THP-E305: Sandia National Labs Makes Critical Breakthrough In Hydrogen Storage. And Digital Twins Utilization Efforts Underway.

Paul Rodden • Season: 2024 • Episode: 305

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Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 305, Sandia National Labs may be making a critical breakthrough in hydrogen storage and digital twins are being utilized for hydrogen development in Appalachia. I’ll go over all of this and give my thoughts on today’s hydrogen podcast.

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Paul Rodden



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Start Here: The 6 Main Colors of Hydrogen


Sandia National Labs may be making a critical breakthrough in hydrogen storage and digital twins are being utilized for hydrogen development in Appalachia. I’ll go over all of this and give my thoughts on today’s hydrogen podcast. So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen in this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen Podcast. In a press release on April 9, Sandia studies subterranean storage of hydrogen. Imagine a vast volume of porous sandstone reservoir, once full of oil and natural gas, now full of a different, carbon-free fuel — hydrogen. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are using computer simulations and laboratory experiments to see if depleted oil and natural gas reservoirs can be used for storing this carbon-free fuel. Hydrogen is an important clean fuel: It can be made by splitting water using solar or wind power, it can be used to generate electricity and power heavy industry, and it could be used to power fuel-cell-based vehicles. Additionally, hydrogen could be stored for months and used when energy needs outpace the supply delivered by renewable energy sources. “Hydrogen would be good for seasonal and long-term storage,” said Sandia chemical engineer Tuan Ho, who is leading the research. “If you think of solar energy, in the summer you can produce a lot of electricity, but you don’t need a lot for heating. The excess can be turned into hydrogen and stored until winter.” However, hydrogen contains much less “bang” in a set volume than carbon-based fuels such as natural gas or propane and is much more difficult to compress, Ho said. This means storing huge amounts of hydrogen in metal tanks on the surface is just not feasible, he added. Hydrogen can be stored underground in salt caverns, but salt deposits are not widespread across the U.S., said Don Conley, the manager for Sandia’s underground hydrogen storage work. Therefore, Ho’s team is studying if hydrogen stored in depleted oil and gas reservoirs will get stuck in the rock, leak out, or get contaminated. Ho’s team recently shared their findings in a paper published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. First, Ho’s team studied if hydrogen would get stuck in the sandstone or shale that forms the body and seal around many oil and gas reservoirs or leak out. Sandstone is composed of sand-sized grains of minerals and rocks that have been compressed over eons; sandstone has a lot of gaps between particles and thus can store water in aquifers or form oil and gas reservoirs. Shale is mud compressed into rock and is made up of much smaller particles of clay-rich minerals. Thus, shale can form a seal around sandstone, trapping oil and natural gas. according “You want the hydrogen to stay where you inject it,” Ho said. “You don’t want it to migrate away from the storage zone and get lost. That’s just a waste of money, which is a big concern for any storage facility.” Ho’s collaborators at the University of Oklahoma used experiments to study how hydrogen interacts with samples of sandstone and shale. They found that hydrogen does not stay inside sandstone after it is pumped out, but up to 10% of the adsorbed gas got stuck inside the shale sample, Ho said. These results were confirmed by Ho’s computer simulations. Taking a closer look at a specific type of clay that is common in the shale around oil and gas reservoirs, Ho conducted computer simulations of the molecular interactions between layers of montmorillonite clay, water and hydrogen. He found that hydrogen does not prefer to go into the watery gaps between mineral layers of that kind of clay. This means that the loss of hydrogen in clay due to getting stuck or moving through it would be tiny, Ho said. This is quite positive for underground storage of hydrogen. These findings on clay were published last year in the journal Sustainable Energy and Fuels. Additional absorption experiments are being conducted at Stevens Institute of Technology and the University of Oklahoma to confirm the molecular simulation results, Ho said. Using both experiments and simulation, Ho’s team found that residual natural gas can be released from the rock into the hydrogen when hydrogen is injected into a depleted natural gas reservoir. This means that when the hydrogen is removed for use, it will contain a small amount of natural gas, Ho said. “That’s not terrible because natural gas still has energy, but it contains carbon, so when this hydrogen is burned, it will produce a small amount of carbon dioxide,” Ho said. “It’s something we need to be aware of.” Ho’s team, principally Sandia postdoctoral researcher Aditya Choudhary, is currently studying the effects of hydrogen on a depleted oil reservoir and how leftover oil might contaminate or interact with hydrogen gas using both molecular simulations and experiments. The findings from Ho’s research can be used to inform and guide large field-scale tests of underground hydrogen storage, said Conley, the manager for Sandia’s portion of the Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage, and Technology Acceleration project. The SHASTA project plans to conduct such a field-scale test in the future to demonstrate the feasibility of depleted oil and natural gas reservoirs for hydrogen storage, he added. Additional research is needed to understand how microorganisms and other chemicals in depleted petroleum reservoirs might interact with stored hydrogen, Ho said. “If we want to create a hydrogen economy, we really need widely distributed means of storing large quantities of hydrogen,” Conley said. “Storage in salt is excellent where it exists, but it can’t be the sole option. So, we’re turning to depleted oil and gas reservoirs and aquifers as more geologically distributed means of storing large quantities of hydrogen. It’s all in the name of decarbonizing the energy sector.” The project is funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Okay, so a major study to determine the potential of storing hydrogen in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. And if this study does find that shale plays have a potential for storing hydrogen, this is just another example of how the legacy oil and gas players can leverage their knowledge of gas injection for reservoir stimulation. I would think this would be very similar to huff and puff practices with miscible gas injections. And if that is the case, then this would be a clear win for all hydrogen developers needing storage options, as well as leaseholders for depleted oil and gas fields. Looking to generate additional income after the source rock has been depleted. Next, in a press release on April 8, AVEVA’s Powerful EPC 4.0 Solutions to Drive Digital Twin for Clean Hydrogen Project. AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software driving digital transformation and sustainability, today announced a strategic partnership with Newpoint Trillium Management, LLC (Trillium) creating a digital twin for their clean hydrogen and manufacturing projects to reindustrialize the former Department of Energy sites in Ohio and Kentucky as well as projects throughout Central Appalachia. Trillium has selected the AVEVA Connect platform and series of EPC 4.0 solutions to create one unified, data-centric approach in the cloud. With EPC 4.0, engineering data is stored in a single trusted data hub in the cloud, entire processes can be tracked in a digital environment from the engineering and design stage to procurement and construction, through the final handover, and into operations and maintenance as the data core for the Digital Twin for an operating plant. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Newpoint Trillium as they launch their pioneering approach to this integrated hydrogen project,” said Noel Phillips, Senior Vice President of the Americas at AVEVA. “By using proven process technologies and recognized digital best practices, this innovative project approach exemplifies what’s possible with today’s digital tools to realize a more efficient project lifecycle that minimizes risk, raises efficiency, and advances our collective sustainability journey.” A cloud-hosted, data-centric strategy provides a single platform around which all engineering disciplines and stakeholders can align. By integrating all engineering tools, users have access to a unified viewpoint ensuring project delivery is more efficient and transparent during every step of the project. Teams can better collaborate, and risks are identified earlier in the process and mitigated. “A commitment to developing a robust Digital Twin from the engineering stage all the way through operations and maintenance has been a central tenet of our development philosophy from our earliest days. AVEVA, and parent company Schneider Electric have been terrific partners through the preliminary phases of project development, working with us to help crystallize our vision,” said Rich Hamilton, CEO of Newpoint Trillium Management, LLC. “Moving forward, we envision a relationship that grows and strengthens just as our projects do. We are convinced that this partnership with AVEVA and our overall digital strategy are key levers to the success of our projects as we work hard to bring jobs to Central Appalachia.” This $1.5B venture will establish a world-class 500 metric tons per day decarbonized clean hydrogen production, sustainable power generation, and closed-loop manufacturing complex in the Central Appalachia region of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Technology and project development is being spearheaded by Trillium. Working together with economic development organizations throughout SE Ohio, NE Kentucky, and SW West Virginia, Trillium is determining the final site for our first project. Poised to drive significant economic growth and provide a blueprint of sustainable industrial development, the initiative marks a pivotal moment in the reindustrialization efforts for the region. Building on more than a decade of planning and development efforts, Trillium will create more than 1,900 jobs during its construction phase and generate over $346 million in local economic impact. The long-term vision includes the addition of 237 operations and maintenance jobs, contributing nearly $200 million annually to the regional economy. Okay, so a great collaboration between Aveva and Trillium as they leverage digital twins for their hydrogen developments. Now, I’ve been talking about using digital twin technology for several years as an amazing tool to mitigate risk, increase project transparency, and identify potential weak points before construction ever begins. All helping to drive down project costs, and improve overall economics. I really do love seeing that technology being leveraged here. And I hope to hear great things in the future from this collaboration. All right, that’s it for me, everyone. If you have a second, I would really appreciate it. If you could leave a good review on whatever platform it is that you listen to Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, YouTube, whatever it is, that would be a tremendous help to the show. And as always, if you ever have any feedback, you’re welcome to email me directly at So until next time, keep your eyes up and honor one another. Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did and want to hear more. I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.