Global rate and distribution of H2 gas produced by serpentinization within oceanic lithosphere

Stacey L. Worman, Lincoln F. Pratson, Jeffrey A. Karson, Emily M. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


It has recently been estimated that serpentinization within continental lithosphere produces H2 at rates comparable to oceanic lithosphere (both are ~1011 mol H2/yr). Here we present a simple model that suggests that H2 production rates along the mid-oceanic ridge alone (i.e., excluding other marine settings) may exceed continental production by an order of magnitude (~1012 mol H2/yr). In our model, H2 production rates increase with spreading rate and the net thickness of serpentinizing peridotite (S-P) in a column of lithosphere. Lithosphere with a faster spreading rate therefore requires a relatively smaller net thickness of S-P to produce H2 at the same rate as lithosphere with a slower rate and greater thickness of S-P. We apply our model globally, incorporating an inverse relationship between spreading rate and net thickness of S-P to be consistent with observations that serpentinization is more common within lithosphere spreading at slower rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6435-6443
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016


  • free hydrogen
  • global production rates
  • mid-ocean ridge (MOR)
  • reduced gases
  • serpentinization of peridotite
  • subseafloor biosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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