Geologists attending the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Denver made waves with their announcement of a groundbreaking discovery: the potential for a game-changing boom in the extraction of naturally occurring hydrogen, dubbed “geological hydrogen.”

This untapped resource, previously overlooked, could revolutionize the hydrogen market, offering a more abundant and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional production methods.

The revelation stems from a groundbreaking study conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS), highlighting the vast quantities of naturally occurring hydrogen lurking beneath the Earth’s surface. With over 5 trillion tons estimated to be locked in underground reservoirs, the discovery has sparked excitement among researchers, who believe that even extracting a fraction of this resource could meet global demand for centuries to come.

Geoffrey Ellis, a research geologist at USGS, emphasized the significance of the findings, stating, “Most of the hydrogen is probably inaccessible, but extraction of a few percent would still satisfy the entire foreseeable demand for hundreds of years.” This abundance has largely gone unnoticed until now, as scientists previously lacked the tools and knowledge to identify and access hydrogen resources effectively.

Traditionally, hydrogen production has relied on chemical transformation, primarily through methane reforming processes that contribute to carbon emissions. Gray hydrogen, derived from fossil fuels, dominates the market, accounting for 92% of hydrogen production in 2022. However, the emergence of “golden hydrogen” offers a cleaner and more sustainable alternative.

Unlike gray or even green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis powered by renewable energy, geological hydrogen boasts a superior ecological impact profile. With lower energy consumption and minimal carbon emissions, this newfound resource has the potential to revolutionize the hydrogen market and accelerate the transition to a greener future.

Industry players are already mobilizing to capitalize on the potential of golden hydrogen. Companies like Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC and Koloma are spearheading exploration and production efforts, with investments pouring in from major players like Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures. In Europe, pioneers like Helios Aragon are leading the charge, harnessing geological hydrogen to produce clean and sustainable energy.

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