It is essential to quit using traditional fossil fuels and start implementing sustainable methods to reduce pollution. To achieve this goal, subsoil provides us with opportunities. Using geothermal energy and underground hydrogen storage are two options located inside the Earth that can decarbonize the energy industry and mitigate climate change.
“Earth Sciences and Geology, in particular, are focused nowadays on sustainable geoenery research, not only hydrogen, but also on effluent and energy storage, such as CO2, or geothermy”, explains Juan Alcalde, Geosciences Barcelona – CSIC (GEO3BCN-CSIC) research.
In this context, Alcalde highlights some of the opportunities that hydrogen brings: “It is a non-co2 emissions fuels, its productions is clean, and I it is relatively cheap. Moreover, it can decarbonize almost all the energy systems, being them either electricity networks, means of transport or air-conditioning facilities.
That is the reason why this research thinks it is important to know how and where the fuel generated in this way is going to be stored. “We need a large quantity of hydrogen, and we are not going to be able to storage it. We must look for underground reservoirs to store this green fuel massively and to distribute it geographically”, says Alcalde, who published, along with Ramon Carbonell and other international researchers, a study that identifies the main scientific challenges of underground hydrogen storage for energy usage.
“Hydrogen storage in geological reservoirs imitates the fluid subsoil storage system that naturally happens with water or hydrocarbons”, explains the researcher. According to Alcalde, “there is a lot of knowledge behind the model that has been developed, and there are several technological methods and tools capable of doing this process sustainably. “Actually, we have long term experience with subsoil, for example, using aquifers to obtain drinkable water”.
According to the researcher, the challenge is to make underground hydrogen storage economically viable and sustainable, and to make people trust this type of technologies: “It is important to control this kind of works to ensure the safety of the process. If there is a well-defined law, there should be no danger in the implementation and it could be a positive solution for our society”, defends Alcalde.
How to take advantage of the subsoil heat
The geothermal energy is another environmentally friendly method, through the internal heat of the earth is used. This renewable energy is becoming more important because it is used for air conditioning. It does not produce toxic emissions and it is compatible with other kinds of resources. I can be exploited almost everywhere and is productions can be maintained without drawbacks in its provision, as it is always available. It can also be used 24 hours a day, 236 days of the year”, points out Ivone Jiménez-Munt, GEO3BCN-CSIC researcher.
“In geothermal energy, Geosciences are essential to hep us understand well the basic subsoil and to minimize the potential risk of its installation”, highlights the researcher. Jiménez-Munt explains that at GEO3BCN-CSIC, almost everyone works on this topic: “We study the Earth’s crust, which allows us to estimate thermal distribution”. These studies are important to find the active zones and where the thermal gradients are in order to use the underground heat in a safe and economic manner.
In concrete, Jiménez-Munt is part of an international research team which has proposed a project to create a European Training network, framed into the Marie Sklodowska Curie actions, which aims to study the European geothermal potential.
According to the researcher, the use of geothermy to create electricity is not every extended enough. The reasons can be due to the high costs and lengthy exploration and building of geothermy factories: “It is important to know the suboil and to find high thermal gradient zones. The exploration and the perforation methods are complicated to carry out, so public policies are needed in order to support these kinds of projects”, concludes the researcher of GEO3BCN-CSIC.