Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Hydrogen Energy 

 

Q 1.     What are the benefits of using hydrogen as a fuel? 

Hydrogen is a clean fuel with highest energy content in terms of mass (120.7 MJ/kg). It is possible to use hydrogen directly in IC engines, mix with diesel and CNG and also in fuel cells to directly produce electricity. Hydrogen can be used for power generation and also as a fuel in automobiles. Hydrogen has been used as a fuel in spacecrafts. When burnt, hydrogen produces water as a by-product.  It is, therefore, not only an efficient energy carrier but a clean and environmentally benign fuel as well. Hydrogen can substitute petrol and diesel can and therefore, reduce our dependence on imports. 

Q  2.   What is the status of development of Hydrogen Energy in India?

 Hydrogen energy is at present only at the Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) stage. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is supporting a broad based RD&D projects on different aspects of hydrogen energy technologies including hydrogen production, its storage and utilization for stationary, motive and portable power generation applications using internal combustion engines and fuel cell technologies. The focus of RD&D efforts in this area is directed towards development of new materials, processes, components, sub-systems and systems.

As a result of RD&D efforts made in the area of hydrogen energy, laboratory level prototypes of hydrogen fuelled motorcycles, three wheelers, engine-generator sets, and water/methanol electrolysers for hydrogen production have been developed. About 15 hydrogen fuelled motorcycles are being demonstrated in the campus of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Hydrogen catalytic combustion cookers have been developed. Facilities for dispensing hydrogen blended compressed natural gas fuel have been set up in Faridabad and Delhi.

The Ministry of Science and Technology, CSIR Laboratories, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Defence Research & Development Organizations, Indian Space Research Organization, Oil & Gas companies, Department of Atomic Energy and private sector automobile companies   are also involved in the research, development and demonstration programme related to hydrogen.

Q   3.     When do you expect commercial production to start?  

At present research, development and demonstration activities are being taken up to develop and improve hydrogen fuelled vehicles and small generators. It is envisaged that in about a decade time, near commercial models may be available for extended demonstration of hydrogen use in automobiles. Small power generating systems are also likely to be ready by that time.

Q  4.  What are the limitations in using hydrogen as a fuel on large scale? 

Hydrogen has very low volumetric energy density. Therefore, it requires large space to store it in sufficient quantities. For automobile applications, it is necessary to store on-board sufficient quantities of hydrogen in a compact and efficient manner on-board to provide a certain driving range before refilling.

 Hydrogen is a colourless and odourless gas and on combustion produces a colourless flame. Therefore, special devices are necessary to detect the gas leakage to ensure safety in public places.

 Worldwide research efforts are being made to develop highly efficient on-board storage methods. At present high pressure cylinders for hydrogen storage at 350 bar / 700 bar are in use. R&D and commercialization efforts are underway to develop solid-state materials with hydrogen storage capacity up to 6 weight % and higher in metal hydrides, complex hydrides and carbon nano-structures.

 Q  5. What are the present hydrogen production methods and how would be hydrogen produced in future ?

 World over about 96 % hydrogen is being produced using hydrocarbons i.e. natural gas (48%), oil (30%) and coal (18%) through steam reformation/partial oxidation/gasification processes. About 4% hydrogen is produced through electrolysis of water.

 The hydrocarbon-based methods involve release of carbon dioxide and are, therefore, not environmentally benign. The carbon capture techniques are being developed globally and are not cost effective as yet. The production of hydrogen through electrolysis of water is a highly energy intensive method (4.5-6.5 kWh/Nm3). Therefore, for large-scale use of hydrogen, new and emerging cost effective methods that are sustainable are being developed. These include hydrogen production from biomass, biological, thermo-chemical, photo-catalytic, and other renewable energy and nuclear energy based methods. All these methods are still in the early stages of research and development.

 Q 6.  What is  the present production level and use of hydrogen in the country?

Hydrogen is available in abundance in water, biomass and hydrocarbons. However, it is not found as an independent gas in the atmosphere.

At present, hydrogen is being commercially produced in the country in the fertilizer, petroleum refining and chemical industries. In addition, hydrogen is also produced as a by-product in chlor-alkali industries. Some limited hydrogen is also produced through electrolysis for commercial use. The estimated hydrogen production and consumption in the country during 2007-08 as per a study undertaken by the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun are as given below:

Sector

Estimated Production during 2007-08

( Million Tonnes / Year)

Utilization during 2007-08

( Million Tonnes / Year)

Fertilizer Industry           

1.99

1.99 (Captive Use)

Petroleum Refineries       

1.69

1.462 (Captive use)

Chlor Alkali Industry

0.073

0.064

Total

3.753

3.516

 
Q. 7     What are the demonstration projects that are being supported by the Ministry?

The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources has supported demonstration projects through Indian Oil Corporation and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. The first demonstration project was for setting up a hydrogen dispensing station by the Indian Oil Corporation at their own petrol pump at Dwarka, New Delhi. The dispensing station has been commissioned during 2008-09 and has an electrolyser with 5 Nm3/hr hydrogen production capacity (about 11 kg/day). Hydrogen produced from the eletrolyser is being  blended with CNG for use in demonstration and test vehicles. The project is expected to help in acquiring working experience in handling hydrogen for use in vehicles and also provide field performance feed back on hydrogen-CNG blends as a fuel in automobiles.

The second demonstration project is 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 would demonstrate use of hydrogen (up to 30%) blend with CNG in automobiles. Three buses, two cars and two three wheelers are part of the project and would be used for field trials based on 18% hydrogen (by volume) blended with CNG. The project involves modifications in engine and fuel injection system. Existing hydrogen-CNG dispensing station set up by India Oil Corporation at Faridabad is being used for filling hydrogen-CNG blends in the test vehicles. The project would help in optimization of engine performance and blend ratio of hydrogen with CNG. The criteria for optimization would be the best efficiency and lowest NOx.

Q 8  Whether blends of hydrogen and CNG can be used as an automotive fuel in India?

Hydrogen up to 20% (by volume) can be blended with compressed natural gas (CNG) for use as an automotive fuel.