Over half of the heavy industry eyeing Low Carbon hydrogen

Context: As many as 62% of heavy industrial organisations across sectors are considering using low-carbon hydrogen to replace carbon-intensive systems, according to a recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute titled “Low Carbon Hydrogen – A Path to a Greener Future.” According to the report, Energy and Utilities (E&U) companies anticipate Low-Carbon hydrogen to account for 18% of all energy use by 2050, and demand from more than half of organisations has increased by more than 10% in France, India, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Germany, and Sweden.

Hydrogen as a fuel for the future

  • According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), hydrogen has the potential to be a key component of our transition to a clean energy future. 
  • However, for hydrogen to truly contribute to the energy transition, it must be used in industries where it is currently almost non-existent, such as transportation, construction, and power generation.
  • To identify ways to accelerate its adoption, the World Economic Forum developed the Accelerated Clean Hydrogen Initiative as part of its Climate Action Platform, Shaping the Future of Energy, Materials, and Infrastructure. 
  • Generating electricity from hydrogen does not produce pollution because the by-product is only heat and water.

Types of Hydrogen

When burned, hydrogen emits only water, although its production can be carbon intensive. As a result, several methods for reducing this impact have been devised, and depending on production methods, hydrogen can be grey, blue, or green, and sometimes pink, yellow, or turquoise, however naming practises vary across countries and over time.

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Green Hydrogen: 

  • The only variety that is created in a climate-neutral manner. It could be vital in the worldwide effort to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 
  • Also referred to as ‘Clean hydrogen’ is produced by splitting water into two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen (electrolysis process) atom using clean energy from surplus renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. 
  • It presently accounts for roughly 0.1% of total hydrogen production, but this figure is likely to climb as renewable energy costs continue to fall. 
  • Ideal method to balance the Intermittency of Renewables: Storing excess energy during periods of low demand to be fed back into the grid when need increases, while de-carbonizing the chemical, industrial, and transportation sectors.

Grey hydrogen

  • It is the most prevalent type and is produced from natural gas, or methane, by a process known as “steam reforming”. This technology emits far fewer emissions than black or brown hydrogen, which employ black (bituminous) or brown (lignite) coal in the hydrogen-production process. It produces carbon dioxide as a by-product.

Black/Brown Hydrogen

  • The main issue with black/ brown hydrogen is that they still produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases, and there is no Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as part of the process to mitigate this. Black and brown hydrogen are produced using fossil fuels. The process involves converting coal into gas.

Blue hydrogen

  • It is produced from hydrocarbons where the emissions generated from the process can be captured and stored. They are stored underground by industrial carbon capture storage (CSS). Therefore, sometimes referred to as being carbon neutral.
  • It is a better alternative compared to grey hydrogen.
  • There are arguments that it should be labelled as “low carbon”, as a more accurate description since 10 to 20% of the generated carbon cannot be captured.

Pink hydrogen

  • Nuclear produced hydrogen, often referred to as pink (or sometimes purple or red) is generated through electrolysis. The very high temperatures from nuclear reactors could also be used in other hydrogen productions by producing steam for more efficient electrolysis or fossil gas-based steam methane reforming.

Yellow hydrogen

  • It is the term used for hydrogen made through electrolysis of water using solar power, although some use it to mean hydrogen generated through electrolysis of water using mixed sources depending on what is available. 

Turquoise hydrogen

  • Its production is still in the experimental phase. It sits between blue and green hydrogen and uses methane pyrolysis as a production method. The outputs of this process are the hydrogen and carbon, however unlike steam reformation the carbon is solid.  This means there’s no requirement for CCS, the solid carbon can be used in other applications such as a soil improver or the manufacturing of goods like tyres.


  • Economic Sustainability: One of the major obstacles that the industry faces in commercialising hydrogen is the economic sustainability of harvesting green or blue hydrogen. 
  • The electrolysis process, which is used to make green hydrogen, takes a considerable quantity of electricity, and renewable electricity is quite expensive. 
  • Nascent stage technology: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technologies are in their early stages and are expensive, which raises the cost of hydrogen production.
  • In India, there is currently a scarcity of infrastructure for the generation, storage, and transport of green hydrogen. This includes a scarcity of hydrogen refuelling stations and pipes for hydrogen transport.
  • Limited Adoption: Despite the potential benefits of green hydrogen, adoption of this technology in currently restricted. 
  • This is owing to a lack of public awareness and comprehension of green hydrogen, as well as a lack of incentives for businesses to use this technology.
  • Cost competitiveness: One of the main issues facing the industry in commercialising hydrogen, is the extraction of green hydrogen. 
  • On a per-mile basis, hydrogen must be cost-competitive with conventional fuels and technology for transportation fuel cells.

Way Forward

  • Increasing the use of renewable energy sources, so as to minimise the cost of green hydrogen generation.
  • Improve in infrastructure for its production, storage, and delivery: Construction of hydrogen refuelling stations as well as pipes, for transporting hydrogen and make green hydrogen more accessible. 
  • Role of Governments: By implementing regulatory incentives such as tax credits and subsidies to encourage the production and use of green hydrogen, the government can play a critical role in boosting its acceptance.

Mains Practice Question

Q. Hydrogen is being touted as the fuel of the future. Examine the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy source, as well as the limitations associated with its adoption in India. (150 words 10 Marks)

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to hydrogen, consider the following statements:

1. Hydrogen produced using the process of electrolysis is called grey hydrogen, which is the most prevalent type generated today.

2. Green Hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels as a source with carbon capture and storage options.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a)1 only

(b)2 only

(c)Both 1 and 2

(d)Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: (d)


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