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Systematic assessment of the role for geological H2 storage in a future low-carbon U.S. energy system




MITEI: MIT Energy Initiative

Faculty Supervisor:

Robert C. Armstrong

Faculty email:


Apply by:

Jan 5, 2021


Dharik Mallapragada: dharik@mit.edu

Project Description

Project Background: The continued scale up and accompanying cost declines of wind and solar-based power generation over the past decade has made them central to global efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector, and by expanded electrification, other end-use sectors. Cost-effective integration of variable renewable energy (VRE) supply is contingent on designing energy systems to be more flexible in order to handle fluctuations in VRE output across multiple timescales. Currently, natural gas (NG) power plants are the primary source of flexible generation in managing the variability in wind and solar generation in the power sector. As the cost of battery storage continues to decline, there is growing interest in deploying grid-scale energy storage to balance the variability in VRE generation. With increasing VRE penetration in the grid and cost-declines, Li-ion storage are likely to be cost-effective for managing short-duration fluctuations in energy supply and demand, such as over a day. However, their use for longer-duration energy storage is estimated to be challenged by their relatively high energy capacity costs, even considering the most optimistic future cost projections. In this context, chemical energy storage candidates such as hydrogen (H2) and H2-derived molecules (e.g. methane) have the potential to achieve very low energy capital cost and uniquely exploit additional revenue streams due to the value of the underlying storage medium as a fuel and feedstock in other end-use sectors. Project Description: This project aims to quantify the technical potential for H2 storage in the U.S. context as well as its role in enabling cost-effective decarbonization of the power sector and other end-use sectors via the use of H2. Through a combination of detailed technical assessment and systems modeling, the study will address the following questions relevant to geological H2 storage and the broader role for H2 in future low-carbon energy systems. UROP Role Description: - Develop code to combined various geospatial data sets (land use patterns, geological formations data, renewables availability) to identify potential strategic locations for geological H2 storage - Review literature and gather data on costs related to developing geological H2 storage. - Perform basic thermodynamic and techno-economic calculations to assess capacity and cost of geological H2 storage in various types of sites (e.g. salt caverns, aquifers) - Participate in weekly team discussions of research progress.


- Experience with, or a strong desire to learn, a language like Python in the research/data science setting. - Willingness to do the “dirty work” of modeling and research: finding data sources, cleaning ugly data, debugging code, etc. In other words, a willingness to get frustrated and solve problems! - Familiarity with the hydrogen, natural gas systems is beneficial but not required.