National Hydrogen Energy Mission: A new vision in the Budget

At times when the awakened youth is out of ghettos to serve the Environment and strive to make it better, we have ‘the right’ to develop any form of alternative fuel that is accessible.

We have tried it all: from tides to land, solar to hydrogen, wind to biomass.

As the different Nations(voluntarily or insistence gained by IPCC) begin to consider for alternative options, many of the energy forms have become feasible to be extracted for public use.

Government of India’s (GOI) National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHM) initiative is one such blow to the indiscriminate unclean forms of energy.

Along with India, the incumbent energy transition is taking place at widened level and several countries are betting on hydrogen to emerge as the top clean fuel with its high energy density and versatility.

On these lines, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Union budget 20-21, formally announced the NHM which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

 

Steps of wisdom after the announcement:
Taking a step forward, the concerned Ministry has also announced that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalised by the end of this month to be proceeded for approval of the Union Cabinet.

Once the draft of the mission is in place, it will be floated for public consultation.

Union power minister RK Singh has disclosed that the government is planning to call for green hydrogen bids in “4-5 months”.

There are also discussions to put a mandate on using around 10% of domestic green hydrogen in Industries where it is much needed, such as fertilizer, steel and oil refineries.

Otherwise, these industries import natural gas and ammonia from other countries to produce hydrogen.

For the current financial year, MNRE has been allotted Rs 25 crore for research and development (R&D) in hydrogen.

The mission will include all aspects including research and exploration of areas where hydrogen can be used.

There will be five key areas the government will focus on. These include R&D, demand creation, finding uses in industry, creating an eco-system including policies for this and integrating industry with international partnerships.

Eg. In the industrial sector, the government is looking at hydrogen as a replacement for coke in the steel industry and also making use of the fuel in the fertiliser sector.

MNRE has indicated that by 2025-26, the industrial sector will be one of the major recipients of hydrogen.

Another reason why the Hydrogen energy technology is being explored by the government is to reduce dependence on imported products across the Nation and give a boost to infrastructure services for chargeable vehicles.

According to experts, it takes more than 90 minutes to charge a heavy battery electric vehicle in general. On the contrary, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be charged in 5-15 minutes.

NTPC and Siemens have planned pilot projects to run five hydrogen-cell electric buses and five cars in Delhi and Leh, using green hydrogen energy.

NTPC is also designing a prototype for hard/sea water electrolysis and reactors for hydrogen production through the photo-electro-chemical process in its laboratories.

Therefore Green Hydrogen Mission is not only essential to decarbonise heavy industries like steel and cement. It will equally clean electric mobility that doesn’t depend on rare minerals to be explored.

Hydrogen energy technologies across the world have still not become commercially viable, but this energy source is seen as the next big thing as its usage would lead to zero emissions.

Hydrogen as an energy source:
Hydrogen is the lightest(travels up in the atmosphere and rarely found in purity) and first element on the periodic table.

Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.

Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel when burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

Hydrogen can be sourced from natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind.

There are three types of hydrogen – grey, blue and green.

The fuel produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen, those produced from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options are called blue hydrogen.

While the energy produced from renewable power sources are called green hydrogen.

Storage:

Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.

It can be stored in the following ways:

1. As a gas in high-pressure tanks.

2. As a liquid at cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.

Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids by the process called Adsorption or within solids by the process called Absorption.

What makes Hydrogen one of the best options in disguise:

1.Its availability

2. It’s efficiency: The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

3. Its characteristics of a clean fuel: The only byproduct or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water.
2H2 (g) + O2 (g) → 2H2O (g) + energy

With a wide range of methods to produce and use Hydrogen as a fuel, it thereby allows the impetus to a circular economy.

Challenges for harnessing Hydrogen based energy:

1. Lack of proper infrastructure, only 500 Hydrogen stations exist globally.

2. Only countable manufacturers are involved(Toyota, Honda, Hyundai) as market players in this technology.

3. It is hazardous because of its low ignition energy and high combustion energy.
Although storage is easy but if not done properly, it can leak.

Way forward:

As this precious gas is set to become a new globally traded commodity, it is important that we remember our learnings so far.

It will be a difficult way ahead as the transition from any easily accessible not-so-clean Energy to this discrete emerging energy form will not be acceptable to many.

It’s important that we source it from the ‘green’ sources and suppress indiscriminate use.
But before the ethics get involved, it is important that we need to imbibe better technologies for extracting the energy on large scale.

China is already among the world’s leading hydrogen producers. Morocco is yet to become another player.

As India is all set to join the race, we need to ensure that all we require to achieve is better public will and greater service to Mother Earth.