The government is planning to blend 15 per cent green hydrogen with piped natural gas (PNG) for domestic, commercial and industrial consumption. The move is in line with India’s ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and becoming carbon neutral by 2070. This initiative will be part of the government’s National Hydrogen Energy Mission aimed at generating hydrogen from green power sources.
Earlier this year, Power Minister R K Singh had announced that the government will bring green hydrogen under renewable purchase obligation (RPO), which essentially means that bulk buyers such as Discoms and captive users have to buy a certain proportion of renewable energy (RE) out of their total power requirement. A similar mechanism will be created for hydrogen and it will be called hydrogen purchase obligation (HPO).
Soon, HPO mandatory
A senior government official said that at present, a note by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) on the hydrogen mission has been circulated among stakeholders ministries including Power, New & Renewable Energy and Petroleum & Natural Gas. The HPO will cover industries like oil refineries and fertiliser plants, which use grey hydrogen. The idea is to create demand for green hydrogen. HPO is likely to come from 2023.
“Government plans to float bids for manufacturing green hydrogen, which will be supplied to fertiliser units and petroleum refineries. Similarly, the plan is also to supply green hydrogen for PNG. The government will offer free transmission (of power) for this like in the case of RE. The objective is to blend 15 per cent green hydrogen with PNG, as it is technically viable. Beyond this, the gas pipeline would have to be refurbished,” the official explained.
The EPC still has to receive comments from some stakeholders. After the EFC takes a final decision on the mission objectives based on discussion with the ministries, it will be placed before the Union Cabinet for approval, the official added.
Upside of hydro energy
Hydrogen is a flexible energy carrier and can be used for many energy applications like integration of renewables and transportation. It is produced using RE and electrolysis to split water and is distinct from grey hydrogen, which is produced from methane and releases greenhouse gases. Energy can be extracted from hydrogen through combustion or through fuel cells, which emit only water as a by-product.
Several countries in Europe and North America are experimenting on mixing green hydrogen with PNG. For instance, in the UK, power utilities are blending hydrogen into pipelines to fuel power plants, industrial applications and to serve homes. The mixing is around 15-20% in some networks. Besides, there are various pilot projects on hydrogen blending with PNG being tested in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, France, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
However, using hydrogen has its own disadvantages. According to a study by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 2013, “How it (hydrogen) affects the pipelines it travels in and appliances that use it. On the pipeline front, hydrogen embrittlement can weaken metal or polyethylene pipes and increase leakage risks, particularly in high-pressure pipes”.
Hydrogen embrittlement is a situation when the metal (pipeline) becomes brittle due to diffusion of hydrogen into the material. The extent of embrittlement depends on the amount of hydrogen and the material’s microstructure.
The National Hydrogen Energy Mission will have specific strategy for short term (4 years) and broad strokes principles for long term (10 years and beyond). It aims to develop India into a global hub for manufacturing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across the value chain. Toward this end, a framework to support manufacturing through suitable incentives and facilitation aligned with ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ will be developed.