Views of K.R. Jyothilal: “Kerala is planning hydrogen valleys in select cities”

“Kerala is planning hydrogen valleys in select cities”

K.R. Jyothilal, Principal Secretary, Transport, Government of Ke­rala

Kerala plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. To this end, the state needs to decarbonise different sectors. It started with ultra-low emission technologies such as compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and hybrids. Now it is moving towards batteries, electric vehicles (EVs) and green hydrogen. At the India-Japan Hydrogen Seminar held on March 24, 2022, K.R. Jyothilal, principal secretary, transport, Government of Ke­rala, presented the state’s plans for the green hydrogen and EV space. Edited excerpts from his presentation, covering Kerala’s EV policy, hydrogen fuel cell pilot projects, green hydrogen production in Kerala and the key enablers for decarbonisation in the state…

Kerala has floated an EV policy, which aims to deploy 1 million EVs by 2025. It plans to deploy electric buses, trucks and boats as well. Kochi’s water metro’s first battery/hybrid boat, manufactured by Cochin Shipyard Limited in partnership with Toshiba, is now ready. With the commissioning of the national waterway in the next six months, almost 500 km of waterways will be available from one end of Kerala to the other. The national waterway will have fuel-cell based boats. The policy gives equal treatment to battery EVs and fuel cell EVs. A concessional road tax of 2.5 per cent for the first five years has also been announced in the budget, but an exemption will be provided for research and development purposes. The policy plans for more than 100 charging and battery swapping centres.

Cochin Shipyard Limited is also working on ammonia projects. In fact, Ashok Leyland, Bos­ch and IIT Madras are working on using me­thanol as an alternative to diesel, which will be helpful for the broader decarbonisation goals of the state.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles will complement EVs. The latter have certain limitations when it comes to heavy freight and long-haul transport, es­pecially buses and trucks. The key issues are the charging time for large batteries in trucks and buses; cost, weight and recycling issues; and inadequate range for long-haul and heavy freight. To this end, hydrogen fuel cells can po­wer heavy-duty and high-utilisation-rate vehicles (trucks, regional/intercity buses, etc.). Kerala’s journey in decarbonising the transport sector includes feasibility assessments for hydrogen fuel cell buses, pilot deployment of hydrogen bu­ses for public transit systems, EVs (both road and marine), use of sustainable aviation fuel by Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), and water metro and silver line projects.

Recent developments

A pilot study is planned for the national highway between Trivandrum and Kochi. The pilot project was approved by the Ministry of Road Tran­sport and Highways on July 14, 2020. For this pilot, two second-generation Toyota Mirai cars have been imported. The Petroleum and Expl­o­sives Safety Organisation has given its approval for the project, although the bus from Tata Mo­tors is awaiting certification from the Auto­motive Research Asso­ciation of India (ARAI). At Kochi and Trivandrum, hydrogen fuelling stations will be set up by Indian Oil Corporation Li­mited (IOCL) and Bharat Pet­roleum Corpo­ration Limi­ted (BPCL). A decision has been taken to allocate 1.2-1.5 acres at Kochi and Kannur/ Edap­pal to oil marketing companies. In addition, CIAL’s plans for green hydrogen generation need to be finalised. The airport is already totally powered by solar energy, with excess solar energy being generated.

In parallel, Kerala is planning hydrogen valleys in select cities, just like the projects developed in the Netherlands. Fuel cell trains across the state are also being planned. Across the country, municipal bodies should contemplate using municipal waste for hydrogen generation to fuel their cities.

In the state government’s budget, 10 fee­der hydrogen buses have been announc­ed for the metro and airport. A viability gap funding of Rs 10 million will be provided for the first year. For this project, Ko­chi metro will be the implementing ag­en­­cy, with CIAL and IOCL partnering for the supply of green hydrogen.

Three distinct route types (inter, intra and feeder) were selected to design optimal hydrogen fuel cell EV bus specifications for engine and battery size hybridisation, to optimise the overall project economics. The three scenarios are: Scenario A – intercity long-haul with 13 metre buses (16 routes); Scenario B – last-mile feeder ro­u­tes with 9 metre buses for Kochi metro (8 routes); and Scenario C – short-haul intra-city routes with 13 metre buses in Kochi (14 routes). The deployment plan for these bu­ses across the different scenarios will be carried out in three phases: Phase I will add 10 buses each for the three scenarios by 2022. Phase II will add another 20, 10 and 10 buses for Scenarios A, B and C by 2024, 2023 and 2023 respectively. Phase III will add another 20, 30 and 30 buses for Scenarios A, B and C by 2026, 2024 and 2023 respectively. The strategic placement of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will transform the Kochi-Trivandrum highway into a hydrogen highway.

The hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is to be de­veloped, prioritising on-site modular scalable distribution generation and dispensing hubs to enable network adoption and resiliency. An integrated approa­ch is needed to forecast the daily hydrogen de­mand capacity, and model refue­lling infrastructure design options to meet demand from the transport sector. In Ke­rala, this infrastructure will be developed using the hub-and-spoke model. The three ports of the state will be the hubs, and they will supply the fuel to near­by towns through pipelines.

Another promising opportunity, especially for Kochi, is the use of green hydrogen for refineries whereby, going forward, green hydrogen mandates would be applicable.

Overall, across India, certain developme­nts have started to materialise with res­pe­ct to fuel cell buses. Tata Motors has bag­g­ed an order for 15 fuel cell electric buses from IOCL for further research and development activities, with ARAI’s approval cu­rrently in process. Going forward, for in­tercity applications (over 350 km), hy­dr­o­­gen-based fuel cell electric buses should be explored to further complement the intra-city electric bus fleets. In addition, in­digenisation of the fuel cell stack is im­p­or­tant. It is the core component of a hy­dr­o­­gen-based vehicle, but it is currently ex­pen­sive and imported, with a few companies having complete monopoly.

To drive down costs, it is critical to build a component-specific cost reduction programme with a focus on building indigenous manufacturing capabilities and creating local value addition.

Focus on procuring renewables for green hydrogen

Production of hydrogen from renewable energy will not only help the state increase its renewable energy capacity, but will al­so help integrate variable renewable energy into power systems, where hydrogen wo­u­ld become a medium of storage for renewables, thereby providing grid balancing services. Kerala has also started ex­ploring the development of renewable en­ergy sources with programmes such as Soura sc­heme under the Urja Kerala Mi­ssion. More­over, the Kerala State Elec­tricity Board is to purchase 300 MW of solar power from the Solar Energy Corpo­ration of India at a po­oled tariff of Rs 2.44 per kWh to meet its renewable purchase obligation.

In Kerala, Travancore Cochin Chemicals is looking to produce hydrogen from its in­ternal chemical processes to support loc­al demand. Also, Adore has shown interest in setting up grid-scale green hydrogen projects in the vein of Sweden. In ad­dition, Kerala is contemplating the development of floating solar and wind-to-hy­dro­gen projects on a decentralised basis. The offshore wind segment is another emerging opportunity for Kerala because of its vast coastal area, and efforts are being made to tap this potential. In this space, discussions have been held with Norway, which uses innovative technologies.

BPCL and Air Products are exploring low-carbon hydrogen production at their integrated renewable energy project located in Kochi. NTPC is also aggressively expanding its green hydrogen portfolio, complementing Kerala’s vision of a green hydrogen economy.

Enablers of decarbonisation

Going forward, there are five key enablers of decarbonisation in Kerala. First, the Na­tional Green Tribunal has banned diesel and petrol vehicles older than 10 years and 15 years respectively to curb transport emi­ssions. Second, the central government’s scrappage policy aims to reduce India’s impact on the environment by isolating and recycling cars that do not meet the pollution standards. Third, Kerala’s EV policy aims to put 1 million EVs on the road by 2025, with a focus on battery swapping for two- and three-wheelers, fast charging centres, and hydrogen fuel cell buses and trucks. Fourth, different pilot projects related to hydrogen fuel cell-powered inter- and intra-city transport are being developed in Kerala. Fifth, the state can learn from the expertise of the Indian Space Research Or­ganisa­tion, which has been using hydrogen technology for a long time.