Production of hydrogen-CNG fuel, which releases up to 70% less carbon monoxide than conventional CNG, is likely to soon begin in the capital, with the Delhi government and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) set to sign an agreement for setting up a gas compact reformer.
If the project sees smooth execution, Delhi will become the first Indian city and join a select league of global cities where trials to use this clean fuel in public buses have been conducted.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had submitted a report in the apex court, pitching for its roll out.
Following the agreement, a draft of which is being vetted currently, the Delhi Transport Department will release an amount of Rs 15 crore from the Supreme Court-monitored ECC (Environment Compensation Charge) fund — a green tax imposed on commercial vehicles entering the city.
A cleaner alternative
A blend of hydrogen and natural gas, H-CNG releases up to 15% less hydrocarbons, such as benzene, as against neat CNG, tests by the Automotive Research Association of India and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd have found. As hydrogen fuel cell technology, which uses hydrogen as fuel, and electric vehicles continue to be cost prohibitive, H-CNG can aid a quicker transition to cleaner fuels and help fight air pollution better.
The department wrote to the IOC on January 16, with a copy of the draft agreement. The Director (Research and Development) of IOC had urged the government to release the funds following an August 13, 2018, order of the Supreme Court which had cleared the decks for implementation of the project.
The accounts branch of the transport department has said the funds will be released after the agreement is signed. The IOC has been asked to revert within a week’s time with its comments on the draft agreement.
Under the project, the IOC will install, commission and operate the gas compact reformer, which is an advanced machine developed by the corporation
“The Compact Reforming Process is a machine, which partially reforms natural gas to directly produce hydrogen-CNG mixture in the desired proportion. The process is flexible, the machine can be installed at the location where the gas is available and it allows for production of H-CNG as per the demand. The gaseous H-CNG (ideal mixture is 18% Hydrogen in CNG) can be directly used as automobile fuel after compression,” states the EPCA report.
In the absence of the machine, the production of H-CNG will be comparatively difficult as it would entail transporting hydrogen, which is highly volatile, through pipelines for mixing it with natural gas and then compressed for use in vehicles.
According to the EPCA, the technology is extremely promising as it can be set up in different locations — including at petrol pumps or bus depots. Moreover, it allows for utilisation of Delhi’s existing CNG infrastructure.
As per estimates drawn up by the EPCA, to fuel Delhi’s existing fleet of around 5,500 CNG buses, daily requirement of H-CNG would be about 400 tonnes. The panel has recommended that four plants, having 100 tonnes capacity each, be set up, which it said will cost around Rs 330 crore.
As against CNG, cost is estimated to increase by Rs 0.75 per km, it added. As of January 20, CNG in the capital costs Rs 44.30/kg.
So far, H-CNG trials have been conducted in the US, Canada, Brazil and South Korea.