion assessment stage of the project. Our experts have longstanding experience working with steels and metal, and are familiar with their reactions to hydrogen, including souring, embrittlement, fatigue and gas permeation.
We will also provide tubing and casing samples for Phase I of the project, helping determine the grade and type of materials required for safe renewable hydrogen storage. As a longtime supplier of tubes for the energy and renewables markets, Vallourec has previous experience providing solutions for hydrogen projects, including underground storage in salt caverns. Our products and solutions provide a unique combination of high performance under extreme pressure, resilience in complex environments and long-term safety and reliability.
Furthermore, Vallourec’s involvement in the HyStorIES project will help us solidify our efforts to develop and scale up the use of renewable hydrogen. We believe that hydrogen will be a crucial energy source for accelerating the energy transition and achieving a low-carbon economy across Europe and worldwide. Our goal is to help complete the hydrogen supply chain, ensuring that alternative solutions for underground hydrogen storage are safe, efficient and cost-effective.
Vincent joined Vallourec in 2017 as Strategy Director. In 2020 he joined the Energy Transition Office as Hydrogen Cluster Director, heading up Vallourec’s business development in emerging hydrogen markets. A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique and Mines Paristech, Vincent worked for nine years at the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance and the Ministry of the Environment in roles ranging from industrial safety to pollution control and market regulation.
As Metallurgy and Corrosion Group Leader for OCTG, Guillaume is at the crossroads of Vallourec’s M&D and R&D teams and production sites worldwide. Having worked for the Group since 2007, Guillaume has held various roles, including process and production engineer, industrialization and rolling mill process coordinator, and R&D project manager for Chromium and CRA materials. He is a senior expert with experience in pipe manufacturing processes and material selection for downhole applications.
Florian is a Principal Corrosion Engineer at Vallourec Research Center in France with more than ten years’ experience on the cracking resistance of steels in hydrogenating environments for linepipe and OCTG applications. He joined Vallourec Group in 2008 after completing a PhD in Corrosion Science and a master’s degree at ESIREM. Florian is involved in standardization working groups at NACE International and with the corrosion committee of European Pipeline Research Group (EPRG).