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Published on: Nov. 4, 2021, 11:48 a.m.
Zero carbon goal and role of hydrogen
  • Linde's hydrogen fuelling station near Munich

By Moloy Banerjee. The author is Head of South Asia, Linde

Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved - Dr. Jane Goodall 

The world is driven by energy – constantly transforming from one form to the other, driving the macro and micro mechanisms of our world. In this energy-driven world, shift from heavy carbon-based fossil fuels to low carbon fuels (like natural gas) and Renewable Energy (RE) like Solar, Wind, Hydro, Nuclear, etc. would be instrumental in achieving our decarbonisation goals. 

The key issue lies in the mode of energy storage and transporting in a clean way. There are two ways we can do this – electricity or hydrogen. Zero carbon electricity is generated directly from the RE generation pathways like solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, etc. and it can be transported through wires and stored in batteries. Green hydrogen must be first generated by electrolysis using RE so there is no CO2 emission in the whole process. It can be transported and stored as high-pressure gas or as a cryogenic liquid. While transport of electricity is cheaper than transporting hydrogen, hydrogen is a cheaper option for big energy storage compared to battery. 

While electricity may play the leading role in reducing GHG emissions, it cannot address sectors such as long-distance transport, energy and hydrogen intensive industrial application. Hydrogen is an ideal energy vector which can be carbon free and can be transported and stored economically. 

The future of hydrogen will be determined by policy decisions, relative costs and technical performance, across each potential application as fuel or process gas. The success of the Electrolyzer technology, which is still in its infancy, will play a key role in reducing the cost to make green hydrogen and how easily it can be deployed across multiple sectors of the economy. 

The project pipeline for “green” hydrogen, produced using renewable electricity is expanding rapidly. Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) of RE in electricity sector has been successfully used by the government to bring about a step jump in increase on RE production, the scale of production in turn has helped to bring down costs. Similar strategy of mandating use of green hydrogen for industrial use in refineries, fertilizers, glass, steel annealing will help to achieve lower cost of green hydrogen. The good news for hydrogen is that there have been rapid technology advances which will help to reduce cost and improve reliability of hydrogen production.

Developments in modern Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) as well as traditional alkaline technology for electrolysis and construction of large-scale units are helping to bring down hydrogen cost. PEM offers high efficiency, fast response to intermittent power conditions, does not require chemicals – implying greater safety and ease of maintenance. 

Other important aspect is transport of hydrogen. The cost of transport of hydrogen can be equal or higher than cost of production and it depends on distance and demand. We must evaluate and make high pressure gaseous transport and liquid hydrogen transport commercially viable. Hydrogen storage in underground caverns is also an option. 

Linde for example operates hydrogen cavern in the Gulf Coast in US which helps to provide reliability of supply. Because RE generation varies significantly across time of the day, energy storage to capture peak generation and release it during the off-peak hours is crucial – the energy can be stored as electricity in battery or as hydrogen in pressure vessels. High pressure hydrogen storage in steel vessels scores over battery. Use of underground caverns for hydrogen storage offers further economy of scale – in fact, storage in caverns may be crucial for large scale commercialisation of green hydrogen. 

All this bodes well for green hydrogen economy in India. Government initiatives must be directed at setting out the standards for high pressure and liquid hydrogen transport and storage in consultation with industry, mandating green hydrogen consumption obligation, and cutting down interstate barriers to RE electricity transmission. Participation of private enterprise through the PPP model is equally important to leapfrog green H2 economy and secure the Prime Minister’s vision of energy independence by 2047.

Renewable energy producers, and industrial gas companies like Linde will play a key role in such partnerships through build own operate (BOO) schemes to invest and more importantly create execution and operational expertise in the country by leveraging upon their access to global technology & financing. 

As an example of its hydrogen advocacy and driving sustainable development through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Linde is contributing to construction of the world’s first passenger train hydrogen filling station in Germany. Expected to commence in 2022, the station is being designed to fuel 14 Alstom hydrogen-powered trains along an approximately 200-km route.

Linde Hydrogen FuelTech is building the refueling station and providing the equipment to supply the hydrogen. When complete, it will have a capacity of 1.6 M.Ton of hydrogen per day. To quote David Burns, VP Clean Energy Development at Linde, “We are committed to helping the world reach its climate targets by contributing with our knowledge, expertise and infrastructure to the development of the hydrogen economy”. 

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