Make Hydrogen Happen

Geoffrey Ellis, a geochemist with the Geological Survey visited Fayetteville, North Carolina in February to examine the Carolina bays, a series of elliptical shaped, naturally occurring depressions in the surface of the Earth.

“There’s actually a band of them that go all the way from the Georgia-Florida border all the way up to New Jersey…  and no one really knows how these things formed,” Ellis told Cipher. “One fairly recent theory is that they could be formed by, actually, hydrogen seeping out of the ground.”

Ellis, who testified at a congressional hearing on this topic last week, told lawmakers the USGS only started investigating geologic hydrogen in 2021. His field work embodies the surprisingly recent and rapidly growing interest in searching for hydrogen under our feet.

Underground whirlwind

U.S. Energy Department Secretary Jennifer Granholm calls clean hydrogen the “‘Swiss Army Knife’ of zero-carbon solutions because it can do just about everything.” But producing hydrogen with current technologies takes a lot of energy and is carbon intensive. Geologic hydrogen could sidestep both obstacles, which could ultimately reduce costs.

Last month was particularly busy on this front: In early February, the Energy Department announced it was investing $20 million into 16 projects related to naturally occurring hydrogen. The next day, geologic hydrogen startup Koloma disclosed it raised $245.7 million, the largest private investment in the space to date. Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV is a program of Breakthrough Energy, which also supports Cipher) is among its supporters. At the end of February, the Colorado School of Mines and the USGS announced a research collaboration with oil giants and startups including BP, Chevron, Eden Geopower, Petrobras, Fortescue, Koloma, Hydroma USA and HyTerra. Two days later, Senate lawmakers hosted a hearing about geologic hydrogen.



[Read more on the Cipher News website]