Fairy Circle Identification Study

To assist Geoscience Australia in their current and future prospecting activities across Far West NSW by identifying circular or semi-circular morphologies, sometime referred to as Fairy Circles, that may indicate naturally occurring hydrogen gas deposits.  


The Challenge

Governments and the resource sector are continuously looking for new energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels, and hydrogen has the potential to provide a low-emissions option and play a critical role in helping to decarbonise Australia’s economy. One path being explored by Geoscience Australia is hydrogen exploration in relation to natural hydrogen seeps, which has gained interest in recent years. Hydrogen seeps can produce various observable characteristic on the earth surface such as circular or semi-circular features, shallow depressions and a noticeable reduction or absence of vegetation.  However, much research is still needed to globally understand natural hydrogen systems and where they can be located. While many global studies examine hydrogen related features the methodology behind the detection of these features is limited.  



The project collaborators are Geoscience Australia and NSW Geological Survey. 


The Solution 

In order to assist Geoscience Australia’s prospecting activities and provide more information to assist the selection of field survey site locations, FrontierSI developed a method for identifying potential hydrogen related features. Our geospatial experts started by reviewing currently available literature that describes the observable features believed to be related to natural hydrogen seeps, the previous methods used as well as the variety of datasets previously explored. The aim was to utilise open-source data and earth observation datasets where possible, and work towards an automated detection method.  

The Digital Earth Australia (DEA) Water Observation dataset was found to include many of the known hydrogen related features in Western Australia and was used as a foundation for creating an identification methodology. A summary of water observations was used in the analysis along with other datasets including vegetation cover, which was applied to help refine and remove features that did not meet the set criteria for naturally occurring hydrogen deposits. This resulted in the production of two datasets over the two areas of interest, identified by Geoscience Australia at the beginning of the project, that can be used be their teams for site selection. As field work is conducted and results are made available, future work may include the validation of the identified features, as well as assistance in further refinement of features which do not meet the criteria or through further insights gained during field work.    



The development of a method that can detect hydrogen circular morphologies will enable Geoscience Australia and their partners to focus their efforts in the search for natural hydrogen seeps as an indicator for deeper sub-surface potential resources of natural hydrogen. Conducting field surveys and processing hydrogen samples makes field surveys expensive, meaning that any information that can help select sites, particularly over the vast Australian landscape where higher levels of hydrogen are more likely to occur, will help reduce prospecting effort and costs. Many of these sites are also located on private property or tenements, making the ability to gain access more difficult. This makes detection using earth observation data extremely practical when first scouting for features of interest. Additionally, having more compelling evidence as to whether the area is of interest or not can help reduce the effort needed to seek access permissions and land access that may not lead to hydrogen seeps.  

This work is another example of how open-source data can be used in exploration and is the first step towards the development of a fully automated method to detect natural hydrogen seeps. With further work and refinement, this method could be applied across all of NSW and the rest of Australia.  



To learn more, contact FrontierSI at contact@frontiersi.com.au or connect with Project Manager and Business Analyst, Gavin Kennedy, at gkennedy@frontiersi.com.au