While investigating the situation of underground methane in Lorraine, a group of scientists from the GeoRessources Laboratory of the University of Lorraine and the CNRS experienced what is called “serendipity”. While exploring underground from the town of Folschviller, they found a surprising amount of white hydrogen, which is probably the largest deposit in the world.
Thanks to a tool called SysMoG, developed together with the Solexperts company, these researchers were able to analyze gases dissolved in geological formations up to 1,200 meters deep. This cutting-edge device, only 6cm in diameter, is a marvel of miniaturization and environmental sustainability.
Implications of White Hydrogen
Unlike gray hydrogen, which is produced industrially and has a high environmental cost, white hydrogen exists naturally. Its existence in pure form makes it a perfect candidate to replace fossil fuels in energy-intensive industries such as glass, steel and cement production.
Origin of Hydrogen in Lorraine
Current theory suggests that this white hydrogen is the result of reactions between water molecules and minerals composed of iron carbonates. This combination creates an almost “renewable” production of hydrogen, with chemical processes that take place over weeks or months.
The Future of research
The next step for scientists is to demonstrate the homogeneity and quantity of hydrogen in the 490 km area2. They plan to make a 3,000-meter deep survey and, if everything goes well, they can start a realistic assessment of this resource in 2024, with financial support from various industrial and institutional partners.
Interpretation of natural gas exploitation
This reservoir, although with lower pressure than usual, is still expanding. This can provide opportunities for innovation, such as the selective extraction of specific gases to reduce the impact on agricultural land.
Although hydrogen may be viewed with suspicion due to historical incidents, such as the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937, it is safe underground because there is no oxygen. Keeping it out of contact with air is essential in any future extraction process.
The discovery was greeted with enthusiasm in Lorraine, especially in Folschviller. Because of its mining history, the region saw this discovery as an opportunity to revitalize an economy affected by deindustrialization.