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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : India’s green hydrogen challenge

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance(green hydrogen, brown hydrogen Environmental pollution and degradation, Paris Agreement) etc

 

Mains GS Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment etc

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • On India’s 75th Independence Day, the Prime Minister announced the National Hydrogen Mission to make the country a production and export hub of green hydrogen.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Hydrogen

It is one of the most abundant elements on earth for a cleaner alternative fuel option.

Type of hydrogen depend up on the process of its formation:

 

Green hydrogen:

  1. It is produced by electrolysis of water using renewable energy (like Solar, Wind) and has a lower carbon footprint.
  2. Electricity splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
  3. By Products : Water, Water Vapour.

 

Brown hydrogen:

It is produced using coal where the emissions are released to the air.

 

Grey hydrogen:

  1. It is produced from natural gas where the associated emissions are released to the air.
  2. It currently accounts for 95% of the total production in South Asia

 

Blue hydrogen:

It is produced from natural gas, where the emissions are captured using carbon capture and storage.

 

Advantages of hydrogen as a fuel:

  • Green hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time:The stored hydrogen can be used to produce electricity using fuel cells.
  • It can be used for industrial and medical applications or for enriching the environment.
  • Green hydrogen can drive India’s transition to clean energy, combat climate change.
  • Under the Paris Climate Agreement:India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its economy by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2030.
  • It will reduce import dependency on fossil fuels.
  • Development of green hydrogen projects can create a new green technologies market in India worth $18-20 billion and thousands of jobs.

 

National Hydrogen Mission:

  • It is a program to incentivise the commercial production of green hydrogen and make India a net exporter of the fuel.
  • The Mission will facilitate demand creation, production, utilization and export of Green Hydrogen.

Sub Schemes:

  • Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT): It will fund the domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and produce green hydrogen.
  • Green Hydrogen Hubs: States and regions capable of supporting large scale production and/or utilization of hydrogen will be identified and developed as Green Hydrogen Hubs.
  • Aim: Production of 5 MMT (million metric tonne) per annum with an associated renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 GW (giga watt) by 2030.

 

Challenges to produce and use green hydrogen:

It can be classified into 4Es:

  • electrolyser
  • energy source
  • end use
  • endogenous resources.

 

Electrolyser:

According to IEA (International Energy Agency)-2021: Global manufacturing capacity of electrolysers stands at 8 GW/year.

  • If India has to achieve its 2030 target, it would need anywhere from 60-100 GW of electrolyser capacity
    • Almost 12 times the current global production capacity.
  • India currently has launched projects to manufacture electrolysers, but the actual numbers as of today are negligible.
  • Access to critical minerals such as nickel, platinum group metals and rare earth metals such as lanthanum, yttrium and zirconium could hinder scaling up electrolyser manufacturing capability in India.
    • India also has limited processing capabilities in these minerals.

 

Energy source:

  • A completely efficient electrolysis system would require 39 kWh of electricity to produce 1 kg of hydrogen.
    • This is, however, a laboratory tested figure and a typical operational figure is about 48 kWh per kg of hydrogen.
  • Green hydrogen requires renewable energy as a source of electricity.
    • India currently estimates a capacity of 125 GW of renewable energy
    • To meet its green hydrogen 2030 targets: It would be in addition to the already proposed targets of 500 GW renewables energy capacity.
  • India has only achieved 119 GW of the 175 GW targeted capacity using solar, wind, bio-power and small hydro.
  • The transmission capacity that includes a smooth facilitation of cross-border exchange of power between states is a critical requirement.

 

End use:

  • Most of the demand for hydrogen comes from the chemical industry to produce ammonia for fertilizers, followed by refining for hydrocracking and the desulphurisation of fuels.
  • It can be a source of heat for industry, especially in hard to abate and electrify sectors such as steel, cement and aluminum production.
  • In the transport sector, it can be used as fuel for heavy duty vehicles, aviation and shipping.

Challenge:

  • Electricity can directly serve the purpose, having alternative energy carriers for the same use case would not make technical or economic sense.
  • Hydrogen is a highly combustible and volatile element and its potency in other forms such as ammonia or methanol is only relatively reduced.

 

Endogenous resources:

  • Production of one kg of hydrogen by electrolysis requires around nine liters of water.
    • Several parts of India are already severely water-stressed,

 

Global scenario:

  • In 2020: The world produced around 90 MMT of hydrogen.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates hydrogen and its derivatives will account for 12 percent of global final energy consumption by 2050 (IEA estimate 530 MMT), with two-thirds coming from green hydrogen.
  • Global levelized cost of producing green hydrogen ranges between Rs 250-650/kg ($ 3-8/kg)
    • India aims to produce green hydrogen in the range of Rs 100-150/kg ($ 1-2/kg) by 2030.

 

Steps taken by the government:

  • 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.
  • Initiatives for Renewable Energy:
  1. Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).
  2. International Solar Alliance.
  3. PM- KUSUM.
  4. National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy.
  5. Rooftop Solar Scheme.

 

Way Forward

  • Electrolyser challenge would entail India setting up large scale manufacturing, building expertise and securing geo-political partnerships for procurement of critical minerals.
    • Improving overall technical and economic viability of electrolysers year-over-year while competing with other global players.
  • It would require India to add efficiently and economically close to 100 GW of overall renewable energy capacity per year over the next seven years and make available dispatch corridors and mechanisms.
  • The conversion efficiency from one form of energy carrier to another in the end use application will determine the scale of green hydrogen’s applicability.
  • It is critical to establish safety standards for storage and transportation, adding to the cost of hydrogen as a fuel.
  • Solutions need to be found to cater to this additional water demand.
    • Desalination has been suggested:
      • It will increase the physical footprint of the required infrastructure
      • add to competition for land use
      • impact biodiversity
      • create challenges and limitations in the location of electrolysers.
    • The proposed green hydrogen hubs can strike a fine balance between being renewable energy rich, water resource rich and being close to hydrogen demand (end-use) centers for them to be economically feasible while keeping the additional costs minimum.
    • Set a national target for green hydrogen and electrolyser capacity: A phased manufacturing programme should be used to build a vibrant hydrogen products export industry in India such as green steel (commercial hydrogen steel plant).
    • India will have to address all the challenges listed above as well as coordinate across multiple institutional bodies both public and private in record time.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gasses which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)