- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment; Government Budgeting
Context: Less than four months after the USA announced an investment up to $100 million in hydrogen production and fuel cell technologies R & D, India has announced a National Hydrogen Mission (NHM).
Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally proposed for NHM which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) will publish the draft regulations within a month.
Pilot Projects underway in India
- In October, Delhi became the first Indian city to operate buses running on hydrogen spiked compressed natural gas (H-CNG) in a six-month pilot project. The buses will run on a new technology patented by IOCL for producing H-CNG — 18 per cent hydrogen in CNG — directly from natural gas.
- Power major NTPC Ltd is operating a pilot to run 10 hydrogen fuel cell-based electric buses and fuel cell electric cars in Leh and Delhi, and is considering setting up a green hydrogen production facility in Andhra Pradesh.
- Hydrogen does not occur freely in nature in useful quantities.
- It can be made from natural gas or it can be made by passing electric current through water.
- When hydrogen is burned, it only emits water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced.
- It is more efficient than internal combustion engine.
- Although hydrogen is a clean molecule, the process of extracting it is energy-intensive. Also, manufacturing hydrogen fuel based vehicle is expensive.
The sources and processes by which hydrogen is derived, are categorised by colour tabs.
- Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen; this constitutes the bulk of the hydrogen produced today.
- Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen;
- Hydrogen generated entirely from renewable power sources is called green hydrogen. In the last process, electricity generated from renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The case for green hydrogen
Green hydrogen has specific advantages.
- Environment Friendly: Green Hydrogen as energy source is seen as the next big thing as its usage would lead to zero emissions
- Potential to Decarbonise various sectors: It is a clean burning molecule, which can decarbonise a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
- Efficient utilization of Renewable Energy: Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
- Reduced Dependence on Rare Minerals: Green Hydrogen also holds the key to clean electric mobility that doesn’t depend on rare minerals. Green Hydrogen helps achieve long-term vision of reduced dependency on minerals and rare-earth element-based battery as energy storage.
- Helps Achieve Paris Goal: Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability
- Energy Security: Green energy helps reduce import dependency on fossil fuels
How Hydrogen based vehicles are better than Battery based Electric Vehicles?
- EV still has dependence on Coal: India’s electricity grid is predominantly coal-based and will continue to be so, thus negating collateral benefits from a large-scale EV push — as coal will have to be burnt to generate the electricity that will power these vehicles
- In several countries that have gone in for an EV push, much of the electricity is generated from renewables — in Norway for example, it is 99 per cent from hydroelectric power.
- Applicable to multiple sectors: Experts believe hydrogen vehicles can be especially effective in long-haul trucking and other hard-to-electrify sectors such as shipping and long-haul air travel. Using heavy batteries in these applications would be counterproductive, especially for countries such as India, where the electricity grid is predominantly coal-fired.
- Efficiency: Hydrogen based vehicles enables a refuelling time of just five minutes, compared to 30-45 minutes charging for a Battery based EV. Also, consumers get about five times better energy storage per unit volume and weight
Challenges with regard to Hydrogen Fuel
- Fuelling Infrastructure: A big barrier to the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been a lack of fuelling station infrastructure — fuel cell cars refuel in a similar way to conventional cars, but can’t use the same station (only 500 in the world & that too in Europe, Japan, South Korea)
- Safety is seen as a concern: Hydrogen is pressurised and stored in a cryogenic tank, from there it is fed to a lower-pressure cell and put through an electro-chemical reaction to generate electricity.
- Scaling up the technology and achieving critical mass remains the big challenge. More vehicles on the road and more supporting infrastructure can lower costs.
Connecting the dots:
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell for Vehicles: Click here