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National Hydrogen Mission: Making a greener choice for futurePrime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) on India’s 75th Independence Day, i.e. on 15 August 2021 stating that the aim is to make the country a global hub for the production and export of green hydrogen. India has already set a target of achieving 450 GW renewable energy by 2030.

The PM’s announcement takes forward the proposal, made in the Budget 2021, for the launch of National Hydrogen Mission that will enable the generation of hydrogen from green power sources. In April 2021, speaking at the Hydrogen Round Table on ‘Hydrogen Economy: New Delhi Dialogue-2021’, the then Union Minister for Petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan had noted it was the goal of controlling emissions that makes hydrogen fuel so attractive to policy-makers.

Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless gas abundant in the Earth’s atmosphere and is utilised for industrial uses such as petroleum refining, aerospace applications and manufacturing of chemicals, steel, and ammonia fertilisers. For industrial processes, hydrogen is extracted primarily through two methods, the gasification of coal or through a process called steam methane reformation (SMR).

In SME, methane from natural gas, when heated with steam, produces carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be used as fuel. However, these methods aren’t carbon-friendly, which means they cause vast emissions of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide. The hydrogen produced from these methods is called ‘Brown Hydrogen’.

Another form of hydrogen, known as ‘Blue Hydrogen’, is also extracted similarly through SMR but is more carbon-friendly because it captures the carbon dioxide released and stores it, as opposed to emitting it into the atmosphere.

Green Hydrogen, meanwhile, proposes to extract hydrogen without releasing any emissions at all. The primary method of production is through electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the source of electricity is renewable, the hydrogen production can also be considered renewable.

India has taken several exploratory steps towards achieving its goal in utilising hydrogen as a major resource. A total of 14 research and development (R&D) projects are currently being pursued. Also, in September 2020, 18 percent blend of Hydrogen with CNG (HCNG) was notified as an automotive fuel.

The government is currently working on a pilot project on Blue Hydrogen, Hydrogen CNG (H-CNG) and Green Hydrogen. It is looking at blending hydrogen with compressed natural gas for use as transportation fuel as well as an industrial input to refineries. Fifty buses have been rolled out as part of a pilot project in Delhi that use blended hydrogen in compressed natural gas (CNG) with plans to scale it up in the coming months across the country.

Apart from this, JSW Energy is partnering with Australia-based Fortescue Future Industries on green hydrogen for steelmaking and hydrogen mobility. Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) has announced plans to build the country’s first green hydrogen plant at its Mathura refinery. Furthermore, BGR Energy has launched a new partnership with Ireland’s Fusion Fuel Green on a demonstrator plant for cost-competitive green hydrogen. In addition, several companies have set up the India Hydrogen Alliance, led by Reliance Industries.

ACME Group recently commissioned the world’s first integrated commercial-scale pilot plant for green hydrogen production in Rajasthan. Green hydrogen at the plant will be produced using a five MWp solar array, which is an integral part of the project. The green ammonia plant, once commissioned, will produce five tpd of green ammonia, with an annual output of 1,750 tonne to 1,800 tonne of green fuel.

In a recent event, Ohmium International, a US-based renewable energy start-up, on 24 August 2021 launched India’s first green hydrogen electrolyzer gigafactory at Bengaluru, Karnataka through its India subsidiary. The gigafactory will manufacture India-made Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) hydrogen electrolyzers with an initial manufacturing capacity of about 500 MW per year and will scale it up to two GW per year

The PEM hydrogen electrolyzer is the main equipment to produce green hydrogen as it uses power generated from renewable resources to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. The start-up has developed technology which can be both distributed and scaled-up.

While the cost of developing technologies to produce ‘Green’ Hydrogen are cost intensive, falling renewable energy and fuel cell prices and stringent climate change requirements have provided an impetus for the investments in this area. The Central government is going to commit an outlay of Rs 800 crore between 2021 to 2024 for pilot projects and research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects while investments from private players are also being counted on for a push towards a hydrogen future.

The government has been supporting various projects in academic institutions, research and development organisations and industry for development of hydrogen.

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