The Black Sea harbours vast quantities of hydrogen sulfide, the toxic gas associated with the smell of rotten eggs. This noxious gas could be used as a renewable source of hydrogen gas to fuel a future carbon-free economy, according to Turkish researchers writing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Nuclear Hydrogen Production and Applications.
The waters of the Black Sea contain very little oxygen. As such, the rare forms of life that live in the depths of the inland sea, so-called extremophile bacteria, survive by metabolising sulfate in the water. The sulfate fulfils a similar biochemical role to oxygen in respiration for these microbes allowing them to release the energy they need to live and grow from the nutrients they absorb from the water.
With organic matter and waste pouring into the Black Sea from waterways running off 17 countries, the Black Sea has a serious environmental contamination problelm. Mehmet Haklidir of the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center in Gebze-Kocaeli, and Füsun Servin Tut Haklidir of COWI SNS Ltd in Gayrettepe-Istanbul, Turkey, suggest that with a little of the right chemistry this problem could be recouched as an environmental solution.
The Black Sea has a layer some 50 metres thick that lies between the anaerobic and aerobic water at a depth of about 200 metres along its axis. As such it represents a vast untapped fuel reserve. The total hydrogen sulfide production in the sediments of the sea is estimated at about 10,000 tonnes per day and this figure is continually rising. That equates to potentially well over 500 tonnes of daily hydrogen gas production.
The researchers explain that what is now required is the development of a safe, and energy-efficient method for collecting the hydrogen sulfide from the Black Sea. In addition, there is a need to find effective catalysts and to build solar energy plants that could be used to quickly dissociated the hydrogen from the sulfide, leaving just a residual sulfur, that has industrial applications in the rubber and pharmaceutical industries.
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