From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Green Hydrogen
Mains level : National Hydrogen Mission
India aspires to emerge as the leader of green hydrogen by taking advantage of the current energy crisis across the globe.
Why in news?
- Oil India Limited (OIL) has commissioned India’s first 99.99% pure green hydrogen plant in eastern Assam’s Jorhat.
- Powered by a 500 KW solar plant, the green hydrogen unit has an installed capacity to produce 10 kg of hydrogen per day and scale it up to 30 kg per day.
What is Hydrogen?
- Hydrogen is the lightest, simplest and most abundant member of the family of chemical elements in the universe.
- It is colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible gaseous substance.
What is Green hydrogen?
- Green hydrogen is the one produced with no harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
- It is made by using clean electricity from surplus renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to electrolyse water.
- Electrolysers use an electrochemical reaction to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero-carbon dioxide in the process.
- Green hydrogen currently makes up a small percentage of the overall hydrogen, because production is expensive.
Why is India pursuing green hydrogen?
- Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, India is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 33-35% from the 2005 levels.
- It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.
- At the 2021 CoP in Glasgow, India reiterated its commitment to move from a fossil and import-dependent economy to a net-zero economy by 2070.
- India’s average annual energy import bill is more than $100 billion .
- The increased consumption of fossil fuel has made the country a high CO2 emitter which accounts for nearly 7% of the global CO2 burden.
Various policy moves
- In order to become energy independent by 2047, the government stressed the need to introduce green hydrogen as an alternative fuel that can make India the global hub and a major exporter of hydrogen.
- The National Hydrogen Mission was launched on August 15, 2021, with a view to cutting down carbon emissions and increasing the use of renewable sources of energy.
How much green hydrogen is India producing?
- India has just begun to generate green hydrogen with the objective of raising non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030.
- It was on April 20, 2022 that the public sector OIL, which is headquartered in eastern Assam’s Duliajan, set up India’s first 99.99% pure green hydrogen pilot plant.
- Research and development efforts are ongoing for a reduction in the cost of production, storage and the transportation of hydrogen.
What are the advantages of hydrogen as a fuel?
- Hydrogen can be used to produce electricity using fuel cells.
- Hydrogen, thus, can act as an energy storage device and contribute to grid stability.
- The oxygen, produced as a by-product (8 kg of oxygen is produced per 1 kg of hydrogen), can also be monetised by using it for industrial and medical applications or for enriching the environment.
Limitations to Hydrogen
- Despite being the most abundant element in the Universe, hydrogen does not exist on its own so needs to be extracted from water via electrolysis or separated from carbon fossil fuels.
- Hydrogen fuel cells need huge investment to be developed to the point where they become a genuinely viable energy source.
- This will also require the political will to invest the time and money into development in order to improve and mature the technology.
- Precious metals such as platinum and iridium are typically required as catalysts in fuel cells meaning unfeasibly high cost.
- There are also barriers around regulatory issues concerning the framework that defines commercial deployment models.
- Storage and transportation of hydrogen is more complex than that required for fossil fuels due to its high inflammability.
Back2Basics: Colours spectrum of Hydrogen
(1) Green hydrogen
(2) Blue hydrogen
- It is produced mainly from natural gas, using a process called steam reforming, which brings together natural gas and heated water in the form of steam.
- The output is hydrogen – but also carbon dioxide as a by-product.
- That means carbon capture and storage (CCS) is essential to trap and store this carbon.
- Blue hydrogen is sometimes described as ‘low-carbon hydrogen’ as the steam reforming process doesn’t actually avoid the creation of greenhouse gases.
(3) Grey hydrogen
- Currently, this is the most common form of hydrogen production.
- Grey hydrogen is created from natural gas, or methane, using steam methane reformation but without capturing the greenhouse gases made in the process.
(4) Black and brown hydrogen
- Any hydrogen made from fossil fuels through the process of ‘gasification’ is sometimes called black or brown hydrogen interchangeably.
- They are the most environmentally damaging.
(5) Pink hydrogen
- Pink hydrogen is generated through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy.
- Nuclear-produced hydrogen can also be referred to as purple hydrogen or red hydrogen.
- In addition, the very high temperatures from nuclear reactors could be used in other hydrogen productions by producing steam for more efficient electrolysis or fossil gas-based steam methane reforming.