Switzerland jumps on board the natural hydrogen search bandwagonNovember 2, 2023
The quest to discover if white H2 has real potential in the European country has begun.
Switzerland is joining the search for natural hydrogen after a natural H2 deposit was discovered in France. So far, it seems the nation may possibly have its own reserves as the first Swiss surveys carried out have shown promising results.
Drilling projects have been launched around the world.
In the race to mitigate climate change and find new forms of clean power to replace fossil fuels, interest in natural hydrogen, also referred to as white hydrogen, has surged in multiple nations.
Most notably, startups in the United States, Australia and Spain have launched drilling projects in an attempt to find naturally occurring hydrogen with the hopes of extracting it from deep below the Earth’s surface. Aside from these countries’ explorations, the most promising areas where natural hydrogen is thought to be include Russia, Canada, Japan, China and Oman. With so many countries finding evidence of the naturally occurring hydrogen, the hope is that this gas is not as rare to find as previously believed.
As for Switzerland, geological maps and chemical measurements of gases found beneath the ground suggest that natural hydrogen is present in the country and the Alpine region in general.
“We have found rocks that produced hydrogen in the past,” said geochemist Eric Gaucher, co-founder of the start-up Lavoisier H2 Geoconsult. “Now we need to find out if there are rocks deep down that can still produce hydrogen today.”
The advantages of natural hydrogen.
Natural hydrogen has the advantage of being almost an inexhaustible resource and the processes that produce it are far faster compared to those that transform organic matter into oil. It is also potentially low cost. It is estimated to be less than $1 per kilogram, which would make it cheaper than H2 that is generated from fossil sources ($0.5 – 1.7/kg) or from renewable power ($3-8/kg).
If it can be extracted and used, according to Geoffry Ellis of the US Geological Survey, white hydrogen has every potential to become a significant new source of energy for the world.
It’s early days.
Still, it’s early days. While there is scientific interest to move forward with studies in the field, there has yet to be any proof that exploiting natural hydrogen can be cost-effective in any region of the world, with the exception of geothermal wells in Iceland, according to Gaucher.
What’s more, in order for exploration to truly being in Switzerland, Gaucher notes that laws would need to be amended. Currently in the country it is the decision of the canton to determine whether this kind of prospecting on their territory should be authorized.
Gaucher explains that in Switzerland, the first drilling wouldn’t begin any earlier than in seven to eight years, as a best-case scenario. For now, the geochemist says the next step will be to obtain funding for a thesis on natural hydrogen and assess the real potential for the nation.
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