08 / 05 / 2024

Hydrogen Reserves Unearthed - A Potential Source for Centuries to Come

4 min read
Hydrogen Reserves Unearthed - A Potential Source for Centuries to Come

Geoffrey Ellis, a researcher from the United States Geological Survey, recently revealed at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver that there are up to 5.5 trillion tons of hydrogen in underground deposits worldwide. According to Ellis, this abundance could meet the needs of our civilization for hundreds of years.


Natural sources of hydrogen as a fuel of the future

Hydrogen holds immense promise in addressing the energy crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the artificial production of hydrogen often results in harmful emissions. In recent years, geologists have discovered natural reserves of hydrogen globally. For instance, the chromite mine in Bulqizë, Albania, revealed its potential to produce over 200 tons of hydrogen annually.

Harvesting naturally occurring hydrogen, known as geological or white  hydrogen, could prove to be the cleanest and most cost-effective method. Ellis, in his conference statement, predicts a surge in interest in "golden hydrogen."


white hydrogen fuel


Hydrogen for Centuries

Ellis has been working on an upcoming study where he elaborates on his remarkable findings. He acknowledges that accessing this valuable gas might not be easy, stating, "Most of the hydrogen is likely to be inaccessible." Nevertheless, even a small percentage of recovery could supply the anticipated demand (500 million tons annually) for hundreds of years.

According to Ellis, hydrogen deposits, possibly formed through the interaction of iron-rich minerals with groundwater, are extraordinary. In some cases, hydrogen may not be in its pure form and could be mixed with other gases, such as methane, requiring separation. However, extraction releases methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years.


hydrogen minerals


Despite this, Ellis suggests that it could be argued that geological hydrogen has the potential to be significantly more environmentally friendly than green hydrogen.



Hydrogen Extraction Methods

Hydrogen stands out as one of the most promising fuels in the fight against CO₂ emissions, with applications in future airplanes, trains, and cars. However, not all methods of extracting hydrogen are equally clean and cost-effective.

The most common type, grey hydrogen, extracted from natural gas, is considered the highest emitter of CO₂. Brown hydrogen is derived from lignite, a brown coal, while black hydrogen utilizes darker coal known as anthracite. Both brown and black hydrogen emit significant amounts of CO₂ during production.


Another well-known option is blue hydrogen, extracted using methods similar to grey and brown hydrogen, but with the capture and underground storage of CO₂. While storing CO₂ incurs costs, the final price remains relatively economical.

Besides geological hydrogen, the other emission-free hydrogen is green hydrogen. Produced using renewable energy, green hydrogen involves various methods, often utilizing next-generation electrolyzers that are more cost-effective.

The pursuit of white hydrogen is still in its infancy, but according to the Financial Times, the potential is immense, attracting significant investments.


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