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Natural Hydrogen in the Energy Transition: Fundamentals, Promise, and Enigmas


Beyond its role as an energy vector, a growing number of natural hydrogen sources and reservoirs are being discovered all over the globe, which could represent a clean energy source. Although the hydrogen amounts in reservoirs are uncertain, they could be vast, and they could help decarbonize energy-intensive economic sectors and facilitate the energy transition. Natural hydrogen is mainly produced through a geochemical process known as serpentinization, which involves the reaction of water with low-silica, ferrous minerals. In favorable locations, the hydrogen produced can become trapped by impermeable rocks on its way to the atmosphere, forming a reservoir. The safe exploitation of numerous natural hydrogen reservoirs seems feasible with current technology, and several demonstration plants are being commissioned. Natural hydrogen may show variable composition and require custom separation, purification, storage, and distribution facilities, depending on the location and intended use. By investing in research, in the mid-term, more hydrogen sources could become exploitable and geochemical processes could be artificially stimulated in new locations. In the long term, it may be possible to leverage or engineer the interplay between microorganisms and geological substrates to obtain hydrogen and other chemicals in a sustainable manner.

Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics

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