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Tapping hydrogen energy to achieve net-zero emissions

Hydrogen is already extensively used in some industries, but it has not yet realized its potential to support clean energy transitions. Ambitious, aimed, and near-term action is crucial to further overcome barriers.  

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The time is right to tap into hydrogen's potential to secure a clean and affordable energy future. For decades, governments and industries have invested in hydrogen R&D as a future fuel. Globally, governments are developing hydrogen strategies. A global race to develop regional and national hydrogen economies is in progress, with the number of projects and regional policies globally expanding swiftly.

The number of countries with policies that directly support investment in hydrogen technologies is growing, along with the number of sectors they target. Several pilot projects scrutinizing various applications for hydrogen use and viability studies for its transportation are underway.

Tremendous momentum exists, with over 200 H2 projects announced globally

According to the Hydrogen Council report Hydrogen Insights 2021 - globally, there are 228 hydrogen projects across the value chain. Of these, 17 are already-announced giga-scale production projects (i.e., more than 1 GW for renewable and over 200 thousand tons a year for low-carbon hydrogen), with the biggest in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and Chile.

Source: Hydrogen Council’s Hydrogen Insights 2021 report

As per the report, Europe leads globally in the number of announced hydrogen projects, with Australia, Japan, Korea, China, and the USA following as additional hubs. Of all announced projects, 55 percent are in Europe. While Europe is home to 105 production projects, the announced projects cover the entire hydrogen value chain including midstream and downstream.

ASIA PACIFIC

Amidst the increasing feasibility of the technology, government support, and investor interests in various markets, considerable growth opportunities are proliferated for the green hydrogen sector in the Asia Pacific over the coming years.

Asia Pacific region continues to be a high-potential market, as it remains the fastest-expanding region for energy demand and renewables growth over the coming decades. The potential also offers a possible secondary use for excess power generation from intermittent renewables as a form of energy storage.

The World Energy Storage Day 2021 Global Conference & Expo, brought together industry veterans, policymakers, academia, innovators, and professionals from around the world on a single platform to deliberate on the role of hydrogen as the new oil for the sustainable energy transition and powering the tomorrow's world with energy-efficient power supply and achieving carbon neutrality.

Japan taking lead in H2 development

Japan was one of the pioneers in the hydrogen sector, being the first in the world to adopt a 'Basic Hydrogen Strategy in 2017. The government has made investments in research and development in the sector over the past few years and has continued to provide strong support and funding for several projects

Ohira Eiji, Director - New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), said: "Hydrogen is key to achieving carbon neutrality. The technology is ready, there is a need to enhance its application and improve efficiency. Scaling-up and integration with other energy systems are critical to this endeavor."

Transitioning to green hydrogen

Green hydrogen progressively looks likely to have a role to play in accomplishing decarbonization targets globally, and investments and innovation are scaling up. 

Dr. Carsten Schmitt, CEO - ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers (Japan) Ltd., said: "Green hydrogen has turned out to be the missing piece of the energy puzzle. We are witnessing a transition from small-scale pilots to industrial-scale green hydrogen applications. Scaling up achieves traditional economic advantages, but also improves efficiency."

Hydrogen production value chain

As per a PwC report, Hydrogen demand by 2050 could vary from 150 to 500 million metric tons per year, depending on global climate ambitions and the development of sector-specific activities, energy-efficiency measures, direct electrification, and the use of carbon-capture technologies. 

Alan Kneisz, Global Business Development Director - Cummins Hydrogenics, said: "Hydrogen is the most abundant zero-emission fuel available. With aggressive decarbonization targets, captive markets have large demands for green hydrogen. Producing green hydrogen can be cost-effective, considering some of the world's lowest renewable energy prices."

Reducing CO2 emissions

Green hydrogen can help to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in energy-intensive, hard-to-decarbonize sectors. 

Don Owens, CEO of HNO Green Fuels said: "Addressing back carbon is critical to address the effects of climate change. Green Hydrogen is the right technology to help cut black carbon emissions and ultimately save the planet."

INDIA, SAARC, and RUSSIA

Like other countries, India too aims to make the most out of this abundantly available element, i.e., hydrogen.

In November 2020, at the 3rd Global RE-INVEST Renewable Energy Investors Meet & Expo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Central government plans to put in place a Comprehensive National Hydrogen Energy Mission.

On the same lines, on February 1, 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the Union Budget 2021-22 announced a proposal to launch a Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22 for generating hydrogen from green power sources.

Tarun Kapoor, Secretary - Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, GoI, said: "Green Hydrogen-powered vehicles would become a reality in the future as the planning and discussions are on cards. We could face various challenges in terms of assembling, plants, storage, and transportation, but these odds are short-lived as India is making tremendous progress in using renewable energy sources and will continue to do so."

Niti Aayog, the policy think tank of the government of India has been at the forefront with its efforts to develop green hydrogen as the sustainable future fuel and being integral in establishing the National Hydrogen Energy Mission in the country. It is also in discussions with the relevant stakeholders to chart out India's approach to green hydrogen.  

Kowthamraj V.S., Expert, Clean-tech Manufacturing - NITI Aayog, said: "India should aim to be for electrolyzers what China is for PV. India's dream to become a green hydrogen economy without manufacturing electrolyzers is very difficult. If India wants to be one of the largest green hydrogen utilizers in the world, then we probably have to make our own electrolyzers."

Tapping the hydrogen wave

ACME Group has set up the world's first integrated commercial-scale pilot plant for Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia production in Rajasthan. Green hydrogen will be produced using 5 MWp from the solar plant scalable to 10 MWp, which is an integral part of the project. The green ammonia plant will be producing 5 tons per day of Green Ammonia with an annual output of 1,750-1,800 tons of green fuel.

Manoj Upadhyay, Founder & MD - ACME Group, said: "After building India's first solar to green hydrogen to green ammonia plant four years ago on an experimental basis, the learnings are important to share: Alkaline electrolyzers can handle the renewable variation. The electrolyzer is good enough to scale up. The ammonia produced by solar can be transported cheaply using the State transportation mechanism. It can be reverted if needed by using a cracker and hydrogen can be produced for consumption. The same ammonia can be cracked, and it can run a large gas generator or a large turbine, providing peaking power. One can have 24-hour power; it is cheaper than a battery and can be stored for many days and months."

This shows is that hydrogen is quickly reaching the level of blue or grey hydrogen. What we now need is for the policymaker and stakeholders to come together, put it to the market and start using it. Mr. Upadhyay added.

DMR Panda, General Manager - NTPC, said: "Although we carry the name Thermal, NTPC has not awarded a single project in the last six years which is based on fossil fuel, either coal or gas-based. We are also in the process of shutting down whatever we had awarded earlier. Whatever capacity we have added in the last 45 years in coal, we will add an equal amount of power in renewables."

EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST, and AFRICA

With the hydrogen economy set to boom in the next few years globally, Europe is emerging as the clear leader in planned installations and government policy supporting the sector.

The European Green Deal combines the twin effort of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and preparing Europe's industry for a climate-neutral economy. Within this framework, hydrogen has been singled out as central for addressing both issues and for evolving our energy systems.

Apart from setting out policy and strategy guidance on hydrogen, the EU also supports many projects and initiatives on hydrogen.

Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Consultant - NorthBridge Energy Partners, said: "To decarbonize, we have to decarbonize the entire global energy economy. Green hydrogen will be a key energy carrier that will allow us to make this transition."

Dr. Angela Kruth, Leiterin Materialien für die Energietechnik, Sprecherin und Koordinatorin CAMPFIRE, said: "We [CAMPFIRE] focus on the production of ammonia, seasonal and regional and we see significant cost advantage of this especially for the marine transport industry in addition to lowering carbon emissions. We focus on research and projects to enable an entire ammonia energy system."

Cornelius Matthes, CEO - Dii Dessert Energy, said: "The oil and gas market has declined over the past years, and therefore it is inevitable to start massively diversifying in this decade. Even the region (MENA) understands this. There is a massive development in the region with no shortage of bold initiatives by developers, however, to work in an international context and to create joint markets (globally) for green molecules that is what is needed now."

Emanuele Taibi, Power Sector Transformation Strategies - IRENA, said: "Hydrogen can be used practically across the entire energy system, but applications need to be prioritized complementing other decarbonization pathways."

Thierry Lieperq, Founder & CEO - DH2 energy; President - Soladvent, said: "The way to go for India and other countries is to go to scale immediately, by bringing to up to speed the midstream, downstream, and financers together. The government is helpful not only for subsidies on the downstream side but also for developing regulations. However, the leadership role has to be taken by the industry."

UNITED STATES, LATIN AMERICA, and CANADA

The U.S. is already heavily engaged in the hydrogen economy with hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment per year.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Earthshots Initiative aims to accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade.

The first Energy Earthshot, launched on June 7, 2021—Hydrogen Shot—pursues to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per 1 kilogram in 1 decade ('1-1-1').

The Hydrogen Shot establishes a framework and foundation for clean hydrogen deployment in the American Jobs Plan, which includes support for demonstration projects. Industries are beginning to implement clean hydrogen to reduce emissions, yet many hurdles remain to deploying it at scale. Currently, hydrogen from renewable energy costs about $5 per kilogram.

Achieving the Hydrogen Shot's 80 percent cost reduction goal can unlock new markets for hydrogen, including steel manufacturing, clean ammonia, energy storage, and heavy-duty trucks. This would create more clean energy jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and position America to compete in the clean energy market on a global scale. These efforts would ensure that environmental protection and benefits for local communities are a priority. 

US DOE H2@scale program

Dr. Sunita Satyapal, Director - Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program & Fuel Cless Technologies Office, US DOE, said: "Last year, for the very first-time renewables crossed 1 GW. DOE has some goals in place that include a net-zero economy by 2050, long-duration energy storage development, and much more on the decarbonization path. Our H2@scale program aims to decarbonize sectors including the chemicals, transportation industry. We have new tools developed for long-duration energy storage and value proposition, hybrid system, thermal integration, and grid services using hydrogen. DOE has partnered with various organizations globally to accomplish and accelerate decarbonization.

Large-scale energy storage

Fernando De Sisternes, Sr. Energy Specialist - The World Bank, said: "The recent push to large-scale energy storage will play an important role in decarbonization. Over the last 20 years, good work has been done on decarbonization. Green hydrogen can play an important role in the clean flexible energy vector. In developing countries, the challenge is that the availability of power is limited. Green hydrogen can open good prospects for long-duration energy storage."

Hydrogen garners global attention

Rob Harvey, Director - Energy Infrastructure, Hydorgenics/Cummins, said: "There is a lot of interest around the world for green hydrogen storage applications, as many developers are looking to get into this space."

Hydrogen-based energy storage

Tony Leo, Executive VP & CTO - FuelCell Energy, said: "We have been in the business for past 50 years developing products on the affordable fuel cell solutions. We have three different methods to generate hydrogen i.e., trigeneration, carbonate REP, and solid oxide electrolysis. Hydrogen-based energy storage can be a significant impact on energy savings."

Author : Moulin Oza
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