Finding Hydrogen in Oil Wells
Climate change has spurred researchers and companies to develop fuels with zero carbon emissions. A simple solution is hydrogen because it burns without carbon emissions and is seemingly everywhere—under our feet and in every glass of water. The challenge is obtaining a reliable, safe and sustainable volume of hydrogen at a reasonable cost. There are several methods used today to produce pure hydrogen in large quantities. Most hydrogen is a byproduct of natural gas or coal gasification.
Cemvita Factory, a Texas biotech firm, field-tested a new method of hydrogen production in July, 2022, by injecting a propriety combination of bacteria and nutrients into a depleted oil well. Once inside, the microbes broke down the oil dregs to generate hydrogen and CO2. Cemvita Factory estimates there are more than 1,000 depleted oil wells in the United States that are suitable for their microbial treatment. While hydrogen production using depleted oil wells is getting some interest and attention, it still appears to be at a relatively early stage of development. One challenge faced by Cemvita Factory and other innovators in this area is how to prevent the CO2 from leaking into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Methods to capture, store or neutralize the CO2 byproduct will need to be developed.