A team of international scientists, including researchers from the Institut des Sciences de la Terre (ISTerre)*, has just discovered a reservoir of natural hydrogen in the depths of a chromite mine in eastern Albania. This discovery will open up new prospects for exploration.
The discovery was published in Science magazine. A “remarkably high” outgassing of hydrogen, of at least 200 tonnes per year and constant for at least 6 years, was observed in an underground chromite (chromium ore) mine in Albania. According to the team of CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), it is the highest recoded natural hydrogen flux to date.
A site to move science forward
Laurent Truche, Professor at Grenoble Alpes University and member of the ISTerre laboratory, visited the site. He was able to observe a drainage basin transformed into a Jacuzzi, with hydrogen reaching a purity level of 84%.
The combination of numerical simulations and in-situ observations has revealed the existence of a deep reservoir located in a well-identified fault zone. “This discovery lays the foundations for new models of natural hydrogen exploration.” The Bulqizë chromium mine then represents “a key scientific tool for studying the hydrogen system and understanding the conditions of formation and accumulation of this gas.”
No getting carried away just yet
However, the CNRS is treading lightly. According the centre’s statement, “it’s still too early to say whether natural hydrogen will take a significant place in our energy mix, or remain a niche curiosity.” It also states that “geologic H2 is not renewable as the production time for H2 far exceeds the extraction time.” In addition, the scientific team points out that these geological environments harbor a fragile deep biosphere that relies on H2 as an energy source.
*ISTerre – CNRS/IRD/UGA/Univ. Gustave Eiffel/USMB. Created in 2011, the Institut des Sciences de la Terre (ISTerre) brings together about 280 people, including 110 researchers and research fellows in geology, geophysics and geochemistry from the Grenoble academy.
Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Mariem Ben Tili