Storage and transportation of hydrogen could be a potential challenge in scaling up the hydrogen economy for India. The existing infrastructure is limited and could be insufficient to support the widespread use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. Globally, most hydrogen is transported using pipelines. However, pipelines need to be designed with higher specifications to minimise leakage and embrittlement. Alternatively, hydrogen can be transported in the form of ammonia, methanol and liquid organic hydrogen. These fuels have higher energy conversion costs. At lower volumes, transporting hydrogen using trucks could be a viable option.
Based on cost figures by the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC 2021), an analysis by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that for most applications in India, hydrogen transportation through pipelines could be the most cost-effective route. However, challenges in obtaining investments for building pipelines and technical issues would need to be addressed. Shipping could remain an unviable option for India for domestic transport till 2050 due to the high costs of liquefaction, refrigeration and regasification.
Out of the 16,324 km of the existing pipeline network, around 70 per cent is operated by Gas Authority of India Limited. About 16.5 per cent and 10.9 per cent is operated by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Reliance Gas Pipeline Limited. The remaining 2.6 per cent is operated by Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Assam Gas Company Limited. These organisations should take the lead in upgrading their pipeline infrastructure.
Recent regulatory update
In 2020, there was a proposal for a regulatory framework for hydrogen and fuel cells by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation. In the same year, MoRTH notified draft standards for safety evaluation of hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles under the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. In July 2020, 18 per cent blend of hydrogen with CNG was notified as an automotive fuel vide GSR 461.
Key industry efforts in the storage and transportation space
In October 2021, Welspun became the first company from India to join the H2Pipie Joint Industry Project on hydrogen pipelines. The company will collaborate with global oil and gas majors to develop the world’s first guidelines for the transport of hydrogen gas through existing and new offshore pipelines.
NTPC Limited invited a global EOI to set up a pilot project on hydrogen blending with natural gas in city gas distribution. The pilot will be the first of its kind in India and would explore the viability of decarbonising the country’s natural gas grid.
Meanwhile, Indian Oil has signed a pact with Greenstat Norway for setting up a centre for excellence on hydrogen. The centre will facilitate the transfer and sharing of technology, know-how and experience in hydrogen storage and fuel cells through a green hydrogen value chain. The oil PSU is also working in collaboration with IIT Kharagpur on the development of the Type-3 High Pressure Hydrogen Cylinder. The company owns and operates the first high pressure hydrogen storage and dispensing terminal in India. The terminal is located in Delhi and it uses a PEM electrolyser.
Key policy developments and expectations
In 2020, the MoRTH proposed amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, to include safety evaluation standards for hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles. In 2020, the ministry also allowed the use of H-CNG (18 per cent mix of hydrogen) in CNG engines. The BIS has also developed H-CNG specifications.
The government plans to introduce a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for electrolysers to promote production in India. The outlay of the scheme could be approximately $2 billion. A $10 per kW cost reduction each year is expected due to this scheme, which is likely to have a timeline of five years starting from financial year 2024-25. A PLI scheme for the automotive sector has been implemented, providing incentives worth $3.43 billion to the industry over five years. The scheme also includes incentives for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in all segments.
The government may also consider reducing the goods and services tax to zero for five years on electrolysers. In order to further promote the production of green hydrogen, the government plans to call for green hydrogen bids for approximately 4 GW of electrolyser capacity.
This article is based on a presentation by Shirish Garud, Director, TERI, at Renewable Watch’s conference on “Green Hydrogen in India”