Geogenic hydrogen exploration

October 16th, 2023

Project Title:
Geogenic hydrogen exploration

R&D Focus Areas:
Natural hydrogen

Lead Organisation:

Not applicable


Start date:
March 2023

Completion date:

Key contacts:
Lead Investigator Dr. Ema Frery.

CSIRO Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Program; CSIRO Energy, Mineral Resources, and Environment Business Units.

Project total cost:
AUD$2 million (cash + in-kind contributions)

Project summary description:
Exploration of geogenic hydrogen, also known as natural or geological hydrogen, represents a fascinating frontier within the realm of energy research. The scientific challenges within this field revolve around two core aspects: understanding the intricate workings of the hydrogen system and unravelling the global hydrogen cycle, akin to our knowledge of the carbon cycle.

Notable developments in this area include the successful extraction of pure hydrogen from beneath the ground in Mali over the course of seven years. In the industrial sector, a key question arises: where will the next major discovery take place? A snapshot of global exploration efforts includes:

  • Mali: The establishment of 20 new wells, with their reserves certified by Chapman.
  • USA: The National Hydrogen Association (NHE) initiated its first well in Kansas in 2019, resulting in a remarkable flame during the well test.
  • Germany/France: Collaborative efforts involving 45-8 focused on exploration for both helium (He) and hydrogen.
  • USA: Bill Gates recently invested $90 million in hydrogen exploration.
  • Yorke Peninsula (South Australia): Gold Hydrogen started to drill the first exploration well dedicated to geogenic hydrogen in October 2023.
  • Global barriers in geogenic hydrogen exploration include the absence of regulatory frameworks and the scarcity of available infrastructure for delivering hydrogen to end users, as emphasized by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This project seeks to consolidate knowledge and strategic support for geologic hydrogen exploration, encompassing baseline studies and monitoring from two key perspectives:

  • Field Exploration: Investigating surface geogenic hydrogen seeps.
  • Laboratory Research: Employing multi-physical characterization to assess rocks that have the potential to generate or trap hydrogen.

To bridge existing knowledge gaps in the domain of hydrogen generation by natural sources, the project systematically explores critical hydrogen generation processes. Its primary goal is to quantify the role of these processes within the crustal hydrogen cycle.

The laboratory research program is divided into two core components: abiogenic and thermogenic hydrogen generation mechanisms. This comprehensive approach encompasses various geological formations and includes hydrogen generation experiments and the analysis of potential paleo-migration indicators, such as fluid inclusions. These efforts are complemented by rigorous petrophysical, mineralogical, and petrological characterization of the rocks involved.

Simultaneously, the project is developing innovative workflows to identify potential hydrogen seeps in the field and to model hydrogen migration in the subsurface. These initiatives include the monitoring of hydrogen concentrations at a depth of one meter over a specified timeframe and at designated locations using advanced multi-gas sensing equipment. Field trials have been conducted in the Gingin Area within the North Perth Basin and on the Yilgarn Craton.

Related publications and key links:

  • Presentations
    • Goldschmidt, Lyon (France) July 23
      • Session 7b – Hydrogen and helium: From natural hydrogen & helium occurences and fluxes, to exploration strategies for natural hydrogen & helium, to underground hydrogen storage. Proposed, convened and chaired by Christian Ostertag-Henning (BGR, Germany), Laurent Truche (Isterre, Grenoble), Min Song (university of Toronto) and Ema Frery (CSIRO)
      • Oral presentation: Natural hydrogen in low temperature geofluids in a Mesoproterozoic granite, South Australia. Julien Bourdet, Claudio Delle Piane, Cornelia Wilske, Dirk Mallants, Axel O. Suckow, Laure A.J. Martin, Matvei Aleshin, Christoph Gerber, Punjehl Crane and Alec Deslandes
    • Natural hydrogen: a new frontier for energy geoscience? The Geological Society of London ~300 pers.
      • Surface Circular Depressions: how are they formed? A Western Australian Example. Leo Aimar, Ema Frery, Shahbaz Khan, Julian Strand
    • 2023 IERE-CSIRO Brisbane Hydrogen Workshop May 23 and SPE webinar August 23 – Natural hydrogen exploration: State of knowledge and focus on the Intra-cratonic systems.
  • Peer-reviewed articles

Aimar, L., Frery, E., Strand, J., Heath, C., Khan, S., Moretti, I., & Ong, C. (2023). Natural hydrogen seeps or salt lakes: how to make a difference? Grass Patch example, Western. Frontiers in Earth Science, 11, 1236673. Collaboration with UPPA & Sorbonne University (France)

Bourdet, J., Delle Piane, C., Wilske, C., Mallants, D., Suckow, A., Questiaux, D., Gerber, C., Crane, P., Deslandes, A., Martin, L. and Aleshin, M., 2023. Natural hydrogen in low temperature geofluids in a Precambrian granite, South Australia. Implications for hydrogen generation and movement in the upper crust. Chemical Geology, 638, p.121698.

Higher degree studies supported:
Not applicable


October 2023