In the second piece of hydrogen news from South Australia’s Eyre Peninsular today, Adelaide-based tech company EntX has been granted permission to examine the potential for storing hydrogen in underground salt caverns near the town of Elliston.
EntX’s newly granted Gas Storage Exploration Licence will allow the company to start early exploration work on the Polda Basin salt deposits – which were flagged by Australian Resources Minister Madeleine King as a potential storage location for hydrogen, following research from Geoscience Australia in 2022.
South Australia has the nation’s most up-to-date hydrogen exploration regulations which have led to something of a ‘gold hydrogen’ rush in the state. These exploration regulations extend to hydrogen storage in underground salt caverns – a pathway which has a foothold globally.
Salt deposits form naturally underground, and are increasingly being used to store hydrogen gas because of their low permeability which can trap the notoriously difficult hydrogen molecule. In the Netherlands and the US massive salt cavern hydrogen storage projects are already underway, with Australia’s Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre recently finding Australia could potentially store 310 million tonnes (38,000 PJ) of hydrogen underground in places like salt caverns.
Coming back to EntX’s plan, the company, formerly known as PhosEnergy, says it would create the hydrogen storage by drilling into the Polda Basin salt deposit and pouring in freshwater. The Polda Basin’s salt deposits are thought to be one to two kilometres underground and extend hundreds of kilometres into the sea.
This storage exploration is part of EntX’s bigger plan to also produce hydrogen on the Eyre Peninsular, dubbing the project the Western Eyre Green Hydrogen Project. Still in the early stages, the company is currently looking to produce a feasibility study into the Western Eyre project and is aiming for a final investment decision in 2025.
“Coupling [Western Eyre’s] renewable energy potentials together with the storage of hydrogen, which has always been a challenge in the development of large hydrogen projects, we think we can develop one of the Eyre Peninsula and South Australia’s biggest hydrogen projects,” EntX’s general manager of hydrogen and clean fuels, Glenn Toogood, told the ABC.
Toogood said the salt cavern hydrogen storage component alone would be a $4 billion (USD 2.67 billion) project. EntX is an unlisted public company that has a wide ranging portfolio, holding stakes in clean energy endeavours to advanced manufacturing in sectors like space and defence.
The company is also developing a 40 MW hydrogen facility for Kimberly-Clark Australia’s Millicent Mill in the southeast of South Australia.
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