Dr. S S V Ramakumar, the Director of Research and Development at Indian PSU Refiners Indian Oil Corporation, announced during the India Energy Week in Bengaluru that Indian public sector oil refineries have planned to establish 137,000 tons of green hydrogen facilities by 2030.
Ramakumar participated in a panel discussion on green hydrogen and revealed that Indian Oil would be the first to build a 7,000 tons per year electrolysis plant at its Panipat refinery. He highlighted that Indian Oil has entered into a partnership with ReNew Power, a renewable energy company, and L&T, an engineering firm, to establish green hydrogen plants not only for Indian Oil but for other refineries as well.
A technological conundrum
He said that even if one were to believe that electrolysis of water is the only method to manufacture green hydrogen, we are still unsure of which type of electrolysers is ideal, adding that “the last word on the (green hydrogen production) technology has not yet been spoken.”
Alkaline and PEM are two established methods, both with advantages and disadvantages, according to Ramakumar. The third one, solid oxide, “is at TRL 3 or 4 and is predicted to be a super-duper technology.” Levels 3 or 4 of the TRL, which stands for “technology readiness level,” are considered to be very unprepared.
Anion exchange membrane, also known as AEM, is the fourth technology on the block that will address the drawbacks of both mature ones for the simple reason that it doesn’t use any platinum group metals. The Director of R&D stated, “It is based on transition elements, therefore it is much cheaper, and the electrolyte is also considerably dilute—so many difficulties are eliminated.” Even that technology, he claimed, is TRL 2 or 3.
If we wish to follow the electrolysis technology track, all of our research institutions as a nation must focus on AEM technology, according to Ramakumar.
(Although Ramakumar claimed that “solid oxide” and “AEM” technology readiness levels are poor, an industry expert who attended India Energy Week claimed that solid oxide electrolysers are now available on the market. For instance, the US business Bloom Energy offers solid oxide electrolysers for sale. Additionally, the Pune-based company H2e Power, which has already provided AEM electrolysers to Oil India Ltd., is preparing to exhibit its in-house AEM electrolysers at the Hannover Messe trade show later this year, despite having developed them with assistance from the Fraunhofer Institute of Germany. Business Line previously stated that H2e Power would begin making electrolysers in April in Jalagaon, Maharashtra.
The company plans to employ solid oxide electrolysers, which run at high temperatures, to turn carbon dioxide into “syn gas,” which is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and then use the syn gas to create “sustainable aviation fuels.”
The best fuel is biomass
Ramakumar claimed that biomass gasification was a better method of manufacturing green hydrogen in India than IOC’s electrolysis, which involves splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity.
Noting that there is disagreement on the existence of alternative “India-centric technologies” vs electrolysis being the only method, According to Ramakumar, biomass gasification is the most promising route for producing green hydrogen, particularly for meeting the aspirational goal of 1:1:1 (achieving a price of $1 per kg of green hydrogen in ten years).
He called the biomass option “very, very promising” and noted that it does not share many of the drawbacks of electrolysers, chief among them the requirement for enormous amounts of water. Despite being “thoroughly investigated,” Ramakumar noted that modern electrolysers need pure water.
Many experts agree that the biomass option is preferable. For instance, Ravi Pandit, Chairman and C-founder of KPIT Technologies, recently stated in a newspaper that small, decentralised biomass plants can produce green hydrogen for as little as $250 per kg, compared to the $600–$800 per kg charged by electrolysis, which is 45–50% more expensive than diesel in vehicles.
Source: The Hindu Businessline