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[RSTV Archive] Road to a Hydrogen Economy

Hydrogen is all set to play a significant role in decarbonizing energy systems. Green Hydrogen has no carbon footprint through several challenges remain in its usage at a wider level. National Hydrogen Mission was announced by the center govt in this year’s Budget to tackle all these challenges. In this edition, we will discuss and analyze all aspects of this issue.

Green Hydrogen: Fuel of the future

  • Hydrogen is primarily used in the petrochemicals and fertilizer industry and is produced largely from natural gas, thereby emitting enormous amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • Depending on the nature of the method of its extraction, hydrogen is categorized into three categories, namely, grey, blue and green.
  • Green hydrogen gas is produced by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolyzer that may be powered by electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
  • This gives hydrogen the edge over other fuels to unlock various avenues of green usage.
  • However, challenges lie in terms of technology, efficiency, financial viability, and scaling up which the summit will aim to address.

What is National Hydrogen Mission?

  • The Union Budget for 2021-22 has announced a National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHM) that will draw up a road map for using hydrogen as an energy source.
  • The initiative has the potential of transforming transportation.

Why shift for Hydrogen?

  • India has a huge edge in green hydrogen production owing to its favorable geographic conditions and presence of abundant natural resources.
  • Presently India has around 6 million Metric tonnes of Hydrogen production every year which is almost 8% of the global hydrogen production.
  • Hydrogen also offers an opportunity to decrease the dependence on Fossil fuel.
  • The fertilizer, Steel, and transport sector need a lot of energy so we can decarbonize by using green hydrogen. Thus future of clean energy depends a lot on Green Hydrogen.
  • The growth of solar has given a unique advantage for the growth of green hydrogen.
  • Cheap solar tariffs mean the cost of powering the electrolysis process through surplus electricity at peak hours to generate hydrogen remains low.
  • Setting up hydrogen generation plants near solar parks will further reduce transmission costs.

Major challenges

Overt regulations: Currently, multiple regulatory authorities regulate hydrogen use. The MoRTH regulates vehicle’s fuel carrier specification, MNRE regulates renewable energy sources, Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board regulates pipelines and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization regulates explosive substances, storage and fuel station’s specifications.

Economic sustainability: One of the colossal challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen. Furthermore, the maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.

Technological limitations: The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and is expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.

Lack of investment: The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation, and demand creation for hydrogen.

Although, the draft regulations of NHM are expected to contain details pertaining to hydrogen technology, including storage, R&D, pilot projects, and other specification and safety standards.

Going Forward

De-carbonization: We need to decarbonize many Industries to shift towards green hydrogen technology.

De-regulation: Hydrogen being a versatile resource will require coordination among the various ministries and regulators.

Collaboration: Proactive industry collaboration with the government is key to creating a hydrogen economy in India. This will help bring best-in-class hydrogen technology, equipment, and know-how to create a hydrogen supply chain in India — in many cases, these could be “Made in India”.

Infrastructure: Hydrogen is highly explosive so storage must be highly secured. The NHM should aim to establish appropriate physical infrastructure and legal framework for the usage of hydrogen.  India also plans to extend the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing electrolyzer, which are used for producing green hydrogen.

R&D: The NHM can also highlight the need for global cooperation and generate opportunities for exchange of technology. To augment the NHM, constructive synergies among leading industries from different sectors like automobiles, power generation, refining, chemicals is necessary.

Capacity building: Hydrogen generation cost is very high. The draft regulations for NHM shall have a roadmap for affordable targets and capacity installation. Designated hydrogen hubs can be established to attract investment by providing infrastructural support like pipelines and renewable electricity for production, storage and transportation of green hydrogen.

Global cooperation: Global hydrogen initiatives have been gaining traction. The year 2020 saw 20 countries, including Australia, Canada, the USA, Japan, and Germany, announce hydrogen policies. India should ramp up international collaborations for more effortless transfer of technology and resources related to hydrogen.

Conclusion

  • Green hydrogen is one of the most promising fuels in the efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
  • India should aim to reduce the cost of hydrogen to less than $2 by 2030. By doing so, the demand is expected to increase by at least five times today’s demand to 30 million tonnes per annum by 2050.
  • At this juncture, with calibrated approach, India can uniquely position itself to take advantage of increasing investment in R&D, capacity building, compatible legislation, and the opportunity for the creation of demand among its vast population.

Reference:

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