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Thermo-mechanical investigation of salt caverns for short-term hydrogen storage


To investigate the temperature influence on the cavern capacity, a numerical model was developed in order to simulate the thermo-mechanical behaviour of salt caverns during cyclic hydrogen storage. The model considers the thermodynamic characteristics of the storage medium as well as the heat transport and the temperature-dependent material properties of the host rock. Therefore, a well-known visco-elastic constitutive model was modified to describe temperature effects of rock salt and implemented into the freely available simulator OpenGeoSys. Thermal and mechanical processes are solved using a finite element approach, connected via a staggered coupling scheme. Numerical analyses were performed and evaluated using basic criteria for cavern safety and convergence. The results show that large temperature amplitudes in the working gas may lead to tensile stresses at the cavern boundary. Reducing the frequency of the cyclic loading is a way to reduce temperature variations and to avoid tensile failure. Furthermore, the influence of cavern shape was investigated. Narrow cylindrical caverns converge faster than spherical ones of the same volume and are subjected to a higher risk of structural failure.

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This research was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF) under Grant No. 03EK3022B (ANGUS+ project). The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the article.

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Correspondence to Norbert Böttcher.

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This article is part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on ‘Subsurface Energy Storage’, guest edited by Sebastian Bauer, Andreas Dahmke, and Olaf Kolditz.

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Böttcher, N., Görke, UJ., Kolditz, O. et al. Thermo-mechanical investigation of salt caverns for short-term hydrogen storage. Environ Earth Sci 76, 98 (2017).

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  • Rock salt caverns
  • Renewable energy storage
  • Hydrogen storage
  • Thermo-mechanical modelling
  • OpenGeoSys