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Today, India is the third largest consumer of energy in the world after China and the USA because of its rapid economic development. However, this staggering growth in energy consumption means we are also now the third-biggest carbon emitter worldwide, accounting to ~7 % of global emissions. It will continue to rise in years to come. Therefore, with growth comes greater responsibility for developing a sustainable energy supply chain for ourselves and the world. It demands a greater need to produce and rely on other greener energy alternatives. Well, India is already marching towards this roadmap to net zero and planning a massive expansion of Green energy adoption. Apart from Solar and Wind, Hydrogen fuel production has also been identified as an excellent opportunity to curb India’s dependence on energy imports and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, thereby, tackling climate change challenges.

Further, Green Hydrogen is widely expected to significantly decarbonize heavy and hard-to-abate industries, including oil refineries, steel mills and fertilizer plants. India’s current fuel output is meagre and comes from only a handful of pilot projects.

To accelerate this transition to Green Hydrogen, the Indian government has suggested investing INR 800 Cr. by 2024 on pilot projects, infrastructure and supply chain, research and development, laws & regulations and public awareness.

The government also opened doors for rolling out the much-awaited National Green Hydrogen Mission under the Union budget this year. Under this mission, the government plans to achieve five million metric tonnes (MMT) of green hydrogen production by 2030. National Green Hydrogen Mission is among the multiple budget announcements that focus on moving the country towards a decarbonization pathway.

While Green Hydrogen is regarded as a potential panacea to cut emissions, there are still significant challenges in scaling up the technology, build optimum infrastructure and making it cost-effective like:

Higher production costs

Currently, the main concern around scaling green Hydrogen is the high cost of production and dependency on advanced, efficient electrolyzers. However, the government seems confident that these will likely become cost-effective soon. “Recent trends and analysis indicate that driven by technology advancements, reduction in costs of renewable energy and electrolyzers, and aggressive national strategies by some of the major economies, green Hydrogen is likely to become cost-competitive in applications across industry, mobility, and other sectors within a short span.

Currently, the cost of production of green Hydrogen from electrolysis is between $4.10 to $7 per kg of the clean gas, based on the technology used. However, as per projections, the cost in India is likely to come down to as low as $1.7/kg to $2.4/kg by 2030, with the expected reduction in electrolyzer cost and cost of production of renewable energy.

Storage of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is typically stored by compression, cooling, or hybrid methods. Material-based hydrogen storage is also being developed in the form of solids, liquids, or surface-based materials. However, there are some technical challenges with the storage of Hydrogen, as discussed below.

  • High energy requirement in compressed hydrogen storage due to low specific gravity
  • Temperature and pressure requirements while storing Hydrogen in solid form
  • Design aspects, legal issues, social concerns, and high cost
  • Low durability of materials (fibre, metals, polymers etc.) for storage and potential chemical reactions raise safety concerns.

End-use of Hydrogen

When it comes to end-use, several challenges need to be addressed before the large-scale commercialization of Hydrogen as discussed below.

  • Need for weight, volume, and cost minimization of compressed hydrogen gas tanks for vehicles and fuel cell stacks
  • Efficiency, degradation issues, durability, resiliency, size, power, and current densities of the fuel cell need improvement
  • Lack of systems monitoring the performance and state of health of the system
  • High complexity of the fuel cell system, especially with thermal and water management, purification, and humidification
  • Low run time of fuel cells for portable electronic devices has to be improved without increasing the size.

Way Forward

In summary, green Hydrogen has the potential to act as a lever to decarbonize the energy sector, especially the hard-to-reach areas of heating and heavy-duty transport. The advancement in digitalization offers various opportunities to harness Hydrogen as one of the prominent sources of energy and storage for energy needs. However, challenges need to be addressed to maximize the potential and commercialization. Especially in the Indian context, only those states which have required infrastructure, policy support and demand are likely to thrive in the domestic green hydrogen market. Several states which have refineries already have established natural gas pipelines. There are also city gas distribution pipelines. Such existing infrastructure needs to be captured and modified to ensure early offtake of the technology.

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