Ukraine has excellent opportunities for storing hydrogen underground

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership

Ukraine has great opportunities for underground hydrogen storage, according to Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, during his speech at the online conference "Development of Hydrogen Technologies in the World. New Opportunities" on February 21, 2023.

The Clean Hydrogen Partnership combines the European Commission, around 500 industrial members represented by Hydrogen Europe, and 112 European research institutions represented by Hydrogen Europe Research, who work together towards the ambitious goal of making Europe the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To achieve this goal, the Partnership focuses its activities on supporting scientific research and innovation (R&I) in the development of hydrogen technologies in Europe.

According to Bart Biebuyck, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership is significantly guided by the EU Hydrogen Strategy and policy development in this context, which facilitates its implementation. Furthermore, the Partnership addresses informing the general public about the prospects of this field and supporting innovation in the development of clean hydrogen technologies in Europe.

"Our goals, in addition to implementing projects within our strategy, include conducting research on issues related to hydrogen production, distribution, and storage. This includes a significant focus on the operation of refueling stations, transportation and storage of hydrogen, as well as the use of hydrogen in various industrial sectors. Questions related to training, education, and safety also play an important role in our activities," said Bart Biebuyck.

The European Commission plays the role of a chief expert and financier of scientific research projects. In particular, 1.08 billion euros have already been allocated to research programs, half of which is from the EU Commission's support budget.

The amount of funding for new projects in 2023 has already been determined: it is almost 200 million euros. And, as Mr. Bart Biebuyck emphasized, if Ukrainian research institutes are interested and find partners for a consortium, they have the opportunity to submit their proposals by April 18.

During his report, the Executive Director of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership also touched on the "Hydrogen Valley" project, in which Ukraine has already participated. 58 hydrogen valleys have been identified, but the war in Ukraine has slowed down further plans. 

According to the project, "Hydrogen Valley" Energy of the Steppe of the Eastern European Association for the Development of the Hydrogen Economy, annual generation of 203 GW of electricity with its subsequent conversion into hydrogen in the amount of 9.1 million tons is planned in five southern regions of Ukraine. According to the plan, Ukraine will be able not only to export hydrogen to the EU but also to use it for the development of its own hydrogen economy. The total amount of necessary investments in the Ukrainian "hydrogen valley" is estimated at 73 billion euros.

The head of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership is confident that Ukraine should be more actively involved in promising research projects. One of them concerns the issue of hydrogen storage. Currently, gas for Europe's needs is stored in underground gas storage facilities. Since replacing natural gas with environmentally friendly hydrogen is a matter of time and is already in the near future, today solutions need to be found for its further storage. As an option, scientists are studying the issue of using developed gas fields for this purpose. Thus, European needs for gas storage in winter can be satisfied on European territories.

But researchers are not stopping there. HyUSPRe has studied the possibility of using salt mines for hydrogen storage, and the results so far are quite optimistic. According to Bart Biebuyck, the French Hypster project specifically involves storing hydrogen in salt mines. Currently, the possibility of injecting hydrogen into caverns and underground salt tunnels is being studied. The task now is to understand how fluctuations in hydrogen injection will affect the underground structures and to determine the projected cost of such storage. Preliminary conclusions indicate a cost of 40 cents per kilogram of stored hydrogen, while the goal was not to exceed a cost of 1 euro per kilogram. Thus, this project is quite interesting, not only in European countries.

"Ukraine has great opportunities for storing hydrogen underground. And we are waiting for the opportunity to work with Ukraine in this direction," concluded Bart Biebuyck. These natural storage facilities must be utilized, so Ukraine can become not only a source of hydrogen production and supply to Europe but also a country for its storage.