Hydrogen actually happens to be the most abundant element in the Universe
Hydrogen is in the process of large scale adoption
Hydrogen is a wonderful alternate source of energy, which is also considered ‘clean.’ It is ‘clean’ because when employed as a raw material to power hydrogen fuel cells, the by-product or residue is nothing but water. In the era of toxic emissions, air and water pollution, etc. this is a big deal indeed. Hydrogen is literally everywhere you look – it’s one of the principal components of water, it’s in our bodies, it’s in the air. Hydrogen actually happens to be the most abundant element in the Universe, so the risk of running out is not at all glaring as opposed to that with fossil fuels, which to their discredit produce a lot of gaseous residues harmful for human lungs.
Hydrogen – Production and Sources
The abundance of Hydrogen is noteworthy. It can be mass-produced from a number of domestic resources, natural gas, biomass, nuclear power, and even renewable sources like wind and solar energy. This, coupled with other qualities, makes it an attractive option for electricity generation and transportation purposes. However, the latter is more commonly used than the former. Hydrogen as a fuel source finds usage in houses and cars and portable power options like fuel-cell batteries. Hydrogen can also be indirectly used to deliver, move, and store energy produced from other sources in tandem.
As of today, Hydrogen can be mass-produced through a number of ways. The most common methods which witness regular employment are electrolysis and natural gas reforming, which is a thermal process. Other methods might include induced biological reactions and solar-driven processes.
Need for Hydrogen as a Source of Future Energy
The energy demand for industrial and automotive sectors is ever-rising. The fossil fuels have been meeting this demand for a long time since the invention of conventional diesel and petrol engines, albeit at a great environmental cost. In the 21st century, the energy demand has increased manifold with the environmental pollution due to fossil fuels at almost saturation levels, so much so that the traditional fossil fuels can no more quench the thirst for clean and reliable energy satisfactorily.
Hydrogen is in the process of large scale adoption as a multi-sector solution. From shipping to aviation to long-distance land transportation, Hydrogen is fast emerging as a clean and green alternative to fuel heavy-duty vehicles. Hydrogen can also help run energy-intensive industrial processes. Owing to the current energy crisis, climate change, and environmental degradation due to classic fossil fuels, India is also exploring environmentally safe and reliable alternatives to fossil fuels. Hydrogen-based fuel cells are at the center of the alternative energy finding missions in addition to the solar and hydro-powered projects.
Hydrogen as an Alternative Energy Source in India – R&D and Government Support
The use of Hydrogen as an automotive fuel has gained some foothold in India as of 2020. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of India has been supporting various Hydrogen research projects in academic and research institutions as well as the industries for development purposes.
Some of these projects include the development of Hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines capable enough to power two and three-wheelers and even mini-buses. GoI has also helped in the setting up of two Hydrogen refueling stations in Haryana.
The Hydrogen industrial market in India was valued at a whopping $50 million in 2017. It is estimated to reach a massive $81 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.3% from 2018 to 2025.
In February 2020, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy teamed up with NTPC Ltd. to mull over launching a pilot fuel cell bus project.
Tata Motors, with collaborative help from IOCL and ISRO, had already launched a Hydrogen fuel cell bus in 2019. Hyundai, the Japanese automobile giant, has put in efforts to launch its first fuel cell SUV called NEXO in India by 2021. It also plans to build the required Hydrogen refueling/ fuel-cell recharging infrastructure to support the vehicles near the NCR region.
Some of the major players operating in India Hydrogen market are Air Liquide India, Bhuruka Gases Limited, DCW Limited (DCW), Ellenbarrie Industrial Gases Limited, GHCL Limited, Grasim Industries Limited, Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Limited, INOX Air Products, Linde India Limited, Praxair India Private Limited, and TATA Chemicals Limited, etc.
In this light, it’s worth mentioning the two pilot schemes launched by GoI to support Hydrogen fuel cell research and adoption.
Green Initiative for Future Transport (GIFT) – This scheme is aimed at developing and demonstrating a hydrogen-powered IC engine and fuel-cell based vehicles.
Green Initiative for Power Generation (GIP) – This initiative focuses on developing and demonstrating hydrogen-powered IC engine/Turbine and fuel cell.
Is Hydrogen dangerous?
- It is a highly flammable gas.
- As compared to other fuels, Hydrogen has a wide explosive range.
- It burns with an invisible flame.
- You cannot smell, see, or taste it.
The technological systems, especially those based on Hydrogen, may involve risks associated with possible hazardous situations posing threats to public health or the environment.
Is Hydrogen more dangerous than gasoline that powers most of the world’s vehicles?
No. In fact, it is safer.
- It is 14 times lighter than air. When released, it quickly disperses, rising into the atmosphere at a rate of 20 meters per second.
- The flames emit low radiant energy; they’re less likely to move to the surrounding areas and spread fire.
- It is primarily non-toxic so leaks or spills are unlikely to contaminate the environment.
- It is less combustible.
- Flammable mixtures of Hydrogen have relatively low energy density than other fuels.
Conclusion – A Financial Perspective
Hydrogen production and dispensing is a capital-intensive task. There are a lot of parameters that have to be considered before Hydrogen can be taken up as a ‘conventional’ energy source in India, and it starts from creating a reliable storage, transportation and distribution network. There is a lack of volume investments as well. Other than a few big names such as Tata Motors, Reliance Industries etc. the hydrogen fuel sector has not seen sufficient investment so far. This is expected given that the usage and adoption of Hydrogen as a fuel are still at a nascent stage in India. But what this also implies is Hydrogen is still not economically feasible to be taken up as a fuel resource by the common man – availability, cost, and lack of support infrastructure being the main reasons.
Although research work to adopt Hydrogen as a fuel in India is going on for years now, there is no sufficient emphasis on making it economically viable to be at par with traditional fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is still expensive in India, and the onus is now on the Govt. to invest and attract foreign investments to release hydrogen-compliant vehicles and machinery and also to establish the required Hydrogen infrastructure. This includes, but is not limited to, Hydrogen storage, refueling, fuel-cell recharging, and distribution centers. Hence, active PPP based policies where the Govt. and private sectors work hand-in-hand to make Hydrogen a viable commercial fuel in India within the economic reach of the masses can do wonders.
That’s why Comparte Investment team asks do you have “Nivesh Ki Aadat”.
(About Author: Arindom is a professional writer, editor, blogger and a member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, New York. A management postgraduate in finance with extensive industry exposure, he is associated with many reputed global online magazines and publications as a regular contributor. He loves to help his readers writing highly informative and well-researched investment-related content to make informed decisions.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of organization)