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Study on fossil fuel extraction and global warming, Green Hydrogen


  • A new study conducted by researchers from University College London says that as of now, both planned and operational fossil fuel extraction projects are not conducive to meeting the targets set out by the climate agreement signed in 2015.
  • With the increasing focus on ill-effects of fossil duels, there is a need to implore the prospect of using green hydrogen as an alternative to existing fossil fuels.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Climate Change, Conservation of the Environment, Pollution control and Management), GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the study on fossil fuel extraction and global warming
  2. What is Green Hydrogen?
  3. Challenges in using green hydrogen

Highlights of the study on fossil fuel extraction and global warming

  • The study says that the global oil and gas production should decline by three per cent per year until 2050 to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In other words, global fossil fuel extraction needs to go down.
  • Significantly, the study says that a substantial number of regions in the world have already reached their peak fossil fuel production and that any increase in fossil fuel production will have to be offset by a decline elsewhere, if the goal wants to be achieved.
  • Further, the required unextracted reserves need to be 58 percent for oil, 59 percent for fossil methane gas and 89 percent for coal by 2050. Which is to say that these percentages of fossil fuels need to remain unextractable if global warming targets are kept in mind.
  • Specifically for coal, the unextractable estimates show less variation across regions, the report notes. “Unextractable estimates for coal show less regional variation, although they are lowest in those regions that utilize most coal in the next 30 years, notably India, China and other parts of Asia (ODA)”.
  • Fossil fuels are responsible for the production of over 830 million tons per annum of carbon dioxide, which is giving rise to global warming and climate change.
  • In 2018, 8.7 million people died prematurely as a result of air pollution from fossil fuels.

What is Green Hydrogen?

‘Green hydrogen’ is hydrogen made by electrolysis of water using renewable power from wind and solar. Electrolysis splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Significance of green hydrogen

  • The use of green hydrogen in place of carbon-intensive fossil fuels will help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and will be imperative to achieve the target of expert guidelines on global warming to remain under 1.5° C.
  • Green hydrogen can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels and can be utilised for the generation of power and will be a major step forward in achieving the target of ‘net zero’ emission.
  • Also given that green hydrogen only emits water as its emission product, the usage of green hydrogen will also help end the premature deaths due to air pollution.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts the additional power demand to be to the tune of 25%-30% by the year 2040 to meet the energy requirements of the growing population.
  • Green hydrogen can be an important alternative fuel source given the circular nature of this fuel as compared to the fast depleting reserves of fossil fuels. Hydrogen offers a circular sustainable fuel utilization cycle wherein water is electrolyzed to give hydrogen fuel which is burnt to give energy and water again.
  • Also, for a country like India which is the world’s fourth-largest energy-consuming country (behind China, the United States and the European Union), increased usage of green hydrogen will help it reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels and thus help usher in energy security while also helping save valuable foreign exchange.
  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet making it easily available. However, it should be noted that given its high reactivity it is rarely available naturally in its elemental form. Water which is a source of green hydrogen is easily available.

Challenges in using green hydrogen

  • The major challenge in the usage of green hydrogen will be its storage. Given the very low density of hydrogen, it will require large volumes for its storage. Alternatively if one chooses to store it in the liquid form, reducing the storage space requires the maintenance of temperatures as low as minus 253° C. This will entail huge costs.
  • The ‘production cost’ of ‘Green hydrogen’ has been considered to be a prime obstacle to the usage of green hydrogen. According to studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the production cost of this ‘green hydrogen’ is expected to be around $1.5 per kilogram by adopting various conservative measures.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu

December 2023