Budget 2021

Is the hype about green hydrogen all gas?

Kuwar Singh New Delhi | Updated on February 02, 2021

The green energy buzzword this year is hydrogen.

The Budget has announced that the National Hydrogen Energy Mission, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi first spoke about in November last year, will be launched in the financial year 2022 to generate hydrogen from green power sources.

About six million tonnes of hydrogen is produced in India annually, according to an estimate by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). As is the case around the world, most of it is made from natural gas, with carbon dioxide as a by-product.

On the other hand, green hydrogen is produced from electrolysis of water using electricity from renewable sources. “The total investment potential of green hydrogen in India is around $44 billion by 2030. The announcement of the mission in the Budget provides the necessary impetus to unlock the flow of finance to the sector,” said Tirth Biswas, programme lead at Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

No magic fuel

However, green hydrogen is not the magic fuel that has been lying dormant until now, ready to be the clean energy competitor for electric vehicles. In most transport segments, battery electric vehicles have won the battle for the future. “Given the energy-intensive processes required to produce hydrogen, it should be targeted for sectors where direct electrification is not possible,” says a recently published report from TERI. “For example, producing 1 kg of hydrogen requires 50 kWh of electricity, based on electrolyser efficiency of 70 per cent, resulting in an energy loss of around 30 per cent. There is then a further energy loss if this hydrogen is stored and converted back to electricity, as is the case for transport and power applications.”

There are several potential uses of green hydrogen, however. Apart from replacing the use of fossil fuel-generated hydrogen in the refineries, fertilisers, and chemical industries, green hydrogen can also potentially replace coal and coking coal in steel production as well as coal and gas in the production of petrochemicals such as methanol, said Thomas Spencer, Fellow at TERI.

“There is a whole range of industries based on rearranging carbon and hydrogen molecules, which are currently being supplied from fossil fuels. In the future, along with green hydrogen, the carbon could come from carbon-capture technologies,” Spencer said.

Published on February 01, 2021

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