Clean energy: US' $20M grant to extract hydrogen launched

The Department of Energy's ARPA-E has announced $20 million in funding to develop and research viable technological solutions for hydrogen extraction from Earth. 
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image of hydrogen storage tanks.
Representational image of hydrogen storage tanks.


The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced $20 million in funding to develop and research viable technological solutions for hydrogen extraction from Earth. 

For decades, humanity has mostly relied on natural gas, such as methane, to heat our homes and buildings and power power plants. 

Of late, hydrogen is considered an alternative sustainable energy source. 

Funding to extract subsurface hydrogen deposits

This funding announcement comes as recent studies have shown the presence of naturally occurring subsurface hydrogen reserves known as geological hydrogen.

ARPA-E is searching for technical solutions that might potentially promote subsurface hydrogen production at the "lowest cost and environmental impact."

“ARPA-E supports transformational, impactful energy technologies. So, when it comes to geologic hydrogen, we’re asking ‘are there disruptive ways to access this hydrogen source and explore the potential?’ There is significant opportunity to accelerate the development of hydrogen production, and I look forward to the teams pursuing this exploration,” said Evelyn N. Wang, ARPA-E director, in an official release. 

In recent years, governments have reportedly been actively supporting initiatives to create hydrogen in an environmentally responsible manner. Some sustainable approaches include capturing and storing CO2 emissions underground (known as blue hydrogen) or utilizing renewable electricity to split water and collect the resultant hydrogen (known as green hydrogen).

Currently, industrial manufacturing procedures are used to produce hydrogen all over the world. The bulk of hydrogen produced today is created in industrial facilities by combining steam and methane. This process emits carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to global warming.

Moreover, as an energy source, hydrogen has some drawbacks, including a lower energy density than natural gas and the necessity for significant storage space.

Despite all this, the objective is to create more ecologically friendly and sustainable techniques of hydrogen extraction utilizing renewable sources. 

Harnessing naturally occurring hydrogen reserves can boost the US energy economy. Additionally, the Earth's subsurface, with reduced iron minerals, has the potential to generate even more hydrogen through controlled mineral reactions. In the near future, this engineered subsurface hydrogen production could eventually become a significant source of clean energy.

If acquired in a sustainable manner, experts think that hydrogen might be used to replace fossil fuels in sectors like long-distance transportation and heavy industries such as steel production. 

Grant based on two exploratory topics

The grant is part of ARPA-E's two exploratory subjects, "Production of Geologic Hydrogen Through Stimulated Mineralogical Processes" and "Subsurface Engineering for Hydrogen Reservoir Management."

The first area of research aims to develop technologies for generating hydrogen from underground mineral deposits. The first research focuses on developing technology for producing hydrogen from subterranean mineral resources. This involves increasing our understanding of hydrogen-producing chemical processes and developing methods to control and increase the pace of hydrogen generation.

The second focal area is on technology for obtaining geological hydrogen. This includes innovations in subsurface hydrogen transporting, confinement management, reservoir monitoring during production, and risk assessment for constructing hydrogen reservoirs.

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