Australian natural hydrogen exploration company H2EX has entered into a research agreement with the nation’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the search for natural hydrogen on the Eyre Peninsula through a project that will explore natural hydrogen seeps and migration pathways.

CSIRO will conduct a desktop study on exploration licence 691 (PEL 691), which is located on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

PEL 691, which spans 5991 square kilometres, was granted to H2EX in June in accordance with the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000.

The study will provide a pivotal first step in understanding the natural hydrogen system in the Eyre Peninsula and will be a first of its kind in this area. Final study outcomes are expected by year-end.

PEL 691 is on trend with two historical oil bores which detected high levels of natural hydrogen, in the order of 50% to 85% purity.

“We are one of the first companies in the world to explore for natural hydrogen. This is an important step in finding clean energy sources created by Mother Nature for Australian local communities and industry,” H2EX chief executive Mark Hanna said.

The study project was made possible by CSIRO Kick-Start, an initiative that provides funding and support for innovative Australian start-ups and small businesses to access the government agency’s research expertise and capabilities to help grow and develop their business.

“CSIRO's leading approach to innovation and technology and proven track record to help commercialise novel ideas makes them the perfect partner for H2EX,” said H2EX chairman Peter Coleman, a former Woodside Energy chief executive.

“There is no question that within Australia and arguably the world, CSIRO is at the forefront of natural hydrogen research and field work.”

In addition to PEL 691, H2EX has first ranking over about 32,000 square kilometres of exploration applications (PELA) — PELA 689, 690, 725 and 754. These applications will proceed through the Native Title process prior to the award of exploration licences.

South Australia is the only jurisdiction in Australia that has the legislative framework to allow for natural hydrogen exploration. In February 2021, the SA Department for Energy & Mining amended the petroleum legislation to allow for natural hydrogen exploration.

CSIRO, which was founded almost 100 years ago, is a national federally funded agency with more than 5500 staff across 55 sites. The agency has played a key role in connecting academia and industry in the natural hydrogen sector, noted H2EX.

Most recently, a CSIRO study on hydrogen won the best peer-reviewed paper award at the APPEA 2022 conference in Brisbane.