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The hunt for natural hydrogen is on

Illustration of hydrogen molecules surrounded by dollar elements and abstract shapes

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Startups, investors and governments are all searching for ways to tap into natural hydrogen.

Why it matters: The "green hydrogen" category is emerging as a massive clean energy market, and unlocking so-called geologic hydrogen could provide a key new source for the matter.

Yes, but: The abundance and concentration levels of these types of hydrogen wells remain unclear.

Driving the news: On Friday, Denver-based startup Koloma told Axios exclusively about its $245 million round led by Khosla Ventures and including funds from the investing arms of Amazon and United Airlines.

  • The company is developing tools like analytics, AI and sensors, and is deploying tools for hydrogen deposits in the U.S.
  • The funding will help Koloma open up a lab at Ohio State University's Energy Advancement Innovation Center and deploy its technology through exploration projects.

State of play: Koloma may be the most well-funded startup searching for geologic hydrogen, but it isn't the only one.

  • Calgary-based consultant Chapman Hydrogen and Petroleum Engineering is reportedly planning to begin testing and drilling for geologic hydrogen in northern Ontario this summer.
  • Denver-based Natural Hydrogen Energy says it drilled an initial exploratory well in 2019 and is working to start commercial production. Australia-based HyTerra is working with Natural Hydrogen Energy.
  • Montreal-based Hydroma developed the first natural hydrogen-to-electricity plant in the village of Bourakébougou in Mali and is focused on finding the gas in West Africa and Canada.

Of note: Some researchers and companies are focused on trying to stimulate natural hydrogen wells by adding water to them.

  • Last week the Department of Energy's ARPA-E program announced $20 million grants for 16 projects looking at how to stimulate and manage geologic hydrogen reservoirs.

Big picture: Figuring out where the most economic geologic hydrogen reserves are is the key to unlocking the natural hydrogen market.

  • It's expensive to move hydrogen long distances, so profitable wells would ideally have a key customer close by.
  • Incentives, like those in the Inflation Reduction Act, are flowing toward all kinds of green hydrogen production, including geologic hydrogen.

What's next: Companies will soon be moving into the drilling and production phase across the U.S., Canada, France, and Australia.

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