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India looks to produce Hydrogen from coal, forms task force to oversee programme

Keen on creating a Hydrogen-based economy to meet the twin goals of energy security and energy transition, India is now looking to produce Brown Hydrogen from coal
India looks to produce Hydrogen from coal, forms task force to oversee programme
India looks to produce Hydrogen from coal, forms task force to oversee programme
  • The Ministry of Coal has constituted two task forces — one to oversee the programme and another (comprising of experts) to give guidance to the ministry
  • Since India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves, production of Hydrogen from coal can be cheaper in comparison to Grey Hydrogen and Green Hydrogen

New Delhi: Keen on creating a Hydrogen-based economy to meet the twin goals of energy security and energy transition, India is now looking to produce Brown Hydrogen from coal. In a bid to lend momentum to the country’s Hydrogen ambitions, the Ministry of Coal has constituted two task forces — one to oversee the programme and another (comprising of experts) to give guidance to the ministry, an official statement released by the Ministry of Coal said on Tuesday. The news assumes significance because 100 percent of Hydrogen produced in India currently comes from natural gas.

Since India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves, production of Brown Hydrogen from coal can be cheaper and less sensitive to imports in comparison to Grey Hydrogen (produced from natural gas) and Green Hydrogen (produced through electrolysis of water using renewable energy). The move comes in the backdrop of the National Hydrogen Mission announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech this year.

Hydrogen from coal: Coal Ministry forms task force

The task force has been constituted under the chairmanship of Vinod Kumar Tiwari, Additional Coal Secretary. It includes FIPI Director-General and former Chairman and Director (R&D) of Indian Oil RK Malhotra, Joint-Secretary-level officers from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of Steel and Chemical and Fertilizers and Ministry of Coal’s Director (Technical) Peeyush Kumar. In addition, it also includes Director-level officers from Coal India Ltd (CIL), Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), Indian Oil, Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL).

This inter-ministerial task force will be responsible for identifying the role to be played by each ministry, coordinating with stakeholder ministries, monitoring activities pertaining to production of Hydrogen from coal and its usage, and coordinating with Coal Gasification Mission and Niti Aayog.

Expert committee members

The second committee formed by the Ministry of Coal for the purpose will comprise of experts and will be headed by FIPI’s Director-General RK Malhotra. Dr Mukesh Kumar, Director, Steel Research Technology Mission of India, Prof KK Pant, IIT Delhi, Dr Anjan Ray, Indian Institute of Petroleum CSIR, Dehradun, and Director of Engineers India Ltd (EIL) have been roped in as members. Coal Ministry’s Director (Technical) Peeyush Kumar will serve as the Member Secretary of the committee. 

The expert committee will be responsible for identifying experts in India and co-opting them as members, desk-based review of progress in hydrogen technology and ongoing research projects in Hydrogen technology, coordinating with various national/international technology institutions in hydrogen, and preparing a road map for coal-based Hydrogen production and usage, including economic viability, environmental sustainability and policy enablers. The expert committee will be required to submit a report in three months.

Production of Hydrogen from coal

Coal can be an important source for production of Hydrogen. However, coal has not been encouraged elsewhere because of concerns that extraction of hydrogen via coal (from the moisture embedded in coal) will lead to carbon emission. Globally, 73 MT Hydrogen is used for refining, ammonia making and other pure use and about 42 MT is used for Methanol, steel making and other mixed uses. 

Production of hydrogen from coal will have challenges in terms of high emissions and Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) will play an important role. However, if carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide produced from coal are trapped and stored in an environmentally sustainable manner (using CCS and CCUS), then, coal reserves could become a great source of hydrogen, said the Ministry of Coal. 

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