A significant cause of global warming and climate change is when fossil fuels are burned as they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the environment. To counter this, at the 21st UN Climate Change Agreement held in Paris back in December 2015, 195 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop green energy sources to replace carbon energy. There are mainly two green energy sources the world is paying attention to: one is renewable energy that uses nature such as solar or wind power to generate electricity, and the other is hydrogen energy that we produce through a chemical reaction to release hydrogen. The focus on hydrogen energy ~ since its supply is endless and only emits pure water ~ has increased as green energy sources are becoming more and more important. Several countries are putting efforts into establishing a hydrogen-powered society, leading to the reduction of fossil fuel consumption.
What is notable is that hydrogen is an infinite energy source, and this means we can produce as much as we want. Furthermore, it can be stored in liquid or gaseous form, easily transported, and it backs up renewable energy when we fail to supply energy from other renewable sources due to unpredictable climate conditions, for example. According to the Hydrogen Council, global hydrogen consumption will increase to about 546 million tons by 2050. This will replace 13.26 billion barrels of petroleum, which can generate about 78 EJ. With hydrogen energy satisfying approximately 18 per cent of the world’s energy demand, we can assume that our society, which currently relies on carbon energy, will gradually change to hydrogen as a primary source. Already we are seeing developments in several countries in this field. China plans to put in place 300 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025 and 1,000 by 2030. This infrastructure will support 50,000 fuel-cell electric cars by 2025, expanding to one million by 2030. In Japan, Tokyo’s governor designated hydrogen as the “energy star” of the 2020 Olympics ~ with the Olympic Village to be powered by fuel cells and athletes to be shuttled around the games by hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Creating net-zero industrial value chains in Carbon2Chem®, ThyssenKrupp and other industrial partners have demonstrated the conversion of carbon~rich off-gases of a steel plant to green chemical products by using electrolysis and chemical synthesis technologies. In the US, California is nurturing deployment of fuel-cell electric vehicles and associated infrastructure through its ZEV Regulation and co-funding of hydrogen refuelling stations. Meanwhile, in the UK, the H21 Leeds City Gate pilot project is converting the entire city’s natural gas-based heating grid to 100 per cent hydrogen fuel, testing a concept that could eventually span the entire country. Hydrogen’s energy density makes it perfect for long-distance transport and heavy loads. Alstom’s Coradia iLint is the world’s first hydrogen passenger train; a greener, quieter alternative is already operational in Germany.
Globally, over 5,000 new hydrogen refuelling stations have been announced for 2030, and many are industry-government collaborations. Fuel-cell electric transportation can be applied to land transport ~ cars, buses, trucks, and trains ~ maritime, and aviation. As a result, by 2050, fuelcell cars alone could replace 20 million barrels of oil per day in transport. Annual Co2 emissions from feedstock could also be reduced to as much as 440 million tons in 2050 if hydrogen production were to be largely decarbonized through technologies such as electrolysis. India has a huge edge in green hydrogen production owing to its favorable geographic conditions and presence of abundant natural elements such as sunlight and wind. As of 31 March 2020, almost 36 per cent of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources and our renewable energy sector is the fourth most attractive market in the world. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India ranche second Along Emmerin economies to lead the transition into clean energy. India can become the global leader in developing the required technology using our vast pool of scientific talent. The country already has a CSIR network of 38 National Research Laboratories which cover a wide spectrum of science and technology.
Hydrogen costs are projected to decrease by up to 50 per cent for a wide range of applications, making the source competitive with other low-carbon alternatives and, in some cases, even conventional options. Hydrogen applications including boilers, compact cars, and industrial heating become competitive compared to low-carbon alternatives as the cost of production and distribution continues to fall. Because of its versatility, a hydrogen production and distribution system at scale will unlock its competitiveness in at least 22 applications, comprising 15 per cent of global energy consumption. Hydrogen will be competitive for long-range vehicles such as trucks and taxi fleets. Investments in scaling up infrastructure, such as fuel stations, will provide longterm gains. Green Ammonia, oil refining, the steel industry, and several other sectors will benefit the most from the development of technologies for hydrogen.
The revolution is already underway. Public-private initiatives, joint ventures, supportive policies, and risk-sharing instruments are creating an environment to speed up the advancements cited above. The Finance Minister in the union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the ‘National Hydrogen Mission’ for the generation of hydrogen from green power sources. The government has given impetus in scaling the gas pipeline infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country and has introduced reforms for the power grid, including the introduction of smart grids. Such steps are being taken to effectively integrate renewable energy into the present energy mix. With the appropriate capacity addition to renewable power generation, storage, and transmission, producing green hydrogen in India can become costeffective which will not only guarantee energy security but also ensure self-sufficiency in time. Hydrogen will help in storing renewable energy and transporting renewable energy, and that will overcome the problem of interdependence, which renewable energy suffers from. It is particularly useful in long-haul transportation, where battery storage falls short.
It is of the utmost importance that a hydrogen policy be established. We need regulatory agencies to regulate hydrogen i.e. the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, MNRE, Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, Petroleum & Explosive Safety Organisation, etc.
The commercial use of hydrogen needs co-ordination among the ministries and its regulatory bodies. There is a need for the setting up of a Centre of Excellence in Hydrogen by energy companies in India. CoE is a concept whereby industries, academics, research institutes, and knowledge partners collaborate in all aspects of R&D.
Such CoEs will focus on training 100,000 process safety engineers through various universities in India and will provide opportunities for masters and Ph.D. programmes collaborating with international universities. These CoEs will create an ecosystem in the entire value chain starting from R&D for Hydrogen production i.e. grey, blue, and green, transportation, storage, safety standards, and assist Government in formulating policies. These CoEs will also assist the National Hydrogen Mission in policy formulation based upon the best international practices followed globally, in making Hydrogen energy available by 2030 and thereafter.
Nayara Energy is the first energy company to develop a Centre of Excellence in Process Safety at IIT Delhi with Gexcon of Norway, the world’s leading fire and explosion safety consultants, as a knowledge partner. Indian Oil Corporation and Greenstat, the Norweigan-based global energy specialist, have also signed a cooperation agreement to develop a Centre of Excellence, with a specific focus on green hydrogen, solar, wind, and zero-emission maritime solutions There are already several more large energy companies in India in the process of setting up CoE to cover the entire value chain in hydrogen. This COE will focus on:
~ Costs to decrease by up to 50 per cent for a wide range of applications, making hydrogen competitive with other low-carbon alternatives and, in some cases, even conventional options.
~ Develop hydrogen applications and know-how including hydrogen boilers, compact cars, and industrial heating to compete with low-carbon alternatives, as the cost of production and distribution continues to fall.
~ Develop a hydrogen production and distribution system at scale. ~ Develop hydrogen alternatives for long-range vehicles such as trucks and taxi fleets, and developing the infrastructure, such as fuelling stations, to provide longterm gains.
With a CoE in place, India can become the global leader and take advantage of increasing investment in R&D, capacity building, compatible legislation, and the opportunity for the creation of demand among its vast population. Such initiatives could propel India to become the most favoured nation as both a knowledge provider and exporter of hydrogen technology globally. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, policymakers must continue to move at speed. They hold the power to exponentially scale up the development of hydrogen technologies.
Global co-operation is needed in exchange for technologies. No single country can complete the entire value chain and thus, there is a need for co-operation among countries to make green energy available at the earliest opportunity. At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November, the Indian government should put forward the need for an International Hydrogen Alliance. This alliance would serve the global community, making green energy available as soon as possible by bringing world organisations together on one platform.
The writer is Chairman, Expert Appraisal Committee, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India. He can be reached at [email protected] mail.com The views expressed are personal