Does natural hydrogen gas have the potential to disrupt the energy sector?

Avon McIntyre, Executive and CTO of HyTerra, explains more about natural hydrogen and its vast potential as a clean and inexpensive energy source.

As the global energy transition gathers pace and the demand for low-carbon alternatives ever increases, hydrogen is gaining interest as an energy source and carbon-free fuel. The production process for some manufactured forms of hydrogen, however, can be counterproductive due to the emission of CO2, a reliance on strategic materials, and the time-consuming element of the process.

Natural hydrogen has the potential to be the ideal solution.

Natural hydrogen is hydrogen sourced directly from the earth where it is generated by natural geological processes. It is starting to be explored for across the globe as an abundant source of green and inexpensive hydrogen. One company aiming to do so is HyTerra Ltd, an Australian-based company working to explore natural hydrogen by drilling wells in prospective regions.

In conversation with HyTerra’s Executive Director and Chief Technical Officer, Avon McIntyre, The Innovation Platform learned more about the potential of natural hydrogen and the commercialisation process.

What is natural hydrogen, where does it come from, and how is it produced?

Unlike green and blue hydrogen, which are manufactured through industrial processes, natural hydrogen is a naturally-occurring source of hydrogen that is generated within the earth’s subsurface through various geochemical reactions.

These processes are not linked to fossil fuel generation, making natural hydrogen a contender to develop a new industry in places not typically associated with energy production – this has implications for energy security and geopolitics, which could make it an essential component in an astute renewable energy portfolio.

Drilling for and the production of natural hydrogen utilises existing oil and gas equipment and methods with minor modifications where necessary. Once hydrogen has been extracted from produced gases, it could be either used at the source for electricity generation or to support the creation of industrial centres, blended into nearby existing natural gas pipelines or transported to market by a variety of technologies being developed by the wider hydrogen industry.

Interestingly, early results from natural hydrogen production in Africa appear to indicate a continuous resource – i.e., one that never runs out but continues to produce at a steady rate without declining, unlike traditional fossil fuel accumulations which are a finite resource.

What is HyTerra and why did you decide to focus on the area of natural hydrogen? What are your key aims and objectives at present?

HyTerra is the first publicly-listed company in Australia dedicated to the exploration and production of natural hydrogen. We have a working interest in an ongoing hydrogen exploration venture in the US and are actively involved with the testing of the world’s first exploration well deliberately targeting natural hydrogen. Together with our joint-venture partner, Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC, we have observed hydrogen both while drilling and in the well bore post-drilling while preparing for a long-term flow test which will begin in February 2023.

HyTerra is focused on natural hydrogen as it offers a compelling and complementary addition to the new energies sector. We can utilise techniques and technologies refined in the traditional oil and gas industry to explore for and produce from a new energy source with a substantially lower cost, environmental footprint, and geographical scale than green hydrogen manufactured from renewable energy and electrolysis. Our primary objective is to take a leading role in the emerging natural hydrogen industry through operational activity – locating areas prospective for natural hydrogen, defining drillable prospects, drill testing those prospects, and quickly assessing their economic potential with a view to production.

hydrogen gas
Hydrogen exploration well (Hoarty NE3), Nebraska, USA. HyTerra has a working interest in this well together with the operator, Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC

Image 4: Flare images from Hoarty NE3 hydrogen exploration well during swabbing operations. Left = transparent flame, only heat shimmer visible under normal light. Right = visible flame using infrared camera, consistent with hydrogen combustion. Source: Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC

Why should investors consider this sector and HyTerra in particular?

The natural hydrogen sector has significant disruptive potential for the energy industry by significantly lowering production cost and making it a viable contender to displace fossil fuels.

While there are currently limited opportunities for investment in the sector, the growing interest in natural hydrogen will see several companies entering the public sector in 2023/24.

It is an opportune time for the development of a natural hydrogen industry and the start of an exciting period of growth for HyTerra.

As pioneers and leaders in this sector, our first mover advantage and advanced exploration activity makes HyTerra a compelling investment opportunity. We are very confident that our US-based operations are ideally suited to grow our company with highly prospective geological conditions, supportive regulatory systems, low-cost operations, highly accessible markets, infrastructure and world-leading political support for the growth of a hydrogen economy. All of which will enable HyTerra to accelerate its goal of commercialisation.

HyTerra is a new company with a modest valuation, backed by its cash position and with operations commencing in February 2023. We are very excited about the months ahead as we continue to develop our existing venture and grow the business through future exploration ventures.

Evidence for the progress HyTerra and Natural Hydrogen Energy have made in the field of natural hydrogen exploration and production can be seen by the release of images and videos of invisible gas being released during preliminary tests from their jointly-developed hydrogen exploration well, Hoarty NE3. The invisible flame seen in these images is consistent with hydrogen, and the well will be subjected to more comprehensive testing in 2023 to determine gas composition, flow rate and volume.

Please note, this article will also appear in the thirteenth edition of our quarterly publication.

Contributor Details

Avon McIntyre

Executive Director and CTO
HyTerra Ltd
Phone: +61 403881135
Website: Visit Website

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