A large group of scientists and energy companies are attempting to draw upon a near-limitless supply of carbon-neutral gasses buried deep below the surface of the earth.
- Hydrogen is a flammable gas that produces no carbon emissions, with many hydrogen-burning engines only producing water as a byproduct.
- Scientists believe that large pockets of “geologic” hydrogen—amounting to 150 trillion metric tons—are buried in deposits that can be drilled into and tapped.
- The U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado School of Mines, and major energy corporations like Chevron, Shell, and BP are investigating different hydrogen wells that could provide access to the gas, Forbes reports.
- There are severe limitations with accessing these mines, namely that it may be uneconomical or logistically difficult to access these deposits under oceans or in isolated areas of the globe.
Why It’s Important
The ongoing clean-energy revolution is facing many challenges, among them being the challenge of how to power an entire energy grid and multiple transportation systems without carbon-burning materials like gas and coal. As we previously reported, the International Energy Agency expects oil drilling to peak in the next few decades amid the energy transition.
Hydrogen has long been a proposed alternative to fossil fuels. However, the process of obtaining carbon-free hydrogen is challenging. Hydrogen can be produced somewhat abundantly through existing natural gas, but the process burns carbon. Green hydrogen is a proposed alternative, but it is inefficient to produce. Mining hydrogen could be the best solution that solves most problems.
It remains to be seen whether this gold rush will commence, as accessing these pockets will require operating in conditions that make the attempts uneconomical or impractical. Deposits buried deep beneath the ocean may not be worth the effort to access. However, accessing just a small portion of these pockets could provide centuries of hydrogen.
“So if just 2% or 3% of the 10 million megatons out there can be tapped, that would supply all of the world’s demand of 500 million tons per year for hundreds of years,” Geoff Ellis of the U.S. Geological Survey tells Forbes.
Backing Up A Bit
Many technologies have already been adapted to burning hydrogen as a replacement for traditional fuels. Several companies have experimented with hydrogen-powered freight trains and passenger trains. Several major aeronautical companies have experimented with hydrogen planes. Hydrogen cars have been experimented with as an alternative to electric vehicles, and hydrogen shipping vessels have been discussed.
“Imagine the potential of an underground factory fueled by nature that generates a replenishing supply of clean, dispatchable energy. [Geologic hydreon] resolves the intermittency of renewable power and provides the security and stability needed to displace fossil fuels,” HyTerra COO Luke Velterop tells Forbes.