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IPFS News Link • Energy

Possibly a Trillion Tons of Mineable Hydrogen

•, by Brian Wang

They are close to pumping commercial hydrogen from underground mines. If there are huge hydrogen resources that can be mined then it could change the economics of a potential hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is currently produced by using electrolysis to split water or other processes to separate hydrogen from methane. Producing hydrogen is usually quite costly and energy intensive. Mining hydrogen could be far cheaper and there could be a 1000 times more hydrogen available underground than we currently produce.

At USGS (US Geological Survey), Ellis, thinks the Earth produces orders of magnitude more hydrogen each year than the 90 million tons that humans manufacture. But it's not only that flow that matters—it's the size of the underground stock. They used a simple box model borrowed from the oil industry. The model accounted for impermeable rock traps of different kinds, the destructive effect of microbes, and the assumption—based on oil industry experience—that only 10% of hydrogen accumulations might ever be tapped economically. Ellis says the model comes up with a range of numbers centered around a trillion tons of hydrogen. That would satisfy world demand for thousands of years even if the green-energy transition triggers a surge in hydrogen use. Much of this global resource could end up being too scattered to be captured economically, like the millions of tons of gold that are dissolved in the oceans at parts per trillion levels.

In November 2020, Luke Titus found an obscure 1944 report: Bulletin Number 22 from the Department of Mines of the Geological Survey of South Australia. It contained an analysis of data from farmers who had banded together to search for oil, using divining rods and other questionable techniques. Titus, co-founder of a company called Gold Hydrogen, saw the data from one borehole, drilled in 1921 on Kangaroo Island. It had produced as much as 80% hydrogen. Another well, on the nearby Yorke Peninsula, was close to 70%.