The Canadian researchers say that their method of extracting hydrogen directly from oil sands and oil fields leaves gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the ground. Furthermore, the process is considerably more economical than existing methods. According to the team, which unveiled its research at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference in Barcelona, the method could produce hydrogen at between $0.10-0.50 per kilo, compared with the current production cost of around $2 per kilo.
"Low-cost hydrogen from oil fields with no emissions can power the whole world using mostly existing infrastructure," Grant Stem, CEO of Proton Technologies, which is commercialising the extraction method, told AFP. "This is the silver bullet for clean energy and clean climate." Steam added that the technology has the potential to supply Canada's entire electricity requirement for the next 330 years.
The development could have a significant impact on the role hydrogen plays in the fight against climate change, although some experts remain guarded. Professor Brian Horsfield from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences to AFP that extensive field testing would be needed to see how the system works on an industrial scale. However, he nevertheless called the project "highly innovative and exciting."