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Natural hydrogen extraction

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Technology Description

The Earth continuously produces natural H2 (also called Native H2) through several chemical reactions that are primarily related to the oxidation of ferrous iron minerals, radiolysis of water, maturation of organic matter and the outgassing from the Earth's mantle. The exploration strategy for hydrogen should focus on areas where ferrous iron and/or natural radioactivity is present and can react with water. The geological exploration of H2 follows the same approach as for hydrocarbons, starting with the identification of the source rock, followed by the migration pathways, and finally the reservoirs and traps. For the latter, formations such as volcanic sills, clays or salt layers could potentially be capable of trapping hydrogen in crystalline or sedimentary rocks, for example, at the bottom of the sedimentary basins.
Some players are also contemplating the co-production of He with natural H2, as they are commonly found together. Geothermal power plants could enhance their value chains by co-producing natural H2 and mineral substances, such as lithium. Coupling H2 production with the storage of CO2 in ultrabasic rocks will add additional benefits to natural H2 production.

Relevance for Net Zero

Although the production of natural hydrogen is already at demonstration stage, the lack of geological surveys and understanding of underground processes for hydrogen formation and accumulation, along with the uncertain economic case, suggest that it will play a moredate role in the transition to net-zero

Key Countries

Australia, Brazil, Mali, Oman, Spain, United States

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