Which Countries Can Store the Most Gas and Electricity?

The Eco Experts

The ongoing energy crisis has forced many countries to re-evaluate their gas and electricity supplies.

These nations must also assess their available storage, which is just as important, if not more. Without adequate storage, countries can find themselves stuck if supplies are limited or run out.

We’ve investigated the gas and electricity storage capacities of countries around the world, to see who can hold the most.

Why is gas and electricity storage important?

Storing enough gas and electricity to meet a country’s needs is important, because otherwise, homes and businesses can be left without heating and power.

Storage is especially important in times of high demand, when a country’s needs exceed what it’s able to import or produce. When this happens, a nation must rely on its gas and electricity reserves.

 

Types of gas storage

There are many different types of gas storage, including:

  • Depleted natural gas or oil fields – This is the most common storage method. It makes a lot of sense for companies to use exhausted reservoirs, particularly those close to the point of consumption, As these fields already have existing infrastructure such as pipelines and gathering systems.
  • Aquifer reservoir – This form of storage requires storing gas in a gap between rock dense enough to not allow gas to leak, and a soft rock formation that makes it easier to extract the gas.
  • Salt caverns – The UK has for the past 50 years or so used salt caverns to store gas and other fossil fuels, such as oil. Around the rest of the world, most salt caverns are concentrated in the Gulf Coast states. The biggest salt cavern is in Canada and it’s deeper than the height of the CN Tower.
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) – LNG is stored above ground, usually in storage tanks designed specifically to maintain the low temperatures needed to keep gas in a liquid form.

 

Types of electricity storage

Electricity storage is different to gas storage in the sense that you cannot actually store electricity – instead, you can store the potential to generate electricity through other means.

Here are a few types of electricity storage:

  • Hydroelectric – Water stored in a reservoir can be released to power a turbine, which in turn generates electricity when demand increases.
  • Compressed air – Electricity can be used to compress air up to 1,000 pounds per square inch, which is then stored in underground caverns. This compressed air can then be used to turn turbines to generate electricity.
  • Batteries – This is the only example where electricity is actually stored, rather than simply the potential to generate electricity.

These batteries – which function just like the rechargeable batteries we use in our laptops and mobile phones, but on a mega scale – are becoming more popular.

Big names like Tesla have already built batteries large enough to power not only their factories, but nearby towns too. The biggest battery storage in the world is the Manatee Energy Storage Centre, with a massive capacity of 409 megawatts (MW)

That’s enough capacity to power 329,000 homes for two hours.

Countries with the largest gas storage capacity

1. Russia – 397,746 terawatt hours (tWh)

Russia controls an astonishing 38 trillion cubic metres (tcm) of proven gas reserves, putting it at the top of the table. This means it owns roughly 19% of all the gas reserves in the world — which has led countries around the world to rely on Russian exports.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, many countries started to reconsider their reliance on Russian gas.

 

2. Iran – 334,944 tWh

With 16% of the world’s proven gas reserves, Iran places second on the list. The bulk of this can be found in various offshore sites, including a chunk of the North Field gas reserve, which it shares with Qatar.

Controversial initiatives such as the country’s nuclear programme have led to sanctions imposed on Iran by the US. This has made developing its gas reserves difficult.

 

3. Qatar – 258,534.9 tWh

Qatar is a small country, measuring just 11,571 km² (the UK is 243,610 km²), but it still has some of the world’s biggest gas reserves — 12.5% of all the gas on the planet, to be precise.

The majority of this comes from the offshore North Field, which is the world’s largest single natural gas field and roughly the size of the country itself.

Qatar is the biggest producer of LNG in the world, exporting vast amounts of it to countries including the UK via specially adapted tankers.

 

4. Turkmenistan – 204,106.5 tWh

The Central Asian country of Turkmenistan holds 9.5% of the world’s gas reserves, with 19.5 trillion cubic metres.

Unlike the US, Turkmenistan doesn’t have the infrastructure to take advantage of this. 2019 saw the country export just 63.2 bcm of gas, which is 1.6% of the world’s total.

 

5. United States – 135,024.3 tWh

The US holds 6.5% of global gas reserves, with 12.8 tcm of proven reserves. Gas production has increased dramatically since the shale fracking revolution of the early 21st century, which has also seen oil production shoot up.

In 2019, the US produced more gas than any other country in the world — around 921 billion cubic metres (bcm). This equals around 9640.107 tWh — more than enough to meet the US’s annual energy consumption of 3,930 tWh.

Countries with the largest electricity storage capacity

China – 35.7 gigawatts (GW)

China has the largest electricity storage capacity in the world – though this is almost all contained in its 33.3 GW of pumped hydro power.

It also has the most electricity generated from solar — 306 GW — but no substantial batteries to store it in. This is set to change soon however, with the country planning to expand battery capacity to 30 GW by 2025.

 

US – 30 GW

The US is an energy-storing juggernaut, with a massive 21.6 GW of hydroelectric power, 1.8 GW of concentrated solar power, and 6.6 GW of battery storage.

No other country can match the US’s battery capacity, which is helped by a desire to accommodate a large renewables grid and companies such as Tesla investing in big battery projects.

 

Spain – 8.2 GW

Spain’s concentrated solar power capacity is the highest in the world — 2.3 GW — which isn’t surprising considering the abundance of sunshine there.

With 5.9 GW of hydropower too, Spain has the largest capacity for storing energy in water in Europe.

The country lacks any battery storage at the moment, but has an ambitious target of 20 GW by 2030. This would combine well with Spain’s large solar panel and wind turbine installations.

 

India – 5 GW

India is home to the world’s largest solar farm, but its capacity to store solar electricity is limited. Instead, the bulk of energy storage is made up of hydroelectric power.

Vast reservoirs such as the Koyna Hydroelectric Project provide power to millions of people across the country. In storage, India has around 4.8 GW of hydropower, and around 0.2 GW of concentrated solar power.

 

South Africa – 3.4 GW

South Africa has made impressive headway in its energy storage capabilities, which include large-scale battery projects. The country has 0.5 GW of concentrated solar power, which is where the sun’s rays are stored as heat to be used for electricity later.

There are plans to expand utility-scale battery capacity to accommodate South Africa’s wind and solar farm installations. This would make the country the first of its kind to use this technology in Africa.

How much gas and electricity storage does the UK have?

The UK can store just 9.7 tWh of gas, which is only enough to meet 2% of the country’s annual needs.

Part of the reason behind this is the premature closing of large-scale gas storage facilities, which has made the UK more vulnerable to global gas shortages.

When it comes to electricity, the UK has just over 4,700 megawatt hours (mWh) in hydroelectric storage, which is far below many other high GDP countries. Battery storage is improving, sitting at 1.3 GW as of 2021.

There is an estimated 6.1 GW of battery capacity in the pipeline too, which will contribute to the UK government’s plan to have 30 GW of operational storage by 2030.

Summary

Reliable gas and electricity storage is key when global shortages mean countries can’t import energy reliably – and it’ll only become more essential as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

The major downside to this is that gas and energy storage is expensive and the infrastructure is typically huge.

But countries around the world must nevertheless expand their energy storage, or risk either having to fall back on fossil fuels, or not being able to provide citizens with gas and electricity during periods of high demand.

Tom Gill Writer

Tom is a big fan of all things eco and has a passionate interest in how technology and localised projects can work together to make the world greener.

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