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USGS, Colorado School of Mines establish joint industry program to explore potential of geologic hydrogen

Colorado School of Mines (Mines) and the US Geological Survey (USGS) have established a joint industry program supported by leading international companies in the energy industry to study the potential of geologic hydrogen.

This is the first collaborative effort on geologic hydrogen between a federal agency and academia. With the combined expertise in electromagnetics, gravity and magnetics in mineral exploration and exploration seismology for natural gas at Mines, we are uniquely positioned to tackle the subsurface exploration research in geologic hydrogen.

—Mengli Zhang, co-director of the Center for Gravity, Electrical and Magnetic Studies and co-lead of the new joint program for Mines

Geologic hydrogen is a naturally occurring gas with significant potential as an energy resource. It is also a resource that could help reduce the climate impact of many industries that cannot easily be electrified—everything from heavy duty transport (air travel) to steel manufacturing to industrial heating.

Most hydrogen today, however, is manufactured using natural gas, requiring large amounts of energy and releasing carbon dioxide that is often left unabated. Current methods for reducing the carbon footprint of producing hydrogen include capturing and storing the carbon dioxide produced, or by using renewable electricity to split water molecules—both more costly than traditional hydrogen manufacturing.

As an alternative, scientists with Mines and the USGS have begun investigating the hydrogen gas that naturally exists beneath the surface of the Earth. Preliminary research suggests that vast quantities of hydrogen may exist in various rock formations, both in the United States and around the world.


In the first industry-supported hydrogen exploration consortium in the world, researchers at Mines and the USGS will advance the understanding of geologic hydrogen systems, as well as develop surface- and sub-surface exploration technologies to locate the clean-burning gas beneath the ground.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch here. We can adopt and adapt the learning that we have developed from many decades of research into other resources such as mineral resources, petroleum and geothermal energy.

—Geoffrey Ellis, a research geologist with the USGS Energy Resources Program and director of the new joint program

To that end, the consortium’s research will focus on the development of four key areas:

  1. A geologic “hydrogen system” model that identifies sources, migration pathways and mechanisms, reservoirs, traps and seals leading to accumulations of hydrogen in the subsurface.

  2. Surface exploration approaches, including remote sensing and surface geochemistry, to refine our understanding of where hydrogen accumulations exist in the subsurface.

  3. Subsurface exploration tools, including multiple geophysical tools, advanced signal processing and artificial intelligence tools, to image geologic hydrogen systems and potential economic accumulations suitable for energy production.

  4. 3D reactive transport modeling that integrates geology, geochemistry and geophysics to improve the understanding of hydrogen systems and provide guidance to the development of exploration strategies.

A major focus of the consortium is developing immediately deployable technologies. There’s a need and desire for exploration technologies that can be applied by industry in the near future to contribute directly to the energy transition, as well as for strategies that can be used by society to tackle the challenges in mitigating climate change for better human life.

—Yaoguo Li, professor of geophysics at Mines

Funding for the research will come from a growing number of industry partners. Eight member companies have already signed on, including major players in the mining and energy industries and geologic hydrogen start-ups: BP, Chevron, Eden Geopower, Petrobras, Fortescue, Koloma, Hydroma USA, and HyTerra.

The consortium began collaborative research between Mines and USGS scientists in September 2023. The immediate objectives are the scientific understanding of hydrogen systems, including mechanisms and conditions of hydrogen generation, migration, and preservation, as well as practical tools to find hydrogen accumulation and identify the potential for enhanced hydrogen generation. The consortium will also emphasize educating researchers and engineers in this emerging field.

Mines’ involvement in the consortium is being led by Research Assistant Professor Mengli Zhang and Professor Yaoguo Li of the Department of Geophysics. The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering is also involved. The USGS’s involvement is led by Geoffrey Ellis, with support from the USGS Energy Resources Program.



Natural hydrogen seems to be making its presence clear in lots of places.
Here is the Philippines:


'The 'predetermined areas' include four locations where hydrogen 'gas seeps' have already been located'

Economically exploitable?


If natural hydrogen does not pan out, it seems there is now more than one player in the plasmonics field, which promises lower energy costs to split natural gas, I had not previousloy heard of Graforce:


They end up with solid carbon as a residue from producing hydrogen, which I found out the other day is a great material for thermal heat storage:


Looking through the specs, it can store heat at really high temperatures, way higher than sand and concrete etc, which means that it can store renewables and output them at up to 2000C or so, which can cover industrial heat needs.

Not so great if you want electricity, but even then they reckon, much more dubiously in my view as it relies very much on cutting edge technology, that they can get electricity out at up to 40% efficiiency,

I will believe that when way better supported, but that high a temperature in process heat will do me, and do a lot of needs.

But in my somewhat weird way, it occured to me that this would be a use for the carbon from plasma gas reforming albeit a low value one!

We are not exactly short of other carbon to use though, as currently we have around 30 million tons a year available.......;-)

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