Advantages and disadvantages of a possible fuel of the future.
The first hydrogen cell vehicle was completed in 1966, although it did not become a mass-produced product, but it paved the way for the use of a material that may one day replace vehicles burning oil-based fuel. During the combustion of hydrogen, it emits only heat and water, which can rightfully give cause for optimism when it is used in climate protection.
Unfortunately, it is no coincidence that the prevailing fuels have not yet been replaced by the colorless, odorless, highly flammable gas. Currently, it is mostly produced with gas or coal during processes that emit a lot of carbon dioxide, so what we gain in customs, we also lose part of it in the road.
So-called green hydrogen, produced using renewable energy, offers a promising but expensive alternative, but recently a loophole has opened to solve the problem. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element on Earth and occurs in everything from water to plants in nature.
Until recently, it was not thought that there was a significant amount of hydrogen gas in its pure form on our planet, but now it has been revealed that the Earth hides huge natural hydrogen reserves, the deposits of which have been discovered in large numbers worldwide in the recent period. On the continent, places suitable for the extraction of a significant amount of hydrogen were found, first in France and then in Switzerland. The first similar site was excavated back in 2012, in Mali, and since then researchers have been trying to find new colonies.
Hydrogen has a huge advantage over natural gas, which can take millions of years to form and is regenerated extremely quickly. Startups are investigating exactly how these deposits are formed and whether they can be commercially exploited. Although most natural hydrogen is likely to be found in inaccessible offshore areas, deposits have already been discovered in Australia, Eastern Europe, France, Oman, Spain and the United States, as well as Mali in West Africa.
The research team of the GeoRessources Laboratory of the University of Lorraine, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the energy company La Française de l’Energie came across the most significant plant to date while examining the level of methane in the soil. It is estimated that 46 million tons of hydrogen can be found here, which is half of the annual amount produced globally. Meanwhile, in the northeastern part of Spain, the exploration company Helios Aragón claims to have found more than one million tons of hydrogen, the extraction of which can begin in 2024.
Currently, green hydrogen costs around 5 euros per kilogram, while white hydrogen could be produced for as little as 50 eurocents per kilogram. Still, there are a number of questions, without satisfying answers it will be difficult to move forward towards the set goal. Some scientists believe that possible leakage of the material during storage or transportation can cause serious problems. If hydrogen is released into the atmosphere, it can reduce the benefits from its use. This is a relatively controversial topic these days, as there are those who believe that the risks from the leak to the atmosphere are small.
However, that is not all. Delivery is perhaps an operation that raises even more questions. Hydrogen in gas form takes up a lot of space and requires a temperature of -253 °C for liquefaction, which can make the process extremely expensive. While existing gas pipelines might provide an obvious solution for transportation, scientists say this could easily corrode the pipes, leading to more leaks. In addition, hydrogen molecules are not only much smaller and lighter than the molecules in methane, making them more difficult to contain, but they are also much more explosive than natural gas, which raises safety concerns.
Some people think that electric cars and heat pumps have already won the competition because of this, but a significant number of experts dealing with the subject trust in the birth of a future innovation that can be a solution to the above problems.