A Canadian company named Proton Technology has developed the worlds first large scale, cheap method of producing ultra-clean hydrogen from oil.
“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” said Grant Strem, CEO of Proton Technologies which is commercializing the process. SOURCE
The process, called thermolysis, was originally developed 100 years ago and extracts pure hydrogen from oil while still in the ground. It leaves the CO2 and other undesirable gases forever trapped in the subsurface.
Thermolysis (aka “thermal decomposition”) uses heat to separate oil molecules into their components. That heat can be easily produced by simply injecting oxygen into the reservoir.
At 700 degrees Celsius the heat and pressure cause the molecules to split apart. The resulting hydrogen rises quickly in the ground and is pulled to the surface by a “hy-generation well”, while the CO2 and other gases remain where they have been for millions of years.
This short video explains how the heat is generated and hydrogen extracted in simple terms:
According to the announcement, this process costs between 5% and 20% of the current process used to generate hydrogen.
Most hydrogen is currently produced by splitting natural gas molecules in above ground facilities. So while the hydrogen itself is clean, its manufacturing process is dirty leaving us to deal with large amounts of CO2, sulfur and other waste products.
Even with all of the amazing technological advancements made in the oil and gas sector, more than 50% of the oil is left in the ground after a traditional oil well has become non-economic and shut down.
That means places like Alberta, Texas and California are littered with hundreds of thousands of problematic abandoned wells, may now have a very large untapped resource as those wells can now be re-purposed to produce clean hydrogen at a fraction of its historic cost.
Cheap Clean Hydrogen Production Will Change the World
This process is patented by the University of Calgary but was developed by Ian Gates and Jacky Wang at Proton Technologies. At the Goldschidt Geochemistry Conference in Barcelona on August 19th 2019, Mr Gates said:
Our initial aim is to scale up the production from Canadian oil sands, but in fact, we anticipate that most of the interest in this process will come from outside Canada, as the economics and the environmental implications make people look very hard at whether they want to continue conventional oil production. The only product of this process is hydrogen, meaning that it the technology is effectively pollution and emission free. All the other gases remain in the ground because they cannot go through the hydrogen filter and up to the surface”. SOURCE