An article on the Phys.org website reports about a company, Proton Technologies, which claims to be commercializing a process that can extract ‘huge quantities’ of hydrogen from oil fields in an emission and pollution-free manner.
Scientists from the University of Calgary developed the process, and has entered into an agreement with Proton Technologies Inc. which holds the patent for the process.
Proton Energy calls the process ‘Hygenic Earth Energy’ (HEE), and they provide this description:
Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead, and then injected deep into the reservoir through an ‘Oxinjection Well‘. Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place (a process known as In-Situ Combustion). Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm. Where necessary, the temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions.
Eventually, oxidation temperatures exceed 500°C. This extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons, and any surrounding water molecules, to break apart. Both the hydrocarbons and the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas. These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis, gas reforming and water-gas shift. They have been used in commercial industrial processes to generate hydrogen for more than 100 years. In HEE these processes are controlled through the timing and pattern of oxygen injection and external heating.
Proton Energy CEO is quoted in the article, saying:
“This technique can draw up huge quantities of hydrogen while leaving the carbon in the ground. When working at production level, we anticipate we will be able to use the existing infrastructure and distribution chains to produce H2 for between 10 and 50 cents per kilo. This means it potentially costs a fraction of gasoline for equivalent output”