Scaling analysis of hydrogen flow with carbon dioxide cushion gas in subsurface heterogeneous porous media

G. Wang*, G. Pickup, K. Sorbie, E. Mackay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
169 Downloads (Pure)


Subsurface hydrogen (H2) storage in geological formations is of growing interest for decarbonization. However, there is a knowledge gap in understanding the multiphase flow involved in this process, which can have a significant impact on the recovery performance of H2. Therefore, a full-compositional modeling study was conducted to analyze potential issues and to understand the fundamental hydrodynamic mechanisms of H2 storage. We performed a range of 2D vertical simulations at the decametre scale with a very fine cell size (0.1 m) to observe the detailed flow behaviour of H2 with carbon dioxide (CO2) as cushion gas in various flow regimes. Issues such as viscous instability, capillary bypassing, gas trapping and gravity segregation are analysed here. To generalize our calculations, we have validated and applied the scaling theory in the context of subsurface H2 storage. Since this study is focused on the hydrodynamic behaviour, three dimensionless groups, including aspect factor, capillary/viscous ratio and gravity/viscous ratio were identified to correlate recovery performance between various scales in a fixed heterogeneous system. It was found that H2 could infiltrate the cushion gas in the proximity of the injectors, meaning that CO2 is not displaced away from the injectors in a piston-like fashion. As a result, the purity of the back produced H2 is much degraded, particularly in a viscous-dominated scenario. On the other hand, the injected H2 mostly accumulates at the top forming a highly restricted mixing zone with CO2 in the gravity-dominated case. The recovery performance is therefore much improved in this case. Although the gas distribution can be significantly altered by capillary forces leading to bypassed zones, the recovery performance of H2 is hardly influenced. This is because the back-produced H2 recovery is not dependent on the sweep efficiency of the gas. H2 can be back produced following the same paths which were formed during injection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1752-1764
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2022


  • CO cushion gas
  • Fine-scale flow simulation
  • Flow regimes
  • H purity
  • Scaling theory
  • Underground gas storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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