Confronted with the biggest and most difficult global challenge to mankind, efforts are intensifying to move away from fossil-based energy sources to zero-carbon energies. This transition to renewable energy resources and lowering of carbon dioxide emission to the atmosphere must happen at an unprecedented pace in order to have the desired effect. In this regard, urgent research in some major areas and technologies is needed. Many of these research questions are related to porous media phenomena.
Therefore, InterPore2023 will have a focus theme on Energy Transition. Onno van Kessel, a leading expert in energy transition will give a plenary lecture, and then, during a lunch forum, a panel of experts will engage in a discussion with the participants regarding the current urgent research needs in various energy transition technologies and methodologies. So that we can highlight contributions related to this theme in the program, please let us know if your abstract is related to Energy Transition by selecting from the drop-down menu when submitting your abstract.
H2 – Storage
Improving current hydrogen storage capabilities is crucial for the advancement of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies (HFT), which are decisive for a carbon-emission-free future. Existing approaches either store H2 physically as a gas (above 350 bar) or as a liquid (below −252.8°C), or by adsorption/absorption. While hydrogen provides the highest energy per mass of all fuels, its energy per volume is low. Therefore, storage methods for huge volumes have to be devised. Underground hydrogen storage in the subsurface (USPH), such as saline aquifers, depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs, and cavities in salt domes or crystalline rock formations, seems to have this potential, but this approach is not well developed or tested yet.
Thus, much more research is required in order to make large-scale commercial deployment of UHSP safe and efficient. Obviously, the Interpore community is in an optimal position to make a huge impact here, and therefore we strongly encourage abstract submissions related to hydrogen storage cycles including improved procedures and workflows, reservoir engineering, chemistry, geology, and microbiology.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is about capturing CO2 before it gets into the atmosphere, its transportation, and its permanent storage (carbon sequestration). Typically CO2 gets captured from large point sources (e.g. from power plants or industrial sources). Among all storage methods, geological formations have the greatest potential to deal with huge volumes, which is crucial for a global impact. According to the US National Energy Technology Laboratory, the storage capacity of North America alone exceeds 900 years’ worth of CO2 at current production rate. Generally, geological underground storage involves CO2 in supercritical form, and site candidates are oil and gas fields, un-mineable coal seams, and saline aquifers. While saline aquifers would provide the largest storage volume, they come with little direct economic incentive (unlike e.g. enhanced oil recovery). For the same reason, little investments are made for geophysical exploration of saline aquifers, and thus their aquifer structures are highly uncertain (unlike those of oil fields and coal beds).
Main problems of CCS are integrity and risk of CO2 leakage into the atmosphere. Therefore, much further research related to the uncertainty of potential sites is required. Moreover, if one relies on structural trapping, reliable geomechanical models are required. Also, lab- and field-scale- experiments, pore-scale modeling, and multi-scale methods are required for a better understanding of residual, solubility, and mineral trapping. Here again, the Interpore community is in an optimal position to make a huge impact, and thus we strongly encourage abstract submissions related to CCS.
Electrochemcial Energy Conversion Devices
Most of the hydrogen that is currently produced is based on steam-methane reforming processes. It is termed “grey hydrogen” due to CO2 emission during its production process. However, the main target of countries that plan to reach climate agreement goals is green hydrogen. The production of green hydrogen is based on electrolyzers which split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Commercially available electrolyzers (PEM, SOEC, etc.) are made of porous electrodes and water. Also, produced gases are transported through porous layers. While the electrolyzer uses electricity to produce hydrogen, electricity can be generated by a reverse process; such a device is called fuel cell and has very similar porous layers. Many open questions exist related to multiphase flow processes as well as transport of heat, solute, and charges in porous materials of electrochemical devices. The electrolysis process consumes large amounts of energy, and it is essential to find new ways of producing water from hydrogen that are more energy efficient. Such methods inevitably will involve porous media and complex flow and transport processes, and they require dedicated research.
Approximately half of the total energy that the global north consumes each year is used for heating. A substantial part of this energy demand could be supplied by low-temperature geothermal heat (e.g., heat pumps, aquifer thermal energy storage) instead of fossil fuels. New technologies such as deep closed-loop systems are set to further expand the potential of large-scale heat production from geothermal resources while the co-production of Lithium from geothermal fluids could help with some other energy transition challenges. High-temperature geothermal energy, which is often associated with active or recent volcanism, can provide electricity as well. The potential for geothermal energy is particularly significant in East Africa due to its unique geological setting. Developing geothermal energy has its own challenges that need to be addressed through continuous research. In particular, societal engagement and science communication are key to the successful and wide-spread deployment of geothermal energy.
We invite participants of InterPore2023 to submit contributions related to the current H2 production and consumption methodologies as well as innovative and novel approaches.