India is taking significant steps toward its green transition, with the ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070. To accelerate this transformation, the country is exploring alternative solutions, including reducing reliance on imported hydrogen by producing it domestically from carbon-emitting methane.
A recent study by the Council for Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) highlights that India currently consumes around 5.6 million tonnes of hydrogen, with the majority produced using methane. Additionally, 1.9 million tonnes of hydrogen are imported in the form of methanol, ammonia, and fertilizers. This puts India’s total hydrogen consumption at a substantial 7.5 million tonnes annually.
In response to this challenge, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, initiated the National Hydrogen Mission in January 2022. The mission’s primary objective is to meet 7.5 million tonnes of India’s annual hydrogen requirement through domestically produced green hydrogen, positioning India as a leading producer and supplier globally. The adoption of this mission is expected to contribute significantly to India’s climate targets and net-zero vision, potentially reducing CO2 emissions by 3.6 gigatonnes cumulatively by 2050.
Under the National Hydrogen Mission, India aims to ramp up its production capacity to at least five million metric tons per year by 2030. This expansion will be accompanied by an increase of around 125 gigawatts (GW) in renewable energy capacity. Private companies, international institutions, and organizations are actively supporting this mission, with notable investments of $1 billion by the EU Bank and Brookfield Renewables in Indian companies specializing in green hydrogen technology.
Furthermore, the recent G20 declaration emphasizes the development of a sustainable and equitable global hydrogen ecosystem, marking a shift from theoretical discussions to practical implementation. Green hydrogen is increasingly viewed as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
Despite these challenges, repurposing reclaimed and closed coal and lignite mines could be a game-changing solution for cost-effective green hydrogen production. These sites offer several advantages, including ample land for utility-scale solar and wind projects, existing freshwater resources, and readily available transmission infrastructure.
As the Ministry of Coal estimates, significant land resources will soon become available due to coal phase-outs. Even if a small fraction of these lands is repurposed for green hydrogen production, they have the potential to generate over one million metric tonnes of green hydrogen annually.
The advantages of repurposing reclaimed mines are evident. Not only can this approach address challenges related to land, water, and infrastructure, but it can also bring economic benefits by creating job opportunities and rejuvenating coal-dependent communities. Recent initiatives, like the repurposing of a retired coal mine in the US into a green hydrogen facility, highlight the feasibility and potential of this approach.
To accelerate green hydrogen production on repurposed mine lands, India should conduct exploratory studies and incentivize private developers to invest in these locations. Policy mechanisms, including green hydrogen consumption obligations, can further enhance the financial viability of such projects.
While the potential benefits of repurposing coal mines are substantial, it’s crucial to address environmental concerns and assess resource availability in these regions. With careful planning and management, repurposing mines for green hydrogen production could play a pivotal role in India’s transition to clean energy and emissions reduction.
In conclusion, the repurposing of reclaimed coal and lignite mines for green hydrogen production offers significant potential benefits and notable challenges. It requires a comprehensive strategy that minimizes environmental impacts and maximizes economic advantages. If executed effectively, this approach can contribute substantially to India’s green energy transition and carbon emissions reduction.