Europe’s first research facility to test the storage opportunities for hydrogen at former natural gas reservoirs was inaugurated last fall in Austria’s city of Pilsbach. On October 5, Austria‘s Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Alois Stöger, celebrated the inauguration of the plant, which is part of the EUR 4.5 million project Underground Sun Storage, in the presence of the project partners and many invited guests. The core of the plant consists of four alkaline electrolyzer stacks, with two each housed in two 40-feet containers by Etogas, a company based in Germany’s Swabia region. Their units (maximum rated output power: 1.2 MW) use water and sun or wind energy to create 250 Nm3 of hydrogen per hour, which is mixed with natural gas and stored in naturally formed pore systems below ground. The expressed aim of the Austrian consortium is to evaluate the impact of hydrogen on underground reservoirs, research which has rarely been done before.
“As an Austrian business and Power-to-Gas pioneer, Etogas takes special pride in supporting this project and supplying it with our innovative electrolysis systems,” Managing Partner Dr. Karl Maria Grünauer, said. Markus Mitteregger from consortium leader RAG Rohöl-Aufsuchungs Aktiengesellschaft added: “As an energy source, gas can be transported safely and without above-ground pipes across the underground infrastructure and stored ecologically sustainable in also available naturally occurring reservoirs. Thanks to its excellent geological conditions for underground storage, Austria can contribute a great deal to supply security.”
The project, for which planning and financing started in 2012, was supported with EUR 2.8 million from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology as well as the country’s Climate and Energy Fund.