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Is natural hydrogen the solution?

There seems to be a lot of excitement about natural hydrogen lately. But why is the level of interest peaking now? Could it be part of the solution to the climate crisis? Is it the environmentally friendly game changer everyone is looking for? Or not? To answer those questions and more, we reached out to one of our hydrogen experts, as well as a scientist from the University of Toronto.


Barb Ustina: There seems to be a lot of excitement about hydrogen lately. Major energy companies worldwide are investing in infrastructure. The auto industry is developing hydrogen engine technology. Countries are laying out plans for their hydrogen strategies. News outlets are even comparing the search for natural hydrogen to the gold rush of the 1800s.

Joel Houle: But why now? Why is the level of interest peaking now? We're talking specifically about natural hydrogen here. Could it be part of the solution to the climate crisis? Is it the environmentally friendly game changer everyone is looking for? Or not?

Barb Ustina: To answer those questions and more, we reached out to one of our hydrogen experts, as well as a scientist from the University of Toronto. Stay tuned to hear our conversation.

Joel Houle: Welcome to a new episode of Simply Science, the podcast that talks about the amazing scientific work that our experts at Natural Resources Canada are doing. My name is Joel Houle.

Barb Ustina: And I'm Barb Ustina. Welcome, everyone. We have a really interesting episode for you today. We're talking about hydrogen. Natural hydrogen. Joel, tell me everything you know about hydrogen. I don't mean to put you on the spot like this, but I just can't help it sometimes.

Joel Houle: Wow, Barb. Yeah. You're really coming out swinging. Thanks for that. Look, I'm going to be honest with you. I know very little about hydrogen. I know that it's the first element on the periodic table and that the 'H' in H2O stands for hydrogen, but that's about it.

Barb Ustina: I kind of put you on the spot there. But to be honest, you're actually doing a lot better than I was before I did this podcast.

Joel Houle: Good to know!

Barb Ustina: There's room to learn. Lots to learn here. And the truth is that a lot of us don't know much about hydrogen, especially when we talk about hydrogen as an energy source. I had the opportunity to talk to one of our experts on the subject, as well as a collaborating scientist from the University of Toronto, about this resurgence of interest in hydrogen. Would you like to hear the conversation?

Joel Houle: Sure, I'd love to hear it.

Barb Ustina: Okay, let's do it.

Barb Ustina: Thank you so much for joining us this morning. This will be a very interesting conversation. I've been looking forward to this for a while. I'd like to hear a bit about yourself and the kinds of work that you do. Omid, let's start with you. Just introduce yourself, please.

Omid Ardakani: Thank you so much, Barbara. My name is Omid Ardakani. I'm a research scientist with Geological Survey of Canada in Calgary. I am a Canadian immigrant. I came to Canada in 2007 to do my PhD. I did my PhD at the University of Windsor, Ontario, and worked on the rocks of Michigan Basin over there. After finishing my PhD, I joined the Geological Survey of Canada in Calgary as a postdoc. Right now, I'm a research scientist and adjunct professor with the University of Calgary as well. For my career in the GSC, I worked on shale reservoir characterization, mainly for unconventional resources.

With the goal toward net zero, we turn our skills as a petroleum geologist to use those skills for carbon capture and storage, hydrogen storage. With the increase in interest in hydrogen natural resources, GSC Calgary as hub of energy for Canada. We technically reach out to Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar with her extensive knowledge of natural hydrogen to work on hydrogen.

Barb Ustina: Now, Barbara, I understand your thesis was on this very topic, the discovery of the first deposit of natural hydrogen in Canada. Can you take us back to that moment in time? Where were you? What were you doing? At that time, did you have any idea that this discovery that you were working on would be so monumental many years later?

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Yes. Well, I can give you a walk through that history. I'm Canadian. I'm an earth scientist. I did my PhD at the University of Waterloo and then a postdoc at Cambridge before coming back to the University of Toronto. I've always worked on the water, in particular the water cycle and rocks of the Canadian Shield. Back when I was doing my PhD, we were working across the Canadian Shield and really trying to understand the nature of the water found within those deep systems.

Since that time, we've recognized that the work has shown that water is not only more pervasive, but much older than we'd ever thought. When we work in those kinds of waters, we were finding dissolved in those waters, large concentrations of various materials that we were interested in them from the point of view of the extent to which they would support deep subsurface microbes. We were actually being funded largely by space agencies who were interested in the nature of life deep in the planet. It was in the course of analyzing those waters that in place after place after place, and this was work both in Canada and Finland and Sweden and Southern Africa, I was always noticing there was something missing.

When you do an analysis, you can do a test to see whether or not you're getting 100 percent of what's there, but you only get measurements for what you look for. It was quite clear to us when we did that quantitative analysis that at some sites, not everywhere, but at some sites, we were missing a lot of something. At one point in my PhD, I got so fed up with that, I spent three to four months just digging down to figure out what it was making hypothesis after hypothesis to try to figure it out. Lo and behold, I eventually discovered that yes, it was hydrogen.

From that point of view, it was extremely important in terms of the reason we were there, which was to try to understand the potential for these waters to provide energy for life. Except at that point in time, we were thinking about microbes. What's different now is, of course, we've changed the life form. All of a sudden, we as humans have decided we may want to compete with the microbes for that material. It's interesting. Just to tell you how excited I was when I got the call from Omid within the past year to work together on this hydrogen issue.

He didn't know it, but we actually had a connection going way back. Because we work in these deep rocks, one of the issues is, and we'll probably come back to this, how much do these materials move upwards to the surface? One of the key things that we're investigating right now is the extent to which the sedimentary rocks overlying the crystalline rocks act as a trap for these materials. Back when I was originally doing some work on southwestern Ontario and needed to know what was happening in the Michigan Basin, Omid's PhD work from Windsor was actually highly cited in our publication.

It's new for us to be working together on hydrogen, but I've been citing his work for a long time. I was very excited to get a chance to finally meet and work together.

Barb Ustina: Now, so you came to your thesis and your research, it was almost like a back doorway to finding the hydrogen. It wasn't like you were out there looking for hydrogen. You were studying the water and the movements within the rocks of the water, I'm guessing.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Yes. Science is often like that, right? You go in with certain hypotheses and then you — and this is what sometimes people — this group gets it, but sometimes the public. Science adapts. You go in with one hypothesis and then as a function of what you find that adjusts. Certainly, when we discovered the large amounts of hydrogen, we had to begin to think about how that hydrogen could get there. Some of it was obvious, some of it was not so obvious. I'm sure we can come back to that, the actual production mechanisms, maybe a little later in the conversation, but that's really where science is. You go along, you find some of the things you expect and then you also find new things you didn't expect.

That exploration side to science is, I think, what always keeps it so exciting, keeps it so fresh.

Barb Ustina: Now, we're talking about hydrogen and some of our listeners are probably not well versed on hydrogen. They might not have that much exposure to hydrogen and what it is. We hear people talk about green hydrogen, we hear people talk about brown and black hydrogen, but today we're talking about natural hydrogen. I'm wondering how is natural hydrogen different from these other types of hydrogen that we might hear about?

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Do you want to tag team this, Omid? If you want to handle the rainbow colours, I can then jump in and talk about the white and the gold.

Omid Ardakani: Absolutely. Thank you so much. You mentioned about the rainbow of colours. Yes, you're correct. We have three different types of hydrogen. Technically in the other type of hydrogen, what I'm talking about other than natural hydrogen, we technically use another resource to produce hydrogen. For example, in terms of gray hydrogen, we use either coal or methane to transform or break those molecules and generate hydrogen. It is highly energy-intense and through that process we're creating a lot of CO2. Gray hydrogen is the type of hydrogen that we don't actually capture CO2 and store underground.

Blue hydrogen, the same process, but at the same time we capture CO2 and store underground that technically is carbon neutral somehow. The last thing that right now is very actually a hot topic everywhere globally is green hydrogen. Technically we want to actually have a source of electricity, green electricity with no carbon footprint, and use that electricity to break water molecules instead of hydrocarbon molecules. Therefore, we use electrolyzer to use the green electricity produced to generate hydrogen and oxygen.

These are three types of hydrogen. That natural hydrogen is totally different, naturally occurring in the continental crust, that it's better actually, Barb, to delve into this topic that is her expertise.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Basically, as Omid was saying, sometimes what people don't realize is that hydrogen is already something we massively use as society. It's used in industrial processes, it's used in fertilizer, it's used in feedstocks for the chemical industry, it's used as carrier gases. There's already a big hydrogen market out there, but that hydrogen is something we produce. We get hydrocarbons and we break them up to produce hydrogen. We get water and we use electricity to break that apart to produce hydrogen. Up until now, all of the hydrogen used at an industrial scale across the world is done by making that hydrogen from something else, from a feedstock.

The difference is now, particularly as we're hoping to expand the use of hydrogen beyond its traditional economy to potentially be an important replacement for CO2 emitting energy sources, we're looking at the possibility of a different kind of hydrogen, a hydrogen that in fact is naturally produced in the earth and that we can go after in places where it may accumulate to significant quantities in an accessible place. That's the big game change. Some people are calling that gold hydrogen, some people are calling that white hydrogen.

I have to admit, I'm tired of all the colours of the rainbow. I think we're to the point where it's probably confusing more than helping. The term that I typically use is geologic hydrogen or natural hydrogen, but meaning hydrogen that the earth has produced already for us and we're going out to try to find.

Barb Ustina: Now, is it difficult to extract once you find it? Is it difficult to find? It seems so elusive in a way. It's hard to conceptualize.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Oh, well, no more so than the same principles of exploration maintained. For instance, for decades and decades and decades, of course, we've relied on natural gas and oil. It too elusive. How do we find it? Where is it made? We've gone through all that. There's long now decades worth of knowledge about predicting where you might find oil and gas fields, what kind of settings, how deep they're going to be, what their compositions might look like, how to find them, how to drill for them. The questions one asks about a geologic resource are no different. We're now in the process of asking those exact same questions around natural hydrogen.

In fact, some of the answers are the same. We're going to need to look for what are called source rocks, places where hydrogen is produced. Then we're going to need to understand if that hydrogen moves and whether or not it then gets trapped in a reservoir rock, under a cap rock. All of these concepts and terms are directly analogous to the decades of work we've done in exploration for conventional energy.

What's different is the geologic setting. Rather than being typically both produced, transported, and trapped in sedimentary rock, many of the large rock provinces that produce, and I'm using province in the term of a geological province, not a Canadian political province. Many of the geological provinces or geological areas where this hydrogen produced are in fact rocks like the Canadian Shield. These are crystalline rocks, things like granite and andesite and violite and ultramafic rocks, different than typical oil and gas sedimentary basins. Intellectually, again, the questions are the same, but what's different are the geologic settings.

Barb Ustina: Now, it seems there might be some misconceptions around natural hydrogen and its uses and its benefits. Would you like to talk a bit about some of those misconceptions?

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Omid, I'll let you lead off again and then jump in with a few of my favourites. There's a lot of misconceptions right now. Part of the reason that we're working together, and I was so pleased to see the Geological Survey of Canada taking a leadership role here, is that in early days of this kind of both excitement, there's a potential for things to move a little too far away from science-based facts. I was delighted to see the Geological Survey of Canada taking a leadership role in ensuring that we define something that's based on solid, rigorous evidence. Omid?

Omid Ardakani: Thank you so much, Barb. Yes, one of the biggest, actually, misconception about hydrogen in general, not just geological hydrogen, is that hydrogen is going actually to be only solution for dealing with climate crisis and these issues that we have. This is not correct. Hydrogen can help. Hydrogen can be a tool in the toolbox, but it's not going actually to solve all the problems. By the expectation of International Energy Agency, hydrogen have a big piece of a pie, 20 percent of a pie in the methods toward the net zero in 2050. Therefore, this is the biggest misconception around hydrogen.

Another misconception about hydrogen is that hydrogen going to have the serious climate warming risk. We don't know yet. Definitely, hydrogen can actually have some effects on the ozone layer or, for example, helping the methane in the atmosphere actually stay longer, but those effects are not that extensive. More studies actually need to be done. Scientifically proved is not the case. Initial, actually, studies shows that this is not the case and it's not going actually to cause the warming effect. Probably, Barb can actually explain more on this one.

Another thing, for example, for the green hydrogen or the hydrogen generated by the electrolyzing of water, there is a misconception that hydrogen is going to use a lot of water. The reality is that the estimates actually tell that, for example, for every kilogram of hydrogen produced by electrolyzer, we almost actually use 20 litres of water. While in current, actually production, as we mentioned, gray and blue, we're using almost 23 to 25 litres per kilogram. These are major misconceptions in addition to the safety of the hydrogen in general. A lot of people are concerned about safety, and everybody technically remembered the Hindenburg balloon that actually exploded the filled with hydrogen.

As you know probably, one of the byproducts of nuclear reactors is hydrogen. We know about the safety of hydrogen, how to handle the hydrogen, and what's the standard for dealing safely with hydrogen. These are the major misconceptions in the public. One of the goals, as Barb mentioned, as a federal agency, the purpose of this podcast is to increase the public awareness around the hydrogen and clarify some of those misconceptions.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: I'll jump in and then just double down on the first point that Omid made. This is the single most important thing, I think, to emphasize. People need to remember, we haven't decreased emissions, we're still globally increasing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere every year. We really need to handle the pressing issue of climate change and the global transition, reducing CO2 emissions by all kinds of means. We need to keep our eye on that most important part of the strategy.

Labelled onto that are the various means that can contribute to that. Indeed, I wouldn't be working in this area if I didn't think hydrogen could be an important contributor to that. I think the danger that some of us fear is that any one of these things, carbon capture and storage or hydrogen, will become some sort of silver bullet and people will think, "Well, if we just do that, then we don't need to reduce CO2 emissions." That would be a tragic mistake at this point in the challenge that we have set up for ourselves as a species and a planet.

That point, and thank you for opening with that, Omid, I think that's a critical one to emphasize. Hydrogen then is amongst the portfolio of important things that we need to do. It does not mean we would do this instead of renewable energy, instead of solar, instead of wind. All of these things are going to need to be focused on and be done if we're going to meet these challenges. That's probably the single most important message.

The two additional misconceptions that I'll add on are an idea that these are — because we happen to find them working quite deep in the earth, so sometimes there's this misconception that it only happens kilometres deep in the earth. I'd like to get that off the page quickly. These happen in all of these various rock types. We happen to find them quite deep originally, but they're not restricted to deep areas. Just like oil and gas, some of the oil and gas kitchens are very deep. The question is, where are the reservoir rocks? Where does that material move to such that it might become even more accessible?

This is one of the reasons why not only exposed rock that produces hydrogen, like places in Australia and Brazil, India and Fennoscandia and Russia and Canada, all of these are of interest, but also places where you may have that transporting capping process taking place. Again, this is one of the reasons why, taking a look at places where crystalline rock meets sedimentary basins, is a possible place of interest in terms of understanding the mechanisms behind accumulation of hydrogen in those systems. Then it's no different than drilling this in sedimentary rock the way we've drilled in sedimentary rock for decades to get at hydrocarbon resources.

The second additional point that I'd like to emphasize is there is a sense, or sometimes at least it gets carried through, alas, in media and press releases, that this hydrogen will be inexhaustible and perennial and happens in any rock and all we need to do is pump water down in rock that's got iron and all of it will produce hydrogen. There you're stepping right off the science. The science can tell us that this material is produced, we can calculate rates at what it's produced. It is not perennial and inexhaustible.

It is not produced in any rock of the sciences there, and I’d just like to urge people who are promoting this or writing stories to stick to the science. It's a much better way of ensuring the success of this overall is to ensure that it doesn't get overblown early on. Then the last thing that I'd like to emphasize isn't so much a misinterpretation, but it is often a missed added value. Some of the same reactions that produce hydrogen are also producing helium.

Many of these naturally occurring hydrogen accumulations are also rich in helium. Your listeners may be aware, I don't know if they've noticed the price of a party balloon filled with helium, but certainly, anyone who is using helium as we do extensively for science, and for medical applications, and for all kinds of industrial applications knows that the price of helium is going through the roof because of declining global sources of helium.

One of the things about this hydrogen proposition that's going on right now is that it's actually an added value proposition. One may find not only hydrogen but also helium, which equally is becoming an extremely important resource globally.

Omid Ardakani: May I add another point here? Another thing that you hear a lot from skeptics of naturally occurring hydrogen, they tell us we have a very mature hydrocarbon industry drilled everywhere, and we didn't notice hydrogen. One of the major actually answer to this question is that we never look for hydrogen. I provide an example, in Australia back in 1929 in Kangaroo Island, you can find and search over to Google, people actually searched for oil, drilled two wells.

The result was 70 percent and 80 percent hydrogen, and they abandoned those wells because hydrogen was not the question that they asked, they're looking for hydrocarbon. Also, in the data collection that they're doing, those data actually generated by hydrocarbon industry. Their target or their goal was not finding or looking for hydrogen. Hydrogen was there but nobody actually looked at the hydrogen. This is technically the answer to those skeptics' question, why we didn't see that one? We didn't see because we don't look that or looked for.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Yes. Two other points. There's a third technical point. The instruments that do the analysis can run on different kinds of carrier gas, and not so much in North America but because of the really high price of helium. Other labs run hydrogen as their carrier gas. That's what they use to run through the instrument as their baseline. If you're using hydrogen as the carrier gas, then you don't see the hydrogen that's in the sample.

There's a technical reason as well why for historic purposes much of this has not been seen. Again, it was really those of us working in different systems who were specifically, once we realized it was there, interested in it because of the microbiology. Microbes love hydrogen. I often refer to it as the jelly donut of the microbial world. If there's hydrogen there, subsurface microbes like to consume it.

Interestingly enough, it was people who were involved in that kind of microbiology or space research that were aware of the fact that hydrogen was in these systems, but as Omid pointed out from an economic oil and gas point of view, it just wasn't something that was on the radar. It doesn't mean it wasn't there, it wasn't being paid attention to for obvious reasons.

Barb Ustina: Yes, we've known of hydrogen for many years as you've just said, so why are we talking about it now? It feels like the conversation has picked up a lot in the last year or so. People are talking about hydrogen a lot more. You see it mentioned a lot more in the media. Why now?

Omid Ardakani: Actually, the hype around natural hydrogen started back in 1987 in the African village of Mali, Western Africa. People drill for water wells. When the drilling happened, odorless gas actually come out the well. They abandoned the well because water was not there. After a while, they realized that they have a continuous flow of that gas. They analyzed that gas, and they realize it's 98 percent hydrogen. Therefore, a lot of actually interest attracted to that area, but because Mali is not a politically stable country, scientists and the other companies was not able to go there to do more study.

Initial studies from there technically triggered additional studies to people look the other areas, especially before some kind of surficial, the exposure of the hydrogen that associated with some kind of circles that they call it fairy circles because they don't know why those actually circles in the vegetation in some areas actually produce, but Mali, the exploration of hydrogen associated with those fairy circles, and these technically, the interested a lot of scientists to look for those resources.

This whole story started I think in 2019 that government of Australia, technically, put a lot of money to study the hydrogen potentials in Australia. Probably, Barb can actually add a lot to the scientific background of those exploration.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Yes. Some of it's just plain old economics. Forever, we have subsidized heavily conventional energy. Even today, I think a litre of gas is still cheaper than a litre of Coca-Cola, isn't it? Think about that for a minute. If we poured all of our global efforts into one thing, conventional hydrocarbons, and we heavily subsidize them as we do, then they remain cheap, and no matter what, we don't really seize the challenge of developing the alternatives.

I think it truly has been how deeply we've delayed dealing with the climate crisis that has meant that all kinds of alternatives, including hydrogen, are really only coming to the fore right now. It's the science of economics and the science of geopolitical subsidies more than it's the science of science because again, depending on who — if you talk to microbiologists, they've known about this hydrogen for decades. The literature's all there, it just hadn't come to the attention of people who were thinking about it in terms of an economic resource.

Though this does raise the important question of what are the limitations, and certainly at the moment, for sure, local use is what would make short-term immediate sense. Like in Mali, if you find this in a place and there's a local industry, local use that can be made, that's something that can probably happen relatively quickly. In and around all of the science of this, all of the economics of this is the idea that an infrastructure would need to be developed to really promote a hydrogen economy is a whole other side of things.

Those are really important issues to talk about as well, what is the regulatory that's going to go on around this? What are the kinds of incentives that are going to go on around this? What is the kind of infrastructure that would be needed for us to determine which of the various possible uses of hydrogen are going to be the ones that make the most sense? As we've mentioned already, hydrogen is already an economy. It's used in industry. It's used in fertilizers. It's used as a feedstock in petrochemicals.

Use of hydrogen is not new. What's being discussed now is moving hydrogen over to see whether it can replace other things. I'm not an expert in this, but you will quickly find there are some very important conversations to be had over whether it can be used for transport, for instance. If it is used for transport, is it only going to make sense for long-haul trucking, for instance? Or as some people have argued, should it be something that might plausibly be used in personal vehicles?

I think that second part is probably unlikely, but if there are an economist or someone who studies the infrastructure development of a new energy, would probably be the person to talk to on that.

Barb Ustina: There's huge potential to this, but it sounds like there's also a huge amount of work and challenges ahead to get there. Omid, can you tell me what stage are things at in Canada right now?

Omid Ardakani: You are right. You are absolutely right. The natural hydrogen topic is very young, fast evolving. We are blessed with the advancement of technology. We are not 160 years ago when hydrocarbon industry started. We have the advantage of a very advanced industry and all the lessons learned from the oil industry globally, and especially in Canada. Canada is among 10 producers of oil in the world, and we have a lot of actual information on the ore sedimentary basin, specifically the largest sedimentary basin in the world, Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.

Therefore, as a first step, we try to find out where those anomalies are located. As a Geological Survey of Canada federal agency that have jurisdiction over all of Canada, we try to collect all data and compile all those data that are generated by the energy industry during the years in Eastern Canada, mainly in Ontario, in Quebec, and in Western Canada. Fortunately, Western Canada have all those data in digital form, but Eastern Canada, because the industry was older, we had two problems. The data was not available that much, and the technology at that time was not able actually to analyze hydrogen in their analysis.

Having said that, with all of those inherited biases in data, again, collecting those data and mapping those data lead us to where the major resource of hydrogen would be. Therefore, as a low-hanging fruit, we started to look at those gas data that are already available, publicly available, and I'm working with Professor Sherwood Lollar to creating those maps as, for example, first step to provide to the public. If investors actually want to invest in Canada, know what their options are or which areas have better opportunity or potential for this kind of stuff.

Therefore, in Geological Survey of Canada, right now we're collecting those data, QA/QC, those data as much as we can because these data actually come from different sources, different labs — and there's no standard methodology for that one. We're trying actually to create those maps for the public awareness, as well as actually industry and investors to be aware. In the scientific side, because Geological Survey of Canada is a scientific organization, we're working closely with academia and industry to, for example, if you find some potential areas, look further and do the science on that one.

Because as Professor Sherwood Lollar mentioned already, this subject isn’t fancy, at least as an extraction or exploration of the natural hydrogen. We know it's there, but right now we want to know exactly where that gas generated, migrated and finally stored. Therefore, we are actually looking at that one. Another topic that Geological Survey of Canada, since I think 1980s, often on work is geothermal resources in Canada.

Again, as mentioned earlier, the main aspect of natural hydrogen generation is water-rock interaction. You need actually water interact with your rock through oxidation of iron or radiolysis through decay of the natural radioactive element within those igneous rocks, water molecule breakdown, and generate hydrogen. Therefore, geothermal system naturally actually doing that one. We just generate hot water or electricity with that one, but it can be another added value. For example, look at Mount Meager in Western Canada, a chain of volcanoes over there, hot system. Why not we actually look at the composition of those waters, come out those hot water to see if enough hydrogen generated or not.

We don't know yet because people didn't look again at hydrogen. I have a discussion with my colleague at Geological Survey of Canada, Dr. Steve Grasby, that actively work on that area, and he told me, "We never actually looked at the gas composition of water. Let's do that." These are the things that as a Geological Survey of Canada, as a federal agency under NRCan, we technically plan to do. There is some progress in these areas; we already started to look at those resources.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: I can just echo that. This is the important thing about the leadership from the GSC, and Omid at this point is to ensure that this information is pulled together. Canadians writ large, both the Canadian public and the decision-makers, are aware of the following three things. Canada has potentially a jump start in this area. The initial discoveries of hydrogen were here. Scientific knowledge to understand where those reactions that produce the hydrogen was done in Canadian universities. We have data sets existing already that Omid and his team are pulling together out of contributions from a whole variety of different sources, including universities in this country, and we have the geologic settings.

We have much more of the hydrogen-producing rock here in Canada than they do in the U.S. The key thing is, when we approach this, there may be a different Canadian solution to where and how to invest in this exploration. It might be quite different than the U.S. solution for all of the reasons that I've just put forward, in particular the fact that the rocks are different.

It's going to be important that we do this work so that when decisions are made by both public and private sector about where to invest and how to advance this, we don't fall into the trap of just following a model that was developed somewhere else because, "Oh, well, that's what they're doing in Europe or that's what they're doing in Australia or in the U.S., so we'll do that too." We have the jumpstart. We have the prior knowledge and information and expertise to develop a strategy here in Canada that really takes advantage of those existing Canadian strengths and assets.

I think that's really where we've bonded on the idea that we need to help pull that message together so, again, both the Canadian public and those making the decisions can understand that rigorous foundation and therefore make the right decisions about how to move this forward.

Barb Ustina: I can't wait to sit down and have this conversation with you 10 years from now or even five years from now and see how things have changed. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar: Thank you.

Omid Ardakani: Thank you.

Joel Houle: That was a great interview, Barb.

Barb Ustina: Oh, thank you. I'm so sorry you weren't able to make it.

Joel Houle: I know. But you know what? It was worth listening to, though, after the fact with Barbara and Omid. I mean, they work so well.

Barb Ustina: I know. They're kind of like us, right? You know, I can start a sentence and then.

Joel Houle: I can do other things.

Barb Ustina: You finish the sentence? No, no. But in all seriousness, it feels like we're really on the cusp of something big with hydrogen. And I can't wait to see where it goes in the next 5, 10, 15 years. I don't know if I'll be around in 50 years, but I can't wait to see what happens with it.

Joel Houle: And now when people talk about the different colours of hydrogen, I'll have at least a basic understanding of what they mean. Perfect. So, if you, like me, enjoyed this interview. You know what? I'd love for you to review and share this episode. And if you share over social media, make sure to tag us.

Barb Ustina: And I might remind everyone that Simply Science also has a website and a YouTube channel, which you should also check out. We have in depth articles of interest and videos that showcase the fascinating scientific work that we do at Natural Resources Canada. And you can find those links in the episode description as well. Social media channels are there, too.

Joel Houle: Thank you, Barb. And thank you, everyone, for. For listening. We'll see you in the next episode.

Barb Ustina: Bye for now!

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