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India: Hydrogen Economy A Lion Awakens 

  • The supply of clean fuels to meet the future vitality necessities through eco – friendly route is a noteworthy worldwide challenge these days. The efforts are in advancement to lessen reliance on non-renewable energy sources and advancing far-reaching utilization of cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen.

  • This is driving the research and development towards manageable advancements for the production of hydrogen, stockpiling, distribution and usage. Hydrogen Economy is a proposed system of delivering energy using hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources with the advantages of reduced dependency on oil and gas and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions e.g. global CO2 emission for 2011 were of order ~31.6 Gigatonne (Gt) with India accounting nearly 8.7% of the total emission.

 

At present, we have already surpassed the most environmentally-ambitious interpretation of the Copenhagen Accord i.e. energy-related CO2 emissions targeted to reach 31.9 Gt in 2020. This means that to limit energy-related emissions to 21.7 Gt in 2035, as targeted in the Copenhagen Accord, dramatic emissions cuts are needed at present and furthermore vigorous efforts after 2020. This makes the change to a Hydrogen Economy exceptionally important in the coming decade.

National Hydrogen Energy Road Map (NHERMP) prepared by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has addressed various aspects of this issue. The main objective of the program is to recognize the routes, which will prompt a slow acceptance of hydrogen vitality in the nation, accelerating the commercialization and encourage the formation of hydrogen energy infrastructure in the nation. Accordingly, it is projected that around one million hydrogen-fuelled vehicles would be on Indian roads and 1,000 MW aggregate hydrogen-based power generating capacity be set up in the country, by 2020.

Hydrogen Production Routes
Majority of hydrogen produced is utilised in petroleum refineries, fertiliser, chemicals and food industries. On an expansive scale, a greater part of the hydrogen is created from Natural Gas, with different feedstocks being Oil, Coal and Water (commonly 48% from flammable gas, 30% from oil, 18% from coal and 4% from water electrolysis).

The routes practised for hydrogen production

  • Steam reforming of feedstock such as methane, natural gas or naphtha

  • Partial oxidation of heavy petroleum residues

  • Gasification of feedstock such as petroleum coke, coal, biomass

  • Electrolysis of water

  • Thermochemical water splitting

  • Photocatalytic water splitting

  • Photobiological water splitting

A typical hydrogen production cost with respect to gasoline base price is indicated in Figure 2.

From these, only the first three routes are most economical and are commercially proven technologies whereas the other environmental benign processes using renewable energy are at the nascent or developmental stage.

 

However, there have been developments in recent years. A few indigenous achievements in this area include, (1) Hydrogen production by non-thermal plasma reformation technique (CIMFR-Dhanbad, IICT- Hyderabad), (2) Prototype demonstration of wind hydrogen based stand-alone electrical generator (ERDA -Vadodara), (3) Liquid fuels from biomass gasification (IISc- Bengaluru), (4 ) Semiconductor nano-composites for photo-catalytic water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen (IICT-Hyderabad).

In order to fill up the immediate demand and supply gap in line with NHERMP, centralised large-scale hydrogen generation units utilising coal or natural gas are required. These units will be in operation until hydrogen can be obtained economically from the above renewable sources. Further, the technological advancements additionally should focus on the disposal of immense amounts of carbon dioxide, a by-product for these unified hydrogen age units. Parallel quantification and utilisation of by-product hydrogen from nearby chemical industry or onsite hydrogen generators could be an attractive option for power generation and transport applications.

Hydrogen Storage
Commonly hydrogen gas is stored in steel ASME-certified containers or composite pressurized containers. Several international organisations are working on the development of high-pressure hydrogen (350-700 bar) storage systems.

 

Expanding the gas weight improves the density of energy by volume shrinkage however the container thickness (or weight) builds owing to high weight prerequisite. Further, hydrogen can also be put away as liquid hydrogen at cryogenic conditions, however, this technology is energy exhaustive. In India, the liquid hydrogen plant has been installed near Thiruvananthapuram by ISRO for the space programme.

 

There is a critical requirement for linking the technology gap of using liquid hydrogen for vehicular transport and the purpose of power generation.

Alternatively, hydrogen can also be stored and transported in the form of chemical hydrides. For transport applications, hydrides with 6 to 9 wt.% storage capacity, and cycle life of greater than 1500 is required.

Further, indigenous R & D should be strengthened for novel hydrogen storage materials and methodologies such as carbon nanotubes, sodium alanates, zeolites, glass microspheres, underground caverns, salt domes and depleted oil and gas fields. The capacity of substantial amounts of hydrogen underground can also work as a network of energy storage which is necessary for running the hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen Transportation and Delivery
Hydrogen transport and its distribution to the end users in an economical and efficient manner is a key success factor for the hydrogen economy.

 

The most common mode of transportation for hydrogen is road or rail transportation in pressurized tanks or barrels (weights running from 150 to 400 bars). Generally, storage of hydrogen in the compact forms are more affordable to transport than diffused forms. Transporting liquid hydrogen is unquestionably more productive than a high-pressure gas, especially when the quantity is large.

 

Pipeline transport of hydrogen through existing petroleum gas pipelines could be a proficient mode for transporting energy for longer distance.
However, suitability of these pipeline materials needs to be assessed followed by periodic inspections of such pipelines for embrittlement.

Hydrogen Safety, Codes and Standards
Indian industries are using hydrogen over several decades and over this period safety codes and regulations for the handling of hydrogen have been developed.

 

This commonly incorporates, (1) BIS specification for packed gaseous hydrogen storage (IS – 1090), (2) commencement and administration static and mobile pressure container (unfired) rules, 1981 and the gas chamber rules, 1981 by division of explosives, (3) plan and execution of a progression of self-administrative estimates, for example, OISD rules for improving the security in oil and gas industry in India.

 

However, for hydrogen applications in power generation, mobile and transport sector, a major revision in existing codes and standards is needed. Educational and training programmes are needed to create awareness about safety aspects of hydrogen energy in different applications.

Fuel Cells
Fuel cells are a promising option for hydrogen applications both for transportation and power generation. Fuel cells require a moderately pure form of hydrogen; free from contaminants, for example, sulfur and carbon compounds. Indigenous research should target advancement of different components for electrodes, catalysts (supplanting expensive noble metals), layers and separators, substitution of costly noble metals, utilized as catalysts, unwavering quality upgrades for fuel cells. Safety measures, codes and models should also be a part of fuel cell development programs.

Role of Indian EPC Industry for Success of Hydrogen Economy

A model indicating the hydrogen energy management programme for India is shown in Figure 3. It clearly mentions the role of the Indian industry in integrating the R & D projects. This may be applicable for the EPC industry too.

Indian EPC businesses have effectively introduced several large scale hydrogen generation units for open and private segment refineries. For this reason, EPC organizations, as Larsen and Toubro, have framed unions with driving innovation for permitting hydrogen generation processes.

 

EPC industries have demonstrated robust linkage amongst licenser, vendors and public sector companies for cost competitive and on time installation of hydrogen units on a turnkey basis. Not just this, Larsen and Toubro have additionally assembled world-class manufacturing centres for basic equipment in hydrogen services.

 

The Indian EPC industry is looking towards Hydrogen Economy in a much broader perspective such as:

  • Active involvement in framing policies and legislation for hydrogen economy including validation of safety regulations, codes and standards.

  • A tie-up with national and international R & D firms for hydrogen research.

  • Involvement as a stakeholder for completing large scale hydrogen projects through the public-private partnership.

From a long term perspective, hydrogen offers great potential as alternative energy technology, but still needs affordable production routes from renewable sources and continued investment in hydrogen infrastructure.

 

Through a community-oriented and an incorporated methodology, it is conceivable to achieve the staged enlistment of the practical hydrogen economy in the nation.

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