Hydrogen is often seen as the fuel of the future, but the problem is that it is produced artificially using other, often fossil fuel, sources. What if it could just be extracted from the ground? Recently, a natural hydrogen reservoir was discovered at the foot of the Pyrenees, which is the first in Europe and could potentially replace all fossil fuel sources.
The Science Behind Natural Hydrogen
‘Honestly, I have always believed that this could not exist, hydrogen hidden in the earth and that you can pump it out,’ says Richard van de Sanden, professor at TU Eindhoven. Hydrogen is made up of very small molecules that can go through everything, so the idea is that hydrogen produced somewhere in the earth, just escapes because it finds a way up, goes through the earth’s crust, and disappears into the air.’
Natural Hydrogen Production
Van de Sanden is in favor of hydrogen production in factories as a new, additional energy source, alongside oil, gas, and energy from sun and wind. However, he warns that hydrogen should not be seen as a miracle cure because it has to be made by humans and we are not yet very efficient at it. The production is expensive, dirty, or both. The fact that hydrogen may now be present in large quantities in the earth itself is therefore good news.
The Discovery of Natural Hydrogen
Ian Munro, CEO of Helios Aragón, understands that the discovery of natural hydrogen in the earth is science defying. It is his British-Spanish company that recently discovered the underground hydrogen reservoir in the northern Spanish region of Aragón. The reservoir is located near the village of Monzón, about 50 kilometers from the French-Spanish border, at the foot of the Pyrenees. ‘Based on what we now know, I think we can provide all the industry in the Monzón area with energy from this hydrogen reservoir.’
The Cost of Natural Hydrogen Production
Munro’s company tried it out in Monzón and it worked, at a depth of 3.5 kilometers. Hydrogen is trapped under a layer of rock there. Helios Aragón wants to drill through that rock layer and pump up the hydrogen. And that can be done cheaply, Munro believes. ‘Our estimate is that we can produce it for €0.75 per kilogram. That is half the cost of producing gray hydrogen, which is the cheapest form of hydrogen now, but gray hydrogen is polluting. Natural hydrogen is a completely clean energy source.’
The discovery of natural hydrogen in Europe could be a significant step towards achieving clean energy. It has the potential to replace all fossil fuel sources, and it is cost-effective. However, hydrogen should not be viewed as a magic solution, and it still has to be produced by humans, which can be expensive and dirty. The discovery of natural hydrogen is an exciting breakthrough, but we must still continue to explore other clean energy sources.
If you want to read more about this topic, check out this article about other alternatives to fossil fuels like artificial leafs that mimic photosynthesis!
This article was inspired by an article on FD.nl.
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