Scientists extract hydrogen gas from oil and bitumen, giving potential pollution-free energy


by Goldschmidt Conference

Hydrogen. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have developed a large-scale economical method to extract hydrogen (H2) from oil sands (natural bitumen) and oil fields. This can be used to power hydrogen-powered vehicles, which are already marketed in some countries, as well as to generate electricity; hydrogen is regarded as an efficient transport fuel, similar to petrol and diesel, but with no pollution problems. The process can extract hydrogen from existing oil sands reservoirs, with huge existing supplies found in Canada and Venezuela. Interestingly, this process can be applied to mainstream oil fields, causing them to produce hydrogen instead of oil.

Hydrogen powered vehicles, including cars, buses, and trains, have been in development for many years. These vehicles have been acknowledged to be efficient, but the high price of extracting the Hydrogen from oil reserves has meant that the technology has not been economically viable. Now a group of Canadian engineers have developed a cheap method of extracting H2 from oil sands. They are presenting this work at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference in Barcelona.

“There are vast oil sand reservoirs in several countries, with huge fields in Alberta in Canada, but also in Venezuela and other countries” said Dr. Ian Gates, of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Calgary, and of Proton Technologies Inc.).

Oil fields, even abandoned oil fields, still contain significant amounts of oil. The researchers have found that injecting oxygen into the fields raises the temperature and liberates H2, which can then be separated from other gases via specialist filters. Hydrogen is not pre-existing in the reservoirs, but pumping oxygen means that the reaction to form hydrogen can take place.

Grant Strem, CEO of Proton Technologies which is commercializing the process says “This technique can draw up huge quantities of hydrogen while leaving the carbon in the ground. When working at production level, we anticipate we will be able to use the existing infrastructure and distribution chains to produce H2 for between 10 and 50 cents per kilo. This means it potentially costs a fraction of gasoline for equivalent output”. This compares with current H2 production costs of around $2/kilo. Around 5% of the H2 produced then powers the oxygen production plant, so the system more than pays for itself.

Full article here.


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November 11, 2019 6:12 pm

If this were to open up a huge part of the uneconomical oil sands that aren’t suited to mining due to excessive depth or just low grade deposits, and hydrogen could be extracted that could fuel a CCGT electric generating station and send the electrons to market, then this make sense if it stands on its own two feet without the massive subsidies like solar/wind cost. Plus this would essentially be ‘carbon free’ fuel if we are leaving the sand and the carbon in the ground. We need a few good news stories for social licence that doesn’t see critics say leave it in the ground. If this works and makes a profit, and there is little CO2 as a consequence, who could argue with this?

Reply to  Earthling2
November 11, 2019 6:22 pm

Methane has more energy per mass or volume, yet this is burned at the well head because of distribution issues. H2 is an even smaller molecule and much harder to store and distribute, so while using generated H2 at the source makes as much sense as using methane at the source, it would be more worthwhile to put the generating capacity near where we would otherwise be burning off methane than where a lot more effort effort is required to produce H2 at similarly remote sites.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 11, 2019 6:45 pm

I believe that hydrogen has more than twice the energy content per mass compared to methane. In addition a each btu can produce more power than a btu of methane . See some of the old Westinghouse patents on hydrogen burning cycles. So if the production costs are in the midrange of their projections this should be a winner for electric power production.

Reply to  Jim
November 12, 2019 1:47 pm

Just some notes. Hydrogen and methane are gases and, as such, they are used on a volume basis. Any given unit of volume at the same temperature and pressure will have the same number of moles of H2 and CH4. Each mole of CH4 has 4 moles of hydrogen and one mole of carbon. So when they are combusted you get 2 times as much heat from the 4 hydrogens than you get from the 2 hydrogens in H2, plus the heat from the carbon. Also, in a heat engine, one BTU produces the same amount of power, no matter what the source is.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 11, 2019 7:07 pm

There have been significant storage advances using metal hydrides. If the price of hydrogen obtainable is as cheap as they say, then this has real potential. Earthing2’s last sentence sums it up quite nicely.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 8:32 pm

“During last 25 years many interstitial hydrides were developed that readily absorb and discharge hydrogen at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. They are usually based on intermetallic compounds and solid-solution alloys. However, their application is still limited, as they are capable of storing only about 2 weight percent of hydrogen, insufficient for automotive applications.”

John Q Public
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 11, 2019 8:37 pm

And good old “cheap” palladium is at the top of the list of candidate materials.

Tony Cooke
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 9:26 pm

To store the equivalent in hydrogen of about 250ml of petrol (gas) or similar as a metal hydride requires a vessel weighing about 5.5kg that costs from $4859. Here is the link

Here is another link to a site giving energy density of various fuels.

For a trip of 300 km (185 miles) in a very economical vehicle using about 5 litres of fuel per 100 km (46 miles per US gallon), would require around 15 litres of fuel or 60 of these tanks of Hydrogen. Not very economical or feasible.

Even if the efficiency of energy conversion of hydrogen in a fuel cell were twice that of a diesel then this still would require 7.5 litres of fuel or 30 of these tanks. This is why Hydrogen is used where it is generated.

Reply to  Tony Cooke
November 12, 2019 5:30 am

That’s ridiculous. Also look at the price of the brass fittings they are selling, a $2 fitting for $40.

To do a proper “cost” analysis one would include wholesale costs of goods, design, labor and overhead. What you’ve given is a retail price for a specialized item that has been marked up grotesquely.

Just as there have been advances in battery storage, there have been and more are needed advances in hydrogen storage. Again, these “solutions” need to be cost and performance competitive, I think we can all agree.

Reply to  Tony Cooke
November 12, 2019 9:56 am

Around the turn of the Millennium, there was a lot of hype around hydrogen fuel cells. they were all a bust, and I have not heard anything since. Will this is really exelent news, I suspect it will take a while to be of any practical use.

PS, While scientists always claim to have “have developed a large-scale economical method” of whatever, I have never seen it in reality. It takes teams of engineers to take what scientists come up with to develop large-scale economical methods.

Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 9:26 pm

Couldn’t the same technology making it cost effective to inject O2 and then recover, store and distribute useful product be used to inject steam and produce syngas instead of H2? Wouldn’t that produce a more versatile fuel that’s easier to store and transport and which is also the raw materials to synthesize longer chain hydrocarbons? Steam is also cheaper to produce than O2.

If the technology is viable, once you take off the green goggles, better uses may emerge. I certainly don’t see the utility in doing something like this so that otherwise productive oil fields can produce H2 instead of gas and oil.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 12, 2019 5:32 am

You’ve described their process. Syngas is what is being produced and it’s shifted to maximize hydrogen.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 12, 2019 7:43 am

To make this process work they are injecting OXYGEN.
“The researchers have found that injecting oxygen into the fields raises the temperature and liberates H2.”
Raises the temperature because…it is combusting with the hydrocarbons and releasing heat and exhaust gases. (Why not do this where we can extract useful energy from it?)
“we use the ground as our reaction vessel”
Yes, they are burning it underground.
What makes them believe that H2 is the only output gas? I have a very hard time believing that many other quantities of gases aren’t being liberated as well.
How long after the shut off the O2 does the reaction continue?

Pat Frank
Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 12, 2019 9:34 am

I’m with you, rocketscientist. My considered opinion of that tech as a chemist is fat f-ing chance.

They talk of leaving other gases in the ground. So, they’ll be making CO2 in situ, which has to stay in place. The well pressure increases with time.

The fraction of H2 product decreases with the increase in waste gases forced to stay in the well. But not to worry, because , …, well because global warming!

They haven’t demonstrated the tech yet. Let’s see how they get on with that.

WUWT has reported on one pipe dream clean tech after another. They’ve all faded from view. I wonder if the pipe-dream time series is a hockey stick with a huge year 2000 upturn.

Curious George
Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 12, 2019 1:52 pm

They don’t tell what chemical reactions may be taking place. Without that, everything is a speculation.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 13, 2019 5:06 pm

Doing any kind of burning underground runs a grave risk of setting the whole formation on fire. Wet coal burns quite nicely underground, and has been doing it for nearly a century in various beds. The Centralia fire in central PA has been burning since 1962. At its current rate, it could continue to burn for over 250 years.

There is no reason similar fires can’t burn out of control, deep beneath the surface, with no way of putting them out, whether in tar sands, coal, or oil deposits. The syngas reaction does not need injected oxygen to continue, although it burns coal better with some added oxygen.

Reply to  Scissor
November 12, 2019 1:30 am

Sure, Why NOT replace a harmless effective technology that works with a more complex expensive one that doesn’t?

The fundamental axiom of New Age Energy.

If you are in any case taking hydrogen out of oil what is left will be solid carbon. Where does that go?

michael hart
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 12, 2019 2:06 am

Yes, it leaves some questions unanswered. Even if it does work economically it will still be banned in the UK after a few environmental protests, egged on by the BBC, because that is what we do here with useful new industrial technologies.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 12, 2019 2:53 am

Where do they get the Oxygen from and how much does it cost to produce?
This has to be added to the cost of the process.

Charles Higley
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 12, 2019 5:11 am

They claim only 5% of the hydrogen produced goes to generating the oxygen gas. That would be a cost, regardless of how they do it and the infrastructure for this would have to be on site and mobile as it goes from well to well. Otherwise this would mean a lot of sets of such equipment sitting around.

As hydrogen can penetrate steel, it cannot be stored at high pressure for long, as the iron turns into iron hydride and the tank becomes brittle.

We need more CO2, not less, and should learn to stay away or reject any and all policy aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. IT’S PLANT FOOD and, as we continue to cool, we need more productivity, and CO2 can provide that.

Reply to  Leo Smith
November 12, 2019 11:02 am

Where does the carbon go? Much of it seems to be combined with O2 and becomes CO2.

Reply to  Leo Smith
November 21, 2019 9:31 am

What do you think about this:

Reply to  Scissor
November 12, 2019 8:29 am

Hydrogen can be stored safely at 10,000 psig. Scary? Get used to it.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  pochas94
November 12, 2019 9:46 am

What else “can” happen?

Reply to  pochas94
November 12, 2019 10:43 am

Yes. This article slid past the Hindenburg issues. Hydrogen stored under pressure is highly explosive, unlike gasoline, which is moderately explosive, ideal for mix of safet and effectiveness…..adequately explosive when compressed within an engine, but less so when not under compression.

Octane gasoline has not yet been excelled as fuel for automobiles. There would be huge technologic issues necessary to bring hydrogen even close. And electric energy, a la Teslas, is not so great during a blackout, as in northern California, as well as, because of weight, cost, and recharge times for batteries, makes EV’s poor for driving distances.

Bob boder
Reply to  pochas94
November 12, 2019 11:00 am

Except the hindenburg problem was the material used as a covering and not the Hydrogen.

mike macray
Reply to  Scissor
November 15, 2019 7:43 am

..If the price of hydrogen obtainable is as cheap as they say, then this has real potential. Earthing2’s last sentence sums it up quite nicely….

There’s just one little word in there that needs to be removed, for me to be all on board with you. That little word is ‘if’….
If we could repeal the Laws of Thermodynamics then all things would be possible… There’s that word again!

Reply to  Earthling2
November 11, 2019 6:35 pm

Nobody should argue with it. If this is feasible it should be pursued, hopefully by the free market so it is done right, and soon.

Wayne Townsend
Reply to  Casey
November 12, 2019 7:08 am

Forget “hopefully by the free market”. If it isn’t constrained by the free market, we will have another subsidy boondoggle.

John McClure
Reply to  Casey
November 12, 2019 8:35 am

Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany (HYPOS) is developing the largest hydrogen storage unit in Europe.

Based on an existing salt cavern in Bad Lauchstädt, Saxony-Anhalt, the project (H2 Research Cavern) is being developed by a consortium of DBI – Gastechnologisches Institut gGmbH, VNG Gasspeicher GmbH, ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH, Fraunhofer IWMS and the Institute of Mountain Mechanics GmbH.

“After the leach out, the [salt] cavern has a potential capacity of more than 50 million Nm3 working gas. When the plant is completed, it will be the largest green hydrogen storage facility in the world.”


They intend to use existing natural gas pipelines for distribution and wind and solar to power the cracking process.

Reply to  John McClure
November 12, 2019 4:45 pm

“… largest green hydrogen storage facility in the world.” Green? Why did they paint it that staid color, with all the popular choices available? Burnt ochre, for example.

Reply to  brians356
November 13, 2019 6:37 am

Agree. A burnt-ochre car is far more attractive than some ugly green thing. These enviro-wackos have no aesthetic sense.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Earthling2
November 11, 2019 9:05 pm

“……this make sense if it stands on its own two feet without the massive subsidies like solar/wind cost. Plus this would essentially be ‘carbon free’ fuel if we are leaving the sand and the carbon in the ground. We need a few good news stories for social licence that doesn’t see critics say leave it in the ground. If this works and makes a profit, and there is little CO2 as a consequence, who could argue with this?……..”


1 – The entrepreneurs who are making a huge profit out of subsidy farming
2 – The politicians who are helping them
3 – The owners of existing power supplies who see this as extra competition
4 – The radicals for whom attacking the energy supply is just a ruse to enforce world-wide socialism
5 – The environmentalists who want all parts of the Earth not to have any machinery on it
6 – The ‘hippy-commune’ types who believe that we should go back to nature, live in small villages and carve cart-wheels out of wood…

Reply to  Earthling2
November 11, 2019 10:05 pm

If governments can’t figure out a way to tax it and extract as much or more than their carbon taxes from the productive folk, then it will get blocked at every turn.

As mentioned elsewhere by Dodgy Geezer, you’ll also have to battle with the power mad socialists who just want a way to control everyone. Along with the other issues he raised.

John in Oz
Reply to  Earthling2
November 11, 2019 10:22 pm

“…little CO2 as a consequence, who could argue with this?”

Perhaps Earth’s flora which is grateful for the extra CO2 we are providing.

Reply to  Earthling2
November 12, 2019 12:32 am

H2 leaks. Unlike natural gas.

Gerry, England
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
November 12, 2019 5:45 am

It also makes a bigger bang!!

Reply to  Earthling2
November 12, 2019 2:51 am

Lots of reasons to argue with it depending on the numbers. A lot of energy is lost underground. That argues that bringing it up would give you more total energy. Until we provided all the energy needs of the planet we should not be wasting energy even if it is still profitable. So if the article is giving enough info it looks like this might make sense in some areas where extracting gas or oil is impractical, but perhaps only impractical now. Oil sands mining would have sounded foolish 20 years ago. We need more information. But it ahould certainly not be dismissed.

Baer Stanley
Reply to  Earthling2
November 12, 2019 6:49 am

“They “will argue with this. “They “ will not be happy with a perfect fuel source that would be available to every human on the planet. “They “ need misery to thrive so they can push their agenda. Do you agree?

Y. Knott
Reply to  Earthling2
November 12, 2019 6:59 am

I’m sure others will point-out (or already have) the three problems with this, and with hydrogen motor fuels:

1) CO2 is not a problem; indeed, greenhouse gases are why our little blue-green planet is not a little white planet;

2) widespread use of hydrogen fuels will cause massive problems with their waste product – water vapour, which is already a much more plentiful greenhouse gas than CO2; and,

3) ultimately, hydrogen is a dreadful motor fuel. It must be stored compressed to high pressures (i.e., your car is a bomb) or liquid (i.e., your car is an extremely cold bomb). The ultimate failing of hydrogen is precisely that it weighs almost nothing – the energy in a fuel is directly proportional to its weight. A 45-gallon drum of liquid hydrogen weighs 50 pounds as compared to gasoline which weighs ~ 300 pounds, so ~ equivalent to the same weights with about the same energy, your car will have ~a sixth of the range – and a very specialised and consequently, extremely expensive fuel tank.

Reply to  Y. Knott
November 12, 2019 10:05 am

Y. Knott, to add to your comment.
1) In an internal combustion engine, hydrogen will produce NOx, as well as H2O, which as we know is not a good thing. (We’re always told we’ll only get steam.)
2) Hydrogen embrittles steel and other metals. An all steel or aluminum engine will not work. Maybe a completely porcelain engine? (No sarcasm intended.)
3) Water vapour produced by the combustion of H2 corrodes steel, especially at the high pressures generated by pistons in the compression stroke.
4) This could be addressed possibly by silicon based lubricants, but H20 in an engine’s lubrication system creates an emulsion that destroys an oil based lubricant.
Still some stuff to work out.
Fuel cells? Maybe. Someday.

Reply to  PeterT
November 15, 2019 9:43 am

I do remember, from back in the day (maybe late ’80’s?), about companies working on ceramic internal combustion engines. Another initiative that, I guess, really didn’t go anywhere. So, porcelain engine is not out of the question in a way.
Again, this is still just a method of adding complexity and cost to a very efficient system.

Reply to  Y. Knott
November 12, 2019 10:48 am

Agree with the first 2 but have you seen the hydride tanks for storage of gaseous hydrogen? They shoot incendiary bullets into them without explosions.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  TRM
November 13, 2019 4:27 am

Unfortunately there is not much hydrogen in that huge tank. By weight that tank is only a few percent recoverable hydrogen gas. BTW, if you do that same test with a tank of gasoline, it won’t explode either. But you’d have a lot more fuel for the same volume.

Bob Hunter
Reply to  Earthling2
November 13, 2019 9:36 am

First of all, contrary to what the researchers claim, it isn’t the cost of the Hydrogen that is prohibitive, it is the cost of the vehicle with a fuel cell that is the issue (a separate issue, the infrastructure)
As an example, the Toyota Mirai list price $57,500.
btw a CDN company, Ballard Fuel Systems, for several decades spent billions on research for an economical hydrogen fuel cell, and they couldn’t do it. Leave it up to Toyota, Hyundai & Honda to develop the fuel cell.

November 11, 2019 6:17 pm

Would somebody, please, put a stake through the heart of this Hydrogen-Economy pipe dream?

Hydrogen is a wonderful fuel for a select niche of purposes, but just the logistics of mass distribution to end users is prohibitive, notwithstanding the safety issues that will substantially increase that cost of distribution.

Galen Van Kooten
Reply to  DaveK
November 11, 2019 6:42 pm

use it instead of coal/natural gas to produce electricity at our power plants and convert all vehicles to electric. You need to capture the water vapor since it is a greenhouse gas and thus will never work large scale with vehicles since all roads ice up in winter

Reply to  Galen Van Kooten
November 11, 2019 6:59 pm

Use a more expensive fuel in order to power cars that nobody wants.
What a deal.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Galen Van Kooten
November 11, 2019 7:58 pm

In Australia we already have coal powered cars. They are called Tesla’s.

Reply to  DaveK
November 11, 2019 10:37 pm

Two comments, the photo of the Hindenburg at the top demonstrates just one of the problems with hydrogen. The last sentence of the paper is accurate as far as it goes: “Extensive field testing will be crucial in assessing how the system works on industrial scales and over time” ‘ It does not address the costs associated with building distribution systems to get the fuel where it is needed.

Reply to  DaveK
November 12, 2019 1:43 am

The key to hydrogen use is to make it on the go and not store it in a tank in your car or at a refuelling station. By using hydrogen to power a electric generator under the bonnet to charge batteries IMO is the road forward . The biggest problem will be braking the stranglehold oil and gas has on our everyday lives .

Y. Knott
Reply to  jmorpuss
November 13, 2019 7:12 am

I’m gonna’ pipe-dream a bit here. I dreamed-up a simple and (relatively) cheap way to make hydrogen – lots of hydrogen – using only solar power. The hydrogen can be pumped into fuel-cell power plants along a coast, and the water – which is pure enough to drink – can be used anywhere; the electricity powers cars. Or, the hydrogen is mixed with CO (carbon monoxide) to make liquid fuels; the Fischer-Tropf process, Germans did it in both world wars. Then we have liquid fuel that we can handle normally, and that we’ll never run out of because once we burn it, we just make it again. CO supply is a problem, but they’re working on catalyzing CO2 to produce it.

Monstrous rafts, initial fantasy would be a mile square or maybe even bigger, with rows of concave mirrors glued on top. Solar Millennium AG had long strings of concave mirrors focusing on a long heat pipe, powering turbines for electricity; they built some of them in Spain. But Solar Millennium is bankrupt now and I’m not surprised, because basing a system like that on land has three mammoth problems:

1) you need sun trackers under your concave mirrors, both in azimuth (they turn horizontally all day) and elevation (they have to follow the sun across the equator during the progression of the seasons), which makes them much more expensive and the towers require ongoing control and maintenance;

2) What’s that little buggie scuttling-around between the tower legs? – you’re destroying habitat (a lot of it) with your solar farm, and Greenpeace is planning on tag-teaming with PETA to picket your site, starting next week; and,

3) The choicest sites are around the equator, and most of that land is ruled-over by unstable despots with their own air forces; so once your site starts making money, they’ll roll-up their tanks to make you an offer you can’t refuse regarding how big’s their share of it.

The rafts solve all the above, cheap. They’re out in the doldrums in international waters, where storms don’t go and far enough from shore that pirates won’t bother with them; and the rafts are towed by a tanker, very slowly in a semi-circle all day to keep the sun lined-up with the mirrors. The ship returns to its starting point at night, and moves north-and-south with the seasons to keep the sun overhead. The tanker trails a long vertical pipe, likely 300+ feet down to the cold water under the thermocline; motive power is provided by big carbon-fibre Stirling-cycle engines, heat from the mirrors to the hot cylinders and cold water from the pipe to the cold cylinders. Water is stripped of salt by reverse osmosis and then electrolyzed into hydrogen & oxygen; the hydrogen stored on-board the tanker, the oxygen released – or stored too, if there’s a market for it.

A huge advantage would be that maritime nations in the south Pacific could make their own hydrogen, rather than spend most of their foreign exchange buying oil products. A huge disadvantage would be that done on an industrial scale, the whole rig would be a lowest-bidder environment – and safety would inevitably get sidestepped or ignored. A tanker-load of hydrogen exploding anywhere near a built-up area does not bear contemplation.

My favourite pie-in-the-sky – anyone up for a piece?

Reply to  Y. Knott
November 15, 2019 10:10 am

Why would you believe pirates are not industrious enough to travel long distances take the ship if it were worth enough money? Dictators might like to have it also, and they would have, as you said, air forces and also small navies. Argentina tried to take a whole island chain from the U.K. China is taking the whole South China Sea. Iran just took a British ship after the British held an Iranian ship for sanctions violations.

Given the density of hydrogen, the cargo of the ship would be far less valuable to steal than an oil tanker, though.

You might have something with electricity generation for South Pacific islands (who might have a gunship or two). Even as horribly inefficient and costly as making and using hydrogen is even under the best scenario compared to alternatives, an indigenous capability could be valuable to them. I’d expect that direct electricity generation such as offshore wind and solar would be better, though.

Y. Knott
Reply to  SocietalNorm
November 19, 2019 5:24 am

The rafts are out in middle-Atlantic, >500 miles from land and usually >1000. They’re not worth all that much; and while they’d need a measure of security or at least an encrypted OS lest competing firms steal them, pirates won’t go that far because the cargo will be hard to fence and not worth all that much. And fighter aircraft aren’t either, or their pilots are going to have to swim home once they run out of fuel.

And the inefficiency is one of the beauties of the scheme – all the energy to run the raft is free, so inefficiency is merely a price of operating and not a very big one at that. And the big value of the raft vice offshore wind / solar is that it can be run out-of-sight of land; these islands make most of their few dollars off tourists, few of whom want to see windfarms when they’re relaxing on the beach. The raft would also be a whole lot cheaper than offshore wind – which destroys a lot of seabed while installing – and a lot easier to dispose-of when something better comes along.

November 11, 2019 6:17 pm

Hydrogen powered cars? Should make traffic accidents a lot more interesting.

Reply to  GeoNC
November 11, 2019 8:19 pm

Yes, positively booming with interest…

Reply to  GeoNC
November 11, 2019 8:36 pm

My keyboard and screen are now covered in coffee. Thank you.

John Q Public
Reply to  GeoNC
November 11, 2019 8:38 pm

You are acting reactionary…

November 11, 2019 6:18 pm

In a word:
Let’s destroy the bulk of the chemical energy available, .transform it into a diffuse gas and then compress and transport it and then clean it up to 5 9s purity to use in a fuel cell.


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Fraizer
November 11, 2019 8:40 pm

Yes, one of the significant advantages of fossil fuels is the high energy density resulting from the long-chain hydrocarbons. To address the problematic concern about CO2, society would be restricting itself to low energy density hydrogen, thus reducing the range of cars, trucks, trains, and ships using it.

Even in the case of injecting O2 into depleted fields, energy will have to be used to separate the O2 from its source, and that will have to be subtracted from the energy available in the hydrogen to determine the net energy.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 12, 2019 3:45 am

Oh Clyde, don’t be such a negative Nellie. Separating and compressing the oxygen will probably only take 5-10% more energy than is produced by burning the hydrogen. We can easily use windmills and solar panels to cover that gap. Eliminating the oil field will be essentially energy-neutral.

What’s that? You say you thought we’d power gas turbines and generate electricity? Don’t be absurd. But getting rid of the oil without having any humans benefit from it will be entirely feasible, so well worth considering.

Just need a few billion dollars to fuel research grants for 20-30 years until a new generation comes up with a new non-problem to solve.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 12, 2019 5:04 am

The cost of injecting o2 is not cheap. Think compressors.

Reply to  Paul
November 12, 2019 10:55 am


Ooh, boy. You may not realize the importance of your comment.
As most of us know, oxygen is corrosive (hence rust). I have a lot of experience in using high pressure (5,000 psi) nitrogen membrane generators in a specialized type of oil & gas well drilling. An N2 molecule is larger than an O2 molecule, so most of the O2 is left behind the membrane. Generally,the purity of the nitrogen produced by one of these machines is about 95%. Air is about 80% N2, and about 20% O2 (not including traces of argon and CO2.) There’s a really good reason these deep wells are drilled with N2 instead of air. (Air IS used on some shallow applications.) If you remember Dalton’s Partial Pressure Gas Law from high school, you’ll understand that as you double the pressure, you effectively double the amount of each component gas. Even at a purity of 95% N2, and 5% O2, at 3,000 psi, steel exposed to this mixture is seeing the equivalent of approximately 1,000% O2 ( 200 atmospheres’s pressure X 5% O2.) A steel drill string exposed to this, especially in the presence of a little H20, without very expensive corrosion inhibitors disintegrates literally in minutes.
I can’t even imagine all the issues around injecting pure O2 into the ground under pressure.

November 11, 2019 6:19 pm

Hindenburg Airlines futures are UP!

Reply to  H.R.
November 12, 2019 12:12 am

Positively exploding in fact.

November 11, 2019 6:19 pm

Burning hydrogen makes water vapour a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Also raises the dew point , so ubiquitous use of hydrogen for energy will make night time temperatures rise even more than from using oil.

Reply to  AlanF
November 11, 2019 11:27 pm

It would be interesting to figure out what the effects of everyone using hydrogen in a large city would be.

Reply to  MarkH
November 12, 2019 8:40 am

People would be talking in high, squeaky voices.

Reply to  beng135
November 12, 2019 9:57 am

That’s Helium….

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
November 13, 2019 6:18 am

Hydrogen would be even squeakier because it’s even less dense than helium.

Reply to  AlanF
November 12, 2019 12:11 am

The lady in the street also says it makes her hair feel damp :p

November 11, 2019 6:19 pm

It takes energy to bust the hydrogen loose from the hydrocarbons. Your net out of the process isn’t going to be much, if it’s even positive.

nw sage
November 11, 2019 6:23 pm

How much does it cost to obtain the Oxygen to pump (cost again) down into the oil formation?

Reply to  nw sage
November 11, 2019 6:55 pm

The article says it is a 5% parasitic load on the equivalent hydrogen btu recovered, so if the CCGT turbine is located near the source of the bitumen/hydrogen, then presumably that 5% cost of making oxygen to send down into the bitumen is also manufactured as part of the generating infrastructure. I assume it is just an oxygen concentrator…not splitting water to make hydrogen and pure oxygen.

November 11, 2019 6:26 pm

As long as they release the carbon to the atmosphere as CO2, the biosphere will be happy!

Geo Rubik
November 11, 2019 6:32 pm

Hydrogen is a fine fuel for ICE but we have no infrastructure for it. We need a multi billion dollar investment into new gas stations to distribute this flue source.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Geo Rubik
November 11, 2019 7:38 pm

That is not correct. It is probably the worst fuel to use in an ICE just the low flashpoint of H2 is enough to make it not viable. It’s why it isn’t used! It is useless in gaseous form for a transport fuel, low density. It costs lots of money and consumes lots of energy to compress and liquify. It leaks out from everywhere. And when burnt in an ICE there are still pollutant emissions, CO and CO2, NoX and SoX, because of lubricating oils in the ICE are burnt too.

John Q Public
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 8:40 pm

Use in a fuel cell.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  John Q Public
November 11, 2019 9:17 pm

That’s not what Geo Rubik posted. A fuel cell to generate electricity to drive a motor would work but not as a fuel burnt in an ICE. Two different uses of H2.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 10:28 pm

Hydrogen was used (with metal hydride storage tanks) in ICE vehicles just fine back in the ’80s . The biggest problem was the weight of the tank as noted in comment above which reduced range and load vs hydrocarbon fuels but the cars and buses tested ran well and even the NOx issue was resolved. Emissions from lubricating oils being burnt were infinitesimal.

The exothermic reaction with hydrogen combining with hydrides required cooling systems in the fuel tank which also allowed a path for heat to extract the hydrogen when running the vehicle – free airconditioning in summer was a byproduct. Safety was not an issue since the release rate of hydrogen from the hydrides was too slow for an explosive event (unless in a confined space).

Melbourne University (Australia) and Mercedes Benz were the leaders in developing viable hydrogen powered vehicles but sourcing and distribution were the big hurdles that were never overcome.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 11:33 pm

“Analitik November 11, 2019 at 10:28 pm”

If that is true how come the technology isn’t in use?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 11:35 pm

“Analitik November 11, 2019 at 10:28 pm”

In the 80’s there was an experimental engine made from an alloy of silicon and aluminium that did not need oil lubrication. Why do we not see these engines today?

Reply to  Geo Rubik
November 11, 2019 7:53 pm

I think you need to add at least 3 decimal places to your estimate.

Reply to  Geo Rubik
November 12, 2019 4:33 am

Hydrogen is a terrible fuel for an ICE. Widest explosive range of almost any fuel, ignites ridiculously easily, damages most metals it is in contact with and burn invisibly. Burns really dirty and creates emission levels that outrange most equipment designed to analyse exhaust gas.

Joel O'Bryan
November 11, 2019 6:38 pm

Anything that uses the Alberta tar sands will be resisted on principle by the Left. Even if it leaves the carbon in the ground.
That is because the Climate Scam is not about CO2, carbon, changing climate, or science.

One can develop all the sexy chemistry and physics you want for fuel cells, hydrogen, LNG/CNG transportation, CCS, and nuclear. At the end of the day, no one on the Left wants any of it.

The Climate Scam is actually about:
1) Restructuring Western countries’ energy infrastructure to expensive renewables,
2) Anti-capitalism,
3) Anti-extractive industries (at least NIMBY),
4) De-population, reducing the world’s population from 7 Gigapeople to < 1 Gp.

The evidence for this is the resistance to nuclear power and cleaner uses of nat gas to rapidly replace coal. The Left wants none of that. It will be no different for hydrogen from coal or tar sands. That tells anyone who can think for themselves that climate change is not about climate.

The sooner people wake up to the real agenda, an agenda determined to destroy capitalism, the affluent middle class of the Western democracies, and individual freedoms, the sooner we can pitch these Malthusian Climate Bolsheviks into the garbage heap of history where they belong.

Bill P.
November 11, 2019 6:38 pm

Disruptive technologies like this are impossible for government bureaucracies – the ultimate source of wisdom in the Leftist universe – to anticipate and plan for.

As a result they will oppose them at every turn. The purpose of the Deep State is not to accomplish things on behalf of the nation and its people, but to perpetuate its power, world without end.

November 11, 2019 6:44 pm

The world is well on the way to an electric transportation fleet and hydrogen is a fuel that is difficut to
use as a fuel and lacks an infratructure. The proper use of the hydrogen would be to fuel electric generators and power the grid.

Reply to  ColMosby
November 11, 2019 7:22 pm

The world is NOT well on the way to an electric transportation fleet.

Reply to  Art
November 11, 2019 7:59 pm

Thank you for the correction.

Reply to  ColMosby
November 11, 2019 7:56 pm

In time, electric drive vehicles preceded the development of those driven by internal combustion engines. In fact, some say the EV heyday was in the early 1900’s. They were well on their way back then too, but they fell behind.

One supposes that battery technology will eventually advance to the point that EVs can compete with ICE vehicles in both price and performance. It’s possible.

John Q Public
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 8:41 pm

They are much cheaper to make and simpler (until you try and make them self driving).

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 8:46 pm

You said, “One supposes that battery technology will eventually advance to the point that EVs can compete with ICE vehicles in both price and performance.”
An assumption with facts not in evidence. That is, wishful thinking.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 9:40 pm

“…battery technology will eventually advance to the point that EVs can compete with ICE vehicles ..”

When they do (if ever) I wouldn’t like to stand next to a battery with such an energy density.

Storing energy is VERY dangerous. For all its faults, petroleum is one of the safest ways to store a lot of power…

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
November 12, 2019 5:38 am

I agree. Clearly, the battery technology has not been perfected, and my supposition does not need to come true. I think it is a grand challenge.

I would put more faith in the system of management and engineers from Honda, Nissan and BMW than I would from Tesla.

Reply to  Scissor
November 12, 2019 7:26 am

Batteries have been subject to constant research for over 200 years. Major advancements now are unlikely. Chances are that they will see incremental improvements, simply from use doing a better job doing what we know should be done. But a major breakthrough is becoming highly unlikely, and our understanding of energy densities and electrodynamics suggest such a breakthrough will not happen.

Reply to  jtom
November 12, 2019 8:48 am

jtom — agree. Batteries aren’t complicated & the major improvements have been done. Fuel cells are interesting, but require dangerous hydrogen & prb’ly limited to special applications.

Flight Level
November 11, 2019 6:46 pm

And here how it’s supposed to work, basically setting a controlled underground fire. I mean, it takes energy separate hydrogen, so let’s burn oil to get it. Makes as much sense as wasting oil.

Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead, and then injected deep into the reservoir through an ‘Oxinjection Well‘. Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place (a process known as In-Situ Combustion). Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm. Where necessary, the temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions.
Eventually, oxidation temperatures exceed 500°C. This extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons, and any surrounding water molecules, to break apart. Both the hydrocarbons and the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas. These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis, gas reforming and water-gas shift. They have been used in commercial industrial processes to generate hydrogen for more than 100 years. In HEE these processes are controlled through the timing and pattern of oxygen injection and external heating.

John Q Public
Reply to  Flight Level
November 11, 2019 8:43 pm

Talking about Greta’a earth on fire spiel…

Reply to  Flight Level
November 12, 2019 4:22 am

So the residue is left underground. It’s not pollution if no one sees it.

David S
November 11, 2019 6:47 pm

OH YES PINKY! Let’s switch to and release massive amounts of the hydrogen that is locked up in the ground to make tremendous amounts of a greenhouse gas that is far stronger than CO2 and is sure to raise the sea levels. Right on!

Gordon Dressler
November 11, 2019 6:50 pm

Not mentioned, perhaps conveniently, is the cost of those “specialist filters” for purifying the hydrogen gas coming out of the wells—will they end up as being polluting upon recycling or upon landfill disposal?—nor the cost of liquifying the gaseous hydrogen for efficient transportation to remote distribution centers.

Or were you expecting that there will be high gas pressure gaseous hydrogen transmission lines from the oil fields to GH2/LH2 distributions centers, likely hundreds of miles away?

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
November 11, 2019 8:12 pm

Their video shows a palladium alloy membrane filter, which is quite established technology for hydrogen separation. It’ll be interesting to see how well this holds up to H2S exposure over time. In any case, these membranes would be recovered not disposed of.

John Q Public
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 8:44 pm

Are those miners up there on that billboard writing “Uze Mor Palldeeum”?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 8:50 pm

Why do you suppose palladium is so expensive? Do you suppose it will become cheaper as the demand increases?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 12, 2019 5:49 am

Palladium is a precious metal as you know that has industrial uses, especially for hydrogen separations and catalysis. I remember when it was cheaper than platinum and gold, that is not the case now at least.

In any case, the membrane is an alloy of palladium. Now it might be alloyed with gold but then membranes are being engineered to be less costly over time through use of lower quantity and higher efficiency. There are such alloys being used in commercial processes.

November 11, 2019 6:59 pm

I am sorry, but we are no longer accepting other ideas or inexpensive pollution free forms of energy. Our GOVERNMENT went all in for solar and wind to save the world in 2010, the Consensus has spoken no new ideas need apply.

Robert W. Turner
November 11, 2019 7:07 pm

Not so sure about it actually working economically, they certainly haven’t demonstrated it. Looks like they are just publically fundraising instead of finding a few investors that already own old oil field and getting to work.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
November 11, 2019 8:07 pm

Thanks for the link. The video is informative. Unlike some promoters (Sid, is Sid in the house?), they at least have a working pilot in the field. It would be great if they would share a H&MB.

I like that they use the word “ensure” correctly.

November 11, 2019 7:08 pm

This sounds like an insane spin-off from an insane obsession with the minor properties of a rare atmospheric gas. Hopefully, the economics of largescale deployment will relegate it to a niche role rather than the emergence of a mass of Hindenburg Cars.

November 11, 2019 7:15 pm

What is left? What does the source turn into after extracting the hydrogen?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Felix
November 11, 2019 8:52 pm

You asked, “What does the source turn into after extracting the hydrogen?” The equivalent of coking coal?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 11, 2019 8:58 pm

Hey Clyde, we can then dig that coking coal up in the future when we need to keep making steel, and when the world has finally figured out that CO2 doesn’t and never did cause any dangerous climate change. This is a twofer.

Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 7:18 pm

“hydrogen is regarded as an efficient transport fuel, similar to petrol and diesel, but with no pollution problems. ”

Good grief what utter rubbish!! It certainly isn’t that’s why it isn’t used over petrol and diesel.

Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 7:23 pm

We now have another rich hypocritical elitist telling us what to after he made his billions from using fossil fuels.

BTW, burning H2 in an ICE will still produce pollutants because of the oil used in the ICE for lubrication. So it’s not pollution free. I’d love to get a Govn’t gran to come up with this rubbish!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 11, 2019 8:15 pm

Branson has made investments into “clean” energy. He’s kind of nutty.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2019 9:11 pm

Ah, I didn’t know that, and it makes sense. He is a very astute businessman and he knows where money can be made, and lots of it too. So, not *THAT* nutty!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Scissor
November 13, 2019 1:30 am

And his cruise ships too as it turns out.

Anna Keppa
November 11, 2019 7:37 pm

Imagine a mid-summer day in Washington, DC, New Orleans, or any other humid city.

Then imagine tens of thousands of H2-powered vehicles ADDING more water vapor to the air.

Just think of the extra humidity that tens of thousands of A/C’s would then have to take out of that air for human comfort.

Oh yeah…that’ll save the planet!!

November 11, 2019 7:52 pm

Who pays for producing this drivel? …………….Anyone………………?

David S
November 11, 2019 7:54 pm

Show us a working model. Then I’ll get excited about it.

Gunga Din
November 11, 2019 7:56 pm

Once Hydrogen is removed from a Hydrocarbon, what’s left?
I doubt it’s the “diamonds” that might make the entire process economically, truly, self-sustaining.
(That is, profitable without taxpayer cash or subsidies or the need for them.)

kevin kilty
November 11, 2019 8:06 pm

I have doubts about this. If one injects oxygen into an environment of hydrocarbons and water and raises temperatures by oxiding the hydrocarbons in situ, then one will produce not only H_2 but also CO and CO_2 as well. What becomes of these gases? How does one “filter” them out?

Sounds a lot like making town gas using the water gas and shift reactions. This led to many a superfund site.

November 11, 2019 8:58 pm

I am reticent to be totally critical of the claims made in this article but after reading the article I find it to be superficial and lacking a lot of specifics to get optimistic about the claims.
It would seem that there is a lot more to be revealed about the process and the separation necessary at ground level since it seems unlikely that just pure hydrogen is released.
Having worked on a major oil sands project I know that that project also had literally tons of sulfur released as part of the processing. Most refining processes release a lot of other substances during the thermal processes.
Short of toxic substances pure oxygen and pure hydrogen is two of the most difficult to elements normally handled. I have worked on numerous H2 plants and have seen the results of unwanted leaks, fires and explosions. Also we know that handling pure oxygen requires special precautions like Stainless steel piping because of fire hazzard, Nasa learned about this the hard way.
Lots of energy is required in compression in CO2 capture and hydrogen compressors are not cheap to run either.
It has been reported that a hydrogen powered car would normally have a 9000 psi tank for fuel storage and I would not sleep well with such a car in my garage.
I am not sure I would trust the public handling the fueling of their vehicle with 9000 psi Hydrogen.
Due to the small size of the atom and molecule conventional steels are subject to hydrogen attack and failure, those handling H2 in the refining process know how to design equipment for H2, it is not cheap.
These well known issues are dismissed in the article.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Catcracking
November 12, 2019 1:39 pm


Dismissing show stopping issues is frequently done during R&D when the supporters of the tech don’t like the answer.

This is very much like the neutron embrittlement problem for a commercially viable fusion tokamak vessel. Even if some group finally succeeds to get enough thermal power out of such a device to make electricity, after about 6 months of continuous operation, the neutron embrittlement of the vessel steel or titanium alloy will begin to reach critical levels such that it has to be replaced. And they are un-godly expensive to fabricate and install. They have to maintain a high vacuum inside the chambers. They have to allow radiation to pass through them to reach a working fluid to be heated by that radiation. The superconducting magnets around the vessel have to be chilled to 4K with liquid helium. An incredibility complex design to engineer and assemble. So that materials problem for a commercially viable fusion reactor is simply dismissed too, otherwise the research and jobs that tokamak fusion research provides would cease.

Same thing for folks at NASA pressing on with manned Mars mission concept designs. They simply have to dismiss the lethal interplanetary radiation problem the astronauts would receive on the outbound and return trips. At present or even envisioned propulsion designs, the trip out and back (ignoring the Mars surface time) takes around 300-400 days. That’s over a year exposed to the a steady onslaught of GCRs and possibly solar protons events. The space vehicle would have some shielding, but shielding means mass. And it is mass that must be accelerated to Mars, decelerated on arrival, and accelrated once again for the return to Earth. The fuel costs of the shielding alone are enormous budget busters. And without lots of shielding, it’s a suicide mission for a 4 person crew. Yet that doesn’t stop the money flow to keep studying and design concept vehicles. But it’ll never happen.

As for Proton Technologies, the website on “investors” has this statement:
“A substantial amount of the R&D budget is already being financed locally, through government grants for innovation and for promoting climate-friendly technology.”

The Canadian government is the “investor” in Proton. If all of what Proton Tech was pursuing was commercially viable, then private investors would be lined up out their doors with cash.

You finally have to realize these things are jobs programs paid for with tax money from the government.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 15, 2019 10:48 am

NASA is very aware of the radiation and shielding required to go to Mars. Yes, you are correct; that is one of the things that makes putting people on Mars and getting them back so very difficult.
(There was an idea at one time by some entrepreneur to get volunteers to go to Mars and not come back, which makes the problem much less difficult.)

Brian Valentine
November 11, 2019 9:03 pm

This is silly. Over 90% of the weight of usable hydrocarbon and over 85% of the usable energy of the hydrocarbon would be discarded (counting purification and compression of the hydrogen).

Another preposterous scheme.

Bruce of Newcastle
November 11, 2019 9:10 pm

Wow they’ve amazingly invented a process which was known in 1868!
I am astounded, nay floored, by their genius.

Ok, sorry, some technical differences but this is pretty silly. On the other hand if they can use this excuse to not dig up Alberta’s oil sands they can use the technology to process the up to 23 trillion tonnes of coal under the North Sea. Which would keep Europe in energy for a millenium or two.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  Bruce of Newcastle
November 12, 2019 1:51 am

Perhaps instead of wasting trillions on eco-destructive and economically suicidal windmill subsidy farms we could waste all that money on draining the North Sea. It would be great to see the reaction of the eco-lobby to the perfectly sensible notion of using all that coal, especially when you tell them displacing all that water would raise sea levels elsewhere.
At least you could go back to farming the Dogger Bank and going on extended walks to mainland Europe. What’s not to like?

At least we know steam power and engines work efficiently and safely – more than can be said for EVs and apparently hydrogen cars.

Robert of Texas
November 11, 2019 9:13 pm

There is a simple way to transport this hydrogen using existing infrastructure in most places. You simple use carbon atom as a backbone and connect 4 hydrogen atoms to the carbon. Even better, you could link the carbon atoms into a long chain, producing a liquid form of the hydrogen fuel for transport and possibly even for burning as is… The energy density would be much higher then in H2, and no new technology is needed to transport and use it as a fuel. I am willing to bet you could use various forms of this compact hydrogen fuel as feeder chemicals into making other useful products.

I know, just another pie-in-the-sky idea, but still I hope someone considers it since it is so obviously an efficient way to get to this Hydrogen Economy.

Bruce of Newcastle
Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 12, 2019 12:46 am

Even better to convert it to methanol using heat and a catalyst.

3H2 + CO2 = CH3OH + H2O

Once you have methanol everything is easy. Gas stations could sell it. ICE cars could use it with some modification. Infrastructure and logistics would be the same. The only difference is methanol has half the energy density of gasoline, but a 40 gal plastic methanol tank costs maybe ten bucks more than a 20 gal gas tank.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 12, 2019 2:55 am

Yeah! Totally Organic! the Greens should love it!

November 12, 2019 12:00 am

Hey guys, ixnay on the aterway aporvay. If they figure this out, steam will be declared a pollutant by the EPA and it will become illegal to boil water for your coffee or tea in the morning!

Anders Valland
November 12, 2019 1:50 am

They woul need to liquify the hydrogen for transport, before converting it to 700 bar gas to be usable for automotive purposes. I do not see the cost of those elements in there. The cost of liquefaction, transportm, storage and transfer at filling stations is at least as high as the production cost, and what is keeping hydrogen out of the loop for any practical purposes.

When you add in the safety issues, and they are very real, there basically is no case for the hydrogen economy.

November 12, 2019 2:25 am

I like the idea of using Hydrogen as a fuel.

Hope it works so when we start using up oil, we’ll have a backup to switch to.

Reply to  kramer
November 12, 2019 8:40 am

Me too. I don’t believe fossil fuels are dangerous to health, even in highly polluted cities, but they can cause wars when supplies dwindle. Hydrogen is the future. You can produce it inside your national borders, so no need for oil tankers traversing politically unstable regions. It’s clean so pollution goes away. We have plenty of fossil fuels for now, so no need to rush with stupid regulations. Let’s take our time and get it right.

November 12, 2019 3:16 am

Okay, the fuel is pollution free, but what about the byproduct from the process of extracting the fuel?

November 12, 2019 4:57 am

The oil industry has experimented with oxygen injection and downhole combustion going back at least 40 years….Yes you can make syngas that way….No, it’s not an economically sound way to do it….think fixing your house furnace while its in a small diameter hole a mile under your house…..

November 12, 2019 5:40 am

I’m optimistic that human innovation will find a niche for using hydrogen to supply some energy…

November 12, 2019 5:54 am

Any SOUND technical solution to “CO2 pollution” (like proven Nuclear Energy) will be “fought to the finish line” by the Climate Crisis crowd.

They don’t want to actually fix the CO2 “problem”, they want to control the world. “Collateral damage” in the execution of their plans….like economic devastation, worldwide poverty, and a few hundreds of millions of fatalities is totally acceptable.

Reply to  DocSiders
November 12, 2019 9:27 am

The problem will be stupid government interference in the long process of making the changeover. The CO2 cultists are looking dumber by the day.

November 12, 2019 5:56 am

By “pollution” do they mean carbon dioxide?

Reply to  PaulH
November 12, 2019 9:38 am

Yes, but letting CO2 get below 400 ppm may not be a good idea, either, considering impacts on the food supply. May have to start burning the excess biomass.

Thomas Homer
November 12, 2019 7:04 am

Not sure what pressure is attainable, but Germans used cow intestines to store the hydrogen used to make Zeppelins buoyant.

“[German Zeppelin builders] worked out that by making the skins [cow intestines] wet, stretching them, and allowing them to dry again, they were bonded together to form ideal vessels for hydrogen gas”

… “it took the guts from more than 250,000 cows to make a single airship.”

November 12, 2019 7:27 am

What could go wrong – Inserting O2 in a high carbon environment under pressure…

Am I missing something?

November 12, 2019 7:27 am

Things should not be used beyond their practical limits such as wind mills, great for pumping water before rural electrification. As for me I would not have wanted to be on the Hindenburg’s last trip, as great as the air ship was. Nor would I want my car loaded with hydrogen.

Dying to save the world that does not need saving is not a way to go.

Three cheers for separating hydrogen, now find a use for it. There must be a use for pure hydrogen or it would not exist.

Reply to  Olen
November 12, 2019 10:04 am

Burn it as close to an on-site location as soon as soon as it is piped in, in a CCGT type electrical generation plant. A large bitumen field will generate hydrogen for several decades to come. No need to compress/pipe it to cities for an hydrogen economy for cars since that industry may not be the future. Don’t handle it any further than straight to electricity, as it is a good hot burning fuel source and doesn’t matter if the energy density is low since it isn’t being further processed. Send the electrons to more distant markets and market them as carbon free so as the cap on oil sand development is lifted.

If this makes money by the private sector without subsidy, and has minimal environmental ramifications, then there is no reason anyone could realistically oppose this. I think the writing is on the wall that some type of effort will be required by society in general to lower CO2 emissions over time, as we see here in the West. Fighting that battle by just saying more CO2 is better for the biosphere will lose that argument, even though it may be a true statement. I have no special insight in whether this specific process will be successful, butI think scientific R&D into advanced solutions will have a good pay back. I am an advocate of a technological solution, rather than just cutting back our overall consumption. That is a non starter, and especially for the third world who deserve everything we have gained in the West.

November 12, 2019 8:10 am

Like sea-level rise, sea-ice, giant pinwheels and solar panels, hydrogen-for-fuel is a big yawn. Watching the old test patterns on overnight TV was more interesting.

Reply to  beng135
November 12, 2019 10:26 am

We’ll wake you when it’s over.

Steve Z
November 12, 2019 9:50 am

I’ve got an open mind on this process, but there are still many unanswered questions. If they are injecting pure oxygen, then some energy must be used to separate the oxygen from nitrogen in the air. Why are they using oxygen (a much larger molecule than hydrogen) to extract hydrogen? Hydrogen does not spontaneously combust in air at ambient temperatures and pressures, but would there be a danger of explosive reaction in a pure-oxygen atmosphere under pressure underground, especially if there are hydrocarbons present? Would we be risking a man-made earthquake to let off a little steam? Would they be better off injecting compressed air or nitrogen in order to reduce the risk of explosion?

Even if hydrogen was extracted mixed with oxygen, air, or nitrogen, hydrogen can be easily separated from other gases using the well-known process of pressure-swing adsorption to greater than 99% purity, so that it may be safer to inject other gases such as air or nitrogen, even if some of the injected gases rise to the surface.

If the goal is to extract hydrogen from formations containing petroleum, most of these formations also contain methane (natural gas). While hydrogen has a heat of combustion about 2.5 times higher than methane on a mass basis, on a volume basis (at the same temperature and pressure), the heat of combustion of methane is about 3.2 times higher than that of hydrogen, meaning that the storage tank on a methane-powered vehicle would be 3.2 times smaller than that of a hydrogen-powered vehicle, or the storage tank could operate at about 1/3 of the pressure of a hydrogen-powered vehicle. The storage tank for hydrogen would have to be very thick (and heavy) to resist the high pressure, and prevent the tiny hydrogen molecules from leaking. Why not extract both the hydrogen and the methane, and use both of them for fuel?

Hydrogen is also required in petroleum refining (for removing sulfur from distillates), and can be generated by reacting natural gas with steam (catalytic steam-methane reforming), where one volume of natural gas and two volumes of steam produce four volumes of hydrogen and one volume of CO2. This process does consume energy, so that if the goal is to produce energy (as in moving a vehicle), it is cheaper to burn methane directly than to convert it to hydrogen, for the same CO2 emissions.

The hydrogen-producing process described in the article may have some usefulness, but we need to see some results of experimental tests, including costs and yields, before jumping on this bandwagon. There may be some devils in the details.

November 12, 2019 10:22 am

With 10cm of white global warming covering the ground and ambient temps -15degC outside (normal here +15degC this time of year), I’m nice and cozy in the house warmed by a boiler system using wood burned in a furnace initially under hypoxic conditions to produce wood gas (mostly H2 & CH4), then exposed to O2 for complete oxidation to CO2 & H2O– same sort of system used to power French taxis during WWII and apparently this proposed new system on a geologic scale. ….What do these engineering genii intend to do with the CH4 they’re bound to generate? Or does it get so hot it doesn’t produce CH4?..Then why doesn’t it just burn to H2O in situ, given the presence of O2 & heat?

November 12, 2019 10:25 am

Seems like a good way to produce Ammonia. Ammonia is created from hydrogen and nitrogen, where the nitrogen comes from the air and the hydrogen usually comes from natural gas. If we produce the hydrogen this way there would be more methane for other purposes. Ammonia has a large existing market as well.

November 12, 2019 10:51 am

Just another attempt to raid government coffers. In-situ combustion/upgrading technologies for bitumen and coal have been failing for decades. Not clear who the previous site owners were but I suspect it was the site of a failed in-situ bitumen upgrading technology. Painting the horse a different colour won’t get it past the post. good luck trying to corral hydrogen downhole.

At one time Ian Gates was trying to raise research dollars to de-carbonize natural gas!!! Duh, its called steam methane reforming and is rather well understood

What has happened to our education systems?

Complete junk.

Alec Rawls
November 12, 2019 11:50 am

Yeah, bind up all of our oxygen, oxidized deep underground. Who needs an oxygen cycle? The important thing is to worry about carbon.

Reply to  Alec Rawls
November 12, 2019 2:09 pm

The important thing is to worry about gold.
Other Peoples’ Gold.


November 12, 2019 7:19 pm

Whoopee. We’re saved.

old white guy
November 13, 2019 3:51 am

I am waiting for the perpetual motion machine.

November 13, 2019 6:07 am

Our energy infrastructure is not a given nor fixed but a work in progress – and it will continue to evolve and change. Those changes have been and will (and should) continue to be driven by technological advances and market forces and not by fear based activism of any color. The AGW issue is not whether our energy infrastructure will change but whether it will evolve with technological and market forces or by the use of fear based activism.

Johann Wundersamer
November 22, 2019 5:45 am

“Around 5% of the H2 produced then powers the oxygen production plant, so the system more than pays for itself.”

Provided enough existing oil sands reservoirs, mainstream oil fields, to produce hydrogen instead of oil.

Johann Wundersamer
November 22, 2019 5:53 am

What are the dangers of using hydrogen as a fuel?

The two prime dangers from fuel cell and hydrogen-powered vehicles are the danger of electrical shock and the flammability of the fuel. Fuel cells power vehicles by electro-chemically combining hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen (O2) from the surrounding air into water (H20) and electrical energy.

Hydrogen needs to be compressed to even higher pressures because of its even lower energy density. To date, hydrogen tanks designed for fuel cell vehicles have been developed to store hydrogen at pressures of up to 10,000 psi (700 bar) to maximize vehicle range.

DOE Hydrogen Composite Tank Program – NREL

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