Hydrogen as a Fuel

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    In News

    • The Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels’ (IROAF) with effect from September 7, 2021.

    About

    • The IROAF was exclusively formed to promote green energy by introducing alternative energy, fuel-efficient and emission-control technologies across the railway network.
    • In keeping with its mission towards Green Railways, the IROAF had invited bids earlier for Hydrogen Fuel Cell-based trains.
    • All work-related to hydrogen fuel cells, including their tenders, will now be transferred to the Northern Railways.
    • Indian Railways are set to run trains on hydrogen fuel-based technology under ‘Mission Net Zero Carbon Emission Railway’ by 2030.

    Hydrogen as Fuel

    • Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gaseous substance.
    • It is a promising energy carrier, which has the potential to address several energy sector-related challenges.
    • It has the potential to substitute conventional fuels and reduce CO2 related emissions significantly at the point of use.
    • Further, if green hydrogen is used as fuel, then there is the capability to decarbonize the entire value chain, enabling reduced emissions and climate change threats.

    Type of Hydrogen

    • Grey Hydrogen
      • It constitutes India’s bulk production and is extracted from hydrocarbons (fossil fuels, natural gas).
      • It gives CO2 as by product
    • Blue Hydrogen
      • It is also sourced from fossil fuels.
      • However, emissions/ by-products (CO, CO2) are captured and stored.
      • Thus, it is better than grey hydrogen
    • Green Hydrogen
      • It is generated from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
      • The electricity splits water into hydrogen and Oxygen.
      • It gives water and water vapour as by-products.
      • Thus, it is the best and cleanest type

    Significance for India

    • It will benefit India’s transportation sector (which contributes 1/3 of India’s greenhouse-gas emissions), iron and steel and chemical sectors.
    • Hydrogen energy can provide impetus to India’s aim to decarbonise by 2050 and attain 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.
    • The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

    Hydrogen energy initiatives in India

    • India is already keen on developing a hydrogen economy owing to its favourable geographical conditions and presence of abundant natural elements.
    • India has proposed a National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) that will draw up a roadmap for using hydrogen as an energy source.
    • India is a part of the ‘Hydrogen Valley Platform’ that looks to create an integrated hydrogen ecosystem covering production, storage, distribution and end-use.
    • More recently, in 2016, MNRE published a report laying out a comprehensive plan for increasing R&D activity.

    Challenges 

    • One of the colossal challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.
    • The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.
    • The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.

     

    Source: TH