About Green Hydrogen
- Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind or hydel power.
- It is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity.
- That makes green hydrogen the cleanest option – hydrogen from renewable energy sources without CO2 as a by-product.
- But only 0.04% of hydrogen is green, and blue hydrogen is less than 1%.
Other Types of Hydrogen
- Hydrogen can be ‘grey’, ‘brown’, ‘Turquoise’ and ‘blue’ too.
- The vast majority of industrial hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas through a conventional process known as steam methane reforming (SMR). The standard SMR process produces what is known as Grey Hydrogen and has the major disadvantage of releasing large quantities of by-product CO2 into the atmosphere – the main culprit for climate change.
- Grey hydrogen has increasingly been produced also from coal, with significantly higher CO2 emissions per unit of hydrogen produced so much that it is often called brown or black hydrogen instead of grey.
- Blue hydrogen, too, is produced using electricity generated by burning methane or coal but with technologies to prevent the carbon released in the process from entering the atmosphere;
- Turquoise hydrogen is made using a process called methane pyrolysis to produce hydrogen and solid carbon. As a result, there is no requirement for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the carbon can even be used in other applications. Where the electricity driving the pyrolysis is renewable, the process is zero-carbon.
`How are International countries utilising Hydrogen?
The number and scale of projects using and making hydrogen, a gas that releases energy when burned without emitting carbon dioxide, is rapidly growing.
- A Euro 2.5 billion (GBP 2.18 billion) undersea pipeline will convey “green hydrogen” from Spain to France from 2030.
- In the US, some power stations are being upgraded to allow hydrogen to be blended with fossil gas.
- The Norwegian oil company Equinor is teaming up with Thermal SSE to build a 1,800 megawatt (MW) “blue hydrogen” power plant in Britain.
- China unveiled a plan in March which includes deploying 50,000 hydrogen vehicles by 2025 and early December saw the first hydrogen-fuelled tractors and forklifts leave the assembly line at a new plant in Guangdong province.
What are the advantages of hydrogen as a fuel?
- The intermittent nature of renewable energy, especially wind, leads to grid instability. Green hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time.
- The stored hydrogen can be used to produce electricity using fuel cells. In a fuel cell, a device that converts the energy of a chemical into electricity, hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen to produce electricity and water vapour. Hydrogen, thus, can act as an energy storage device and contribute to grid stability.
- Experts say the oxygen, (produced as a by-product), can also be monetised by using it for industrial and medical applications or for enriching the environment.
What are the concerns in producing Green Hydrogen?
- Green hydrogen is essential for decarbonisation: to replace fossil fuels in steelmaking, ammonia production for fertilisers and possibly shipping and trucking- processes which are difficult to electrify.
- Some green hydrogen is crosshatched with dirtier hues as in its production a lot of energy is wasted in the double transformation from electricity to gas and then fuel.
- If green hydrogen production is scaled up to play a significant economic role by 2050, its freshwater demand will exceed one-quarter of today’s global annual consumption, risking water scarcity in some regions.
- Hydrogen is meaningfully green only if the renewable energy that generates it cannot be fed into the grid to replace power from gas or coal plants.
- During sunny or windy spells, a glut of renewable energy generation can slash electricity prices, freeing them from the grip of natural gas prices for a few hours at a time. Green hydrogen won’t gain the necessary price advantage over blue hydrogen and fossil gas until electricity markets are restructured.
Why is India pursuing green hydrogen?
- India’s average annual energy import bill is more than $100 billion and the increased consumption of fossil fuel has made India a high carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter, accounting for nearly 7% of the global CO2 burden.
- In order to become energy independent by 2047, the government stressed the need to introduce green hydrogen as an alternative fuel that can make India not only become self-sufficient in green hydrogen but also produce green hydrogen for export markets.
- India is developing the National Green Hydrogen Energy Mission to scale up green hydrogen production and utilisation across multiple sectors. As part of this, India is targeting initially approximately 1 million tonnes annual green hydrogen production by 2030.
- The Mission is expected to create a framework for generating demand for green hydrogen in sectors such as petroleum refining and fertiliser production; support for indigenous manufacturing of critical technologies; research and development activities; and an enabling policy and regulatory framework.
- India is also participating in Mission Innovation Challenge for clean hydrogen to accelerate the development of a global hydrogen market by identifying and overcoming key technology barriers to the production, distribution, storage, and use of hydrogen at a gigawatt scale. By 2050 India intends to produce three-fourths of its hydrogen from renewable resources.
- The Mission Innovation is a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Commission (on behalf of the European Union) catalysing investment in research, development and demonstration to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible for all. Mission Innovation was launched in 2015.
- Considering India’s objective of raising non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030, it is imperative that our energy mix involves other green technologies on a medium-to-long term basis.
Why are low carbon fuels not being encouraged over fossil fuel?
- The high price of oil and gas has turbocharged the industry’s expansion.
- In the EU, as in many economies, electricity pricing is based on the principle of marginal costs, which means that the most expensive source (typically fossil gas) sets the wholesale power price.
- The US government is exhorting oil and fracking firms to “drill baby drill”. Britain’s government is to award more than 100 licenses to drill for oil and gas and colossal new fossil fuel investments have been announced across the Middle East and Africa.
- The owners of newly-built wells, pipelines and terminals will fight to defend those assets and stall decarbonisation.
- Now fossil-fuel firms are rebranding themselves as agents of “carbon management.” The aim is to prevent their assets from getting stranded by repurposing them, presenting a largely fictional substance, blue hydrogen, as a low-carbon “bridge” to an unspecified green future.
- Other sectors have joined the oil-led coalition. The Gas network operators and boiler manufacturers see their survival in this ploy as hydrogen’s inefficiencies allow them to sell more power.
What needs to be done to make Green Hydrogen competitive?
- The decarbonisation stalling operations by fossil fuel firms need to be tackled by policy level intervention.
- Governments will need to regulate or tax carbon out of the market while simultaneously ramping up renewables.
- The approach to electricity pricing also needs to shift, to decouple the prices of electricity generated from renewables and fossil gas.
- The marginal pricing system hugely benefits renewable project owners, since they profit from high electricity prices and effectively zero input costs.
- An alternative market structure would set rewards for generators according to their average costs plus a slight surplus which could be reinvested into deploying more renewables and other green technologies, providing consumers with cheap electricity.
- These interventions would give green hydrogen a competitive advantage over blue or grey variants, one that could be furthered with other subsidies, such as tax credits.
- In any future energy system, hydrogen will have a role. But its expansion must be carefully designed as it is widely hoped that a silver lining of today’s high gas prices will be green hydrogen becoming a cost-competitive alternative to dirty fuels in boilers, shipping tankers and steelworks furnaces but without electricity market reform, this opportunity is likely to be squandered.