AlbaniaSensational discovery could revolutionize energy transition
Hydrogen is considered the energy source of the future. Until now, experts have assumed that this raw material can only be obtained chemically. The latest discoveries could now change science.
For many experts, hydrogen should drive the future energy transition. The chemical element is flammable and can be used as an energy source. The big drawback: Until now, researchers have assumed that hydrogen can only be obtained chemically. The production is relatively complex. The latest discovery in the Bulqizë chrome mine in Albania could now change everything.
In the mine, around 40 kilometers northeast of Tirana, increased water leaks occurred in various places, prompting an investigation to be initiated. The research team led by Laurent Truche from the University of Grenoble-Alpes has now surprisingly found significantly increased hydrogen levels as part of various gas measurements in the mine.
Is hydrogen also present naturally?
“We observed intense gas emissions in the deeper levels of the mine, especially at depths of 500 to 1,000 meters,” reports the team. “Concentrated and intense bubble formation can be seen in water pools and rivulets.” According to analyses, the gas escaping there consists of 84 percent hydrogen.
Six years ago, researchers equipped the Bulqizë mine with a system of several hydrogen sensors in shafts and in 38 boreholes. The result of the monitoring: “At least 200 tons of hydrogen are released in the mine every year,” announces the research team. “However, these outgassing rates are minimum values that are based solely on what is measured at specific points – not an extrapolation to the entire volume.”
Ophiolite rock is said to be the source of the gases
However, the numbers are record-breaking, reports “Focus”. “The amount far exceeds the few previously documented hydrogen outgassings from hyperalkaline sources and gas leaks,” write Truche and his team. But where does the hydrogen come from?
Geologists believe the formation of ophiolite rock in which the mine lies is the source of the gases. Ophiolites consist of former oceanic crustal rocks that were pushed onto the European continental shelf by plate tectonics. “This ophiolite belt extends over more than 3,000 kilometers from Turkey to Sweden,” explain the scientists. This rock formation is said to extend up to six kilometers deep.
The discovery of this ophiolite formation is not new, but it was previously considered to be rather poor in raw materials – with the exception of chromium. “The oil and gas industry has largely ignored ophiolites in the past because they were considered unsuitable for hydrocarbon extraction,” says Truche’s research team.
A potentially profitable discovery
The latest discovery in the Bulqizë mine could revolutionize the market for energy sources. According to scientists’ estimates, 5,000 to 50,000 tons of hydrogen alone are stored in the pores of the ophiolite rock beneath the mine.
“Certain ophiolites may contain economically degradable accumulations of hydrogen gas,” the researchers explained. “You could extract hydrogen in such geological contexts in a commercially viable manner because the gas traps and concentrates in fault zones.”
Now we have to check where other suitable formations are and how much hydrogen is present in them.