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India Hydrogen Energy

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Introduction [i]

Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas. It is found in water, organic compounds, biomass, and hydrocarbons such as petrol, natural gas, methanol, and propane. Hydrogen is high in energy content as it contains 120.7 kilojoules/gram. This is the highest energy content per unit mass among known fuels. However, its energy content per unit volume is rather low. Thus, challenges are greater in the storage of hydrogen for civilian applications, as compared to storage of liquid fossil fuels. When burnt, hydrogen produces water as a by-product and is therefore not only an efficient energy carrier but a clean, environmentally benign fuel as well. Hydrogen can be used for power generation and also for transport applications. It is possible to use hydrogen in internal combustion (IC) engines, directly or mixed with diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) or hydrogen can also be used directly as a fuel in fuel cells to produce electricity. Hydrogen energy is often mentioned as a potential solution for several challenges that the global energy system is facing. The advantages are the fact that hydrogen use results in nearly zero emissions at end-use, and that hydrogen opens up the possibility of decentralized production on the basis of a variety of fuels. But it is found that hydrogen will not play a major role in India without considerable research, technology innovations and cost reductions, mainly in fuel cell technology. This section provides inputs on the status of hydrogen energy in India.


Hydrogen Production

  • Globally, over 95% of hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbons; about 4% is produced through electrolysis of water
  • Hydrogen is also produced as a by-product in chloralkali industries.
  • There are several other methods to produce hydrogen that are at different stages of research and demonstration.

These methods include hydrogen production through

(a) Biomass and biological route,
(b) Photo electrochemical route,
(c) Thermo chemical decomposition of water using nuclear energy or solar energy, and
(d) Electrolysis using renewable energy (solar, wind).

Hydrogen Storage Technologies

The most common method of storage of hydrogen is in gaseous form in pressurized cylinders/tanks.

Hydrogen-Fuelled Vehicles

It is possible to run commercially available IC-engine vehicles directly on hydrogen, or on hydrogen mixed with CNG.

Fuel Cell Power Packs

Research efforts over the past several years have resulted in the development of phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) systems and polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) systems.

Hydrogen Programme's in Major Countries

Japan Set up hydrogen fueling stations. Plans to spend $20 billion by 2020
Germany Largest number of demonstration of hydrogen based applications; Hydrogen fueling stations
IcelandIceland plans to be world's first hydrogen economy
USA Annual spending around $ 30M Hydrogen Freedom Fuel Initiative announced in January, 2003 with budget of US $ 2.2 billion. IPHE set up in November 2003

Status of Hydrogen-based Technologies in India


The Banaras Hindu University (BHU); Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC), Chennai; and IIT, Kharagpur are among the leading research groups working on biological, biomass, and other renewable energy routes to produce hydrogen. With R&D support from the MNES, the MCRC has demonstrated hydrogen production in batch-scale from distillery waste. The pilot plant is able to produce up to 18 000 liters of hydrogen per hour.


The BHU, IIT Chennai, and the National Physical Laboratory are working on the hydrogen storage methods. The BHU has developed various types of metal hydrides with storage capacities of up to 2.4 weight%. It has also demonstrated the use of 1.6% weight storage in metal hydride on a pilot scale.

Hydrogen-Fuelled Vehicles[iv]

Hydrogen-operated motorcycles and three-wheelers have been developed and demonstrated. The BHU has modified a commercially available motorcycle (100 cc, four strokes) and a three-wheeler (175 cc, four strokes) to operate on hydrogen as a fuel.

National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap

Status of Major Technologies

TechnologyInternational StatusNational Status
Coal Gasification(IGCC)Commercially availableEfforts underway to set up pilot plant
Biological route for Hydrogen ProductionIn Pre-Commercial stageDemonstration Plant set up
Metal Hydrides for Hydrogen storageMetal Hydrides for Hydrogen storage Hydrides with 1.5 -2.0wt% storage capacity for ambient conditions developedHydrides with 2.42wt% storage capacity for ambient conditions developed
Carbon Nano-structures for Hydrogen StorageIn R&D StageIn R&D Stage,Further R&D efforts underway
IC Engine for HydrogenNot commercially availableDedicated engine to be developed
PEM Fuel Cells for Stationary applications and automobilesCommercially availablePrototype Demonstrated,PEMFC of international specifications and suitable for automobiles to be developed
Solid Oxide Fuel CellsIn R & D Demonstration StageIn early stages of R&DStatus

Fuel Cells

Fuel Cell Power Packs[v]


Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (R&D), Hyderabad. They are involved in the   development of Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFCs) and have developed a 50-kW   stack. They have also installed a 200 kW fuel cell bases power plant. The   fuel used is LPG and besides generation of electricity, it also produces hot   water which is uses in their canteen.

TATA Energy Resources Institute (TERI) has in the past demonstrated the   use of digester gas (biogas) for generating electricity from a 2.5-kW PAFC   stack imported from ERC (Energy Research Corporation), USA.

MNES has   funded the import of a 200-kW PAFC system made by the ONSI to evaluate its   operation.

SPIC-SF (SPIC Science Foundation) is working on Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells   and has developed stacks. They have also demonstrated a fuel-cell battery   hybrid vehicle using a 10-kW PEM power plant.

Work on an MCFC stack is underway at TERI and the Central Electrochemical Research   Institute. TERI has tested the operation of an MCFC monocell on simulated   coal gas. Development of a kW-level stack is currently underway with the aim   of integrating it with a coal gasifier.

Work on developing a DMFC (direct methanol fuel cell) is underway at IISc (Indian   Institute of Science).

In addition, research on SOFC is being done at IISc and CGCRI (Central Glass and   Ceramic Research Institute).

Research and development on metal hydride storage is ongoing at BHU (Banaras Hindu   University)


  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier rather than an energy source. While hydrogen always exists in conjunction with other elements, such as in water, it must be separated from these elements and is therefore considered an energy carrier, as opposed to an energy source.
  • Costly to convert to liquid. Because hydrogen is a gas, it cannot be compressed into a liquid form without intensive cost and energy input. Hydrogen is the lightest element on earth. As a gas, it dissipates rapidly. To compress this gas is very difficult.
  • Fossil Fuels May be needed to produce Hydrogen - Most methods to produce hydrogen must use energy to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen. This may require fossil fuels such as coal or oil. So, in a sense, we are spinning our wheels in trying to get away from fossil fuels. Along with that, coal, which is a major feedstock for hydrogen, is a major contributor to pollution.
  • Existing infrastructure has not been built to accommodate hydrogen fuel
  • Hydrogen is difficult to store and distribute .


Hydrogen Energy Companies

Eden Energy Ltd.

Eden Energy Ltd., through its wholly-owned subsidiary Hythane Company LLC, has been selected by Indian Oil Corporation to install and supply the first public hydrogen fueling station in India. The $1 million retail outlet will be sited in the heart of Delhi at one of Indias busiest natural gas fuelling stations.

Hydrogen Energy Research Institutes

Department of Energy Systems & Engineering

Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
A fuel cell and hydrogen research center is being planned in the department. The department will have a new building (approx 80,000ft2 of built up area) as a zero energy building using passive solar, building integrated PV, day lighting. There are plans for specialized laboratories like efficiency laboratory, solar PV laboratory, fuel cells and hydrogen laboratory, energy innovation laboratory, alternative fuels laboratory apart from the existing solar and energy systems laboratories.

Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC)

Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre, popularly known as MCRC, is a non profit research organization. MCRCs ideologies are centered on science and technology applications for rural development thereby improving the quality of life of the rural people, particularly the under privileged and the marginalized. Hydrogen energy technology has been a part of MCRC research for two decades. With financial assistance from the Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), MCRC has developed a biological process for generation of hydrogen from sugar and distillery wastes using the effluents at M/s. E.I.D. Parry Ltd., at Nellikuppam, Tamilnadu. MCRC has been working on scaling this technology using a 125 m3 bioreactor which has produced 18,000 liters of total gas per hour with about 60% hydrogen mixed largely with CO2 and CO.


Apex Bodies

Ministry Of Non-Conventional Energy Sources 
Block 14, Cgo Complex
Lodi Road
New Delhi, 110003

[i] (Hydrogen Clean Burning Fuel) (*Data as per 31 March 2005)
[ii] (Pg 11 New/renewable technologies for hydrogen production) (*Data as per 31 March 2005)
[iii] (Pg 12 Hydrogen storage technologies) (*Data as per 31 March 2005)
[iv] (Pg 13 Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles) (*Data as per 31 March 2005)
[v] (*Data as per July 2004)