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

A research team at INRS takes stock of the situation in Quebec 

QUEBEC CITY, June 14, 2024 /CNW/ - 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.

INRS Logo (CNW Group/Institut National de la recherche scientifique (INRS))
INRS Logo (CNW Group/Institut National de la recherche scientifique (INRS))

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.

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A first in Canada

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.

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

"This work has enabled us to draw up an initial inventory of the situation in Quebec, the first of its kind in Canada. Our knowledge of natural hydrogen is constantly expanding, and I hope that these initial observations will encourage further scientific reflection on the subject in Quebec," adds Stephan Séjourné, President of Enki GeoSolutions and Adjunct Professor at INRS.

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", says 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 is 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.

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.

Links to the reports :

Part 1 : État des connaissances scientifiques actuelles sur les sources et les occurrences d'hydrogène naturel pertinentes pour le contexte géologique du Québec. – EspaceINRS

Part 2 :  Définition et inventaire des secteurs de roches sources potentielles pour l'hydrogène naturel : 1. Bassins sédimentaires du sud du Québec. – EspaceINRS

Part 3 : Définition et inventaire des secteurs de roches sources potentielles pour l'hydrogène naturel : 2. Bouclier canadien du Québec. – EspaceINRS

Part 4 : État des connaissances sur les méthodes géophysiques pour la recherche de l'hydrogène naturel, et inventaire des données pertinentes pour le Québec. – EspaceINRS

Part 5 : État des connaissances géochimiques pour la détection de l'hydrogène naturel, et inventaire des données géochimiques existantes permettant d'identifier des remontées de fluides profonds dans le sud du Québec – EspaceINRS

"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," concluded Professor Raymond.

About INRS

INRS is an academic institution dedicated exclusively to graduate research and training in strategic sectors in Quebec. Since its creation in 1969, it has actively contributed to Quebec's economic, social, and cultural development. INRS ranks first in Quebec and Canada in research intensity. It is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres located in Quebec City, Montreal, Laval, and Varennes, which focus their efforts on strategic sectors: water, earth, and environment (Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre); energy, materials, and telecommunications (Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre); urbanization, culture, and society (Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre); and health and biotechnology (Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre). The INRS community includes over 1,500 students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty and staff members.

SOURCE Institut National de la recherche scientifique (INRS)

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