Several years ago, geologists from Natural Hydrogen Energy predicted and then discovered a new and previously unknown phenomenon: many places on the Earth’s crust seep significant quantities of hydrogen gas to the surface.
This had been previously unknown due to hydrogen’s properties: it’s odourless, invisible, tasteless, non-toxic and very diffusive.
It quickly became clear to Natural Hydrogen Energy (NH2E) that the importance of geologic hydrogen had been largely unrecognised, and the company was formed eight years ago to explore for this natural resource.
NH2E’s international team, comprising geologists, chemists, engineers and business people, believe there is a real need for inexpensive, clean and sustainable hydrogen – and they believe they can meet that need.
To prove this is possible, NH2E has already drilled a candidate site and is now working to further test production. To find out more about this, H2 View spoke to Viacheslav Zgonnik (pictured right), NH2E’s co-founder and CEO.
You just mentioned the candidate site, could you tell us a bit more about this?
Our first exploratory well is located in the Midwest. We are the first company in the world to drill into these types of new prospects. The drilling provided us with unique information about them.
We are currently testing our well for production and preparing further drilling at other locations. But the advantage of natural hydrogen is that it is obtainable on all continents, which will allow many countries to diversify their energy resources.
What are the next steps for the project?
We are going to start commercial extraction of natural hydrogen and distribution for consumer consumption. In addition, we will transform it into products which can be transported over large distances such as ammonia or synthetic kerosene.
NH2E believes a cost effective and fossil free solution to the hydrogen transition is natural hydrogen obtained from the drilling and storing of hydrogen reserves in the earth’s crust. Could you tell us more about this?
The greatest thing about natural hydrogen is that it is not a vector of energy but a primary source, because there is no need to expend energy to make natural hydrogen. As a result, it is expected to be cheaper than steam-methane reforming and electrolysis.
“…natural hydrogen is an inexhaustible and sustainable resource… this opens up the opportunity for a total replacement of fossil fuels by hydrogen as a worldwide energy source”
To reform methane, it is first necessary to extract it from the subsurface and then convert it to hydrogen via a capex-intensive process which emits CO2. In our view, instead of drilling for fossil-fuel (and then transforming hydrocarbons into hydrogen) we drill directly into accumulations of naturally occurring hydrogen.
Based on the facts that natural hydrogen is an inexhaustible and sustainable resource which does not involve carbon dioxide or other emissions, this opens up the opportunity for a total replacement of fossil fuels by hydrogen as a worldwide energy source. At the same time, existing oil & gas explorers and producers can use their existing infrastructure and expertise to efficiently pivot away from fossil fuels to a non-fossil resource. In this way, it’s entirely possible to reach global clean energy goals much faster.
I understand you want to provide green hydrogen at $1 per kg. Would you say this is the optimum price per kg of hydrogen?
Research has estimated the cost of production for geologic hydrogen will be approximately $1 per kg or less. Therefore, it compares favourably with all currently known methods and fits very well the Department of Energy (DOE) target of $2 per kg.
How do we get to that optimum price? What will it take to get there?
The value chain is similar to that of natural gas production. This includes: site selection; drilling and completion; extraction and separation of various gas streams; monetisation; and transportation. We’ve completed the first two steps of this process (selection of sites and drilling a well), so we are now poised to begin the commercial processes.
Where would you say your passion for hydrogen comes from?
Being a chemist, even as a student very early on, I understood the potential for hydrogen to become a key element in a new energy system. In 2009, I created the Ukrainian Association for Hydrogen Energy to promote ideas for a hydrogen economy. In 2010, in California, our student team won the Hydrogen Student Design Contest. Starting from 2011, I’ve been working full time on the topic of natural hydrogen.
The idea of switching to clean energy was and is my main driving force!
Finally, if you could leave our readers with one hydrogen-related message, what would that be?
Natural hydrogen is a renewable resource capable of boosting the emerging hydrogen economy!