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    Funding bid success for EMstor set to explore geological hydrogen storage potential in the East Midlands

    08 March 2024

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    • Exciting new study funded through OFGEM/Innovate UK’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) will explore underground hydrogen storage potential.
    • EMstor (East Midlands Storage) will study and map regional potential of intermediate to large-scale hydrogen storage options.
    • With industrial forecasts of 10TWh of hydrogen demand in the East Midlands, storage will be vital to allow expansion of Cadent’s proposed 100% hydrogen pipeline.
    • Vital evidence base development will set the foundations for a potential underground storage demonstrator project.

    EMstor, a consortium led by Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, and partnered with Star Energy Group, British Geological Survey (BGS), Net Zero Strategy and the University of Edinburgh, has been awarded Discovery funding by OFGEM/Innovate UK's Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).

    The funding will be used to undertake an innovative new study to evaluate the geological storage potential in the East Midlands region that is set to be served by Cadent’s future 100 per cent hydrogen pipeline.

    The EMstor study will initiate a crucial mapping process to identify long-term large scale geological storage for hydrogen gas that can provide help accommodate peak demand scenarios for industrial and power generation customers that are connected to Cadent’s 100% hydrogen pipeline in the region.

    Hydrogen producers connected to local storage by Cadent’s pipeline will be able to maximise electrolytic low carbon hydrogen production during times when renewable energy is abundant, helping to balance the power system and lock the energy into hydrogen molecules, to be stored and used later by industry.

    The EMstor study is the first of its kind in the area and will undertake a feasibility assessment of the East Midlands geology to host storage technologies.

    It will investigate options such as dedicated hydrogen pipelines and subsurface silos; lined rock caverns and shafts excavated from intact rock and lined with cement and steel; salt caverns, solution mined from deep deposits of salt and porous rock storage including depleted hydrocarbon fields or deep saline aquifers, where hydrogen is held in the gaps between the rock grains and securely held in place by sealing caprocks.

    The East Midlands has numerous depleted oil reservoirs which have potential for repurposing to create hydrogen storage. By doing this, EMstor will generate and deploy a state-of-the-art understanding of reservoir distribution and characterisation and will facilitate a comprehensive understanding of what is possible for hydrogen storage at scale in the local area.

    Sally Brewis, Head of Regional Development at Cadent, said: “It’s such exciting news that this funding bid for our EMstor study has been a success. This evaluation could potentially lay the foundations for a hydrogen storage demonstration project in the area through subsequent funding rounds, which could be game-changing for the hydrogen economy in the region and will enable a more rapid decarbonisation of industry and power generators that want to switch to hydrogen. Consideration of dis-used oil reservoirs as hydrogen stores is a new frontier for the industry and could have far-reaching benefits if it’s shown to be possible through this work.”

    Dr Katriona Edlmann, Chancellor's Fellow in Energy at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The geological storage of hydrogen will play a vital part in delivering Cadent’s ambitions for a 100 per cent hydrogen network in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. The University of Edinburgh is delighted to be working with BGS to undertake this first of its kind feasibility study into the suitability of the geology of the Midlands to host medium and large-scale underground hydrogen storage technologies and enable the flexible use of hydrogen in the region.”

    Edward Hough, Research lead, Underground Energy Storage at the British Geological Survey, said: “The natural geology of the East Midlands will play an important role in supporting the use of hydrogen in the region. Storing hydrogen gives flexibility to the energy system, allowing excess hydrogen to be stored for use during periods when demand exceeds supply. In this project the British Geological Survey will build on our extensive laboratory and mapping programmes to help identify areas of the underground geology that may represent future exploration targets for hydrogen storage in bedrock.”

    Fay McAnulla, Director, Net Zero Strategy, said: “Having access to hydrogen storage facilities in the Midlands is important as we develop a hydrogen economy.  Net Zero Strategy will lead on project management and contribute to stakeholder engagement and dissemination activities for the project."

    This is the beginning of a vital evaluation programme that will revolutionise our understanding of how low carbon hydrogen can be stored at scale and be readily available for power generation and industrial users in the East Midlands. This will help to keep employment in the region, build energy system resilience, lower customer bills, and grow a greener society.

    Cadent

    Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy. We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change. Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency. Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing.

    Future of Gas:

    Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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