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Thinking Hydrogen in India


Authors: Tamoghna Acharyya & Vihaan Chandy

Energy Review, Vol 4. Issue 3. 2022

While hydrogen research and development are underway in the country, it is essential to make sure that hydrogen is economically viable to be able to compete with electric vehicles and traditional fuels. Hydrogen is primarily generated from the use of fossil fuels today and it is therefore critical that the government gives priority to generating hydrogen from renewable energy sources. The development and distribution of hydrogen through a compatible transportation and storage network is very capital intensive. Hydrogen is currently restricted to research, demonstrations, and testing in automobiles in India. The technology of fuel cells remains expensive in our country and hence, the government is expected to build a cost-efficient strategy for large-scale production. It must also invest heavily in the construction of the facilities needed to supply, store, refuel and transport the gas. This calls for a time-bound approach in the marketing of hydrogen as a transport fuel in India.

In addition, the existing legal framework will need to be amended in India. As outlined in the guidelines of the Recommendations of the Steering Committee on Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cells, appointed by the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, the Central Motor Vehicle Act (1989) must be amended to include hydrogen as automotive fuel. In September 2020, the Ministry of Road Transport notified vehicle safety assessment standards for the modification. Furthermore, the Gas Cylinder Rules of 2004 will contain amendments which would include standards and criteria for hydrogen storage cylinders.

To guarantee protection, it is also necessary for The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) to create certification standards and regulations for the storage equipment of hydrogen and refuelling systems. The BIS shall also be required to issue hydrogen quality specifications according to the standards notified by the International Organisation of Standards. Finding a license and a permit system for these buses is also required by the Ministry of Road, Transportation and Highway as India develops fuel cell buses.

Unlike thermal generators, the production of green hydrogen and fuel cell systems have comparatively fewer parts which move. However, these few moveable parts are sensitive system components and could cause system failure, unless they are properly operated and maintained (with respect to refuelling stations). The fans driving the flow of gasses, compressor valves and water-moving components are amongst the most vulnerable components. They are not necessarily expensive but can be particularly destructive. Many companies have partly alleviated this exposure by designing integrated solutions, ensuring that the whole structure is not disabled by a defect of one component. Where large multi-stacked systems are being used, this can be very useful. But it is not typical to come across this in remote or distributed systems that are smaller and harder for technicians to access.

Constructing a hydrogen refuelling station network across the country would also pose an issue considering the high cost associated with it. A good network will be essential to ensure convenience for the consumers. The cost intensive project along with subsidies and incentives will be necessary for hydrogen to be an alternative fuel in the country.

The management of hydrogen fuels is another difficult issue. While the use of hydrogen canisters is common and healthy for use in developed countries, hydrogen fuels such as ammonia or methanol are more likely to be used in rural regions in developing countries. The compromise, though, is the storage of ammonia, which is volatile and can be highly problematic if it is leaked, thereby making it riskier.

As energy demand for the automotive and manufacturing industry continues to surge across the globe, traditional fuels can no longer fulfil the increasing demand for clean energy. Hydrogen has emerged as a multi sector alternative globally thereby making it a sustainable option for heavy duty vehicles and industries with high power requirements. Given the energy crisis that exists, this is a safe and wise step for the developing nation.

With India's rapidly growing population and economic progress, the country faces major environmental challenges that threaten its economy. Fuel cell and hydrogen systems are developed as one solution to clean operation and versatility. India's financial funding for massive fuel cells and hydrogen systems would help fold hydrogen into the phenomenon of essential decarbonisation. It will help to reduce domestic emissions from both direct and unknown sources such as telecommunications towers, powered in the country by diesel generators.

(Prof.Tamoghna Acharyya is faculty at XIM University school of sustainability and Mr. Vihaan Chandy is B.Sc. Sustainable Development(Hons) student at XIM University school of sustainability)■□■

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