AI generated images of a hydrogen flame

Earth May Hold Vast Renewable Hydrogen Source

In 1987, a legendary event in Mali revealed that Earth may contain vast stores of hydrogen gas. If some of it is feasible to recover, this natural hydrogen could provide a source of clean-burning fuel and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels for centuries. When one driller peered into a dry borehole 108 meters deep while smoking a cigarette, the wind coming from the borehole exploded. The resultinge fire had no black smoke pollution and shined like blue sparkling water during the day.

This story, recounted on by Mamadou Ngulo Konaré to Denis Brière, a petrophysicist and vice president at Chapman Petroleum Engineering, inspired the company to explore the possibility of harnessing Earth’s hidden hydrogen. In 2012 they determined what was coming out of the borehole. Brière and his technicians discovered that the gas was 98% hydrogen. This was unheard of in oil exploration.

Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel that can be used to power cars, trucks, planes, and ships. It is also thought to be renewable even when extracted from the earth. It takes millions of years for buried and compressed organic deposits to turn into oil and gas. By contrast, natural hydrogen is always being made afresh, when underground water reacts with iron minerals at elevated temperatures and pressures.

Exploring the Possibility of Recovering Earth’s Hydrogen

Chapman Petroleum Engineering’s research has revealed that hydrogen gas is present in many places around the world. In some cases, it is present in very high concentrations. For example, in the Middle East and North Africa, it is present in concentrations up to 10% of the total gas in a reservoir. This means that the amount of recoverable hydrogen could be much higher than previously thought.

The company has also identified several techniques for recovering this natural hydrogen. These techniques include drilling, fracking, and chemical extraction. Drilling involves creating boreholes deep into the ground in order to access the natural hydrogen. Fracking involves injecting water or other fluids into rock formations in order to fracture them and release the trapped hydrogen gas. Chemical extraction involves using chemicals to extract the hydrogen from other elements in the gas. While hydrogen itself burns clean, not all these mining methods are clean, or without risk.

The Challenges Ahead

While natural hydrogen has many potential benefits, there are also challenges that must be overcome before it can become a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. One challenge is the cost of producing and distributing natural hydrogen. Another challenge is finding ways to store and transport large amounts of hydrogen safely.

Finally, there are still many unknowns about how much natural hydrogen exists in Earth’s crust and how much of it is feasible to recover. More research needs to be done before natural hydrogen can become a mainstream source of energy.

Chapman Petroleum Engineering’s research has opened up exciting possibilities for harnessing Earth’s hidden reserves of renewable energy. While there are still challenges that need to be addressed before natural hydrogen can become a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels, this research suggests that this clean-burning fuel could play an important role in our transition away from fossil fuels.