Mega project goes underground in Utah

30 July 2019

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) and Magnum Development, have launched a major storage project in central Utah, United States, making use of the region’s salt dome geology in combination with MHPS power generation technology, notably hydrogen fuelled gas turbines. The plan envisages deployment of a range of storage concepts: renewable hydrogen; compressed air; flow batteries; and solid oxide fuel cells.

Called the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) project, MHPS and Magnum describe it as “the world’s largest project of its kind.”

The plan is to develop “1000 megawatts of 100 percent clean energy storage, thereby deploying technologies and strategies essential to a decarbonised future for the power grid of the western United States.”

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, carbon dioxide emissions from the US power sector have dropped 30% since 2005 (, because of a combination of natural gas and renewable power replacing retiring coal-fired power plants. MHPS says it “has been instrumental in this transition and last year became the global market share leader for heavy duty gas turbines.”

As a next step in decarbonisation, says MHPS, it has developed gas turbine technology that enables a mixture of renewable hydrogen and natural gas to produce power with even lower carbon emissions. The MHPS technology roadmap aims to use 100% renewable hydrogen as a fuel source, which will allow gas turbines to produce electricity with zero carbon emissions. MHPS says its experience with hydrogen firing goes back over 50 years, at refineries, syngas and coke oven facilities. It has amassed over 3 million gas turbine operating hours on fuels with various hydrogen contents, up to 90%, and says it plans to demonstrate operation on 100% renewable hydrogen in 2025.

Meanwhile, Magnum Development owns and controls the only known “Gulf Coast” style domal-quality salt formation in the western United States. With five salt caverns already in operation for liquid fuels storage, Magnum is continuing to develop compressed air energy storage and renewable hydrogen storage options. Strategically located adjacent to the Intermountain Power Project, the Magnum site is positioned to integrate seamlessly with the western US power grid utilising existing infrastructure, its owner says.

In many parts of the western United States, there are times of day when demand for electricity is lower than the production of renewable power. This leads to curtailment of renewable generation and negative electricity pricing. Continued deployment of renewables will require that excess power be stored for later use. To serve the needs of the entire western United States, many GWh of storage capacity are required.

The ACES initiative will deploy four types of clean energy storage at utility scale. These energy storage technologies include: renewable hydrogen; compressed air energy storage; large scale flow batteries; and solid oxide fuel cells.

“For 20 years, we’ve been reducing carbon emissions of the US. power grid using natural gas in combination with renewable power to replace retiring coal-fired power generation. In California and other states in the western United States, which will soon have retired all of their coal-fired power generation, we need the next step in decarbonisation. Mixing natural gas and storage, and eventually using 100% storage, is that next step. The technologies we are deploying will store electricity on time scales from seconds to seasons”, said Paul Browning, president and CEO of MHPS Americas. “For example, when we add gas turbines powered with renewable hydrogen to a hydrogen storage salt dome, we have a solution that stores and generates electricity with zero carbon emissions.” “Central Utah is the ideal location for this project, and Utah is a business friendly state for projects like this”, commented Craig Broussard, CEO of Magnum. “Magnum’s site adjacent to the Intermountain Power Project is positioned to take full advantage of existing regional electricity grid connections, fully developed transportation infrastructure, ample solar and wind development capacity, a skilled workforce currently transitioning away from coal, and, of course, the unique salt dome opportunity.”

“Magnum and MHPS are great partners”, Broussard noted. “Magnum has the below- ground technologies necessary to store energy at utility scale, while MHPS has the above-ground technologies such as hydrogen-fired gas turbines, compressed air storage, solid oxide fuel cells and battery storage technology, to supply electricity at grid scale. With the ACES initiative, we will dramatically accelerate the vision of a western renewable energy hub that we launched over a decade ago.”

Magnum was originally funded by Haddington Energy Partners III, LP in 2008 to support a variety of projects centred around a large salt body near Delta, Utah. “Site viability and profitability has been proven”, says Magnum, with a natural gas liquids business, Magnum NGLs, LLC, which was “successfully developed, brought to commercialisation, and sold in 2015.” In March 2018, Magnum entered into a joint venture with Sawtooth (natural gas liquids cavern storage provider) by contributing its refined products business for an 8% ownership interest in the Sawtooth Caverns JV. Magnum says it is focused on developing a portfolio of companies that are in various stages of development, in the areas of natural gas, compressed air energy storage, refined products, and industrial gases (hydrogen and helium).

Currently, there are only two compressed air energy storage facilities in operation worldwide: McIntosh, Alabama; and Huntorf, Germany. 

Contacts: MHPS, Sharon Prater, +1 407 688 6200 [email protected] com; Magnum Development, Rob Webster, +1 801 993 7001 [email protected] 

Salt dome storage surface works
ACES concept

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