Chapman Hydrogen and Petroleum Engineering, led by petrophysicist Denis Brière, is gearing up to explore the possibility of harvesting natural hydrogen from underground deposits, marking the next frontier in the global race for this coveted element.
Once dismissed due to its perceived scarcity and lack of demand, hydrogen is now emerging as a linchpin in the quest to decarbonize the global economy. With its potential to serve as a clean fuel and industrial feedstock without producing carbon dioxide, a hydrogen “gold rush” has ensued in various parts of the world, including Spain, Germany, Australia, and the United States.
The story begins with the unexpected discovery of natural hydrogen in Mali by Montreal-based Hydroma in 1987. Initially considered a failure, the 100-meter well revealed its true potential when ignited, showcasing its 98 percent pure hydrogen content. Fast forward to 2014, and the Bourakébougou well in Mali became the world’s first developed natural hydrogen site, igniting global interest in this previously overlooked resource.
Denis Brière, instrumental in Mali’s discovery, now seeks to replicate this success in Canada. The geological similarities between Mali and Canada’s Canadian Shield region have fueled optimism about the existence of untapped hydrogen reservoirs.
Brière’s team at Chapman Hydrogen and Petroleum Engineering is set to commence testing and drilling in northern Ontario this summer. The goal is to unearth enough natural hydrogen to contribute to the burgeoning hydrogen market. The Canadian Shield’s rock formations, akin to those in Mali, offer a promising backdrop for this groundbreaking exploration.
Hydrogen is already integral to various industries, from refining to transportation. Canada, too, has been experimenting with hydrogen fuel cells to power trains, buses, and trucks. While hydrogen can be conventionally produced from natural gas (grey hydrogen), the focus is shifting towards green hydrogen, generated through renewable energy. Natural hydrogen, often termed white hydrogen, presents an intriguing prospect as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective source.