Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Hydrogeology

Advisor

Falta, Ronald W

Committee Member

Castle, James W

Committee Member

Murdoch, Lawrence

Abstract

Renewable Energy Systems (RES) such as solar and wind, are expected to play a progressively significant role in electricity production as the world begins to move away from an almost total reliance on nonrenewable sources of power. In the US there is increasing investment in RES as the Department of Energy (DOE) expands its wind power network to encompass the use of offshore wind resources in places such as the South Carolina (SC) Atlantic Coastal Plain. Because of their unstable nature, RES cannot be used as reliable grid-scale power sources unless power is somehow stored during excess production and recovered at times of insufficiency. Only two technologies have been cited as capable of storing renewable energy at this scale: Pumped Hydro Storage and Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). Both CAES power plants in existence today use solution-mined caverns as their storage spaces. This project focuses on exploring the feasibility of employing the CAES method to store excess wind energy in sand aquifers. The numerical multiphase flow code, TOUGH2, was used to build models that approximate subsurface sand formations similar to those found in SC. Although the aquifers of SC have very low dips, less than 10, the aquifers in this study were modeled as flat, or having dips of 00. Cycle efficiency is defined here as the amount of energy recovered compared to the amount of energy injected. Both 2D and 3D simulations have shown that the greatest control on cycle efficiency is the volume of air that can be recovered from the aquifer after injection. Results from 2D simulations showed that using a dual daily peak load schedule instead of a single daily peak load schedule increased cycle efficiency as do the following parameters: increased anisotropy, screening the well in the upper portions of the aquifer, reduced aquifer thickness, and an initial water displacement by the continuous injection of air for at least 60 days. Aquifer permeability of 1x10-12 m2 produced a cycle efficiency of 80%. A decrease of permeability to 1x10-13 m2 reduced efficiency to 70%, while an increase to 1x10-11 m2 seemed to enhance efficiency, but significantly reduced the volume of air that could be injected and recovered. The highest cycle efficiency that could be achieved using the 3D simulation, without depleting aquifer pressure to preset limits, was 80%. Attempts to improve cycle efficiency compromised air recovery. Further work is necessary to determine the effects of low aquifer dips on air recovery and cycle efficiency.

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