Why isn’t natural hydrogen used as fuel?

Natural hydrogen, also known as white hydrogen, is found in underground deposits released via fracking, and in the air.  It is the lightest chemical element and the first on the periodical table of elements.

Even though white hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is rare in its pure form, which is why it isn’t being considered for collection to be used as an emission-free fuel. 

Natural hydrogen is usually combined with other atoms to create other molecules.  For example, an easily recognizable combination is H2O, better known as water. Very little white hydrogen occurs in the air around us, meaning that it is not simply waiting to be captured and used as a clean fuel source. Natural hydrogen found on the earth is produced by a range of different sources. but the majority isn’t available in the atmosphere as much as it is found in difficult – or impossible or unfeasible – locations.

Know more about white hydrogen.

yellow hydrogen

Natural H2 differs from forms used for fuel such as green which is produced using processes powered by renewable energy or red hydrogen which is made using nuclear power. While the natural hydrogen may be renewable and is just as non-polluting as those forms made with renewable energy, it cannot be reasonably captured without other processes to extract it from where it has been combined.

To solve this challenge, a recent paper published in Nature Communications presents a new process that can produce hydrogen out of the humidity in the air. As it explains, the method produces natural hydrogen “from the air, namely, in situ capture of freshwater from the atmosphere using hygroscopic electrolyte and electrolysis powered by solar or wind with a current density up to 574 mA cm−2“.

Although the result is not exactly white hydrogen, it is as closed as it can be.

The paper published by the scientists from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Chemical Engineering, presents a concept that is meant to help bring green H2 to remote regions that are traditionally low in liquid water, pulling the H2O straight out of the air.

The scientists designed a Direct Air Electrolysis module that is “integrated with a power supply, for example, a solar panel, a wind turbine, and any other renewable generators”. The DAE was already successfully tested and “can be easily scaled to provide hydrogen to remote, (semi-) arid, and scattered areas”.

green ammonia

Our work with hydrogen

Universal Kraft works with hydrogen as a green option to fossil fuels, providing the same functionality on a large scale. Complementary to direct electrification, hydrogen gives the green industry a chance to contribute beyond the grid, via the generation of green hydrogen as energy storage, greening of gas through methanation of hydrogen and feedstock for high-temperature local industrial processes that are difficult to electrify.

These green power alternatives are fundamental for a sustainable and complete clean energy transition. Universal Kraft has been working on alternative and innovative energy storage solutions for a number of years. To optimize the decarbonization potential of renewables for the generation of green hydrogen and ammonia we work with our partner company Universal H2.

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