Hydrogen Energy Fuel Cell In India- A Way Forward



One of the biggest problem that world is facing today is the global energy crisis. The dependence of the man to produce the energy from the non-renewable energy source has lead towards the extinction of these sources. This is why there is need to shift our focus on the more sustainable and efficient source of energy. The heavy use of the conventional sources has increased the level of pollution. The emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide had a severe impact over the health of human being as well as the environment. The excessive emission of the carbon dioxide creates the greenhouse effect, thereby the heat generated in the Earth remains in the atmosphere. Heat does not escape out because of this greenhouse effect, causing increase in surface temperature of the Earth. This phenomenon is called as global warming. Global warming causes melting of glaciers, floods, storms, creating havoc over the human being and endangering the agricultural wealth and ultimately rise in sea level, which may create danger to the lives of 14.2% India’s population which is living on the 7,517 km coastline and 1,238 Indian island.


The global annual mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased severely from the industrial revolution. The level of CO2 is currently rising at 2 ppm/year also rising further. The Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval (EDGAR) database created by the European Commission and Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency released in 2014, India stands at the bottom of per capita CO2 emission with 1.8 tonnes carbon emission annually in the list of top 20 CO2 emitting countries.


India submitted to UN Framework Convention on climate Change its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to reduce the emission level by 33-35% by 2030 with a level of 2005 at a cost of $ 2.5 trillion to grow clean energy in electricity generation to   40%   through non fossil fuel sources. As a measure to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel, reduce the local and global emission of CO2 and other pollutant, keeping in view the financial, social and environmental consideration there is a need to develop carbon neutral source of energy. Such sources include solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy. The major drawback of all these source is there intermittent nature of availability. Now a day’s hydrogen is emerging as a source of energy.


Hydrogen is the clean source of energy, particularly used in transportation purpose and now being used in generating electricity. An atom of hydrogen consists of one electron and one proton. It has very high energy content almost three times more than gasoline. It is available in plentiful amount in the universe. Despite its availability hydrogen is not available in free form as gas its always combined with other element, water for example is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen.


Currently, 48% of hydrogen is produced from natural gas, 30% of oil, 10% of coal and 4% from water electrolysis. There are many challenges associated with the hydrogen energy and fuel cell like hydrogen production, storage, transportation.

Hydrogen Production In India


Hydrogen is a secondary or by product in the chlor-alkali industry. In the past, part of the produced hydrogen is either escape out or flared. But because of the technological advancement up to 2013-14 90% of the hydrogen was utilized to make chemicals and for the energy applications. In 2013-14 there were 40 such units which produced nearly 66000 tons by product hydrogen out of which 10% remains unutilized.


Hydrogen can be separated from the hydrocarbons by the application of heat, a process known as reforming. Most hydrogen is made by this way from natural gas. Process name electrolysis is also used, in which electric current is used to separate water in to oxygen and hydrogen. Some algae and bacteria, using sun light as their energy source can separate hydrogen under some condition. Other methods use to produce hydrogen are, thermochemical splitting of water, photo-catalytic and photo-chemical process, non-thermal plasma assisted direct decomposition of hydrogen sulphide.


Hydrogen Storage And Application Other Than Transportation


Hydrogen chemical structure has smallest molecule, density-wise lightest, lowest ignition energy and has wide range of explosion limit with air. Because of the kind of chemical structure while storing hydrogen need special care. Some of the methods of storing hydrogen are- 1) High pressure gas cylinder (up to 800 bar), 2) Liquid hydrogen in cryogenic tank (at 21°k), 3) Chemically bonded in covalent and iconic compound, 4) Oxidation of reactive metal such as Li, Na, Mg, Al, Zn, with water, 5) Physi-sorbed hydrogen on material with a large specific surface area, 6) Chemi-sorbed on interstitial sites in host metal and inter metallic.




  1. Hydrogen can replace LPG and CNG for cooking purpose because of its characteristics such as ignitability, low ignition delay and higher flame stability.


  1. Hydrogen gas is used for metallic ore reduction.


  1. Electric generator use hydrogen gas as a coolant.


  1. Because of its light weight characteristics scientist use this gas in weather balloon.


  1. Welding company use hydrogen gas for welding torches, used for welding metal.


Action Plan and Financial Projection


The development on the storage and other activities will be carried out through three project namely Mission Mode project (MMP), Research and Development Project (R&DP) and Basic and Fundamental Research Project (B/FRP). The time frame for all the projects will be 2016-2022. The projects will be carried out in three phases. Each project has three sub activities



Financial Outlay (Rs. Cr.)

Mission Mode Project

Development & on-field deployment of high-pressure gas cylinder


Development of solid state storage device & cartridge for small vehicle & stationery power pack


Manufacture of solid state storage material in large scale



Total Outlay


Research and Development Project

Development & field demo of home cooker with LPG mix & with complete hydrogen


Development & field demo of high intensity thermal energy storage system



Total Outlay


Basic/Fundamental Research Project

Synthesis & characterization of new/novel storage material & device



Total Outlay




Fuel Cell Development in India


Fuel cell combines hydrogen & oxygen to produce electricity, heat & water. They are often compared with batteries. Both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction in to usable electric power. But fuel cell will produce electricity as long as fuel supplied. Fuel cell operates best on pure hydrogen. But fuel like natural gas, methanol or even gasoline can reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cell. The various types of fuel cell are- 1) Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell, 2) Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell, 3) Alkaline Fuel Cell, 4) Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, 5) Direct Ethanol/Methanol Fuel Cell, 6) Bio-Fuel Cell, 7)Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell, 8) Direct Carbon Fuel Cell, 9) Micro Fuel Cell.



Budgetary Provisions  


The overall budgetary provision for the fuel development is Rs. 750 Cr. Which is allotted in the three project- 1) For the Mission Mode Project 80% of the total financial provision that is Rs. 600 Cr. is allotted. 2) For the Research & Development Project Rs. 75 Cr. has been allotted. 3) For the Basic/Framework Research Project Rs. 75 Cr. has been allotted.






Transportation through Hydrogen Fuelled Vehicles


Hydrogen fuelled automobile generates power by directly through burning in to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) or indirectly by first to electrical energy through fuel cell then to the motive power. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel in Spark Ignition (SI) engine as well as in Compression Ignition (CI) engine. Hydrogen can be used in automobile in combination with other fuel like gasoline. There is a need to develop after treatment device to reduce the level of NOx. Hydrogen fuelled car launch on the street of Great Britain during 2016. United Kingdom has plan to put 1.5million hydrogen fuelled cars up till 2030. Nationally IIT Delhi in collaboration with Mahindra & Mahindra developed a hydrogen fuelled three wheeler which uses hydrogen in gaseous phase. The total financial outlay provided for the development hydrogen fuelled vehicle is Rs. 680 Cr.


Comments and Assessment


  1. Human Resource Development is the key to make effective R&D program on hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cell is the important energy source for to use in transportation, residential purpose. The hydrogen based economy can generate future employment.


2 .The high ignitibility property of hydrogen make it hazardous to use. So proper safety standards are to be formulated and the present safety codes are to be amended time to time.


  1. Awareness among the people to be spread so that it promotes the use of hydrogen, as hydrogen can be used as the alternative fuel for the conventional fuel.


  1. Coordination between the industry and government can lead smooth commercialization of the hydrogen and fuel cell. Working together can promote the better technologies to utilize the hydrogen for various applications.


  1. The way for utilizing 10% wastage of the hydrogen must be develop. In house energy production can be the better way of utilizing this amount of hydrogen.

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