The transition of energy supply from mainly fossil sources to low carbon energy sources is essential for future environmental sustainability. Renewable sources such as wind and solar power are subject to strong natural temporal fluctuations, and to enable greater uptake, large-scale and long-term geological subsurface storage is required to address differences in seasonal supply and demand.
Underground storage of hydrolysed hydrogen is considered to be “the first viable option” to meet the fluctuation of renewable storage and is predicted to be cost-competitive by 2050. There are two main types of underground storage: 1) pore storage (generally in naturally formed structures) including depleted oil and gas fields, and water aquifers; 2) man-made structures including salt caverns and hard rock caverns. Commercial hydrogen storage in salt caverns has been operating in the UK since 1977 and in the US since 1983. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs have been used for natural gas storage for many years although hydrogen storage is not routine by this method. Aquifers have attracted a lot of interest recently because they are proven storage units, more widespread and often located closer to areas of energy demand. However, the complex microstructure of subsurface rocks and the interaction with hydrogen under subsurface conditions (temperature, pressure and brine) make this research highly challenging.
This PhD project will conduct multi-scale characterisation of rock microstructure and multi-approach experiments of chemical and physical properties to investigate the possible reactions of hydrogen and hosting rocks or halite. This reactive transport modelling will be performed to provide a comprehensive analysis of subsurface hydrogen storage at pore- to lab-scale.
The supervisor team covers a wide range of expertise on this topic, including multi-scale characterisation, geochemical analysis, mechanical measurements, flow behaviours, and reactive transport modelling. The student will join wider research groups in Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the University of Manchester and will work closely with British Geological Survey.
Applicants with the first grade degree in chemical/civil/mechanical engineering or geoscience/geochemistry/geomechanics/environmental sciences for this position. It is expected that the applicant can perform experiments, image analysis and C++ programming in this project. Training on imaging, experiments, data analysis and modelling will be provided. The training and experience the student gets will be well suited for a career in either academia or the energy industry.
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