Search for naturally occurring hydrogen begins in South Australia

Fairy circle in the desert, which are a sign that naturally occurring hydrogen may be present
Fairy circles could indicate that naturally occurring hydrogen may be present underground (Image: Shutterstock)

Fairy circles on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island could be a sign that naturally occurring hydrogen is there for the taking.

According to The Australian, Brisbane-based company Gold Hydrogen has an exploration tenement covering the lower half of the Yorke Peninsula, and is set to begin early-stage exploration.

This is only possible because the South Australian Government recently amended the state’s resources Act to declare hydrogen a regulated substance, allowing companies to apply for exploration licences.

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Gold Hydrogen director Neil McDonald said the company was the first to be granted a permit to explore for hydrogen in Australia.

“Hydrogen at up to 80 per cent purity was accidentally found in South Australia when gas testing was done at two oil bores drilled on the southern portion of Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island,’’ he said.

“Gold hydrogen would be nirvana to energy companies—a cheap energy source without the carbon emission problem—incredible.

“Early modelling shows the South Australia field could produce enough hydrogen to power a million homes for 40 years.’’

The company’s geophysical exploration program includes airborne surveys and potentially seismic work. The presence of fairy circles is a promising indicator that hydrogen could be present underground,

“‘Fairy circles’ are depressions on land caused by venting of hydrogen or gas,’’ the SA Department for Energy and Mining said.

“The fairy circles identified … are roughly circular, pink ephemeral salt lakes.’’

The SA Department for Energy and Mining said hydrogen had previously been detected in wells drilled in the Cooper Basin and on Kangaroo Island and the Yorke Peninsula.

The research cited says their work suggests that Australia could be one of the most promising areas for hydrogen exploration, de facto a couple of wells already found naturally occurring hydrogen, whereas they were drilled to look for hydrocarbons.

McDonald said the company was working with CSIRO, which had developed technology that could “sniff” hydrogen.

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“There are a couple of existing wells so it is possible that you could twin or replicate those positions as well, but that’s probably a bit of a wildcat sort of well,’’ he said.

Gold Hydrogen is currently funded through private equity, but McDonald said other forms of private and public funding, perhaps even an initial public offer, would be considered down the track.

“We’ve had some international inquiries from some larger, traditional oil and gas companies which wish to offset their current predicaments, so that may not mean that we do an IPO, but we’re not ruling it out.’’

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