H2EX, Black & Veatch to advance hydrogen exploration in Australia

Australia’s H2EX is teaming up with Black & Veatch and two Australian universities on a project intended to enable green and passive exploration techniques to accelerate the discovery and extraction of renewable natural hydrogen.

H2EX chairman, former Woodside chief executive, Peter Coleman said: “The project will establish an exploration blueprint in this nascent industry. Accelerating the discovery of natural hydrogen will assist Australia in retaining its global competitive advantage as a low-cost energy producer, for domestic and export markets.”

H2EX, the University of Adelaide, Australian National University and Black & Veatch will collaborate on research that the proponents said would provide “a clear pathway” to harvest natural hydrogen, which is expected to be up to 75% cheaper than manufacturing hydrogen.

The project will receive grant funding totalling A$863,000 (US$575,544) via the Cooperative Research Council Projects (CRC-P) Round 14 initiative towards the total estimated cost of A$2.1 million.

The project will be performed on H2EX’s exploration licence PEL 691, that covers 6000 square kilometres on the Eyre Peninsula in regional South Australia. It will commence in late 2023 for a period of 18 months.

The partners hope the project will unlock important first-mover benefits for Australia within an emerging sector globally and create substantial export opportunities, while retaining the nation’s competitive advantage and highly regarded technical and engineering expertise.

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“Our CRC-P success is a direct reflection of the credibility of the H2EX team and project partners. The project is a world first and it’s no surprise Australian academic institutions are at the cutting edge,” added H2EX chief financial officer Greschen Brecker.

Globally, natural hydrogen has been discovered by accident when industry has conducted activities in the water, mining and petroleum sectors. In South Australia, two historical oil bores drilled 100 years ago discovered hydrogen of between 50% and 85% purity.

H2EX said there is only one global analogue of a producing natural hydrogen field, which is located in Mali, Africa. The accidental discovery of natural hydrogen occurred during water bore drilling, with the hydrogen used to electrify a remote village for seven years.

The South Australian government in early 2021 amended the state’s petroleum legislation to allow for natural hydrogen exploration.

H2EX in June 2022 secured PEL 691 and six first-ranked applications covering some 52,000 square kilometres — the combined acreage is approximately the size of Croatia. Applications are the pre-cursor to a licence and require agreement with Native Title Groups prior to award, noted the operator.

Two months ago, the Department of Energy & Mining gave H2EX the right to negotiate with Native Title Groups on PELA 689 in the Lake Eyre vicinity and PELA 725 on the Eyre Peninsula.