Every day we hear of how Hydrogen application and use impacts our lives. While it is still in its infancy, the future will be dotted with example of how the gas is going to change the environment and how the economy operates.
The unmanned aerial crafts called ‘drones’, reported to be the lethal potent weapon against militant groups, will soon have a boost in their capabilities and Hydrogen will play a major role in it. UAV research program at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington merges two separate efforts - UAV technology and fuel cell systems. They have tested hydrogen-powered fuel cell design, which can travel further and carry heavier payloads than earlier battery-powered designs. The craft employ stealthy characteristics due to its small size, reduced noise, low heat signature and zero emissions. With this new cell, it is expected to exceed the duration of previous flights seven-fold.
This is almost like yet another ‘fringe’ benefit of the Hydrogen story. Its importance is demonstrated in its excellent ability to make fuel more efficient and with no trace of pollutants. In fact the only residue is water in a Hydrogen fuel engine.
For the past 2 years, the Indian government has announced many plans with specific budget allocations for alternate energy and has marked funds for rapid development of gas pipelines to meet energy demands. The subtext in this plan points to renewed commitment to put Hydrogen in Focus to make fuel more efficient and considerably less polluting. The need for a better, less polluting and more efficient fuel is getting more acute by the day. The road ahead is soon turning into the one below our feet. As more and more utilities of Hydrogen fuel come forth, a concerted effort is on the anvil worldwide to first develop its production efficiency and later popularize its use. Conferences, seminars and workshops bring together international and national researchers, policy makers, investors, energy producers and consumers in an endeavor to align their efforts and knowledge relating to the production, usage, and safe handling for promoting Hydrogen as a potent energy carrier.
India’s power needs are projected to reach over 240,000MW by 2012 which is an increase of about 20,000MWper year. The estimated potential in India for generation of power from wind, hydro biomass is around 80,000MW. Renewable power capacity is likely to double every five years or so in the future. By then it is expected that 10 percentage of installed capacity would be from renewable energy sources. The hunt for more energy is at the base of India’s progress and development.
India receives solar energy equivalent of over 5,000trKWhr/yr, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country. Presently only a fraction of the aggregate potential in solar energy is being tapped. Processed raw material for solar cells, large capacity photovoltaic modules, film solar cells, photovoltaic roof riles, inverters and charge controllers- all have a good potential. If it is utilized optimally the energy generated can be used for fuel cells to meet transportation needs. Almost 540 million tones of crop and plantation residues are produced in the country every year, a large portion of which is either wasted or used inefficiently. It is estimated that almost 15 per cent of existing installed power capacity can be produced by using this biomass itself . Around 15,000MW of power can be produced from urban and municipal wastes. With an installed capacity of around 5,500MW of wind power, India can go very far ahead in this option.
The significance of Hydrogen can never be underestimated since Hydrogen as the clean fuel and energy carrier can be used for a broad range of applications. Fuel cells generate power by converting chemical energy into electricity through low cost, reliable, distributed power generators and remote power systems. Instead of relying on traditional ‘grid’, connectivity, fuel cells could help to change the way we look at energy infrastructure in the future,
The roadmap clearly envisages that initially centralized Hydrogen production plants would be used to provide Hydrogen for demonstration programmes. On-site reforming of natural gas in the vicinity of existing natural gas pipe line network in the country can also be used to produce Hydrogen. Existing natural gas dispensing stations will require on site-reformers for production of Hydrogen from natural gas. After successful demonstration, SMR based Hydrogen production plant can be deployed wherever CNG infrastructure is available. This will help in switching over from CNG based vehicles to Hydrogen based vehicles gradually. Eventually, production of hydrogen utilizing solar energy could also be explored and recently launched National Solar Mission will provide a fillip to this effort in India.
New Delhi has one of the largest fleet of CNG buses in the world. Soon it may have the distinction of having the largest fleet of HCNG buses once the technology for Hydrogen CNG takes off. There are plans to have 1000 Hydrogen power vehicles on the road in next 3 years time, of which 800 will be 3 wheelers and remaining 200 will be buses. The amount of money to be spent by auto mobile manufacturers on this will be to the tune of billions.
India has been experiencing rapid economic growth for a decade since the government started to privatize previously state run industrial sector of its economy.
India is 6th largest oil consumers and its energy needs have gone up four times in the last decade. India is the only country in the world which has a separate government ministry dedicate to non-conventional energy sources. The ministry of non conventional energy source (MNES) has a clear cut agenda for renewable energy source. It is for this reason that the ministry created the National Hydrogen Energy Board (NHEB) to implement the Hydrogen Roadmap. There is still a long way to go before result are seen at the ground level but the sheer enormity of the task is no reason to lose heart.
The roadmap clearly points out that the initials focus will be on the use of Hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) technology, to possibly pure Hydrogen ICEs and then fuel cell vehicles in the long term. India is a little behind the rest of the world in Hydrogen vehicles, as of now.
The future as spelt out in the National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap document states that public awareness and capacity building are the key components for successful introduction of any new technology in the market place. Since Hydrogen Energy Technologies will be widely used by the common people it is essential that they are made aware of the benefits of the technology.
Public private participation is taking off in right earnest. With a visible and study co-operation between various stakeholders in the public sectors undertakings, private auto majors, academic institutions and research organizations, India is on the way to realizing its Hydrogen dreams for the future. But as the poet would say – “there are miles to go before we sleep ”