Massive underground battery in Utah to use hydrogen fuel to store power

Massive underground battery in Utah to use hydrogen fuel to store power

January 18, 2024 5 By Julie Campbell

A small town in the state will be a part of a unique new plan for the H2 production as clean energy.

Just outside Delta, Utah, there is a small one-stoplight town that will soon be home to a massive underground battery that will use hydrogen fuel for storing excess energy.

The project is part of a broader plan to produce a clean form of energy that can be stored in caverns.

The idea is to make it possible to produce carbon-free energy that can be stored in caverns so that it can be cleanly used to generate electricity when it is needed. In essence, it will be a massive battery that will be stored underground.

The location has two massive caverns underground, each of which is as tall as the Empire State Building.

The caverns are massive geological salt formations, where water is being used to remove the salt by dissolving it. Once the caverns are ready, they will be appropriate for storing large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen fuel in gaseous form.

With this project, developers are seeking to use H2 to a larger potential than is typically the case. Among the developers is Chevron, the energy giant, which has purchased a majority stake in one of the two projects taking place in the tiny Utah town. This project will store excess electricity generated by solar and wind farms in the spring and fall when demand is low. Then, it will use the stored energy in the summer when the demand for electricity is high.

Hydrogen fuel - High Energy Demand - Sun

From the stored hydrogen fuel, the electricity will be generated once again by using the H2 in a plant that will be built across the road from where the caverns are located. Initially, the plant will use a blend of H2 and natural gas and will burn it for electricity production.

The new hydrogen fuel burning plant will replace an aging coal burning facility that will be shut down.

By using H2 as a battery stored underground, the hope is to be able to use renewable electricity while avoiding the associated reliability issues. After all, as much as solar and wind power are both wonderful for generating clean energy, they still rely on having enough windy and sunny hours every day to keep up with demand.

A change in perspective

hydrogen news ebook“It’s a little bit of a paradigm shift,” said Intermountain Power Agency spokesperson John Ward. That utility company is replacing its old coal fired plant with the new power plant being built in Utah. “We’re making hydrogen as an energy storage carrier.”

The old plant that will be replaced is a twin boiler coal plant that still burns the fossil fuel and emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide. The new $2 billion plant’s construction is expected to be complete by 2025.

The first of the new plant’s 40 electrolyzers have already started arriving at the site, having been transported there by rail. The new equipment is huge 100-ton units about the size of a large standard shipping container. The electrolyzers are what will be used to split water molecules into hydrogen fuel and oxygen.

Since the electrolyzers will be powered by solar and wind energy, it will be green hydrogen fuel that results from the plant’s use. This is a step away from the most common production methods used worldwide, which use fossil fuels (typically natural gas) and result in carbon dioxide emissions.

Though the plant will begin with a mix of hydrogen fuel and natural gas burning to generate electricity, the goal is to make it emission-free, burning only H2 for electricity generation by 2045.

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