A recent scientific study indicates that hydrogen gas is seeping from within the Earth in places where historically no one had expected it before.
Scientists have now identified thousands of sites in the European part of Russia where natural hydrogen gas may be found seeping out of shallow depressions. In research paper, published in Natural Resources Research , scientists have examined many of these subcircular, shallow surface depressions seeping hydrogen gas, ranging in size from a hundred meters to several kilometers in diameter. These have been identified throughout a region extending from the Moscow region to Kazakhstan.
Using portable gas detectors, researchers found the concentration of molecular hydrogen gas in the soil of these structures was very high, up to 1.25% at 1.2 m deep. The results obtained by the authors were confirmed by gas chromatography analysis of the samples.
Photo: Satellite picture of one of the shallow depressions investigate for the presence of natural hydrogen gas. The structure is situated near the city of Borisoglebsk, Russia.
Authors estimate that some of these seeps may have a hydrogen gas flow of up to 27 000 m3 per day. The possible sources for this gas are discussed in the paper. “We tested many hypotheses against current correspondence of observed facts and we find that hydrogen gas is seeping from great depths. Most likely we are observing a degassing of Earth’s primordial hydrogen“, said author Viacheslav Zgonnik.
Hydrogen is a very reactive gas and cannot remain unchanged for long periods of time within the conditions of Earth’s crust. It was previously observed in very particular places, like rift zones or ophiolitic belts. Discovery of this gas in the heart of continents, where nobody expected it, suggests that this is a newly recognized natural phenomenon.
This could change our understanding of some natural processes, like the appearance of subsidence structures. We tested for the presence of hydrogen in a suddenly formed circular structure near the city Eleksrostal’. This structure first appeared in 2004. However, in 2002 it was not visible in photos taken by satellites. Authors suggest that its formation may be related to the action of hydrogen gas emissions from within earth's crust. Studies by other research groups have indicated that molecular hydrogen emissions might even affect the Earth's ozone layer.
According to the authors, there are tens of thousands of similar structures spread around the world. We believe we are faced with a new “significant and previously unknown” source of a natural gas.
Hydrogen is the most energy-rich gas and currently considered to be a good candidate to replace fossil fuels. Major automakers are even now developing new hydrogen fuel cell cars, with some models already commercially available. The major problem remains the source of hydrogen, which is currently produced mostly by reformatting Natural Gas, considered by critics as neither “clean” nor energy efficient. The discovery of a substantial source of natural hydrogen gas from within the earth may create a cost effective boost for the hydrogen economy.
It should be noted, that described hydrogen structures are also detectable in Ukraine, what makes hydrogen technologies promicing. Some research is ongoing in the Institute of Geology NAS of Ukraine and in the Scientific and Engineering Center of Radio-gydro-geo-ekological Field Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
The potential of these hydrogen gas seeps as a source of a clean primary energy will be the subject of future studies.