Buried Treasure: Natural Hydrogen Offers Clean Energy Promise

Buried Treasure: Natural Hydrogen Offers Clean Energy Promise

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By Shane Marrs

Deep beneath the Earth's surface, a hidden bounty may hold the key to a cleaner future. Recent research suggests vast reserves of natural hydrogen exist, trapped in rock formations. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates these reserves could be as high as five trillion tonnes, enough to meet global hydrogen demand for centuries.

This naturally occurring hydrogen, sometimes called "gold hydrogen," forms when water reacts with iron-rich rocks. Notably, two long stretches of such rock run through the US, from Kansas to Michigan.

Extracting this hydrogen could be a game-changer. "Gold hydrogen" production is believed to be cleaner and cheaper than traditional methods like steam methane reforming. The US government has already allocated funds to research extraction technologies.

However, challenges remain. Separating the hydrogen from other gases it's mixed with and creating infrastructure for transport are hurdles that need to be overcome. Additionally, leakage during extraction could negate the climate benefits of hydrogen as a fuel.

Despite the unknowns, researchers are optimistic. Investment in natural hydrogen production is expected to surge, with some calling it a "gold rush." While questions linger, the early data is promising, and natural hydrogen could play a significant role in decarbonizing the US energy sector.