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Discovering Naturally Occurring Hydrogen: A New Era

Discovering Naturally Occurring Hydrogen: A New Era

Quick Look:

  • Faces local and environmental group resistance due to unclear environmental impact and potential greenwashing.
  • A study reveals its emissions are 20% higher than burning gas or coal, challenging its environmental benefits.
  • Promising alternative with significant global reserves key for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

In mid-2030, the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) will complete its development. Spearheaded by the Biden administration and major energy companies, it will include EQT, CNX, and Marathon Petroleum. This ambitious initiative spans the Marcellus shale basin in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Now, it aims to establish a significant hydrogen production facility. However, the project faces considerable opposition from local communities and environmental groups. The primary concerns revolve around the environmental footprint and the commercial viability of the production process.

Recently, over fifty local environmental organisations have collectively urged the Department of Energy to halt ongoing negotiations regarding ARCH2. The main grievance is the lack of clarity surrounding the project’s environmental impact and operational specifics. Critics argue that the initiative is merely an attempt by the oil and gas industry to rebrand itself. Therefore raising questions about the true environmental benefits of the hydro hub.

Environmental Groups Urge DOE to Halt ARCH2 Negotiations

Local communities, particularly those in regions heavily impacted by fracking, have expressed scepticism. Environmental advocates worry that the hydrogen hub might prolong the life of fracking operations, thereby validating and greenwashing an industry linked to significant ecological harm. Although project leaders, including Shawn Bennett, a former deputy assistant secretary for oil and gas, assert that the hub will not necessitate new gas wells, the opposition remains steadfast. Bennett has also emphasised that there is a misunderstanding regarding the project’s developmental stage, aiming to reassure stakeholders about its environmental credentials and commercial feasibility.

Blue Hydrogen Emissions 20% Higher Than Gas or Coal

A critical study conducted by researchers from Stanford and Cornell has further intensified the debate. The findings reveal that blue hydrogen is derived from natural gas with carbon capture and storage. It has an emissions footprint that is 20% higher than burning gas or coal directly for heat. This stark revelation casts doubt on the environmental benefits touted by proponents of blue hydrogen, highlighting the need for a more sustainable approach.

As the US gears up to become the world’s largest producer of clean material by 2030, with blue hydrogen expected to account for more than three-quarters of production and green hydrogen making up the remainder, attention is shifting towards a potentially revolutionary alternative: naturally occurring hydrogen. Often referred to as gold, geological, or white hydrogen, this resource is found in the Earth’s crust and holds significant promise for decarbonising industries that are challenging to transition to renewable energy.

Global Hydrogen Reserves Estimated at 5 Trillion Tonnes

Naturally occurring hydrogen deposits have been identified in various locations worldwide, including Mali, which has been producing this hydrogen since 2012, as well as France, Spain, parts of Africa, Brazil, and the US. The estimated global reserves of this hydrogen are believed to be around five trillion tonnes. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the demand for hydrogen could reach 430 million tonnes by 2050 in a scenario aimed at achieving net zero emissions. This vast potential positions the material as a critical component in the global strategy to combat climate change.

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