Two scientists in France were looking for fossil fuels when they discovered something else. Deep underground, they hit something that could forever change the way we use energy.
Jacques Pironon and Phillipe De Donato, both directors of research at France’s National Centre of Scientific Research, were assessing the amount of methane in the subsoils of the Lorraine mining basin using a “world first” specialized probe, able to analyze gases dissolved in the water of rock formations deep underground, writes CNN.
A couple of hundred meters down, the probe found low concentrations of hydrogen. “This was not a real surprise for us,” Pironon told CNN; it’s common to find small amounts near the surface of a borehole. But as the probe went deeper, the concentration ticked up. At 1,100 meters down it was 14%, at 1,250 meters it was 20%.
This was surprising, Pironon said. It indicated the presence of a large reservoir of hydrogen beneath. They ran calculations and estimated the deposit could contain between 6 million and 250 million metric tons of hydrogen.
That could make it one of the largest deposits of “white hydrogen” ever discovered, Pironon said. The find has helped fuel an already feverish interest in the gas.
Discussing their discovery in The Conversation the pair explained why finding “white” hydrogen was such a big deal.
“The ‘colours’ of hydrogen point toward the process by which they’re produced. As a reminder, hydrogen is a gas which, most of the time, is found in compounds with other elements, eg in water and fossil fuels.
Grey hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced in a factory by processing natural gas. It’s currently the main source of hydrogen used in energy, and attracts criticism because of the amount of CO2 emitted during production.
Black hydrogen is made from coal, whereas green hydrogen comes from electrolysis of water using electricity generated from renewable sources. All these types of hydrogen are what is called secondary forms of energy. White hydrogen, which is what we’re interested in here, is hydrogen already present in that state in nature. It is therefore a primary energy source.
A directly available potential supply of white hydrogen offers the huge advantage of not needing additional energy inputs to be made from other gases/substances. It’s also cause for excitement, because the theory we are currently leaning toward to explain the presence of hydrogen under Lorraine would suggest an almost infinite supply of this gas.”
Hydrogen continues to emerge as a promising and versatile energy source with the potential to revolutionize our global energy landscape. A light and abundant element offers several key advantages as a sustainable energy carrier.
First and foremost, it produces no greenhouse gas emissions when used in fuel cells, making it a clean and environmentally friendly option for power generation and transportation. Its ability to store and release energy efficiently makes it an excellent candidate for energy storage, helping to address the intermittent nature of renewables.