Industry welcomes nod for Hydrogen Mission

Sapna Gopal

In 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Green Hydrogen Policy for the country. This transcended into reality when the Union Cabinet, chaired by the PM, approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission on January 4th, 2023. 

A day after the mission was given the nod, Union Minister of Power and NRE, R.K Singh, said the mission will drive the development of the green hydrogen ecosystem in the country through an array of measures towards demand creation, strengthening the supply side while working on regulatory framework, technology and innovation to enhance affordability of green hydrogen.

According to an official notification, the initial outlay for the mission will be Rs 19,744 crore, including an outlay of Rs 17,490 crore for the SIGHT programme, Rs 1,466 crore for pilot projects, Rs 400 crore for research and development and Rs 388 crore towards other components of the mission.  It has been decided that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) will formulate guidelines for the scheme, for implementation of the respective components.

It is estimated that India’s green hydrogen production capacity is likely to reach at least 5 MMT per annum, with an associated renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 GW.  The targets by 2030 are likely to bring in over Rs. 8 lakh crore investments and create over 6 lakh jobs.  Nearly 50 MMT per annum of CO2 emissions are expected to be averted by 2030.

As per the notification, the mission will facilitate demand creation, production, utilization and export of Green Hydrogen.  Under the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), two distinct financial incentive mechanisms – targeting domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and production of Green Hydrogen – will be provided under the Mission.  It will also support pilot projects in emerging end-use sectors and production pathways.  Regions capable of supporting large scale production and/or utilization of Hydrogen will be identified and developed as Green Hydrogen Hubs.

Meanwhile, industry experts have welcomed the move and feel it is the right way forward, more so for industries in India, that are often cited as the biggest emitters of fossil fuels.

Pashupathy Gopalan, Director of Ohmium, India’s largest electrolyser manufacturer, believes that industries are the toughest to decarbonise--here, hydrogen is very important. In such a scenario, the government's move to announce the National Hydrogen Mission is a starting point. To get the use of hydrogen in the refining/fertilser industry to switch to green hydrogen---for a country of India's size, the announcements will propel the concept forward. Switching to green steel and hydrogen based boilers will also help decarbonize industries.

According to Pawan Mulukutla, Program Director, Clean Mobility and Energy Tech at WRI, the launch of the green hydrogen mission will catalyse the creation of a green hydrogen economy in India. "Green hydrogen as a feedstock for industry and fuel for transport, heating, and energy applications has the potential to become a cross sectoral decarbonization vector. The mission will accelerate the adoption of green hydrogen across sectors by targeted interventions to achieve technical and commercial viability, and creation of a domestic value chain," he added.

While renewable energy has to be effective at decarbonizing the electricity sector, the mission will set India on a path to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries, and transport sectors which are un-viable for electrification. It is also expected to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and natural gas thereby reducing overall emissions, by substituting them with domestically produced green hydrogen, he explained.

Key requirement
Pawan Mulukutla believes that RE capacity and transmission infrastructure will be the two critical requirements for establishing domestic green hydrogen production. While India is already a matured market for renewables and has a robust grid transmission network, the scale of green hydrogen targeted through the mission will required significant additional renewable energy and transmission capacity. “These infrastructure requirements will have to be planned in tandem with India’s increasing electricity demand as a rapidly developing nation”.

The manufacturing value chain for key components like electrolysers, fuel cells, hydrogen storage and transport infrastructure will also play a critical role in mission implementation. Access to latest technologies and manufacturing processes will be essential to scale the green hydrogen ecosystem.  Though the mission has a roadmap and financial outlay to support R&D activities for developing domestic capabilities, availability of technology and manufacturing expertise might be in-sufficient in the short term, he added.

Understanding supply chain requirements (specifically electrolysers) and its interdependence and relationship with the domestic hydrogen value chain will be critical to understand how targeted demand can be achieved. Requirements of raw materials based on technology must be carefully assessed and the national government must enable linkages to critical raw materials/minerals required for a green hydrogen ecosystem, he suggested.

Fostering growth
Encouragingly for the sector, developments such as NTPC commencing India’s first green hydrogen blending operation have been an added bonus. The initiative is a joint effort of NTPC and Gujarat Gas Limited and blending began in the piped natural gas (PNG) network of NTPC Kawas township, Surat. This set-up is geared up to supply H2-NG (natural gas) to households of Kawas township at Adityanagar, Surat. Green hydrogen in Kawas is made by electrolysis of water using power from already installed 1 MW floating solar project.

In a parallel development, railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced that hydrogen trains would start operating along eight heritage routes in the country, in the next two years.

Is decarbonisation doable?
It is hoped that the Mission will have wide ranging benefits----these include creation of export opportunities for green hydrogen and its derivatives, decarbonisation of industrial, mobility and energy sectors, reduction in dependence on imported fossil fuels and feedstock, development of indigenous manufacturing capabilities; creation of employment opportunities; and development of cutting-edge technologies.

Pawan feels that the focus sectors for decarbonization through green hydrogen in the short and medium term will be hard-to-abate industrial sectors like fertilizers, chemicals, & steel. Green hydrogen adoption as a low carbon feedstock (directly as hydrogen or a derivative like ammonia or methanol) has the potential mitigate emissions from the industrial sectors. For the transport sector electrification will be the primary mode of decarbonization given the maturity of the technology, hydrogen adoption in the transport sector will be for specific niche applications like heavy & long-haul transport, shipping & rail.

“The green hydrogen mission has been designed with these techno-commercial challenges in mind where initial adoption is focussed towards industrial applications. A long-term roadmap has been laid out through the mission for hydrogen adoption in the mobility sector through pilot projects and R&D to enable ecosystem development for hydrogen applications in transportation,” he concluded.