Impact of hydrogen on underground reservoir properties: Laboratory characterisation at reservoir conditions

March 19th, 2024

We are quantifying the impact of hydrogen on the petrophysical, geomechanical, geophysical and geochemical properties of reservoir rocks.

Project lead

Dr Joel Sarout, Rock Properties Team Leader,

Lead researchers

Lionel Esteban, Principal Research Scientist,
Ausama Giwelli, Senior Research Scientis,


Cost-effective, large-scale hydrogen storage  (terawatt-hours) will be a game-changer to the emerging hydrogen industry, supporting a range of domestic and export applications across sectors. Being able to cheaply store hydrogen at scale opens up so called ‘seasonal scale’ applications, supporting high penetration of renewables into the grid and a range of industrial decarbonisation applications.

To lower initial capital costs/investments, and potentially reduce operating costs, two geological storage and management options are effectively considered in Australia:

(i) in the short- to medium-term: blending up to 10-15% hydrogen in existing seasonal subsurface natural gas reservoirs

(ii) in the medium- to long-term: high purity Hydrogen storage in aquifers and depleted gas (or possibly oil) reservoirs.

Despite the additional costs of post-storage hydrogen processing to achieve industry-ready purity, the former option is seen as financially viable and could be implemented soon while global production of hydrogen is still relatively low (e.g. Woodside or AGIG in Australia, Taranaki Hydrogen venture in New Zealand).

Hydrogen mobility through porous reservoir rocks and the impact of geochemical interactions with the rock frame in presence of formation brine are currently poorly understood, with extremely limited hard data available in the literature. Hydrogen is expected to progressively diffuse into water (2 to 5% in the long-term), while strongly reacting with iron-bearing minerals (clays, iron oxides/sulphides) and organic matter. To what extent such reactions will affect pore structure and mineral composition remains to be assessed, and the impact on rock properties (transport, storage, mechanical, seismic) needs evaluating at pressure conditions relevant for the target reservoir depths.

What we are doing

The aim is to quantify the impact of hydrogen on the petrophysical, geomechanical, geophysical and geochemical properties of a set of reservoir rocks (actual and analogue reservoirs). The parameters measured in the laboratory serve as input for predicting the future behaviour of an operating hydrogen reservoir (cyclic injection and withdrawal), and are therefore pivotal for any subsurface storage project, i.e., for assessment of engineering and financial viability. They also help optimise field operational parameters (e.g. injection/withdrawal rates), and enhance reservoir monitorability through a better interpretation of field seismic and well-log data (see Figure 1). In practice, we will look specifically at:

  • Static hydrogen exposure of reservoir rocks under realistic in-situ conditions using in-house designed and fit-for-purpose pressure vessels. The aim of this laboratory test is to quantify the impact of hydrogen gas on the micro-structure and the chemico-physical properties of the rocks over time. An integrated suite of multi-disciplinary tools was deployed to characterise this impact in practical engineering terms, before and after hydrogen exposure. This includes petrophysical properties (wettability, porosity, permeability, pore connectivity), mechanical strength, elastic properties, rock microstructure through multi-scale imaging (SEM-TIMA, Micro-CT), mineralogical and geochemical properties (XRD, fluid chemistry, surface reactivity).
  • Hydrogen dynamic monitoring under in-situ reservoir conditions. Hydrogen mobility inside the rock is tracked using advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) core flooding to understand the wettability and fluid substitutions (saturation gradient, drainage, and imbibition mechanisms), with respect to hydrogen-rock interaction and pore size distribution along the sample. Porosity and permeability were also measured before and after testing. 

From hydrogen injection-withdrawal operations in the field to laboratory characterisation and testing of reservoir rocks in the laboratory. The aim is to de-risk Hydrogen Underground Storage and enhance monitorability during the project life-cycle.

Outcomes to date

We have developed a unique laboratory capability to safely handle and test hydrogen interactions with rocks at the Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC) in Perth.

Starting in 2024, we have a large-scale research project to support Lochard Energy and the Victorian Government develop their depleted gas fields into hydrogen storage sites, building on their experience developing and running natural gas storage in such reservoirs. The project is funded by ARENA and is called H2RESTORE in Otway, and we provide the experimental support through our laboratory capabilities in ARRC.

Project finish date

July 2022

Relevant project publications

Iglauer, S., H. Akhondzadeh, H. Abid, A. Paluszny, A. Keshavarz, M. Ali, A. Giwelli, L. Esteban, J. Sarout, and M. Lebedev. “Hydrogen flooding of a coal core: effect on coal swelling.” Geophysical Research Letters49, no. 6 (2022): e2021GL096873.

Yekeen, N., A. Al-Yaseri, B. Mamo Negash, M. Ali, A. Giwelli, L. Esteban, and J. Sarout. “Clay-hydrogen and clay-cushion gas interfacial tensions: Implications for hydrogen storage.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy(2022).

Al-Yaseri, A., N. Yekeen, M. Mahmoud, A. Kakati, Q. Xie, and A. Giwelli. “Thermodynamic characterization of H2-brine-shale wettability: Implications for hydrogen storage at subsurface.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy(2022).

Al-Yaseri, A., L. Esteban, A. Giwelli, J. Sarout, M. Lebedev, and M. Sarmadivaleh. “Initial and residual trapping of hydrogen and nitrogen in Fontainebleau sandstone using nuclear magnetic resonance core flooding.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy(2022).

HyResearch record

Impact of hydrogen on underground reservoir properties: Laboratory characterisation at reservoir conditions – HyResearch (