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Natural hydrogen: first reports are released on the potential of this emerging resource 

June 13, 2024

Update : June 14, 2024

A research team led by Professor Jasmin Raymond takes stock of the situation in Quebec.

Natural hydrogen, a gas found everywhere on our planet, is the subject of growing interest from governments and industry as an emerging alternative for the production of “cleaner” energy.

Natural hydrogen, which unlike oil and natural gas is carbon free, could become a key element in the energy transition as a complement to green hydrogen.

Knowledge of natural hydrogen and efforts to develop the resource are still in the exploratory stages worldwide, including in Quebec, which is thought to hold undiscovered reserves. Nonetheless, some countries have already started to adapt their regulatory frameworks in anticipation of wider use of the resource, notably France and Australia.

A first in Quebec

A team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), under the supervision of Professor Jasmin Raymond and Adjunct Professor Stephan Séjourné also President of Enki GeoSolutions, has just released six research reports funded by Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie (MEIE)

Drawing on an exhaustive review of the scientific literature, the team documents the state of geological, geophysical and geochemical knowledge on natural hydrogen and also reports on developments elsewhere that could be relevant to Quebec.

Le professeur Jasmin Raymond

“We need to assess whether there is a natural hydrogen resource in Quebec, and whether it is renewable. Our work will lay a rigorous scientific foundation for determining whether natural hydrogen can be harnessed to contribute to the province’s energy transition and benefit Quebec society as a whole.”

Jasmin Raymond, Professor and holder of the Institut nordique du Québec Research Chair on Geothermal Potential in the North

These reports follow on an initial study published last March in the journal Frontiers in Geochemistry. In it, the team showed that rocks capable of naturally producing hydrogen were present in various geological contexts in Quebec, both in sedimentary basins in the south of the province and in the Canadian Shield to the north.

“Traces in rocks attest to the production of natural hydrogen in Quebec’s geological history. Now we need to determine whether we can find a structure with sufficient reserves  to be viably exploited.” 

Félix-Antoine Comeau, INRS research professional on Jasmin Raymond’s team

INRS has decades of expertise in research related to oil and gas exploration as well as underground reservoirs, whether for CO₂ sequestration or geothermal energy.

The team, made up of Geneviève Bordeleau (professor, INRS), Maxime Claprood (professor at UQAC), Félix-Antoine Comeau, Bernard Giroux (professor, INRS), Erwan Gloaguen (professor, INRS), Michel Malo (honorary professor, INRS), Maria Luisa Moreira dos Santos (master’s student, INRS), Pascal Mouge and Valentin Mulliez (Novatem), Jasmin Raymond and Stephan Séjourné, reflects the multidisciplinary expertise required to carry out this work. 

In a summary report, the research team formulated three main recommendations with a series of steps aimed at improving the chances of finding natural hydrogen and preparing for the development of this resource.

“In addition to demonstrating the potential for a new resource to explore in Quebec, our work lays the groundwork for future regulations surrounding how it is developed,” explained Félix-Antoine Comeau, noting that some companies could launch into exploration too quickly and possibly in the wrong places.

“If Quebec wants to remain competitive in terms of energy and the economy, it’s important to address this issue now.”

Professor Jasmin Raymond