Researchers Work On Mega-Scale Liquid H2 Storage Systems

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  • The project aims to develop the world’s first mega-scale Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) storage solution, up to 200,000 m3, with zero-boil off and full containment safety features for energy export and import terminals.
  • The proposed mega-scale storage solution would significantly lower capital costs for storage, reduce the cost of boil-off gas, and minimise risk and cost of material loss in case of leaks or vacuum failures.

A team of University of Melbourne researchers will work with Australian and international industry partners to develop mega-scale liquid hydrogen storage systems and infrastructure for energy export terminals and vessels, reports Offshore Energy.

Mega-scale liquid H2 storage system

The University of Melbourne said the team aims to help build a clean, safe and competitive hydrogen industry in Australia and beyond, pointing out that a major stumbling block to the uptake of liquid hydrogen globally has been the lack of large-scale storage infrastructure and transport vessels that can safely handle the volume needed for hydrogen use in sectors such as transport, heating and power generation.

Project Leader Shanaka Kristombu Baduge, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Infrastructure Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, stated that the team will “develop and integrate cutting-edge technologies and cryogenic testing capabilities at the extremely low temperatures needed to liquefy and store hydrogen, ie -253.15°C (20 Kelvin).”

These innovations are critical for enabling large-scale hydrogen export and import operations and will position Australia at the forefront of the emerging hydrogen economy. Mega-scale storage tanks with higher safety and lower operational and capital cost are essential for Australia to achieve the throughput needed for export and transport through ships,” Baduge noted.

Hydrogen is liquefied at -2530C (20 K) to achieve the higher density (70 kg/m3) that enables large-scale storage and transportation. According to the University of Melbourne, for a full-scale global LH2 trade operation, and to minimize the cost of storage per LH2 litre, mega-scale storage tanks are essential.

Thus, the team’s main goal is to achieve LH2 storage facilities with a capacity of up to 200,000 m3 while considering constraints in construction, safety and cost, the university said, adding that to be successful, this will require innovations that incorporate full containment and zero evaporation measures that allow safe storage of cryogenic hydrogen over time safely with lower operational cost.

Simulating cryogenic “boil-off” gas

In the first stage of the project, the university revealed that the team will focus on simulating cryogenic “boil-off” gas, which is the boiling of liquid hydrogen that causes gas to evaporate due to heat leak from the outside to the cold. Furthermore, the researchers will be developing materials and systems for magnetic refrigeration and testing lab-scale prototypes of the proposed storage tank.

The second stage will involve fabricating and validating a prototype tank with the proposed configuration, including integrated insulation systems and a magnetic refrigeration unit.

Baduge claimed that by introducing technology that achieves “super-insulated, full-containment features,” the proposed storage method will greatly reduce capital storage costs, “boil-off” gas costs and the risk and cost of LH2 loss in the event of leaks or vacuum failures, adding: “A key element will be the development of active magnetic refrigeration technology with new magnetocaloric materials, such as rare earth elements and their alloys, and ortho-para conversion, specifically designed for cryogenic boil-off gas, which will be integrated into the tank, leading to a zero-boil-off solution with lower operational cost.”

This innovation will significantly outperform the current scale, cost and safety of conventional spherical storage tanks and will enable commercial-scale liquid hydrogen storage. Furthermore, a new Cryostat CS500 simulation test platform that is being installed on campus will allow us to test thermal insulation systems at vacuum conditions that are needed for future clean energy infrastructures.”

To note, this project has been made possible through a $3.1 million grant from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), awarded through its Hydrogen R&D funding round, which aims to help Australia meet its hydrogen export goals and decarbonization targets. It is expected to be completed by the end of March 2029.

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Source: Offshore Energy

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