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H2CAST Etzel – Making energy transition work. | Project

About the Project

Hydrogen storage within reach

  • Consortium partners of the hydrogen storage initiative around cavern operators STORAG ETZEL received funding from federal state of Lower Saxony
  • Boris Richter (STORAG ETZEL) wants to make the Etzel site sustainable and fit for the future
  • Project started in the first quarter of 2022
  • The injection of hydrogen into caverns is scheduled for 2024 following extensive material and safety tests

Clean energy, securely stored underground

Our goal is to make the Etzel caverns "H2-ready!". The project H2CAST Etzel (H2CAVERN STORAGE TRANSITION Etzel) is the focused on the adaptation and conversion of existing gas caverns and relevant above-ground facilities as part of the transition process to an H2 economy in Germany and Europe. The industrial scalability of the underground storage and surface facilities are unique at the Etzel cavern site.

The Etzel pipeline and grid hub in particular offer a wide range of cooperation and funding opportunities for the development of an H2 economy in the Friesland / Ostfriesland / Wilhelmshaven region in northwest Germany.

Expansion opportunities are also offered by the integration of power generation through offshore wind energy, Etzel's cross-border pipeline connection to the Netherlands and the import of H2 by ship via an H2 terminal at the deep-water port in nearby Wilhelmshaven.

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Why Etzel?

Everything speaks in favor of Etzel as a future H2 storage site: The Etzel energy hub is connected to gas pipelines that can be converted for H2 operation. The location of the storage caverns in Etzel is strategically located with a perfect connection to the Dutch and German hydrogen market, near the future Gasunie hydrogen network Hyperlink and the Energy-Hub Port of Wilhelmshaven. A hydrogen pipeline to the possible H2 import terminal in Wilhelmshaven could be realised.

  • Caverns are suitable for H2 storage
  • STORAG ETZEL is a leading independent cavern storage operator in NW-Europe for natural gas and crude oil
  • Ideal geographic position, strategic location of the cavern field in Etzel
  • Connection to existing supra-regional gas pipeline grid
  • Permits in place for capacity extension on short notice
  • STORAG ETZEL has long-term planning security with an operating framework in place and aligned with the respective authorities 
  • Utilization of existing infrastructure
  • Scalability of H2 storage and secured expansion potential
  • Synergy options with regional energy and industry partners
  • Short response time for project realization of H2 storage
  • Public acceptance
  • Experts and skilled workers are available
  • Projects are realized in lower saxony / Germany
  • Without the H2 projects in Etzel, there is no regional H2 cluster in the region


Stepping stone

Hydrogen storage for Northwest Europe

Once completed, "H2CAST Etzel" will pave the way for an even more ambitious development project by STORAG ETZEL as a second logical step for a sustainable site transformation and strategic positioning of the Etzel cavern facility for the coming European hydrogen economy. 

The focus of this follow-up project is on the conversion and expansion of the existing cavern field, including above ground processing facilities and the pipeline infrastructure for the Northwest Europe region, among other things, in view of the growing storage demand for H2.

The goal is the regional development and establishment of an H2 cluster by connecting the Etzel storage facility and the Wilhelmhaven region with access to wind energy, an import terminal, H2 production and the industry to the planned initial hydrogen network in Northwest Europe, the so-called "European Hydrogen backbone".  

This pipeline development project is regarded as the basis project for a joint European hydrogen supply from Hamburg to Paris and encompasses four countries.

STORAG ETZEL will initially continue and focus on the research project "H2CAST Etzel" where we will work together at the regional level with industrial partners, the municipal bodies and business promoters to leverage synergies and further develop existing initiatives. STORAG ETZEL will also remain a preferred, reliable and technically leading provider for the new energy industry, including for large-volume storage of renewable energy sources.

Why hydrogen?

In short: Because it is clean energy, securely stored underground and because the demand for hydrogen in Germany will increase successively until 2030. Hydrogen (H2) is considered the energy carrier of the future because it makes renewable energy, e.g. electricity from wind or sun transformed to gas, storable over a longer periods of time. By the power-to-gas process electricity is used to split water into oxygen and combustible hydrogen by electrolysis. In this way, consumption can be decoupled from electricity generation.

At present, the production of "green" (i.e. Carbon dioxide-/CO2-free) H2 in Germany is still in its infancy, but after a long period of research and development, the market ramp-up of a hydrogen economy is imminent. This is promoted by the ambitious climate targets of the EU and Germany, which are to be achieved primarily through the upgrading of renewable energy sources and flanked by decarbonisation within the framework of the H2 strategies at regional, German and European level.

The demand especially for green hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen produced from renewable energies – will only be met from domestic production to a limited extent due to a lack of production capacities. Therefore, as with fossil energies such as oil and gas, the Federal Republic of Germany and most EU states will be dependent on extensive imports. This dependence on imports will in turn be accompanied by an immense need for storage. This can be done through large-volume underground storage facilities as it is today for fossil fuels. But research and development is needed.   

Quote from the Ministry of the Environment (02/2022)

Energy and Environment Minister Olaf Lies: "Hydrogen will be an integral part of the future energy economy. This will not succeed without storage. With H2CAST Etzel, we are promoting a pilot project on an industrial scale. A competent and experienced project consortium from industry and science has come together for this purpose. A special feature is that existing oil and gas caverns in Lower Saxony are to be converted for hydrogen here for the first time. Also, the intended brine shuttle operation has not yet been implemented in this way. The pilot project is the starting point for a possible local value chain. We are creating knowledge that is likely to be in demand elsewhere. With the funding, we are helping to ensure that we will continue to have a secure energy supply in the future, ultimately without oil and natural gas, and maintain local value creation in the energy hub of Lower Saxony."

Quote from the responsible person at STORAG ETZEL

Boris Richter, commercial director of STORAG ETZEL GmbH, is pleased about the forward-looking support from the state of Lower Saxony: "We want to make the Etzel site in Lower Saxony "H2-ready", i.e. prepare it for the foreseeable ramp-up of the hydrogen economy, which will help to decarbonize German industry, i.e. make it CO2-free and therefore more climate-friendly. This will ensure a secure supply of CO2-free energy in the future. The location is crucial for northwestern Europe in this regard."

Boris Richter emphasizes, "The energy turnaround will need these large-scale storage facilities from 2030 at the latest, as H2 supply and demand will diverge in time and space. Setting up the site in a sustainable way for future generations, that is our goal!"

Quote from the responsible person at Gasunie

Han Fennema, CEO of H2CAST-partner Gasunie: "Hydrogen is going to play an important role in the future energy system, especially for making industry more sustainable. For a well-functioning hydrogen market, large-scale hydrogen storage is a crucial component. Gasunie has the ambition to develop salt caverns for hydrogen storage in both the Netherlands and Germany."