Geologists forecast rise of new era with rush of hydrogen


(MENAFN) Geologists are heralding the dawn of a new "gold rush" era, not for precious metal but for hydrogen, an abundant and carbon-free resource naturally occurring within the Earth. An unpublished study by the US Geological Survey has revealed the presence of up to 5 trillion tons of hydrogen stored in underground reservoirs across the globe, sparking immense interest within the scientific community and beyond.

Project leader Jeffrey Ellis unveiled these groundbreaking findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, emphasizing the vast potential of this untapped resource. While acknowledging that a significant portion of this hydrogen may remain inaccessible, Ellis remains optimistic, noting that even a small fraction could satisfy the projected global demand of 500 million tons annually for centuries to come.

The burgeoning demand for hydrogen, both as a fuel and an essential raw material for industrial processes such as ammonia production for fertilizer, has historically been met through methods like chemical reforming, resulting in "blue hydrogen" with carbon capture or "gray hydrogen" without. However, the advent of "green hydrogen," produced via water electrolysis using renewable energy sources, has provided a cleaner alternative.

Yet, Mingli Zhang of the Colorado School of Mines asserts that harnessing natural hydrogen, also known as geohydrogen or "gold," holds the promise of even greater environmental and economic benefits compared to blue or green hydrogen. Zhang predicts a forthcoming surge in the pursuit of this "golden hydrogen," drawing attention to its potential as a cleaner and more cost-effective alternative.

Investor interest is already on the rise, exemplified by the US startup Coloma's successful fundraising efforts, which garnered USD91 million in investments, including support from Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Paul Haraka, Coloma's Commercial Director, touts geohydrogen as an unparalleled opportunity to produce clean hydrogen with minimal carbon footprint and resource usage.

In pursuit of this promising venture, American company National Hydrogen Energy has embarked on exploratory drilling in Nebraska. CEO Vyacheslav Zjonik remains optimistic about the prospects, albeit acknowledging the time required to transition from exploration to commercial production. Zjonik expresses the company's commitment to expediting this process, reflecting the growing anticipation surrounding the potential of geohydrogen to revolutionize the energy landscape.

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