Government Unveils Draft R&D Roadmap for India‘s Green Hydrogen Ecosystem

It includes plans to develop safe and cost-effective hydrogen storage methods and end-use applications


The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has unveiled a draft roadmap outlining the research and development (R&D) priorities for manufacturing and storing green hydrogen. The roadmap aims to promote efficient, safe, and cost-effective hydrogen storage, paving the way for its widespread adoption as a clean energy source.

The key objectives include developing advanced storage methods, ensuring the durability and reliability of storage systems, and addressing safety concerns.

Efficient and Safe Storage Solutions

One of the primary goals of the roadmap is to develop storage methods that enable high-density hydrogen storage while reducing leakage and facilitating easy refueling.

The plan will focus on enhancing the long-term durability and reliability of hydrogen storage, transportation, and compression systems to encourage their widespread use.

The aim is to demonstrate distributed aboveground storage solutions with a capital cost lower than ₹30,000 (~$360)/kg by 2030.

Exploring Underground Storage

The roadmap also emphasizes research activities on underground storage to validate performance in different geological conditions, identify cost-effective materials, and encourage improved designs.

The objective is to demonstrate large-scale underground storage solutions across various mediums at a capital cost lower than ₹3,000 (~$36)/kg by 2030.

Indigenous Development and Materials Research

To promote self-reliance, the roadmap highlights the need for indigenous development of Type III and Type IV compressed hydrogen tanks and the synthesis of alloys or materials for solid-state hydrogen storage.

Researchers will focus on developing materials with high gravimetric capacity, faster kinetics, optimum operating conditions, low cost, and high cycle life. This involves exploring novel materials such as high surface area materials, complex or chemical hydrides, high entropy alloys, and composites.

Pilot Demonstrations for Various Applications

The roadmap underscores the importance of pilot-scale demonstrations for different stationary and vehicular applications.

This includes showcasing the use of solid-state hydrogen storage tanks for stationary applications like heating and cooling, hydrogen purification, thermal energy storage, and backup power.

Automobile sector

The ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India’ program identified that road transportation in the country alone accounts for approximately 80% of energy consumption. The country  imports 85% of its crude oil to meet its energy demands, with the transportation sector contributing a significant portion of this.

As India’s economy grows, its primary energy consumption will increase by 70% in the next decade, leading to a widening gap between domestic crude oil production and consumption. This necessitates substantial investment in exploring, developing, and implementing alternative energy systems.

Electric vehicles, including battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, are considered the most prominent alternatives in the automotive sector.

While global efforts primarily focus on lithium-ion batteries, India faces limitations as it lacks significant lithium resources. Lithium-ion batteries tend to be bulky, which poses challenges for applications requiring long travel ranges. As a result, alternative battery technologies are being explored.

Fuel cells are considered a favorable alternative for applications where rapid refueling and extended travel ranges are essential, as the charging time for batteries can be significant.

In general, energy storage technologies such as advanced batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen fuel cells complement each other. Therefore, it is believed that a combination of hydrogen fuel cells, advanced batteries, and supercapacitors will be crucial technologies for India in the coming years.

Telecom Sector

Telecom towers in India consume approximately 2 billion liters of diesel annually, resulting in an import cost of around $1 billion and greenhouse gas emissions of 5 MTCO2e. With an estimated 650,000 towers in the country, about 85% require backup power due to unreliable grid supply, often relying on diesel generators.

To reduce their carbon footprint, tower companies are actively seeking cleaner alternatives.

Low-Temperature Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (LT-PEM) fuel cells emerge as a promising solution. These fuel cells offer high energy density, reaching up to 3 kilowatts per liter, and can be scaled from a few watts to multiple megawatts. They operate silently, without vibrations, and are suitable for various stationary and automotive applications.

Using solid electrolyte membranes, LT-PEM fuel cells can utilize different fuel sources and ensure safety.

Deploying LT-PEM fuel cells to meet the backup power needs of telecom towers presents a valuable opportunity for implementing reliable and renewable energy solutions. By utilizing fuel cells, tower operators can reduce their reliance on traditional grid systems and diesel generators, offering a sustainable and efficient alternative for power generation.

Power Generation

Hydrogen is anticipated to play a significant role in a carbon-constrained future, with experts recognizing it as a leading contender for a clean energy source with diverse applications in the chemical, metal, and processing industries.

The energy sector, particularly the power industry and fuel cell vehicles in transportation, holds potential as the main commercial utilization areas for hydrogen globally.

Ammonia has gained attention as a promising solution, as it liquefies at -33 ºC at atmospheric pressure and has an energy density superior to liquid hydrogen.

Ammonia can serve as a cost-effective and practically feasible hydrogen carrier due to existing infrastructure in the fertilizer industry.

Research is needed to substitute or generate hydrogen from ammonia just before its utilization to fully utilize ammonia as an energy vector. This could be achieved by efficiently decomposing ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen, enabling its use in gas turbine combustors, solid oxide fuel cells, and proton exchange membrane fuel cells.

The energy sector is a significant contributor to global CO2 emissions, and employing hydrogen as a clean fuel in gas turbine power plants can help address this environmental challenge.

Utilizing ammonia as a hydrogen carrier in such applications presents a practical method for widespread hydrogen use. Patents and engineering solutions have emerged to use ammonia in gas turbine power plants, including developing coupled combustor-heat exchanger systems.

Further investigation is needed to determine the compatibility of existing industrial natural gas combustors with hydrogen combustion, and successful demonstrations of these concepts in real-world scenarios can lead to substantial growth in hydrogen utilization, reducing global CO2 emissions.

Industrial applications

Currently, most hydrogen is used as a molecule in chemical processes, making sectors like ammonia synthesis and desulfurization the most suitable for adopting green hydrogen.

For catalytic synthesis processes, stringent quality standards need to be established.

Sectors where hydrogen is used as a reducing agent in industries such as steel and cement, can be more flexible, and initial focus should be placed on these sectors.

To promote the adoption of green hydrogen, it is essential to mandate guaranteed uptake of green hydrogen to offset a portion of grey hydrogen used in conventional industrial processes.

Co-locating green hydrogen generation plants with high-consumption sites would minimize transportation costs. Viability gap funding may be necessary initially to address potential challenges associated with blending and utilizing green hydrogen alongside grey hydrogen, ensuring economies of scale.

Establishing and publishing industry-specific standards for hydrogen quality is crucial for producers to meet desired specifications. Given that the end technology for green hydrogen utilization is already at a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL 9), more than 75% of the generated green hydrogen should be directed toward the abovementioned sectors by 2025-27.

Approximately 50% can be allocated to the steel and cement sector, while the remaining 25% can be directed to sectors where hydrogen is used as a molecule.

Research and development modes

The roadmap has proposed three key approaches for promoting R&D – mission mode, grand challenge projects, and blue sky projects.

The Mission Mode Projects in the green hydrogen sector aim to address key research and development priorities with a short-term impact horizon of 0 to 5 years. These projects focus on early-stage research and actions that can lead to significant technological advancements. Under the approach, low-cost electrode development for reduced cost, improved performance, and increased durability of PEM electrolyzers would be developed along with the development of feedstock agnostic biomass gasification technology for hydrogen production, among others.

The Grand Challenge Projects in the field of green hydrogen aim to address key research and development priorities with a mid-term impact horizon of 0 to 8 years. These projects are focused on driving innovation, encouraging the growth of start-ups and industries, and advancing the green hydrogen ecosystem in India. It would include power-to-gas technology development with SOEC, demonstration of biomass gasification-based hydrogen generation, and development of integrated net carbon-negative solutions for hydrogen production cost-effectively through indigenous technologies.

Blue Sky Projects encompass long-term research and development initiatives with a 0 to 15 years horizon. These projects focus on establishing global intellectual property and a competitive advantage for the Indian industry in hydrogen and fuel cells.

R&D for seawater electrolysis for hydrogen production, photoelectrochemical water splitting, thermochemical water splitting, and integration with nuclear and technology for waste to hydrogen would be developed.

MNRE recently released a framework document outlining incentive programs for the manufacturing of electrolyzers and the production of green hydrogen within the country, with a combined financial outlay of ₹174.9 billion (~$2.1 billion).

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