'Why hydrogen is of strategic importance to scale-up the energy transition' with Dr Dirk Smit (in-person only)

Forthcoming Event

28 May 2024, 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Registration Required

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

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Hydrogen is projected to play a significant if not crucial role in the future energy mix, with the IEA forecasting an increase of almost an order of magnitude compared to hydrogen consumption today.

This increase is driven by the possible dual use of hydrogen: to provide a clean or green high energy density fuel (which can also be stored longer term) as well as a clean “chemical building block” towards more circular sustainable chemical manufacturing industries.

Current technology to produce large volumes of hydrogen with low/zero CO2 footprint at competitive low cost (e.g. < 1 USD/kg) struggle to scale to the projected volumes needed in a few decades while being competitively priced. Without a realistic view to low-cost, bulk volume hydrogen, the energy transition may significantly slow down as the decarbonization of energy dense industries next to light vehicle mobility leads to sharp increases in the demand for electrification with renewable power sources. This seems unrealistic as the required infrastructure would need to increase 4- 10 times relative to existing power grids which may happen eventually but is unlikely in just 2-3 decades.

Furthermore, even with more modest growth the functionality of future power grids will be much more complex, requiring a significant scale up of digitization, including AI, which requires large amounts of energy. The possibility of producing hydrogen generated in situ from iron-rich rocks in the subsurface while not new, may help provide diversity in decarbonization path ways creating more optionality in businesses and economic models. However, naturally occurring serpentinization reaction mechanisms are relatively slow, hence stimulation techniques may need to be developed to make this a scalable opportunity.

Dr Dirk Smit will put these ideas in the context of recent discoveries in as much as this is known in the public domain. He will discuss new insights and ideas partly developed with colleagues at MIT to radically increase production rates in a sustainable way, which brings the prospect of fundamentally changing the landscape for a carbon-constrained energy future.

This is a joint event with the Oxford Martin Programme on Rethinking Natural Resources.

This event will be followed by a drinks reception, all welcome.


  • To register to attend in-person in Oxford scroll to the bottom of the page to enter your details

Smit Dirk

Dr Dirk Smit
Visiting Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on Rethinking Natural Resources

Dirk graduated from Utrecht University in 1989 with a PhD in Mathematical Physics, String Theory. He went on to complete a postdoc at Berkeley and was awarded a subsequent postdoc at Harvard University. He joined Shell’s Geophysics R&D department in the Netherlands in 1992. While at Shell he has held numerous positions, including Chief Geophysicist for Shell UK, and Vice President Exploration and Upstream Technology. From 2015 as VP Research Strategy his work shifted to “systems thinking and engineering” aspects of the energy transition to a net-zero emission system and became Shell’s first Corporate Chief Scientist (Chief Science Officer) in 2019. In his role as Corporate Chief Scientist he has been advising Shell’s Executive Committee and Board.

Throughout his career he has held several Academic positions and has served on several Academic boards: an Adjunct Professor in Integrated Energy Systems at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Dirk served as a member of the National Research Council on Solid Earth Observations in the US between 2004 and 2007 and has been for 9 years a member of the National Dutch Science Board for Basic Science in the Netherlands. He also has been a member of the MIT Presidential Advisory Committee until 2021.

He retired from Shell in November 2023. He was awarded an Oxford University stipend scholarship and the Oxford Martin Programme on Rethinking Natural Resources as a Visiting Fellow for a good part of 2024. He has furthermore become an affiliate of the MIT Energy Initiative and the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, where he plans to relocate to in 2025. Next to his Academic roles he is currently involved with energy strategy consultancy to both governments in Europe and the DoE. But more hands-on, he has become involved with several Start-ups in Nuclear Fusion, Quantum Computing and more recently with HyTerra an Australian Start-up Exploring for Geologic Hydrogen.

In-Person Registration

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