Energy Dialogue with RSN
Green Hydrogen: Fuel of the Future
01 MAR 2022 AUTHOR: ISHWARYA KANDASAMY (Tamilnadu Dr Ambedkar Law University)
Keywords: Green, Electricity, Energy, Hydrogen, Renewable, Clean

Remarkably, the humankind has come to a point in time where we are looking back at the trace we have left in the course of headway towards advancement strongly backed by political and economic interest on nation states. The trace which we for the most part ignored has snowballed and stands before us as climate crisis which we cannot choose to overlook as the repercussion of the same has already been faced by various regions of the world affecting not just the humans but also every living creature that exists. The 21st century has already promised itself to see widespread end in the usage of fossil fuels.

The world nations including major contributors towards greenhouse gas emissions decided it is time to confront their deed which led to the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in the months of October and November 2021. Though the success of this conference is debated, it is a notably appreciable step towards change. One solution all nation states acknowledged and agreed in the conference was to phase out from their carbon dependence with country specific deadlines.

In this context it is important to know what alternative the nation states are going to choose to abate their carbon dependence. One solution that we have known but have overlooked for decades stands before us as a high-end aid, Green Hydrogen. Hydrogen has always been a fuel of future for decades and has proven us to be a clean fuel but it is the Green Hydrogen which the future needs.

Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water through electrolysis using renewable energy which emanates absolutely zero greenhouse gases compared to the grey hydrogen which is produced using methane which results in emission of greenhouse gases. Many oil and gas firms has already registered their interest in the green hydrogen based fuel production which had been further boosted by the European Union’s trillion-dollar Green Deal Package goaled towards framing a EU wide green hydrogen strategy. The world’s Green Hydrogen Catapult Initiative by the world’s seven largest green hydrogen project developers with an aim to increase the production of green hydrogen fifty-fold within the next six years has proven to be a great step towards restoring hope and faith on green energy solutions.

The potential of green hydrogen as an efficient substitute is something that definitely needs to be pondered. There are some industries like heavy industries, chemical industries and steel industries that require so much energy to perform that even the traditional renewables like wind, solar and nuclear energy cannot meet and in particular these industries are among the list of major emitters of greenhouse gases. Though solar, wind and nuclear energy alternatives are very much essential to decarbonize the energy system they do not prove themselves to be much suitable alternatives to be used in these industries. According to Uwe Remme an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency these critical gaps can be filled by using green hydrogen based fuel as it greatly versatile and can also be used as a low-carbon fuel for planes and ships.

There definitely exist challenges in this transformation towards Hydrogen economy. Liquid green hydrogen when used as a fuel in planes has been observed to emit a small amount of nitrous oxide which is a potent greenhouse gas this can however be tackled if the fuel is fed through a fuel cell. Similarly, the conventional vehicles used regularly uses an internal combustion engine to burn gasoline or diesel fuel. Production of hydrogen based internal combustion engine in a large-scale would cost and require a huge capital investment and political will. If successfully implemented the by-product these hydrogen engines produce would be just water and di nitrogen, a very harmless gas found abundant in the earth’s atmosphere.

The next huge challenge in this transformation would be to figure a way out and ensure the production of abundant amount of hydrogen. The idea of hydrogen as a source of clean energy was discovered in the 1970s itself. No further project towards the same was continued because of the scarcity of the hydrogen and no effective method for hydrogen production in place making the research limited to the lab.

Later ammonia a hydrogen rich molecule with 3 hydrogen atoms was discovered to be a source molecule through which hydrogen can be produced which in turn can be used to generate electricity. However, ammonia combusts up at very high temperatures making the production of hydrogen very difficult leading to hydrogen inaccessibility to clean energy projects and experiments.

We humans however never fail to surprise ourselves and recently in a breakthrough research, scientists have found a new chemical compound of copper, silicone and other metals which can be used for ammonia combustion in a much lower temperature leading to easier and abundant hydrogen production.

Having discovered a way forward to produce hydrogen in a large scale for commercial purposes, it is very much essential to be precautious with its storage. Hydrogen is a highly explosive substance the even a static electricity from a person's fingers is enough to set it off. Another notable concern would be the fact that the hydrogen flames are almost invisible and hard to see and hydrogen though not poisonous if breathed into would cause asphyxiation. The solution would be store in a highly compressed liquid state at an extremely cold storage facility.

The Homo Sapiens have witnessed a huge growth in the past 200 years against the thousands of years from our origin from invention of a steam engine to advanced metaverse. So, building green hydrogen production and storage units and using the produced green hydrogen towards building a cleaner and greener economy would not be beyond the human capability. It is high time that the world proceeds to navigate towards the fuel of future, the Green hydrogen to ensure we amend our carbon foot prints and leave a cleaner legacy to our next generation.