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posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @10:34AM   Printer-friendly

https://newatlas.com/energy/geologic-hydrogen-gold-rush/

There's enough natural hydrogen trapped underground to meet all projected demands for hundreds of years. An unpublished report by the US Geological Survey identifies it as a new primary resource, and fires the starter pistol on a new gold rush.

The "black gold" oil rush in the US started in 1859, when one Edwin Drake drove a stake into the Pennsylvania soil and oil started flowing out. The gold hydrogen rush may have a similar moment to point back to; in 1987, as one Mamadou Ngulo Konaré tells the story, well diggers gave up on a 108-m (354-ft) deep dry borehole, but he and other villagers in Bourakébougou, Mali, noticed that wind was blowing out of it. When one of the drillers looked in, smoking a cigarette, it blew up in his face, causing severe burns as well as a huge fire.

That fire, as Science quoted Konaré, burned "like blue sparking water, and did not have black smoke pollution. The color of the fire at night was like shining gold." It took weeks to put the fire out and plug the hole, but subsequent analysis showed the gas coming out was 98% pure hydrogen. Celebratory mangos were served. Some years later, a little 30 kW Ford generator was hooked up, and Bourakébougou became the first village in the world to enjoy the benefits of clean, naturally occuring hydrogen as a green energy source.
...
Either way, the situation has now changed, big time. Geoffrey Ellis, of the US Geological Survey, has been investigating the global potential of geo-locked "gold" hydrogen as a new primary resource. In a Denver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he previewed the results of an as-yet unpublished study, according to the Financial Times.

In short, there are as many as 5.5 trillion tons of hydrogen in underground reservoirs worldwide. It may have been generated by the interaction of certain iron-rich minerals with subterranean water. In some cases, it may be mixed in with other gases such as methane, from which it would need to be separated. But it's there, in such extraordinary quantities that analysts are expecting a gold hydrogen rush at a global scale.

It may not be super easy to get to: "Most hydrogen is likely inaccessible," Ellis told the Financial Times. "But a few per cent recovery would still supply all projected demand – 500 million tonnes a year – for hundreds of years."

Gold hydrogen won't won't hog renewable energy like electrolyzers, or divert it away from other decarbonization opportunities. In that sense, you could argue it'll have the potential to be significantly greener than green hydrogen. On the other hand, if tapping it releases methane into the atmosphere, that's a serious issue; methane is around 85 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.


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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday February 28, @03:09PM (12 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @03:09PM (#1346645) Journal

    It now would seem that Helium may be quite a bit more scarce than Hydrogen.

    So how about Hydrogen filled balloons for office parties.

    Or a singing chicken bringing a huge bundle of balloons to your door for your birthday.

    On another topic, would Hydrogen vehicles be lighter wait than EVs ?

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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @03:28PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @03:28PM (#1346650)

    On another topic, would Hydrogen vehicles be lighter wait than EVs

    Since the Toyota Mirai exists this question is reasonably straightfoward to answer: no.

    According to Wikipedia, the Mirai (both versions) has a curb weight of about 1.9 tonnes [wikipedia.org]. This is more than basically every battery-electric vehicle of a similar size to the Mirai.

    • (Score: 2) by quietus on Wednesday February 28, @06:47PM

      by quietus (6328) on Wednesday February 28, @06:47PM (#1346685) Journal

      That is only 300 kg more than my Diesel Alfa 156. In contrast, the Tesla Model S, 2020 model, has a curb weight of 2,241 kg -- or 300+ kg more than the Toyota Mirai, and 600 kg more than my 156. The 2023 Tesla Model X weights even more, at 2,550 kg curb weight.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @04:26PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @04:26PM (#1346658)

    > On another topic, would Hydrogen vehicles be lighter wait than EVs ?

    Not necessarily, but you won't have to weight for them to charge.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by DannyB on Wednesday February 28, @05:18PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @05:18PM (#1346665) Journal

      EV charging needs a serious wait loss program.

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    • (Score: 4, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @05:35PM (2 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @05:35PM (#1346670)

      Most "practical" hydrogen storage and retrieval methods developed for vehicles involve absorption and release beds for the gas. If you try to treat it like CNG or LP it will have tremendous leakage, which is itself an environmental problem even if you can afford the loss in a short term economic analysis.

      Keeping the universe's smallest, lightest molecule contained in gaseous form is actually quite a challenge. If you go for LH2, that requires a temperature of 20K or less which is quite a challenge to both achieve and insulate / maintain in a 300K environment.

      LN2 "only" requires 77K or less. Early MRI magnets operated on LH2, getting the superconductors to work at LN2 temperatures dropped the cost of operation tremendously.

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      • (Score: 2) by quietus on Wednesday February 28, @06:55PM (1 child)

        by quietus (6328) on Wednesday February 28, @06:55PM (#1346689) Journal

        Could you perhaps point to more information about those absorption and release beds? Here is a map [h2.live] of hydrogen fuel stations in Germany and Europe (170 opened, 45 in various stages of implementation); these apparently use what's called LOHC technology (scroll down to linky 08 Information about the LOHC Technology), which seems to be a variant of what you're mentioning.

        • (Score: 4, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @07:58PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @07:58PM (#1346700)

          It has been a while (almost 30 years for this article) I hope they've advanced since then:

          In 1995, the Capella carried a metal hydride hydrogen storage device were the gas is literally absorbed into the material and then released on demand. Misumi says energy density using this approach was good and bettered that of liquid gas. But the weight penalty, some 400kg, has so far proved insurmountable. Hydrides are also slow to fill. Substantial heat is generated during the filling and release of hydrogen and they are costly.

          https://www.just-auto.com/features/the-hydrogen-promise-of-mazdas-rotary-engine/ [just-auto.com]

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @06:30PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @06:30PM (#1346682)

    > would Hydrogen vehicles be lighter wait than EVs ?

    Depends -- are you restricting to fuel cell electric vehicles? ICE Hydrogen is also possible, the fuel tanks weigh more, but not nearly as much as current large BEV batteries. The rest of the engine/powertrain is likely about the same as a normal gasoline car.

    As noted elsewhere, storing Hydrogen is troublesome, so this could be best for high usage cases where the tank(s) on the vehicle are filled frequently. If you leave a Hydrogen car at the airport parking lot for a few weeks there may not be much H2 left...

    • (Score: 2) by quietus on Wednesday February 28, @07:03PM (2 children)

      by quietus (6328) on Wednesday February 28, @07:03PM (#1346690) Journal

      As noted elsewhere, storing Hydrogen is troublesome, so this could be best for high usage cases where the tank(s) on the vehicle are filled frequently. If you leave a Hydrogen car at the airport parking lot for a few weeks there may not be much H2 left...

      This is a canard. There are 1,600 miles of hydrogen pipeline [energy.gov] in the United States alone and, if they are about the same age as the ones in Europe, a lot of that mileage was constructed in the 50s and 60s. Apparently it is not even that hard to convert existing natural gas pipelines for hydrogen transport, through means of a polyester film on the inside (Europe), while you guys in the US are thinking towards fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) pipelines (for new pipelines).

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @09:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @09:57PM (#1346725)

        > This is a canard.

        May I politely suggest that *you* are a canard as well? Comparing pipelines that are built once and stay in place is a far different problem than a tank designed for a vehicle.

        First off, natural gas pipelines that I'm aware of operate at a pressure ranging from 30 to 200 bar. The big G tells me that, "The carbon fibre-reinforced plastic tanks store the hydrogen [in Toyota MIRAI] at a pressure of 700 bar". There are plenty of other differences in these two use cases as well--comparing oranges and apples is rarely successful.
           

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @10:15PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @10:15PM (#1346731)

        Pipelines leak, it's one of their primary attributes.

        Non-leaking hydrogen pipelines across miles will be expensive to construct and maintain - far more expensive than current oil pipelines.

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday February 28, @09:10PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday February 28, @09:10PM (#1346715)

    Funny you should mention that, my immediate first guess about the 2% from "98% pure hydrogen" was it's probably helium.

    Lots of helium comes from natgas production so I was guessing it might show up in similar h2 production sites.

    I would imagine the H2 sources are so rare as to be a tiny decimal place in global energy use yet global energy use is so huge that even a tiny decimal place is still billions of dollars. So it likely won't change our lives but it'll make some people very rich.