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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 An unpublished report by the US Geological Survey identifies it as a new primary resource, and fires the starter pistol on a new gold rush.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.
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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 In a Denver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he previewed the results of an as-yet unpublished study, according to the Financial Times.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: 4, Insightful) by janrinok on Wednesday February 28, @06:00PM (1 child)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @06:00PM (#1346675) Journal

    One of the things that is needed to keep a water supply flowing through a purification system is a pump. If they are using hydrogen to generate power then they can use some of that power to drive the pump and the purification plant. It isn't a problem where YOU live, but for many people just getting enough water to drink IS a problem.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 29, @01:56PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 29, @01:56PM (#1346796) Journal

    If they are using hydrogen to generate power

    I kinda feel, if they're doing that, then they're doing it wrong on several levels. Hydrogen is a poor means to store or transport energy. Even generating energy on site via hydrogen is pretty iffy. Much like methane, there are limited reasons to use hydrogen on site - the locations are typically remote and often don't generate enough power to justify moving the power elsewhere (as electricity).

    One possibility is using hydrogen as a carbon substitute in steel and aluminum production (at a glance [woodmac.com], they combined to contribute over 10% of all CO2 equivalent emissions in 2020 (4 Gt of 35 Gt CO2 equiv)).

    Another is to convert it to easy to burn hydrocarbons like methane or long chains like octane. That also would increase energy storage capacity and reduce leakage. There is significant energy consumption because turning hydrogen+CO2 into methane or other is an endothermic reaction, but it's about a sixth of the energy content of the resulting fuel (165 kJ per mole for Sabatier reaction versus ~920 kJ per mole of methane). Again the green draw here would be fossil fuel displacement.