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Transporting Hydrogen

Is Hydrogen the Clean Fuel Panacea?

Its promise and pitfalls

Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers

• • • • • • • March 21, 2024 • • • • • • •

Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers

Recently, with numerous locations of hydrogen gas found naturally inside the earth, this energy source is beginning to be considered as an opportunity for a clean energy future.1


H2o molecules

Hydrogen is the first element in the Periodic Table. Hydrogen is one of the most common elements in the universe and makes up 75% of all matter. Hydrogen is odorless and colorless and was first discovered in 1766 by Henry Cavendish of England.


For millennia, humankind has drilled into the earth for water. In performing this activity, they often found something unwanted. Today, a large quantity of hydrogen gas has been found near Tirana, Albania. It is one of several seeps in the Bulqize mine that emits 200 tons of hydrogen annually.


Unfortunately, hydrogen also has many disadvantages. The gas is explosive. To be used commercially, hydrogen would need to be compressed or converted into other chemicals, such as liquid ammonia before it could be moved long distances.”

Hydrogen has now been found in large quantities in Mali in 2012. The reserve required no energy to extract the hydrogen, just to collect it. Other locations where hydrogen has been found include France, Spain, Australia, and South America. Therefore, the belief that hydrogen gas can escape into the atmosphere because it is too light is false. New modeling predicts that trillions of tons of hydrogen could be available, far more than previously expected. The hope is there is enough hydrogen to last for centuries.2


Geologically, hydrogen can be found in signature rock formations such as iron—or magnesium-rich volcanic rock, with the presence of properly capped water. Hydrogen is also believed to be created when water is beside the radioactive rock, and electrons from the radioactivity simplify water into hydrogen and oxygen.

An even greater reserve of hydrogen may be found deep inside the mantle, in the earth's crust, where "primordial hydrogen" could have been formed when the earth was created.


There are many advantages of hydrogen as a fuel source. The fuel burns clean, with only the byproduct of water. It could be used instead of natural gas for short distances.


Unfortunately, hydrogen also has many disadvantages. The gas is explosive. To be used commercially, hydrogen would need to be compressed or converted into other chemicals, such as liquid ammonia before it could be moved long distances. That would mean building pipelines from where the gas is found to a location where it can be used in cities or delivered to ports.


Hydrogen factory

Today, 100 million tons of hydrogen is created by synthetically reacting natural gas with steam. Unfortunately, this also releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide. "Green" hydrogen is produced when solar energy or wind power is used to electrolyze water into oxygen and hydrogen.


Natural hydrogen production in the earth is also being considered. That could happen when water reacts to iron-rich rock such as olivine to create iron oxide and hydrogen gas.

Although we are not sure hydrogen will be a sustainable and economical form of energy in the future, it is something scientists are looking into with more promise than in the past. Today, the Bill Gates venture capital firm is spending $100 million to look for hydrogen in the United States.

1. National Geographic, March 7, 2024 by Robin George Andrews
2. New Scientist, February 2024 by James Dinneen

Glenn Rogers, RLA
Landscape Architect / License 3223

March 21, 2024

Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers

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