Scientists extract hydrogen gas from oil and bitumen, giving potential pollution-free energy

hydrogen
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have developed a large-scale economical method to extract hydrogen (H2) from oil sands (natural bitumen) and oil fields. This can be used to power hydrogen-powered vehicles, which are already marketed in some countries, as well as to generate electricity; hydrogen is regarded as an efficient transport fuel, similar to petrol and diesel, but with no pollution problems. The process can extract hydrogen from existing oil sands reservoirs, with huge existing supplies found in Canada and Venezuela. Interestingly, this process can be applied to mainstream oil fields, causing them to produce hydrogen instead of oil.

Hydrogen powered vehicles, including cars, buses, and trains, have been in development for many years. These vehicles have been acknowledged to be efficient, but the high price of extracting the Hydrogen from oil reserves has meant that the technology has not been economically viable. Now a group of Canadian engineers have developed a cheap method of extracting H2 from oil sands. They are presenting this work at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference in Barcelona.

"There are vast oil sand reservoirs in several countries, with huge fields in Alberta in Canada, but also in Venezuela and other countries" said Dr. Ian Gates, of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Calgary, and of Proton Technologies Inc.).

Oil fields, even abandoned , still contain significant amounts of oil. The researchers have found that injecting oxygen into the fields raises the temperature and liberates H2, which can then be separated from other gases via specialist filters. Hydrogen is not pre-existing in the reservoirs, but pumping oxygen means that the reaction to form can take place.

Grant Strem, CEO of Proton Technologies which is commercializing the process says "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". This compares with current H2 production costs of around $2/kilo. Around 5% of the H2 produced then powers the oxygen production plant, so the system more than pays for itself.

The economics of the process is favorable according to Grant Strem "What comes out of the ground is hydrogen gas, so we don't have the huge above-ground purification costs associated with oil refining: we use the ground as our reaction vessel. Just taking Alberta as an example, we have the potential to supply Canada's entire electricity requirement for 330 years (Canada uses around 2.5% of the world's electricity—around the same amount as Germany, and more than France or the UK). Our initial aim is to scale up the production from Canadian , 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".

The technology was developed by Ian Gates and Jacky Wang as the result of an agreement between the University of Calgary and Proton Technologies Inc., which now holds the patent.

Professor Brian Horsfield (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam) said: "The research is highly innovative and exciting. It's an adaptation of some 1970's fire-flood production concepts, but tuned to a modern day perspective. Declining oil field production infrastructures now stand to get a new lease of life. Extensive field testing will be crucial in assessing how the system works on industrial scales and over time"


Explore further

Efficient hydrogen compression for large scale mobility applications

More information: Clean Hydrogen Production (Only!)From Heavy Oil Reservoirs, goldschmidt.info/2019/

Pollution-free hydrogen: green energy breakthrough? techxplore.com/news/2019-08-po … gy-breakthrough.html

Provided by Goldschmidt Conference
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Aug 19, 2019
This will certainly kick start the hydrogen car industry.

Aug 19, 2019
Sounds good. Let's see what happens when the rubber meets the road.

Aug 19, 2019
This has the potential to avoid HUGE amounts of carbon emissions. This won't bring us to planet-wide carbon neutrality or anything, but it's a giant leap in that direction.

And the best part is that Big Oil won't smear and fight against it because they get to profit from it.
It turns out that the solution to climate change was as simple as making sure rich people can get rich from solving it.

Aug 19, 2019
The concept is underground combustion to crack the heavy oils and liberate part of it as hydrogen, with the key innovation being a high temperature membrane that only allows hydrogen to pass, leaving all other combustion products trapped. How well the tar sands would trap these is still uncertain.

Aug 19, 2019
The Watchmen! Thats the symbol Doctor Manhattan carved into his head. They always put hints in movies and TV shows. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you met, but the oligarchs and plutocrats that room and on this world or having fun with us placing hints as to what they're up to with our lives in movies and TV series.

Aug 19, 2019
Would anyone care to speculate as to the condition of an oilfield after all this underground combustion? Combustion byproducts leaching into groundwater? PAH byproducts? Then, one would have to consider the substantial cost of creating a hydrogen infrastructure with containment being a serious problem. It's my understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, that hydrogen in the atmosphere will reduce the concentration of hydroxyl radicals that would otherwise be scavenging methane.

Aug 19, 2019
This is absolutely infuriating - a SCIENCE publication promoting rabid LIES (again). Strip-mining the planet for bitumen is NOT POLLUTION FREE. It will also require LARGE quantities of OIL powered machinery to obtain and process the bitumen. The POLLUTION created and the ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE will be ENORMOUS. This is just another greenwash STUPIDITY that will go on supporting the highly destructive oil industry - perpetuating our dependence on FOSSIL FUEL. There is no way in hell that this will be "pollution-free energy" in the HEADLIE.


Aug 19, 2019
This has the potential to avoid HUGE amounts of carbon emissions. This won't bring us to planet-wide carbon neutrality or anything, but it's a giant leap in that direction.

And the best part is that Big Oil won't smear and fight against it because they get to profit from it.
It turns out that the solution to climate change was as simple as making sure rich people can get rich from solving it.


What does oil have to do with climate change? Core samples show climate change going back 100,000 years...

Aug 19, 2019
@StupidNet - absolutely agree. Its a hucksters world.

Aug 19, 2019
So we'll extract hydrogen, and then burn it with oxygen, and it will be pollution free, huh? Except that the combustion product, water vapor, is the most abundant greenhouse gas and responsible for most of the greenhouse effect. While the effects would likely be minimal compared to equivalent Carbon dioxide emissions replaced, it isn't pollution free, especially once one factors in the energy required to extract and process it for consumer use. It's also a very dangerous material to handle. Liquid gasoline is dangerous enough. I don't want to be in a car with a pressurized hydrogen tank when some idiot texting tail ends me and blows us both to smithereens.

Aug 19, 2019
Thats the symbol Doctor Manhattan carved into his head.
I am irresistibly reminded of a scene in Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks in which the main character, Cheradenine Zakalwe, meets a bunch of supposed warrior priests who have glowing blue dots on their foreheads, and evaluates them as targets for snipers.

Aug 19, 2019
Meanwhile on the comments, if we can get any energy at all out of oil without pollution, would you rather see a couple billion people die? Some of whom have nuclear weapons? Do you really think this is a good idea? It doesn't seem like you've thought it through probably due to limited perspective, like not being able to comprehend the lives of Indians and Pakistanis.

Aug 19, 2019
Oh and BTW "Indians" do not include native Americans. They aren't from India. It's a science site; correct terminology is essential. And that doesn't decrease Indians' value as people, nor their nuclear deterrent.

Aug 19, 2019
would an oxygen-enriched hydrocarbon reserve become a fire/explosion risk?

Aug 19, 2019
Does it remove O2 permanently from the air? I mean the current cycle is sugars or octane -> H20 & CO2 via cars and animals, H20 & CO2 -> sugars & O2 & via plants.

Not that we haven't added more than enough CO2 to make up for any damage it could do, I just wonder what a massive surplus of free hydrogen would do to that cycle if it went on long enough.

Aug 19, 2019
@luke, this is one of the questions that needs to be answered. That's why I said "when the rubber meets the road." There are many others, from uncontrollable underground fires to hydrogen storage. Like I said, we'll have to wait and see.

Aug 20, 2019
@DaSchneib

Cool if it works though.

Underground fires are such a good example of *the thing you didn't think about beforehand*, like this people who tried to burn some garbage and now the town has been burning for 50 years:
https://www.huffp...9486d4a0

Aug 20, 2019
You might be able to extract the same from under old gas stations. Just a thought.

Aug 20, 2019
@luke, it's called "the law of unintended consequences." You'll find an article on it in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipe...equences

Aug 20, 2019
@stan, anybody ever point out to you that water vapor doesn't stay in the atmosphere?

You know, that rain stuff, the water that falls out of the sky every so often.

I haven't noticed any CO2 rain falling out of the sky.

Duhhhh ummmm.

Aug 20, 2019
seawater is cheaper than oil, easier to extract h2.

Aug 20, 2019
This article is more advertising than science.
Other than mention of the well known enhanced oil recovery technique of fire flooding, it tells us very little.

Aug 20, 2019
H₂ Sounds too Good to be True

Electricity from hydrogen molecules
Where the hydrogen molecules
Are extracted from the waste products of oil extraction
So, what are the by-products?
Of burning
H₂ in the atmosphere
To drive electrons down our electric motors wires

The Theory
Abandoned oil fields
Contain large amounts of oil
Injecting oxygen
Raises the temperature liberating H2
Hydrogen is not pre-existing in the reservoirs
Pumping oxygen means
The reaction to form hydrogen takes place

Foreth
We burn oil in oxygen
To produce electricity
To pump oxygen in to waste oil
Producing H₂
We burn H₂ in oxygen
To produce electricity
To drive electrons down our electric motors wires

I Think We Need To Think This Out Again

Aug 20, 2019
This is what theyre doing:

"Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead, and then injected deep into the reservoir through an 'Oxinjection Well'. Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place (a process known as In-Situ Combustion). Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm. Where necessary, the temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions.

"Eventually, oxidation temperatures exceed 500°C. This extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons, and any surrounding water molecules, to break apart. Both the hydrocarbons and the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas. These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis..."

-Combustion. I had the idea awhile ago that we could just burn the stuff in the ground and extract the heat like we do geothermal. Guess these guys took it a few steps farther.

But we think of Kuwaiti oil well fires, the Centralia mine fire, kansas earthquakes, the Darvaza gas crater, etc...

Aug 20, 2019
I remember back during the BP gulf oil well spill, lots of comments like this;

"At what point do the doomster pundits accept that the entire seafloor is not going split open in massive cracks, that a methane volcano is not going to erupt and destroy life as we know it..."

-although now, I cant find anything on huge methane volcanos destroying Louisiana. But imagine the pressure caused by the above process. Youre not just forcing fracking fluid into the ground, youre igniting hydrocarbons. boom.

Aug 20, 2019
"This technique [oxygen thermolysis with a "hydrogerator" that filters the hydrogen and moves it to the wellhead] 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". -- Grant Strem.
This is great news for carbon-free energy and could salvage the oil and coal industry. Who would have thought that a modified 100 year old thermolysis technique would make everybody happy -- and even put a dent in climate change.

Aug 20, 2019
This reporting was highly promotional in nature with no attempt at any critical analysis. No analysis was made regarding what other products will be formed y the process. Presumably, massive quantities of CO2 will be generated by the process. The public deserves to know how all such carbon will be sequestered for thousands of years and how the filtration membranes will be prevented from degradation as they are exposed to potentially damaging gases. A likely membrane would be made from palladium who's production creates massive environmental impacts.

Aug 21, 2019
This reporting was highly promotional in nature with no attempt at any critical analysis. No analysis was made regarding what other products will be formed y the process. Presumably, massive quantities of CO2 will be generated by the process. The public deserves to know how all such carbon will be sequestered for thousands of years and how the filtration membranes will be prevented from degradation as they are exposed to potentially damaging gases. A likely membrane would be made from palladium who's production creates massive environmental impacts.
And you want all that in a press release? That's what the links at the bottom are for. That's what google is for.

Aug 21, 2019
Hydrogen Gas From Oil: by The Ghost of Otto 1923

Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead
And then injected deep into the reservoir
Through an Oxinjection Well
Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place
A process known as In-Situ Combustion
Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm
Where necessary
The temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions
Eventually
Oxidation temperatures exceed 500°C
This extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons
And any surrounding water molecules
To break apart
Both the hydrocarbons
And the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas
These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis

Aug 21, 2019
My Disease by granville

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder
in which
a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts
(obsessions)
and behaviors
(compulsions)
that he or she feels the urge to repeat
over
and
over.

Aug 21, 2019
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
TheGhostofOtto1923> My Disease by granville
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
a common, chronic long-lasting disorder
which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts
feels the urge to repeat

Rhyming or OCD are two completely different entities
Rhyming is not OCD
For GhostlyOtto, if you have cared for an afflicted OCD
You would know Rhyming is most definitely not OCD
GhostlyOtto
TrollianGhostlyOtto, a period of quiet contemplation is due on these slopes of your river bank
For these cool evenings under your bridge at the setting of the sun will clear your mind
Clear your trollian mind of these thoughts as you delve into the realities of OCD afflicted
For TrollianGhostlyOtto, granville does not repeatedly seek to make disingenuous remarks
For Obsessive Compulsive Disorder repeatedly seek the pleasure in their disingenuous remarks
As you apparently do; TrollianGhostlyOtto, your bridge awaits!

Aug 21, 2019
My complement to GhostlyOtto from granville

Hydrogen Gas From Oil: by The Ghost of Otto 1923

Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead
And then injected deep into the reservoir
Through an Oxinjection Well
Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place
A process known as In-Situ Combustion
Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm
Where necessary
The temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions
Eventually
Oxidation temperatures exceed 500°C
This extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons
And any surrounding water molecules
To break apart
Both the hydrocarbons
And the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas
These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis

Foreth; GhostlyOtto, in all reality, that is all this is

Aug 21, 2019
For many decades a technique has been available to make high purity hydrogen by causing a mixture of gases, that includes hydrogen, to be applied to one side of a very thin palladium membrane while using a very high pressure differential between the two sides. The impure mixture is applied at high pressure while the other side is operated near atmospheric pressure. Hydrogen molecules will very slowly diffuse through the membrane leaving the other gases on the high pressure side. It generally is used to produce small quantities of pure hydrogen for laboratory use. The palladium metal is quite expensive and its manufacture has significant environmental impacts. What this company is hyping would involve the use of huge amounts of this foil membrane to create an enormous surface area located at the bottom of a deep well bore. The temperatures, due to the combustion reaction, would be very high. In addition gases, such as sulfur dioxide, would likely be plentiful in the impure gas. That sul

Aug 21, 2019
Rhyming or OCD are two completely different entities
Rhyming is not OCD
Youre right its OCRD.

"Obsessive-compulsive rhyming disorder is a psychiatric disorder, like that of a obsessive hoarder, most often found north of the US-Mexico border. Known in short form as OCRD as well as by those with ADD, it is characterized by distressing, intrusive thoughts that may leave one's stomach tied up in knots. Sufferers neutralize these obsessions by creating lyrical successions that, at least in part, resemble a rhyme or poem of the heart."

-But take heart...

"In the Middle Ages, it was thought to be linked to Satan; the cure was thus exorcism"

-See how far we've come? You wont be burned for your disorder.

But it IS a disorder.

And you thought you were just being clever.

Aug 21, 2019
"Sufferers neutralize these obsessions by creating lyrical successions that, at least in part, resemble a rhyme or poem of the heart."
TrollianGhostlyOtto, a period of quiet contemplation is due on these slopes of your river bank
For these cool evenings under your bridge at the setting of the sun will clear your mind... TrollianGhostlyOtto, your bridge awaits!
... 'Poem of the heart'. I mean, right there it is. Your affliction is staring you RIGHT IN YOUR FACE.

Youre welcome.

I fear I will be posting this revelation quite a lot in coming weeks. A compulsion you know?

Aug 21, 2019
GhostlyOtto

Your persistence
In always being of right
Your persistence in pursuing an ideology
That is double edged and two pronged
A technique that made itself apparent on first entering these hallowed gates of phys.org
A line of discussion that is so obvious
A technique that enables you to gain the upper hand in any discussion
For what you're really miffed about, GhostlyOtto
Is why you are here, GhostlyOtto
You are here for one reason and one reason only
And that is to Comment

Foreth, GhostlyOtto you are telling one and all to cease commenting
TrollianGhostlyOtto, you require to while the hours away under your bridge
In quiet reflection gazing into your babbling brook running under your bridge as to why you frequent phys.org
For if you do not comment TrollianGhostlyOtto, we will never know you're here!

Aug 22, 2019
Dude
You're sick
The end

Aug 22, 2019
Maybe we all should
write our arguments in
poetic haiku form

Aug 22, 2019
Maybe cortezz
you could
be right

Aug 22, 2019
Sorry but
Mental illness
Annoys the fuck
Out of me

Aug 22, 2019
Use the ignore and
remember that haiku is
5-7-5 syllables

Aug 22, 2019
Use the ignore and
remember that haiku is
5-7-5 syllables

You guys are funny
in that only this attempt
is Haiku worthy ...

Aug 22, 2019
Go with the flow, don't worry!
TheGhostofOtto1923> Sorry but
Mental illness
Annoys the fuck
Out of me

Classic symptoms
Control of the situation
When you're unable to keep control of the situation
The fretting and worrying takes its toll
For this is this key
That sufferer's find, when they find, they are worrying over a situation, they can no longer control
They cave!
And let events control their day
No longer do they wake in the morn worrying
For they've realised they don't have to control events anymore

So; Go with the flow, don't worry!

Aug 22, 2019
Use the ignore and
remember that haiku is
5-7-5 syllables

Whydening Gyre> You guys are funny
in that only this attempt
is Haiku worthy ...

Whydening Gyre, your interjection is likened to a breath of fresh air
Somewhere in all this, Whydening Gyre
Is a lost worried soul
Being persuaded to utilise this ignore button

Aug 22, 2019
I could see this process as being useful for deposits that are not commercially viable otherwise. One has to realize that over 1/2 of the energy contained if fossil fuels comes from the carbon. Thus this process will waste over 1/2 of our energy supplies.

Aug 22, 2019
Also, H2 gas as a transportation fuel presents so many problems that they are still looking for economical ways to turn it into liquid fuels.

Aug 22, 2019
Use the ignore and
remember that haiku is
5-7-5 syllables
Sorry otto does not speak Hawaiian.
I could see this process as being useful for deposits that are not commercially viable otherwise. One has to realize that over 1/2 of the energy contained if fossil fuels comes from the carbon. Thus this process will waste over 1/2 of our energy supplies
Not that simple of course. Youd have to study the net energy balance over the lifetime cycle of the systems youre comparing.

Aug 23, 2019
Otto drilling the well is a major part of the expense of oil and gas production. I assume that this cost will remain the same when designed for H2 production. BTW dollars spent is a pretty good metric for energy expended when calculating EROEI. Now if this process can be used on depleted shale wells and produce extra energy it will be a big plus.

Aug 26, 2019
Wasn't it a hydrogen bubble that blew up Chernobyl? Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. In favor of transforming the world's energy systems to hydrogen however generating large hydrogen bubbles underground doesn't seem like a good idea. WCGW?

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