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HYDROGEN ENERGY SECTOR IN INDIA

FEB 16

Mains   > Industry and infrastructure   >   Infrastructure & Investment models   >   Clean energy

WHY IN NEWS:

  • Union Budget 2021-22 proposed the launch of a National Hydrogen Energy Mission

BACKGROUND:

  • Consumption of fossil fuels gives rise to the greenhouse gas emissions in the environment and causes ambient air pollution, which have now become global concerns.
  • This coupled with the limited reserves of fossil fuels have encouraged and promoted the development and use of new and renewable energy sources, including hydrogen energy as an energy carrier

ABOUT HYDROGEN FUEL:

  • Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table.
  • Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.
  • 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 burned with oxygen. The only by-product or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water - making the fuel 100 per cent clean.
  • It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.
  • Hydrogen is three times as powerful as gasoline and other fossil fuels

OCCURRENCE:

  • Speaking of its natural occurrence, it is the most abundant element in the universe.
  • The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen.
  • Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element.
  • Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.
  • Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs.
  • 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. Water is again formed, when hydrogen is used.
  • On the other hand, its preparation could be done by breaking the chemical bonds from compounds. A few common methods include electrolysis, from steam and hydro carbon or carbon, reaction of metals with acids etc.
  • Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%.

STORAGE:

  • Hydrogen storage needs special attention due to hydrogen being smallest molecule, density-wise lightest, lowest ignition energy and wide range of explosion limit with air, which lead to embrittlement of materials of construction of hydrogen storage vessels and safety hazards.
  • Therefore, safe and efficient storage and delivery of hydrogen is essential for the success of hydrogen economy
  • Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid.
  • Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks.
  • Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.

ADVANTAGES OF HYDROGEN FUEL:

  • It is readily available:
    • It is a basic earth element and is very abundant.
  • It doesn’t produce harmful emissions:
    • When it is burned, it doesn’t emit harmful substances.
    • Basically, it reacts with oxygen without burning and the energy it releases can be used to generate electricity used to drive an electric motor. Also, it doesn’t generate carbon dioxide when burnt, not unlike other power sources.
  • It is environmentally friendly:
    • It is a non-toxic substance which is rare for a fuel source.
    • Others such as nuclear energy, coal and gasoline are either toxic or found in places that have hazardous environments.
  • It can be used as fuel in rockets:
    • It is both powerful and efficient.
    • It is enough to provide power for powerful machines such as spaceships.
  • It is fuel efficient
    • Compared to diesel or gas, it is much more fuel efficient as it can produce more energy per pound of fuel.
    • Hydrogen-powered fuel cells have two or three times the efficiency of traditional combustion technologies.
  • It is renewable:
    • It can be produced again and again, unlike other non-renewable sources of energy.
  • Helps to reduce our import bill on crude oil:
    • Hydrogen technology is being explored by the government to reduce dependence on crude imported
  • Hydrogen as a green mobility option
    • Hydrogen fuel cells are far more compact, efficient and cost-effective than lithium-ion batteries
    • As against the more than 90 minutes it takes a heavy battery electric vehicle to charge, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be charged in 5-15 minutes.
  • Generation of employment opportunities:
    • The realization of Hydrogen based economy can generate a lot of employment throughout the country.

DISADVANTAGES

  • It is expensive:
    • While widely available, it is expensive. A good reason for this is that it takes a lot of time to separate the element from others.
    • Hydrogen does not occur in deposits or reserves like fossil fuel. It needs to be actually produced using chemical reactions.
    • Until technology is developed that can make the whole process a lot simpler, then hydrogen energy will continue to be an expensive option.
  • It is difficult to store:
    • Oil and coal can be transported through pipelines or trucks.
    • But hydrogen storage needs special attention due to hydrogen being smallest molecule, density-wise lightest, lowest ignition energy and wide range of explosion limit with air, which lead to embrittlement of materials of construction of hydrogen storage vessels and safety hazards.
  • It is not easy to replace existing infrastructure:
    • Building infrastructure that can support hydrogen as fuel requires huge investment.
    • This is why it becomes highly expensive to replace gasoline.
  • It is highly flammable:
    • Since it is a very powerful source of fuel, hydrogen can be very flammable.
  • It is dependent on fossil fuels:
    • Although hydrogen energy is renewable and has minimal environmental impact, other non-renewable sources such as coal, oil and natural gas are needed to separate it from oxygen.
    • While the point of switching to hydrogen is to get rid of using fossil fuels, they are still needed to produce hydrogen fuel.
  • Lack of codes and standards:
    • Lack of codes and standards have repeatedly been identified as a major institutional barrier to deploying Hydrogen technologies and developing  a Hydrogen economy

HYDROGEN PRODUCTION IN INDIA

  • Hydrogen is a by-product in Chlor-Alkali industries. Earlier, a part of it was used for non-energy applications and rest was either flared or vented out in the atmosphere.
  • With the passage of time awareness about its usage for energy applications increased and now around 90% of by-product hydrogen was utilized for production of chemicals and captive applications.
  • In addition to above, hydrogen is produced for non-energy applications such as in fertilizer industries and petroleum refineries.
  • There are various methods for generating hydrogen from renewable and non-renewable resources.
    • Green hydrogen is the type, in whose generation, energy from renewable sources has been used.
    • Grey hydrogen is produced using hydrocarbons
  • To have sustainable hydrogen production, the energy and raw material needed for this purpose ought to be renewable in nature.

INITIATIVES:

  • National Hydrogen Energy Road Map (NHERM)
    • With a view to accelerate development of hydrogen energy sector in India, a National Hydrogen Energy Road Map (NHERM) was prepared and adopted by the National Hydrogen Energy Board in 2006
    • The main objective
      • To identify the pathways, which will lead to gradual introduction of hydrogen energy
      • Accelerate commercialization efforts
      • Facilitate the creation of hydrogen energy infrastructure in the country.
  • Projects of PSUs:
    • State-run power generator NTPC has already signed MoU with Siemens for production of green hydrogen from the company’s renewable energy plants and its use in transportation.
    • It has also planned pilot projects to run five hydrogen-cell electric buses and five cars in Delhi and Leh.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Purchase obligations:
    • Fertilizer units, oil refineries and steel plants should have mandatory purchase obligations for green hydrogen.
  • A national ‘Fuel Cell Institute’ can be created to:
    • Bring all the concerned stakeholders such as Ministries, Departments, academicians, researchers and industry under one umbrella to work together in a systematic manner
    • Develop a mechanism to incentivize the individuals and the institutions involved in the development of fuel cell
  • Safety:
    • Development of regulations and standards as one of the key requirements for commercialization of Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.
    • Regulations and standards will help to overcome technological barriers to commercialization, facilitate manufacturers’ investment in building Hydrogen fuelled vehicles and facilitate public acceptance by providing a systematic and accurate means of assessing and communicating the risk associated with the use of Hydrogen vehicles, be it to the general public, consumer, emergency response personnel or the insurance industry
  • Developing standards:
    • India must engage with international hydrogen industry for identifying standards for commercialization of hydrogen energy systems, and we must participate with Standards Development Organizations to develop Hydrogen standards
  • Human Resource Development:
    • Human resource development is the key to sustained R&D program on Hydrogen.
    • Hydrogen production process and Fuel cell technology requires expertise from various fields such as electrical, mechanical, chemistry, physics, biotechnology, management etc.
    • In order to produce skilled manpower resource training needs have to be identified.
    • It is recommended to constitute Hydrogen chair faculty positions in IITs for professors working on Hydrogen technologies
  • Awareness:
    • The most important factor for fostering support and decreasing opposition to the introduction of Hydrogen technologies is increased knowledge.
    • The general public must be given further education, along with decision-makers within government and industry, regulators and policy developers, academics etc.
    • Therefore, information as well as an active demonstration projects for use of Hydrogen is necessary.
  • Public Private Partnership
    • Coordination between industry and government can facilitate smooth commercialization of Hydrogen and fuel cell systems.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q. Examine the relevance of developing hydrogen energy sector in India? Also discuss the challenges associated with the creation of hydrogen energy infrastructure in the country?


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