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The German energy services provider EWE is building an underground hydrogen storage facility in a cave near Berlin. Actemium is responsible for all electrical technology on this pioneering site. 

The German energy services provider EWE is currently building a storage facility underground, and more specifically, in a cave around 1,000 metres deep in the salt rock beneath Rüdersdorf, near Berlin. For the first time, 100% pure hydrogen is to be stored underground. 

With this pioneering European project named HyCAVmobil (Hydrogen Cavern for Mobility), EWE hopes to study how this environmentally friendly energy carrier can be integrated into the regional energy system. 

Hydrogen can be stored and transported, and is a green gas when produced using renewable energies. In the future, solar and wind energy, which are by nature intermittent, could therefore be stored in large quantities in the form of hydrogen. 

 “The challenge lies in delivering and integrating new systems and new equipment into the existing facility in order to control, operate and monitor everything that happens in the cave.” 

Testing the purity of hydrogen stored in a cave 

Construction of EWE’s 500 m3 experimental cave should take 18 months, with a total investment of €10 million. “In the second half of 2022, we hope to know how pure the hydrogen is after being racked in the cave. Purity is a particularly important factor when using hydrogen in the mobility sector”, explained Stefan Dohler, CEO of EWE, in December 2020. 

The company is cooperating on this project with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), which will measure the quality of the hydrogen during storage and after its extraction from the cave. Depending on the results of this real-world experiment, the solution could be transferable to much larger cave storage installations, for example a 500,000m3 volume, a space large enough to hold the Eiffel Tower. EWE owns salt caves in northwestern Germany that could be suitable for future hydrogen storage. 

An ad hoc control and automation system 

Actemium Energy, Öl & Gas Rheine (VINCI Energies) won the contract for all electrical installations, instrumentation and command-and-control (ICC), and ICC connections for EWE’s Rüdersdorf facility. 

“Our work includes project engineering, assembly, commissioning and operation of the experimental hydrogen storage cave’s electrical, measurement, control and automation systems”, says Andreas Rauen, Project Manager at Actemium Energy, Öl & Gas Rheine. “The challenge lies in integrating the new systems and new equipment into the existing facility in order to control, operate and monitor everything that happens in the cave”. 

This test is all the more promising given that green hydrogen is ultimately likely to become an indispensable energy source for three key sectors: electricity, mobility and heat.