Natural Hydrogen found in Colombian Ophiolites

A recent paper titled “Natural H₂ Emissions in Colombian Ophiolites: First Findings.” presents groundbreaking findings on the natural production of hydrogen gas (H₂) through the process of serpentinization in the Colombian ophiolites. This study is a significant step forward in our understanding of natural hydrogen emissions and their potential implications for clean energy resources.

What is natural hydrogen?

Natural hydrogen, often referred to as “gold hydrogen,” is hydrogen gas that is produced through natural geological processes rather than through industrial methods such as steam methane reforming or electrolysis.

One of the most common natural processes that generate hydrogen is serpentinization, which occurs when certain minerals, such as olivine and pyroxene, found in the Earth’s mantle react with water. This reaction alters the mineral structure and produces serpentine, magnetite, brucite, and hydrogen gas.

Natural hydrogen found in Cauca-Patia Valley of Colombia

The researchers have identified significant natural hydrogen emissions in the Cauca-Patia Valley of Colombia, which is an area with underlying geology that includes accreted oceanic lithosphere. This area was previously unexplored for oil and gas but now showing promise for natural hydrogen.

Natural hydrogen hidden in rocks
Natural hydrogen hidden in rocks.

Ophiolites are slices of oceanic crust and the underlying upper mantle that have been uplifted and exposed above sea level and often contain minerals such as olivine and orthopyroxene. When these minerals come into contact with water, they undergo serpentinization, a chemical reaction that produces magnetite, brucite, and crucially, hydrogen gas.

The researchers found that the serpentinization process in the Cauca-Patia Valley of Colombia is not only active but also capable of generating substantial quantities of hydrogen, which could be harnessed as a clean energy source.

The researchers have employed a multi-disciplinary approach, combining geological analysis with remote sensing techniques to identify and characterize the H₂ emissions. They mapped H₂-generating rocks, examined vegetation anomalies through satellite imagery, and reviewed existing subsurface data. This pre-fieldwork study was crucial in pinpointing the exact locations for soil gas surveys, which then confirmed the presence of natural hydrogen.

The implications of these findings are profound. Natural hydrogen, as a clean and renewable energy source, has the potential to significantly contribute to the global energy mix and aid in the transition away from fossil fuels. The study suggests that the Cauca-Patia Valley and similar geological settings could become prospective sites for natural H₂ extraction.

Moreover, the research highlights the importance of understanding natural H₂ systems, including generation, migration, and accumulation, to effectively explore and utilize this resource. The presence of natural hydrogen in such quantities also raises questions about the global hydrogen cycle and its impact on the environment and climate.

As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change and the need for sustainable energy solutions, the discovery of natural hydrogen emissions in Colombia is a beacon of hope. It underscores the importance of continued research and exploration in this field and the potential role of natural hydrogen in achieving a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Who is extracting natural hydrogen?

Koloma, an American cleantech company founded in 2021, extracts natural hydrogen from subsurface while simultaneously permanently sequestering carbon dioxide and sulfur underground. You may become a member and check out our research on the technology and funding of Koloma.

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