Natural Hydrogen: A Promising FutureIsabelle Moretti - Glasgow and French Senate Symposiums

Isabelle Moretti, an E2S UPPA researcher, has been much in demand this year for her knowledge of the hydrogen naturally present in the earth’s subsoil. This truly decarbonized energy source is currently attracting a fair amount of interest, including from investors. It would indeed be an abundant, renewable and easily exploitable at lower cost resource.

After the first international conference on natural hydrogen in June 2021 in Paris, Isabelle Moretti was invited in November by the University of Glasgow and then to the Senate in Paris, before flying to Colombia at the beginning of December, to present the progress of research in this field.

“Hydrogen: Silver Bullet or Red Herring?” Symposium in Glasgow (Scotland)

On the sidelines of the COP26 summit on climate change, the University of Glasgow organized an online symposium on hydrogen on November 10, 2021, in partnership with the European Federation of Geologists and the Geological Society of London. The event brought together researchers and entrepreneurs to discuss with the general public the growing role of hydrogen in the energy and environmental transition. The first session was dedicated to the large-scale subsurface storage of hydrogen, and the second one, chaired by Isabelle Moretti, to natural hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be produced by humans from methane (“grey” hydrogen), but this process is polluting, and from water and electricity (“green” hydrogen), but it is expensive. However, it was discovered quite recently that hydrogen is naturally present in the subsoil. This form of hydrogen is called “white” hydrogen. “After the fortuitous discovery of several reservoirs, such as in Mali seven years ago, the United States and Australia, the exploration of natural hydrogen is raising many hopes,” says Isabelle Moretti. During the symposium, Australian and Colombian miners also shared their experience, as well as investors for whom natural hydrogen represents a sure bet for the future.

The University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour, through its Laboratory of Complex Fluids and their Reservoirs (LFCR) which includes Isabelle Moretti, plays a particular role in the research on the understanding of the phenomena which lead to the permanent generation of natural hydrogen. Indeed, it is produced largely by the reduction of water: “The rocks oxidize in contact with water (H2O), keep the oxygen (O) and release hydrogen (H2). This hydrogen is therefore renewable and economical. On the condition that it can be exploited. At present, industrialists are eager to learn more about this subject.”

According to Isabelle Moretti, there is still one unknown: the “when,” or rather how quickly large-scale exploitation can be implemented. In particular, mining laws will have to be adapted in countries where hydrogen does not yet fall into any category that would allow an exploration or production permit to be requested.

View the 2nd part of the Glasgow Symposium on Hydrogen

Meeting France/Iceland at the Senate in Paris about Green Hydrogen

Isabelle Moretti then took part in a meeting on the developments in France and Iceland in the green hydrogen sector, organized by CCI France International and the “Interparliamentary Friendship Group France-Northern Europe of the Senate.”

Iceland, a pioneer in the use of renewable energies, intends to become the world leader in hydrogen. This conference gathering 200 people at the Palais du Luxembourg was held in the presence of Iceland’s president G. Johannesson, the two ambassadors and the main professional actors of the sector (France Hydrogène, Engie, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Air Liquide, Airbus...).

On this occasion, Isabelle Moretti presented the work of the LFCR team, in particular the research of Valentine Cambaudon, a PhD student under the joint supervision of UPPA-IFP Énergies Nouvelles, on the hydrogen content of Iceland’s geothermal power plants, in collaboration with the University of Reykjavik. The results show a hydrogen production generated daily at depth, with steam, by water/rock interaction, and currently released into the atmosphere.

We will have to keep a close eye on the developments in this promising sector. And Isabelle Moretti concludes with a laugh: “I have even been asked to work on projects on the Moon!”

Wath the entire video of the France-Iceland symposium on green hydrogen at the Senate