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EERC studying 'salt caverns' for storage of hydrogen, liquid natural gas and other products

Charlie Gorecki_sm.jpg

North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center is researching the idea of creating “salt caverns” for storing products such as natural gas and hydrogen.

"When you create a salt cavern, you basically create a container in the sub surface," said EERC's Charles Gorecki. "You'll fill it with salt water, in equilibrium with the formation itself, and it will displace directly the amount of fluid you put back in."

Gorecki said maybe you want to put hydrogen in there, or pure propane.

"You can get really close to 100 percent of it back out, by putting the salt water back into it," Gorecki said. "It's like a piston."

Gorecki said it should be much less expensive than having miles and miles of above-ground storage tanks. He said this kind of storage is already being done in Canada and in the Gulf states.

Gorecki said EERC has drilled a number of test holes in two salt formations in the Bakken. He said it looks very promising.

"It's extraordinarily exciting, from the perspective of petro-chem, refining, bio-refining, hydrogen storage — all of those things would require that pure component storage," Gorecki said. "We're really excited about the prospect."

Gorecki said having salt caverns could mean more “value added” energy for North Dakota.

"Currently, we export six times more energy than we consume in North Dakota," Gorecki said. "We're exporting it as a raw commodity. The idea here is to add value to it by doing the processing here in North Dakota, which betters the economy of North Dakota by sending out higher value product into the marketplace."

Gorecki said it is a Legislatively-directed study, and it wraps up in June. He said he hopes to have some of the preliminary findings ready for the 2023 Legislative session.

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