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UT Austin researchers advancing methods to produce hydrogen from rocks

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are exploring a suite of natural catalysts to help produce hydrogen gas from iron-rich rocks without emitting carbon dioxide.

We’re producing hydrogen from rocks. It’s a type of non-fossil fuel production of hydrogen from iron-rich rocks that has never been attempted at an industrial scale.

—Toti Larson, a research associate professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences Bureau of Economic Geology and the lead researcher on the project

The research team recently received a $1.7-million grant from the Department of Energy and is collaborating with scientists at the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources to explore the feasibility of this process on different rock types across the United States.

The catalysts the team is exploring will stimulate a natural geologic process called “serpentinization.” During serpentinization, iron-rich rocks release hydrogen as a byproduct of chemical reactions. Serpentinization usually occurs at high temperatures.

With natural catalysts that include nickel and other platinum group elements, the team is working to stimulate hydrogen production at lower temperatures and at depths easily accessible by today’s technology where iron-rich rocks are found throughout the world. That means catalyst-enhanced production of hydrogen from iron-rich rocks has the potential to increase hydrogen production globally significantly.

Natural accumulations of geologic hydrogen are being found all over the world, but in most cases they are small and not economical, although exploration continues. If we could help generate larger volumes of hydrogen from these rocks by driving reactions that would take several million years to happen in nature, I think geologic hydrogen could really be a game changer.

—Esti Ukar, a research associate professor at the Jackson School and a collaborator on the project

Ukar is also leading work on another energy transition project to develop carbon-free mining techniques that store CO2 as part of the mineral extraction process.

Researchers have already conducted successful tests at the laboratory scale. The grant, from the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will be used to scale up the experiments and test the process on a broad range of iron-rich rock types found across North America. (Earlier post.) The team will investigate using the catalysts on basalts from the Midcontinent Rift in Iowa, banded iron formations in Wyoming and ultramafic rocks in the Midwest.

This project is one of several research initiatives at the Bureau of Economic Geology investigating the role of the subsurface in the generation and storage of hydrogen as part of the energy transition.



I had a look at this:

' Ukar is also leading work on another energy transition project to develop carbon-free mining techniques that store CO2 as part of the mineral extraction process. '

And came up with:

'This research could turn these emissions into a tool by using CO2 to weaken the rock containing critical minerals, reducing the amount of energy needed for mining. The ultimate goal is to significantly reduce the emissions produced during mining by storing them safely in the rocks, and potentially even make mining carbon negative – storing more carbon than is produced – by piping in and storing CO2 emissions from other industrial operations.

This CO2 storage is possible because of the way ultramafic rocks, which typically contain critical minerals, react with carbon. The CO2 chemically reacts with the rock to mechanically break its structure, making the minerals easier and less energy intensive to mine. This reaction also partially turns the rock into a limestone, incorporating the carbon dioxide into the mineral structure and storing it permanently.'


Im still interrested to buy egasoline made with cheap hydrogen. i also think that cemvita is a limp company that can't commercialize their patented method to produce cheap hydrogen. We desperatly need lot of cheap hydrogen to reduce co2 emissions and especialy to reduce fuels costs.


And these folk reckon that they have a better adsorbent which can capture the CO2 in blue hydrogen for around half the energy at 40KWh/ton and $30/ton for storage.

That is coming down into the realms of reality for a premium.


Forgot the link!

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