MNRE to discuss specialised cylinders for hydrogen storage with stakeholders

Commercial vehicle manufacturers identified the higher cost of green hydrogen fuel cells as another challenge in a meeting with MNRE on January 25.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) plans to convene a meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss the development of specialised cylinders for green hydrogen storage. The decision was made after manufacturers of commercial vehicles, including heavy duty and long haul trucks, flagged challenges related to high-pressure storage cylinders in the adoption of green hydrogen as a sustainable fuel in the transport sector.

Commercial vehicle manufacturers identified the higher cost of green hydrogen fuel cells as another challenge in a meeting with MNRE on January 25. The proposed meeting is likely to include manufacturers of specialised cylinders for compressed and liquified natural gas, some of whom have already commenced research and development on cylinders for hydrogen, which is stored at a much higher pressure.

Gas cylinders are typically categorised into four types, depending upon the materials used. Type 1 and Type 2 are suitable for storage, while Type 3 is preferred for storage and transportation, and Type 4 is recommended for on-board storage. Unlike compressed natural gas (CNG), which is stored at a pressure of around 3,600 psi, the pressure at which hydrogen is stored ranges between 5,000-10,000 psi. The MNRE has indicated a meeting with industry stakeholders for the development of Type 3 and Type 4 cylinders to address challenges related to high-pressure hydrogen cylinders, according to the minutes of the meeting on January 25 obtained by The Indian Express through Right to Information (RTI).

A vehicle can be powered by hydrogen in two ways– burning it in an internal combustion engine or using a fuel cell to convert it into electricity to charge on-board batteries. While both Type 3 and Type 4 cylinders are reinforced with carbon fibre, which makes them light and ideal for use in vehicles, Type 4 cylinders are even lighter as they are lined with a polymer as opposed to the aluminium lining in Type 3 cylinders.

Currently, most cylinders manufactured in the country are designed to carry CNG, and because hydrogen is stored at a much higher pressure, CNG cylinders cannot carry hydrogen without technical modifications. Even then, hydrogen will have to be blended with CNG in specific proportions. For cylinders to carry a high mass of hydrogen, the carbon fibre needs to be stronger than that used in CNG cylinders and involves a slightly more complex manufacturing process.

At present, these factors add to the overall cost of producing high-pressure Type 4 hydrogen cylinders, a key barrier to the adoption of hydrogen as a transport fuel as identified by stakeholders. However, with fiscal incentives and a rise in demand for hydrogen-powered vehicles, the cost of producing hydrogen cylinders may come down in future. Domestic companies involved in the manufacturing of CNG cylinders have also set their eyes on the hydrogen market. Confidence Petroleum India Limited, a leading company in the supply of gas cylinders, announced plans to manufacture and launch Type 4 cylinders for hydrogen storage last month.

Others like Time Technoplast Limited, INOX India Limited, and Indoruss Synergy Private Limited are among a growing club of cylinder makers who have allocated capex to develop technologies and produce Type 4 cylinders for green hydrogen. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), a large central public sector undertaking (CPSU), is working on setting up a Centre of Excellence in Karkhiyaon, Varanasi for hydrogen storage cylinders, cylinder testing facilities, and electrolysers necessary for hydrogen production, in collaboration with the Ministry of Heavy Industries. Alongside research on hydrogen storage, BHEL has also been developing hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

During the ministry meeting on January 25, representatives from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) interested in hydrogen-powered large commercial vehicles like Volvo Eicher, Ashok Leyland, and Tata Motors, also flagged the high cost of hydrogen fuel cells. A representative from Bosch, which started volume production of fuel cell modules in 2023, was also present in the meeting. Bosch has also developed its own hydrogen combustion engines that can be used to retrofit diesel buses and trucks. Just last month, Reliance Industries, a representative of whom attended the ministry meeting, announced plans to retrofit 5,000 trucks with hydrogen combustion engines in the coming few months.

The meeting was held to discuss pilot projects for the use of green hydrogen in the transport sector, scheme guidelines for which were published on February 14. Like battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen-powered vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, making hydrogen a suitable fuel for the clean energy transition, provided it is produced with renewable energy. Unlike EV batteries, however, hydrogen ICE or hydrogen fuel cells are comparatively lighter. This factor makes hydrogen-powered vehicles an attractive alternative to BEVs, especially for heavy duty trucks as they have lesser weight and provide higher payload capacity.

The scheme guidelines for the implementation of pilot projects, launched under the government’s National Green Hydrogen Mission, state that the objective of the pilots is to “validate the technical feasibility and performance of Green Hydrogen operated vehicles under real-world operational conditions” and to “demonstrate safe and secure operations of hydrogen-based vehicles and hydrogen refuelling stations”. The pilot scheme has two components under which the government will provide viability gap funding with an initial budgetary outlay of Rs 496 crore till FY26. The two components include development of commercially viable technologies for the use of green hydrogen as fuel in buses and trucks and for supporting infrastructure like hydrogen refuelling stations.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), which is the implementing ministry for the pilot projects, will evaluate and award project proposals from OEMs and other relevant stakeholders for fiscal incentives under the scheme. MoRTH will also oversee the identification of routes across terrains and climatic conditions on which the pilots will be executed. “On the basis of these extensive trial runs carried out, a national roadmap for the decarbonization of the transport sector through use of optimum technologies may be formulated for adoption by State governments,” the meeting minutes noted.

Share Button

Leave a Reply