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We expect green hydrogen to out-compete fossil fuel derived hydrogen by 2030: Will Hall, TERI

We expect green hydrogen to out-compete fossil fuel derived hydrogen by 2030: Will Hall, TERI


Will Hall shares his knowledge on the hydrogen landscape in India and what is being done currently to help India move towards a hydrogen economy

As the cost of renewable electricity continues to fall, along with the costs of electrolysis technology, green hydrogen is expected to triumph over fossil fuel derived hydrogen by 2030, Will Hall, Associate Fellow at The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), tells EtEnergyworld in an interview. He also shares his knowledge on the hydrogen landscape in India and what is being done currently to help India move towards a hydrogen economy.

What is the main difference between Green Hydrogen and Hydrogen being used currently in the chemical and petrochemical industry?

Green hydrogen is produced from renewable electricity, with water as an input into the electrolysis process. It produces no CO2 emissions. The dominant technology being used in the chemical and petrochemical industries is steam methane reforming, which uses natural gas as an input, resulting in significant CO2 emissions. In refineries, some by-product hydrogen is produced from catalytic naphtha reformers (CNR), which is then being used in the desulphurisation of fuels.

Which production method is being used at a mass scale currently in India?

Steam methane reforming using natural gas is the dominant production method, although few naphtha to hydrogen and coal to hydrogen plants exist or are being planned (e.g. fertiliser plant in Talcher). The dominant end-use sectors for this hydrogen are fertilisers and refineries.

Which production method would be the most economically and environmentally viable?

In future, our assessment is that green hydrogen will start to compete with conventional routes. As the costs of renewable electricity continue to fall, along with the costs of electrolysis technology, we expect green hydrogen to out compete fossil fuel derived hydrogen by 2030. This is made more likely in India by the dual impact of very cheap renewable tariffs and relatively high natural gas prices, due to the need for imports. Today, hydrogen from natural gas is the most economically viable but it involves significant CO2 emissions.

Are there any leading pilot projects focusing on Green Hydrogen currently in India?

NTPC is looking to establish several major green hydrogen plants, to feed nearby industries. A plan is being made in Andhra Pradesh, as well as elsewhere.

What is the current policy landscape and support provided by the government regarding R&D and investment?

The Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been providing early-stage R&D support for a range of hydrogen technologies including production from biomass, methane reformation, electrolysis, photolysis (directly from sunlight), storage of hydrogen and transportation of hydrogen. There has also been some support for pilot projects, such as hydrogen buses under Indian Oil.

What large scale opportunities does green hydrogen provide to the private sector in the hydrogen fuel cells and otherwise?

Green hydrogen provides significant opportunities for India to expand into a new clean energy technology sector, developing domestic manufacturing expertise to supply both the Indian market and abroad. The main technology of importance will be electrolysers. There are currently no major Indian manufacturers of this technology, with electrolysers currently used in India being imported from German, Norwegian or Japanese companies. The private sector in India would need to establish joint ventures with these manufacturers in order to establish manufacturing hubs here in India, which could then form partnerships with key academic institutions to turn India’s research activities into manufacturing capability.

Using green hydrogen also has the potential to save private sector companies money, as the costs continue to fall. We expect methanol production to first become competitive, then fertiliser production and refineries, followed by steel at some point in the 2030s. This would displace imported fuels such as natural gas and coking coal with a domestically sourced energy supply, providing significant forex benefits also. Green hydrogen could also play a role in the heavy-duty or long distance transport segments, such as trucking or buses – which could also save these companies money. Companies such as Indian Oil and Tata Motors are operating in this area.

Which countries have been the most successful in economically using the hydrogen fuel cells?

Japan is the leader on fuel cell technology, although this is not necessarily the most important use of hydrogen. Fuel cells turn hydrogen back into electricity (and some waste heat) but most of the key industrial uses of hydrogen which we see as most important do not require a fuel cell, as the hydrogen is used directly as a chemical feedstock. Other countries or regions which look set to be successful on hydrogen are Australia and the European Union (with Germany, France, Portugal emerging as leaders at this stage). Norway is also proactive on hydrogen.

Which Indian companies have been the most successful in regards to hydrogen production and using it as an automobile fuel?

Indian Oil Limited is leading the work on using hydrogen in the transport segment, establishing HCNG stations, as well as announcing a hydrogen fuel cell bus pilot. Tata Motors is also developing hydrogen buses and have been working in this area for many years.

In TERI’s recent report ‘MAKE HYDROGEN IN INDIA’, it was mentioned that India has the first large scale alkaline electrolyser facility for producing hydrogen from electricity at Nangal Facility from 1962. What impact does it have in helping India move towards a hydrogen economy?

Electrolysers have been used to produce hydrogen for the fertiliser industry for many years all around the world. India has no particular advantage in this area to date, although the fact that the facility was up and running shows the feasibility of the technology, even if it has been mostly displaced by natural gas today. Other areas where India does have a competitive advantage to help launch a green hydrogen economy include, excellent technical research institutions (both university and private companies), extremely cheap renewables, large energy imports (which the government aims to reduce), and significant requirements for new industrial capacity in the coming decades, which will provide a huge domestic market for hydrogen technologies.

Where does hydrogen implementation stand currently with respect to the goals first set by the National Hydrogen Energy board in 2006?

On goals, the Hydrogen Energy Board said:

“The project aims to reduce India’s dependence on import of petroleum products, promote the use of diverse, domestic, and sustainable new and renewable energy sources; to provide electricity to remote, far‐flung, rural and other electricity deficient areas and promote use of hydrogen as a fuel for transport and power generation; to reduce carbon emissions from energy production and consumption, to increase reliability and efficiency of electricity generation; to generate 1000 MW electricity using fuel cells by 2020 and 1 Million vehicles running on Hydrogen based IC Engines and fuel cells by 2020.”

Little progress has been made against these goals. Arguably the technology was at too early a stage at that point and so adoption of hydrogen was too costly or impractical. Today, much is different, with renewables significantly cheaper, electrolyser costs falling, and a greater focus on climate change, which will drive action much faster. We also expect less focus on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, due to the rapid cost reductions of battery electric vehicles. We expect most hydrogen use will be in the industrial end use segments – methanol, fertiliser, refineries, and steel.

Source: energy.economictimes.indiatimes
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network