We all know that countries have set ambitious goal to cut down carbon emissions by 2050. 2050 is not far away. Imagine a cleaner and a greener planet for the next generation and the kind of fuel revolution that it would need. There is an increasing requirement for energy (watts, as climate enthusiasts put it) with changing lifestyles every day.
One of the most important steps in decarbonising the planet is decarbonising the production of energy. One of the newest such energy sources is green hydrogen which is produced through a process called electrolysis. The process uses electrical current to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water. If the electricity used in this process comes from renewable energy (as opposed to coal), then we are looking at an energy source that is produced without emitting any Co2 in the atmosphere. Envisage an energy source like green hydrogen that takes us from one place to another.
The chemical element that is most prevalent in nature is hydrogen. I am sure all of us can recall that Hydrogen is placed first in the periodic table with its atomic number being 1. It is light, can be stored easily and most importantly does not generate pollutant emissions by itself. The IEA (International Energy Consultancy) has stated that since 1975, the demand for hydrogen for use as a fuel has tripled, and reaching 70 million tons annually in 2018. Green hydrogen is also a clean energy source that, unlike coal and oil, only releases water vapour and leaves no residue in the air. The global economy’s unavoidable process of decarbonisation will increase the significance of hydrogen. In addition, we will surely be looking at one of the fuels of the future if its production costs drop by 50% by 2030 as anticipated by the World Hydrogen Council.
India plans to achieve energy independence by 2047 and Net Zero by 2070. In order to achieve this goal, India’s energy transition is concerted on maximising the use of renewable energy across all economic sectors. Green hydrogen is a possible replacement that might help with this transition. Hydrogen can be utilised for decentralised power production, aviation, and maritime transportation in addition to replacing fossil fuels in industry and offering clean transportation.
The Union Cabinet authorised the National Green Hydrogen Mission on January 4, 2022, with the following goals:
- Making India a global leader in the production and supply of green hydrogen
- Creation of export opportunities
- Lower reliance on imported fossil fuels
- Building up domestic manufacturing capacity
- Increasing industry investment and commercial prospects
- Creating avenues for economic growth and employment
Hydrogen is divided into three categories: Grey, Blue, and Green, depending on the type of extraction process used.
Grey hydrogen is created either through the steam methane reformation (SMR) of natural gas or methane (grey) or by the gasification of coal or lignite (black or brown). Most of these have a high carbon footprint.
Blue hydrogen is created through the gasification of natural gas or coal along with carbon capture storage (CCS) or carbon capture use (CCU) methods to lower carbon emissions.
Green hydrogen is created by electrolysing water using electricity obtained from renewable sources.
The carbon intensity ultimately depends on how carbon neutral the electricity source is; that is, the more renewable energy is used in the mix of fuels for electricity, the lower the carbon intensity will be.
India took a first step towards green hydrogen by flagging off a hydrogen fuel cells bus in New Delhi. This is undoubtedly a significant step towards sustainable transportation. This bus will undertake a trial that will span more than 3 lakh kilometers and will generate data that will serve as a national repository. India has one of the largest synchronous grids in the world, capable of handling intermittent renewable energy and with strong intent, we are well placed to look at Hydrogen as the dominant source of energy going forward.
While there are definitive sustainability benefits in using hydrogen, its highly volatile and flammable property makes it important to have extensive safety measures to avoid leakage or worse, explosions. There is also a high cost associated with the production of hydrogen through electrolysis however these costs are offset by the benefits it provides in terms of being a clean fuel. With large scale production, costs can also be brought down.
The future looks greener with a multitude of options available to revisit how energy is produced and consumed. Let us hope that this green bus offers a way forward for us to move away from fossil fuels.
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