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Orange hydrogen is the new green

Abstract

Maintaining global warming well below 2 °C, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, will require a complete overhaul of the world energy system. Hydrogen is considered to be a key component of the decarbonization strategy for large parts of the transport system, as well as some heavy industries. Today, about 96% of current hydrogen production comes from the steam reforming of coal or natural gas (labelled black and grey hydrogen, respectively). If hydrogen is to become a solution, then black and grey hydrogen need to be replaced by a low-carbon option. One method that has received much attention is to produce so-called green hydrogen by coupling water electrolysis with renewable energies. However, green hydrogen is expensive and energy-intensive to produce. Here, we explore an alternative option and highlight the benefits of rock-based hydrogen (white and orange) compared with classic electrolysis-based technologies. We show that the exploitation of native hydrogen and its combination with carbon sequestration has the potential to fuel a large part of the energy transition without the substantial energy and raw material cost of green hydrogen.

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Fig. 1: The different colours of hydrogen.
Fig. 2: Measured hydrogen in both batch and reactive percolation experiments.

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F.O. was responsible for the design of the study, drafting the article and data acquisition. C.F. carried out data acquisition. C.S., E.C.G. and B.S. made revisions. M.P. was responsible for the design of the study.

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Correspondence to F. Osselin.

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Nature Geoscience thanks Isabelle Moretti and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Osselin, F., Soulaine, C., Fauguerolles, C. et al. Orange hydrogen is the new green. Nat. Geosci. 15, 765–769 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-01043-9

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