The energy and climate change landscape has recently been electrified by the discovery of vast reserves of natural or “white” hydrogen. This development has sparked enthusiasm, with many seeing it as a potential game-changer in the fight against climate change. Amidst the excitement, it is crucial to dissect the reality behind this newfound energy source.
The Big Discovery: Unearthing White Hydrogen
- In July, scientists at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research stumbled upon substantial hydrogen concentrations deep underground, estimating a reservoir ranging from 6 million to 250 million tons of white hydrogen.
- This discovery has triggered a flurry of activity, with similar findings in locations like Mali, the US, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Oman, setting off a global quest for this untapped resource.
Optimistic Outlook: The Potential and Prospects of White Hydrogen
- Optimists believe white hydrogen could be a boundless, continuously replenishing resource, produced by geological processes.
- They estimate that there might be tens of billions of tons of hydrogen globally, potentially exceeding the 100 million tons produced annually today.
- Furthermore, proponents argue that white hydrogen could be economically viable, costing as low as $1/kg compared to $6/kg for green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy sources.
Skeptical Perspective: Challenges and Considerations
- However, skeptics, including engineers and scientists, caution against over-optimism. They argue that the categorization of hydrogen into various colors can be misleading, emphasizing a distinction between high-carbon (black) and low-carbon (green) hydrogen.
- The Hydrogen Science Coalition defines the dividing line at 1kg CO2e used to produce 1kg Hydrogen.
- Skeptics raise valid concerns about the form and concentration of hydrogen deposits, the extraction costs (both monetary and environmental), transportation challenges, and the sustainability of these reservoirs in the long run.