Patenting Green Hydrogen Production: New Hope for Clean Energy

Patenting Green Hydrogen Production: New Hope for Clean EnergyEdwin Drake and Mamadou Ngulo Konare have one thing in common: both struck energy gold from Mother Earth. Drake found ‘black gold’, the dominantly used energy source ‘Oil’ from the Pennsylvania soil in1887, and Konare stuck ‘gold Hydrogen’ in 1987 from the abandoned deep borewell in Bourakebougou, Mali. The latter became the first village in the world to produce natural hydrogen as a clean source of green energy.

The global potential of geolocated gold hydrogen remained untapped thanks to the availability of cheap oil resources. When petroleum products turn out to be dirty energy as its byproducts such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) make the air toxic for healthy living, the need for the search of clean energy sources emerged again. The necessity for alternative clean energy soars as air pollutants dent the natural atmosphere to a life-threatening extent. Another factor pitched in favour of green hydrogen is its use for producing fertilisers and oil refineries. According to one, an estimated seventy million tons of hydrogen are produced yearly for this purpose alone. This production is associated with the emission of eight hundred million tons of carbon dioxide.

Electrolysers as a Source of Clean Hydrogen

The Hydrogen production technology is being marked as grey Hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen, Pink Hydrogen, and Green Hydrogen depending on its sources and the impact of resulting carbon dioxide emission on its production. When hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, which results in carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, it is called grey Hydrogen-producing technology. According to one report, most of the hydrogen in 2020 was produced using this technology. In case the resulting carbon dioxide emissions are captured through carbon capture and storage (CCS), it is called blue hydrogen. It is known that the production of blue hydrogen leaves a carbon footprint 20% greater than that of burning gas or coal for heat and 60% greater than that of burning diesel for heat. Hydrogen produced from nuclear energy via electrolysis is closer to green hydrogen, but it is referred to as pink hydrogen.

When hydrogen production is linked to renewable energy sources like solar power or wind power, it is called green hydrogen. In both of these methods, electric power is generated using renewable sources like solar energy, and wind energy is used to produce hydrogen from the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen fuel produced by using renewable wind energy or solar energy is a renewable fuel. In any case, the need of the hour is how to produce low-carbon hydrogen or green hydrogen.

Edison patented the first alkaline battery (nickel-iron battery) in 1901 for use in the electric car. That was the first battery-driven electric car, which turned out to be far ahead of time. This invention suffered a setback for two reasons. The first is the availability of cheap fossil fuels. The second is the size of the NI- Fe Battery compared to the available lead acid.

Additionally, this battery was a bit more expensive. Later, it turned out to be dangerous, as it produced hydrogen during recharging, which Ni-Fe battery users considered a nuisance and dangerous. However, after 120 years, this dangerous hydrogen release is now seen as a blessing in disguise as it can be a major source of green hydrogen with no carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, a Dutch startup reinvented and optimised the Edison Ni-Fe battery for industrial hydrogen production.

Reinventing Edison Ni-Fe Battery for Green Hydrogen

Battolyser Systems, developed by the Dutch company, performs dual functionality. One is storing energy and supplying electricity as a battery, and the other is producing hydrogen via electrolysis. This new system of storage battery with electrolysers was invented by Professor Fokko Mulder, who turned dangerous Hydrogen release from Edison’s patented Ni-Fe battery that produced hydrogen when it was fully charged and reinvented the Ni-Fe battery as the Hydrolyser. He has obtained patents for his inventions for ‘Hybrid Battery and Electrolyser’ worldwide, including in India. The first Indian patent, IN 428463, was granted in April 2023, and the second, IN 483213, was granted in December 2023. It is interesting to note that India was chosen as a destination through the PCT route to explore the possibility of working on inventions relating to the production of green hydrogen, looking at the emergence of India as a hub for users of solar power and wind energy in future.

Looking Beyond Grey, Blue, and Pink Hydrogen

While the buzzword about clean hydrogen production and its importance as a tool for producing a low-carbon fuel for the future is being debated, new patented technology is bound to leave a mark for its adoption worldwide, including in India. With the availability of many sources and systems of hydrogen production as alternatives ranging from grey to blue and green to pink, more and more inventive options for the generation of clean hydrogen are being worked out. As the demand for green hydrogen is on the rise, hydrogen fuel producers in India will also look for the best-patented solutions in this field. It is the right time for the patentee to commercialise these solutions in India.

Expert advice may be useful to protect the patented technology or licence it. The future of green hydrogen produced using constructive collaboration between renewable power and electrolysis is bright. Thus, the use of cheap renewable electric current for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen is bound to increase. The need of the future to switch from grey/blue to green hydrogen is evident as increased patent applications on inventions relating to producing low-carbon hydrogen or green hydrogen are being filed worldwide, including in India. Undoubtedly, India would be chosen as the favoured destination through the PCT route to explore the possibility of working on inventions relating to the production of green hydrogen. An expert evaluation of the potential of green hydrogen technology in India would be necessary to reap the benefits of patented technology.

Author: DPS Parmar

First Published by: Asialaw Here