After Hisar pilot project, Jindal Stainless to switch to green hydrogen at Odisha plant: CSO

  • In an interview to Mint, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of Jindal Stainless said that India is well-positioned to generate green hydrogen due to access to clean water and renewable electricity.

Nikita Prasad
First Published7 Jun 2023
Kalyan Kumar Bhattacherjee, Chief Sustainability Officer, Jindal Stainless
Kalyan Kumar Bhattacherjee, Chief Sustainability Officer, Jindal Stainless

The government approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission earlier this year, under which it plans to achieve five million metric tonnes (MMT) of green hydrogen production by 2030. “The recently launched National Green Hydrogen Mission, with an outlay of 19,700 crore, will facilitate transition of the economy to low carbon intensity, reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting Budget 2023.

While industry experts are hopeful that these initiatives will help decarbonize the economy, wider aspects such as domestic manufacturing, finding export markets, and how India responds to foreign incentives are still gaps that need to be addressed, according to them. Coming to corporates, Larsen & Toubro, ReNew, Indian Oil, Reliance Industries have lately shown much eagerness to diversify into green hydrogen. 

On the same heels, India’s leading stainless steel manufacturer Jindal Stainless has become the country's first stainless steel company to install a green hydrogen plant. During FY2021-22, the company procured renewable energy in bulk to reduce its carbon emissions by 1.4 lakh tonnes and also aims to achieve a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

In an interview to Mint's Nikita Prasad, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of Jindal Stainless - Kalyan Kumar Bhattacherjee, said that India is well-positioned to generate green hydrogen due to access to clean water and renewable electricity. The company also plans to set up its second green hydrogen plant at Odisha's Jajpur, after its pilot project at Hisar, Haryana.

Also Read: Jindal Stainless announces special interim dividend for FY 22-23, record date fixed

Edited excerpts from the interview:

To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, what are the company's near-term and long-term goals in terms of operations? How has the switch from a thermal energy setup to greener alternatives like solar and wind capacities been cost-effective for the firm?

We have taken up targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 through various initiatives such as energy substitution, feed mix optimization, energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon capture and carbon offsets in the near-term and long-term. We have set a mid term goal that by 2035 we will try to achieve at least 50 per cent reduction of emissions from baseline year 2021-2022. To attain that, there are several levers which have been identified, which range from high impact to low impact and easy-to-achieve goals like switching from thermal to the renewable like solar and wind.

We are planning to increase the use of renewable energy and ease out thermal power eventually, when there will be no further investments needed in building thermal power capacity. We have partnered with ReNew Power to set up a 100 MW hybrid RE round-the-clock (RTC) project where the RE power will be available from FY24 onwards. Besides this, we have also initiated another 100 MW RE RTC hybrid project each for Jajpur (Odisha) and Hisar (Haryana) manufacturing facilities.

The company also plans on switching fossil fuels with biofuels at the Jajpur manufacturing facility. Beyond that, what we foresee is that as the technologies are maturing, renewable energy will be easier to attain for entities when the grid becomes greener in India, just like the European or Scandinavian countries. Then, we can look at phasing out our thermal capacities and switching to the green grid altogether.

 

You spoke about how India will be switching to a green grid just like the European and Scandinavian countries. But, in terms of geography, climate and even population, India is quite different from these countries. So, has the government given any specific timelines or targets to switch to green grid?

In the last COP26 Summit, the government pledged to be net zero by 2070. Of course, a country cannot be net zero unless the basic power and energy infrastructure is becoming green. The Western European and North European grid are green because those countries do not have many thermal power plants and major power for them comes from either the hydro, nuclear or renewable energy like sun or solar. The wind capacity is much lower in those countries and nuclear power is considered to be green. 

So in India, the government will look at options on how to make the grid green by adding more renewable capacities into the grid and gradually phasing out the thermal generation for minimizing its contribution. To achieve this, several task force units have been formed and stakeholder consultations are going on. The government has also given a mandate to increase the biomass consumption in the thermal generation. 

Even if the thermal power plants are not phased out, switching the fuel can make it sustainable. Switching from coal to biomass can make it partially sustainable, especially if the biomass is co-fired with the coal. A switch from coal to natural gas or some other sustainable fuel can also give green power. So the switch to green power is gradual as the technology develops. So what I can say today is, achieving a green grid may not be visible, but theoretically, it is possible by the energy switch, the fuel mix switch, the addition of more renewable mix into the grid and other such methods.

 

In 2022, it was announced that Jindal Stainless had partnered with Hygenco India Pvt Ltd to install a green hydrogen plant, becoming India’s first stainless steel firm to do so. When will the operations begin, and what will be the significant applications for your business? Give us a sense of how green hydrogen will come into picture with respect to manufacturing and daily operations.

We have initiated the green hydrogen project in a pilot scale of 90 Nm3/hr capacity at Hisar manufacturing facility which will be operational by August 2023 and will be able to reduce the emissions about 2,700 tonnes of carbon per year. The current project is scheduled to be commissioned by August 2023. The same can scale up to 500 Nm3/hr in the next phase. The company procures ammonia and cracks it to obtain the hydrogen and nitrogen. 

Hydrogen is used as a medium in the bright annealing process. Bright annealing of stainless steel involves the creation of a controlled or inert atmosphere to reduce the surface oxidation to a minimum, which results in a brighter surface and a much thinner oxide layer. So the hydrogen is used as a medium, not as a fuel. We'll be replacing that hydrogen with the green hydrogen, which will be used in the cycle of the process. Also, even though the order is not placed yet, Jindal Stainless plans to replicate the same at the Jajpur manufacturing facility with 700 Nm3/hr capacity. So for green hydrogen, another plant will be coming up in Jajpur.

 

While presenting Budget 2023 this year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government plans to achieve 5 MMT of green hydrogen production by 2030 as part of the National Green Hydrogen Mission. Do you think the outlay of 19,700 crore will be enough, considering the cost incurred for its storage and production? Is more clarity required for its implementation at the state and central level?

I think 5 million metric tons of green hydrogen production by 2030 is a fair target to initiate hydrogen adoption in the country. But, this is not the end as there will be private companies, just like Jindal, who will be investing in their own hydrogen facilities. So as this is the initial phase, the data will certainly be reviewed at both central and state levels and more clarity for implementation will be obtained.

The government had collected some initial data from the industry to understand how much hydrogen can be consumed or the amount of usage that the industry foresees, on the basis of which the initial push of 5 MMT was announced. So, once the value of hydrogen is established and the industry understands its applications, the total usage can be summed up, even if it moves at a very small scale or slower place. Then, the government will be able to deliberate on the supply chain distribution and make plans for its storage and production to build a hydrogen network across the country.

 

Several countries are changing their respective green hydrogen policies to expand their subsidies and incentives. The European Union unveiled the Green Deal Industrial Plan, while the US launched its clean hydrogen strategy and roadmap. How do you think India will be able to compete in the export market in terms of green hydrogen?

Over the past ten years, the cost of renewable power generation has decreased, settling between 3 - 4 per unit. A global increase in commodity prices and higher import taxes are projected to reverse in the near future. This will help India to achieve targeted goals for the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The basic requirements for the hydrogen manufacturing market are water and renewable electricity. So, India is well-positioned in both clean water and renewable electricity to generate green hydrogen.

 If the hydrogen developers see it, recognize it as a potential base to generate green hydrogen, then the country will certainly become one of the major export hubs. Nowadays, several developers are coming forth because they have developed the capacity to set up large scale projects and those developers themselves are looking at manufacturing green hydrogen. As per the mission, in addition to domestic consumption, India can create export opportunities for green hydrogen and its derivatives. However, some clarity may be appreciated on benefits of exporting hydrogen weighed against the costs in energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Jindal Stainless will provide stainless steel for the USBRL railway tunnel project in Jammu & Kashmir. This is the first time when stainless steel cable trays will be used in an Indian Railway project. What are the special benefits of stainless steel for the infrastructure of a high altitude mountain railway network?

For the cable trays, Jindal Stainless has made use of grade 316 stainless steel which is a high strength grade that can withstand severe weather conditions and is corrosion resistant, because of its inherent capabilities. So this particular grade can be used in high altitude and everywhere else. Stainless steel requires least or almost zero maintenance, which provides a huge potential for further growth and that's why we are using it in high altitude zones. 

Given the longer life cycle of stainless steel, it does not require any replacement or maintenance which makes it suitable for higher altitude zones where access is limited. One can install stainless steel there and forget about it. One can afford to forget it after it is installed. Such areas are more prone to acid attacks and salt attacks so using stainless steel can extend the life beyond even a hundred years due to its durability and high resistance. I think it is a very apt usage of stainless steel, which has been started for the metro rail projects and must be replicated at every high altitude project.

Also Read: Jindal Stainless buys 49% stake in Indonesian nickel smelter facility for $157 mn
 

Give us a sense of your near-term goals for fiscal 2023–24. What are your targets to reduce carbon emissions and escalate green hydrogen production for FY24? Are you also looking at a wider global expansion by targeting any new markets?

Our near-term plans to reduce the carbon emissions include setting up 100 MW of hybrid round-the-clock renewable energy projects to supply power by FY24, green hydrogen project of 790 NM3/Hr, rooftop solar plant of 27 MWp, among others. These will reduce carbon emissions around 17.85 lakh tons at both Jajpur and Hisar facilities by FY25.

As the existing process technologies attain maturity in terms of utilization of hydrogen, we can increase our green hydrogen content to decarbonize our process and reduce emissions. For the time being, our focus will be to fulfil the company's hydrogen requirements first by putting up green hydrogen projects. In the current fiscal, we will focus on the commissioning of our pilot project at Hisar and initiating the establishment of another 700 NMQ per hour green hydrogen facility at Jajpur. 

Besides this, we have already targeted setting up 200 MW of renewable energy - 100 MW at Hisar and 100 MW in Jajpur which will be accomplished within the next quarter. We'll be establishing our MOU and the PPAs for both the Jajpur and Hisar facilities. Coming to global expansion, Jindal Stainless has now become a part of the top five stainless steel manufacturers in the world (excluding China) after our merger with Jindal Stainless (Hisar). With our near- and mid-term targets in place, we aim to be in good stead maintaining a stronghold position in the steel industry.

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