This will facilitate the development of ‘green’ hydrogen without the use of fossil fuel for a clean fuel economy

To facilitate the development of “green” hydrogen or the production of the gas without the use of fossil fuel to help power vehicles or a clean fuel economy, India needs to develop a consistent code of standards, says a report commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology to investigate the current state of “Hydrogen and Fuel Cells” in India.

“The biggest challenge to the commercialisation of hydrogen based technologies is the requirement of code and standards to get a sort of consistency and encourage deployment. With such standards in place, the process of deployment will drastically increase and technologies which are at laboratory demonstration level could come to marketplace faster,” says the report made public on Wednesday.

The use of hydrogen as a fuel to power vehicles has been a long standing global mission. Hydrogen, or H2 fuel cells leave only water vapour and heat as emissions, and provide as much combustive energy as fossil fuels. However, a key challenge has been portability and transporting the gas.

Several of the Indian Institutes of Technology and laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research are involved in hydrogen fuel cell research. “It has increased from 10 institutions in the early 1990s to more than 100 today,” the report notes.

Several demonstration projects have been underway for over a decade. The first demonstration project was a hydrogen dispensing station by the Indian Oil Corporation at their R&D centre in Faridabad, Haryana, which was commissioned during 2008-09. The hydrogen produced was being blended with compressed natural gas for use in demonstration and test vehicles.

Another demonstration project was being implemented by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) in association with five automobile manufacturers (Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Eicher Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Bajaj Auto) and Indian Oil Corporation, and was towards demonstrating the use of hydrogen blended with CNG (compressed natural gas) in automobiles.

Three buses, two cars and two three-wheelers were part of the project and were used for field trials based on 18% hydrogen (by volume) blended with CNG. The project involves modifications in engine and fuel injection system.

The NITI Aayog has also recommended the use of H-CNG by utilising existing piped-gas infrastructure in Delhi. However, rather than power cars or bikes, India would for now would be better served by developing hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles, say the authors of the report.

“Long-haul vehicles require higher quantity of storage as these are driven over long distances and continuously for long times and these should be refuelled quickly. Hydrogen powered vehicles have similar range as the current fossil fuel-based vehicles, can be refuelled fast, have efficient fleet optimisation and have much higher energy density. The another set of application is in materials handling e.g. forklifts where the time available for refuelling for a unit is very short and the space available for refuelling infrastructure in warehouses is small i.e. they can’t afford long charging hours,” the report added.

The current global demand of hydrogen is 70 million tons per year, most of which is being produced from fossil fuels — 76% from natural gas and around 23% from coal, with the remaining from electrolysis of water — which consumes 6% of the global natural gas and 2% of the global coal.

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