Scientists looking for fossil fuels beneath the ground of northeastern France have discovered large reservoir of hydrogen. According to the initial calculations, it is one of the largest deposits of “white hydrogen” ever discovered, estimated to be between 6 million and 250 million metric tons of hydrogen, CNN reported.
White hydrogen, also referred to as “natural,” “gold” or “geologic” hydrogen, is naturally produced in the Earth’s crust and is considered a potential clean energy.
How was White Hydrogen Discovered?
Two scientists- Jacques Pironon and Phillipe De Donato, both directors of research at France’s National Centre of Scientific Research were assessing the amount of methane in the subsoils of the Lorraine mining basin.
When they reached a couple of hundred meters down, they found low concentrations of hydrogen. But, as they went deeper, the concentration surged reaching 14% at 1,100 meters and 20% at 1,250 meters.
The study indicated the presence of a large reservoir of hydrogen beneath which ran into millions of metric tons of hydrogen, making it one of the largest deposits of “white hydrogen” ever discovered.
What is White Hydrogen and How it is Useful?
White hydrogen is the naturally produced gas present in the Earth’s crust. Though, it is the most abundant element in the universe, it generally exists combined with other molecules.
White hydrogen is relatively new to scientists. In 2018, a well in Mali producing 98% hydrogen gas brought the attention of scientists to the resource. As of now, its deposits have been found across the world, including in the US, eastern Europe, Russia, Australia, France and other countries. It is estimated that globally there could be tens of billions of tons of white hydrogen.
Hydrogen is pitted as the most potential clean energy source for industries like aviation, shipping and steel-making. Hydrogen produces only water when burned making it more environment-friendly energy source than solar or wind energy.
Why is the Discovery Special?
Until recently, scientists believed that mass amounts of Hydrogen could only be produced in labs. There were several types of hydrogen categorized by colours on the basis of their origin.
For instance, “gray” Hydrogen is made from methane gas, “brown” from coal, “blue” hydrogen is similar to gray but with captured emissions. The most eco-friendly hydrogen is “green” hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy to split water.
This is why white hydrogen, which is potentially abundant and untapped can be source of clean-burning energy.
The discovery has also proved that Hydrogen can found naturally and doesn’t always require any of the energy-intensive processes.
The clean energy source is also cheaper as the estimated cost of white hydrogen would be around $1 per kilogram, while green hydrogen costs about $6 per kilogram, according to CNN.
Global Use of Hydrogen
Hydrogen is already in use as part of new initiatives to explore green energy. Australia-based Gold Hydrogen is currently drilling in the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.
The company targeted that spot after the state’s archives discovered a number of boreholes with very high concentrations of hydrogen in the 1920s.
Koloma, a white hydrogen start-up in the US, is developing methods to extract hydrogen more effectively, using proprietary technologies and AI. The company has secured $91 million from investors, including the Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures. But it is secretive about where in the US it is drilling.
Another US company in Denver Natural Hydrogen Energy has completed a hydrogen borehole in Nebraska in 2019 and has plans for new wells.