Underground Hydrogen Touted As ‘Significant’ Clean Energy Resource In First U.S. Hearing

The Senate held the first congressional hearing on geologic hydrogen, a promising new form of clean energy generated naturally underground, that’s attracted growing interest and investment over the past year.

The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, heard testimony on Wednesday from the Energy Department’s advanced research unit, the U.S. Geological Survey and Pete Johnson, CEO of Koloma, the best-funded startup in the geologic hydrogen space. They concurred that more research is needed to identify the most abundant, promising sites and to develop techniques to amplify the natural production process, but were upbeat about the outlook.

“The potential for geologic hydrogen represents a paradigm shift in the way we think about hydrogen as an energy source,” Evelyn Wang, director of DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy told Senators. “This new source of hydrogen could lower energy costs and increase our nation’s energy security and supply chains.”

Federal scientists have begun working with universities and energy companies to find ways to map and locate potentially large pockets of hydrogen as current estimates are inadequate, said the Geological Survey’s Geoffrey Ellis. “The estimated in-place global geologic hydrogen resource ranges from 1000s to potentially billions of megatons,” he told the committee. “Given our understanding of other geologic resources, the vast majority of the in-place hydrogen is likely to be in accumulations that are either too far offshore or too small to ever be economically recovered. However, if even a small fraction of this amount could be recovered that would constitute a significant resource.”

Hydrogen is already heavily used in industry, including at oil refineries, chemical plants and as a key ingredient in ammonia for fertilizer. But nearly all of it is made by extracting hydrogen from natural gas, a dirty process that emits large amounts of carbon dioxide. Like green hydrogen — a new clean form of the element made from water and electricity, ideally from renewable power — the geologic variety is carbon-free. Scientists believe it’s generated in underground pockets of iron-rich rock in warm, moist conditions that are extremely common. Uniquely, it’s an energy source that’s just sitting there, not one that needs to be created.

“All other forms of hydrogen require more energy to produce than the hydrogen itself holds,” Koloma’s Johnson said. “This is incredibly clean energy. In multiple third-party lifecycle analyses and peer-reviewed journal articles, geologic hydrogen has been found to have a very low carbon footprint. In addition, geologic hydrogen will result in lower land use and lower water consumption than any other form of hydrogen.”

Johnson, Wang and Ellis also noted that drilling or mining for hydrogen leverages techniques used by the oil and gas industry. It’s also likely to aid domestic ammonia production.

“Hydrogen is a great feedstock and it’s used to create ammonia for fertilizer,” said Wang. “If we could really stimulate and extract this hydrogen and produce very large quantities at very low cost I think this could have significant implications to help and support farmers.”

Johnson provided no details about when Denver-based Koloma, which has raised over $300 million from investors including Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Energy Impact Partners and Amazon, would begin commercial extraction of hydrogen but is cautiously optimistic.

“This will take time, money and effort to figure out. Nobody has all the answers today,” he told the committee. “The early data looks promising and I believe that geologic hydrogen can play a very large role as we decarbonize the U.S. energy economy.”





Source    Forbes


March 1, 2024