Scientists have discovered a way to extract hydrogen from oil without releasing greenhouse gases—a move they've hailed as a "silver bullet" for climate issues. Hydrogen is already used by some car manufacturers to power vehicles and is also burned to generate electricity. However, most of this hydrogen comes from natural gas, which involves producing planet-warming methane during the extraction process. The large-scale roll-out of hydrogen tech has also been restricted because of the high costs involved in separating it from hydrocarbons.
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, Spain, the method could produce hydrogen at between $0.10 and $0.50 per kilogram, compared with the current production cost of around $2 per kilogram.
"Low-cost hydrogen from oil fields with no emissions can power the whole world using mostly existing infrastructure," said Grant Strem, chief executive officer of Proton Technologies, which is commercializing the extraction method. "This is the silver bullet for clean energy and clean climate." Strem added that the technology has the potential to supply Canada's entire electricity requirement for the next 330 years.
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