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RIL Hydrogen Economy Foray

Reliance to replace auto fuels with electricity, hydrogen; targets carbon-zero company by 2035

  • Eyeing the transition anticipated in the kinds of fuel that will be used in automobiles and other forms of transportation, RIL is building full stack electrolyser and fuel cell solutions in India which will be required to run hydrogen fuel celled vehicles.
  • This will replace transportation fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen.
  • The company plans to become ‘net carbon-zero’ by 2035 by developing carbon capture and storage technologies.
  • This will be an optimal mix of reliable, clean and affordable energy with hydrogen, wind, solar, fuel cells and battery.
  • The energy industry must understand that fossil fuels and renewables are not mutually exclusive or contradictory.
  • RIL will also use technology to convert carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals and other material building blocks.
  • In a conventional refinery, three products (petrol, diesel and ATF) comprise 60–70 per cent of the product slate. As refiners increase in size and have access to more capital, they come up with complex projects like delayed coker (or petcoke gasifier). This converts low-value products into high-value products.
  • Globally, a conventional refinery produces around 8 per cent of naphtha, which may be used as a chemical feedstock. This rises to 17–20 per cent in refinery-cum-petrochemical complexes. Comparatively, Reliance has a 24 per cent conversion rate of ‘oil-to-chemicals’ currently and may be targeting 70 per cent conversion.
  • The trend of increasing the percentage of chemicals in the overall production is due to the vast difference in profitability combined with an increased threat from electric vehicles to petrol and diesel.
  • Substantial progress has already been made on photosynthetic biological pathways to convert carbon dioxide emissions at Jamnagar into high-value proteins, nutraceuticals, advanced materials, and fuels.
  • We will develop next-gen carbon capture and storage technologies.
  • We are evaluating novel catalytic and electrochemical transformations to use CO2 as a valuable feedstock.
  • Reliance has proprietary technology to convert transportation fuels to valuable petrochemical and material building blocks.
  • We will combine our strengths in digital, power electronics, advanced materials and electrochemistry to build full-stack electrolyser and fuel cell solutions in India.
  • On successful implementation of this strategy, RIL targets to become net carbon-zero by 2035 with a 15-year vision to build Reliance as one of the world’s leading new energy and new materials company.
  • The new energy business based on the principle of carbon recycle and circular economy is a multi-trillion opportunity for India and the world.
  • This was also an opportunity to make clean and green energy abundantly available at an affordable price.
  • More than a business, this is an effort to save Planet Earth from the ravages of climate change.
  • RIL is also proposing to develop the 2,000 acre adjacent to its world-scale facilities at Jamnagar to build the COTC complex. The plan is also to convert the Jamnagar site’s existing fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit to a high severity FCC (HSFCC) or Petro FCC unit, to maximise ethylene and propylene yields.
  • RIL’s strategy is to transform the Jamnagar refinery from a producer of transportation fuels to chemicals. The company ultimately wants to achieve a rate of more than 70% in the conversion of crude to olefins and aromatics.
  • RIL produces hydrogen in gasification process at Jamnagar and has been working in house on fuel cells for a long time .
  • Partnered with CSIR for demonstrating and validating 3 kW LT-stacks for targeting a PEMFC based back-up power supply for telecom towers.
  • Have been working on system integration using stacks of fuel cells for demonstration of indigenously built fuel cell and also application simulation studies.
  • In 2018 RIL joined the IEA Hydrogen initiative with a focus to design, manufacture, undertake project development of, install, operate and maintain megawatt-scale fuel cell systems, serving utilities, industrial and large municipal power users with solutions that include both utility-scale and on-site power generation, carbon capture, local hydrogen production for transportation, buildings, industry, and long duration energy storage.

Hydrogen Pump Line : Scalable Hydrogen Fueling Appliances and Electrolyzers

  • Activity is heating up in the hydrogen market.
  • Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have reached technical maturity in many application areas.
  • The Hydrogen Council, a global initiative of energy, transport and industry companies, envisages that by 2050 hydrogen may power more than 400 million passenger cars worldwide and up to 20 million trucks and 5 million buses.
  • It expects hydrogen technologies to provide 18% of the world’s total energy needs by that time, with the annual sales generated from the hydrogen fuel cell market reaching $2.5 trillion and creating 30 million jobs globally.
  • The broader “hydrogen economy” could be much larger.
  • Taken together, the unique properties of hydrogen make it a promising solution to overcome the challenges facing the energy system.
  • Hydrogen can be produced without any carbon footprint if renewable electricity is used for electrolysis, if bio-methane is used in steam methane reforming (SMR) or if SMR is equipped with CCS/CCU.
  • The properties of hydrogen enable it to generate power and/or heat (through fuel cells, combined heat/power units (CHPs), burners, or modified gas turbines).
  • Its chemical properties also allow for its use as feedstock in chemical processes, including production of ammonia and methanol.
  • Hydrogen combustion does not emit SOx or other particulates, and only limited NOx. In fuel cells, e.g., for vehicles, hydrogen usage does not cause any emissions and makes less noise than conventional engines.
  • Stored in tanks, hydrogen is lighter and contains more energy than a battery of similar size, offering clear benefits for demand side.

Case Study

  • We have been doing looking out on the various companies available who have a full hydrogen generation and fuelling solution.
  • One company MRE appeals and is currently creating a transcontinental hydrogen stations network across USA to open it in 2021 with a fuel cell car rally.
  • Millennium Reign Energy LLC (MRE) is a Hydrogen infrastructure manufacture and distributor that has developed, patented and trademarked, a product line of Scalable HydrogenFueling Appliances and Electrolyzers using water electrolysis.
  • These products have recently received a certificate of Attestation From CSA Group and have a license to display the CSA mark on the products because they meet all the codes and standards to be deployed in commercial, residential and industrial settings.
  • MRE is the first company in the world to receive these Certificates from CSA Group, an internationally recognized third party testing laboratory.
  • This makes systems less costly to deploy and can be installed in more places because the permitting authorities issue the permits with much less pre education and time spent doing so.
  • MRE’s plan is to build 500 hydrogen fueling stations over 5 years and 5,000 more over the following 5 years after that.
  • Ultimately achieving 30,000 total in the USA over 20 years with $30 billion in sales of equipment and $6.1 billion in annual recurring revenue on hydrogen gas sales.
  • This represents only one of 6 markets needing the products offered by MRE revealed within their business plan.
  • The plan shows a projected average of 15.6% ROI over 10 years.

Government Focus

From IOC to Reliance: India’s hydrogen ambitions get stronger by the day

  • Big energy firms in India prepare hydrogen strategy
  • Industry weigh options between EV batteries, fuel cells
  • Policy regulation, bringing down costs key challenges
  • Earlier this year, government officials had met an Italian delegation to discuss about new opportunities for collaboration and potential investment projects in hydrogen, fuel cells and electrolysers.
  • A separate meeting on this issue was also carried out with the International Energy Agency.
  • The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) and state-run power generator NTPC has also agreed to jointly launch a project to promote emission-free hydrogen fuel celled buses in Leh.
  • India’s push toward embracing hydrogen is gaining speed as some of the country’s top energy companies, such as Indian Oil Corp., Reliance Industries and Adani Group, are increasingly highlighting the urgency to move toward the carbon-free fuel, which may have an edge over other non-fossil fuel sources.
  • The statement from Reliance comes days after India’s road transport ministry invited comments from all stakeholders on the safety of hydrogen propelled vehicles, highlighting efforts not just by the industry, but also by the government.
  • “I am sure more companies will start to look at hydrogen in India as big companies like Reliance are making their intentions clear,” said Ravinder Kumar Malhotra, president of the Hydrogen Association of India. “Even the government is starting to look at hydrogen seriously.”
  • Most hydrogen in India is produced through reforming methane. Malhotra added that policymakers will have to push carbon-capture technologies that encourage production of hydrogen from coal, rather than expanding power output from coal-based power plants to drive electric vehicles.
  • We don’t have lithium and battery resources in abundance. Indian policy makers should do a systematic analysis on whether EVs or hydrogen-based fuel cells will be better option. Fuel cell costs are coming down,” he added.

ENERGY TRANSITION PUSH

  • Not just Reliance but India’s biggest state-run refiner IOC is also nurturing a dream to make it big in hydrogen.
  • The company is working on technology to develop hydrogen-spiked compressed natural gas, or H-CNG, which would involve partly reforming methane and CNG. Under this process, the entire CNG of a station passes through this new reforming unit and part of the methane gets converted into hydrogen, with the outlet product having 17%-18% hydrogen.
  • IOC’s research and development center, in collaboration with vehicle manufacturers, has undertaken field validation exercises to arrive at the optimal hydrogen percentage to be spiked in CNG for deriving maximum benefits in fuel economy and emissions reduction.
  • IOC is also extensively working with heavy duty automakers to optimize the catalyst recipe of three-way catalytic converters fitted on buses and trucks to bring down the emission levels within the permissible range of the Euro-6 emission limits when CNG is replaced with H-CNG.
  • In addition to the transport sector, other sectors also offer plentiful opportunities in India from Hydrogen.
  • India’s existing industry could play a significant role in the uptake of low-carbon hydrogen. The domestic sponge iron industry annually consumes over 1.5 million mt of fossil-derived hydrogen.
  • In addition, the country’s agricultural sector also represents a significant demand for hydrogen in the form of ammonia-based fertilizers. These existing hydrogen demand pockets provide a near-term opportunity to transition to low and zero carbon hydrogen through carbon capture retrofits or the electrolysis of renewables.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

  • According to New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute, TERI, there is potential to scale up hydrogen use in India up to ten-fold by 2050.
  • Zero-carbon trucks, using hydrogen fuel cells, are already technically feasible, although the cost and carbon intensity are currently greater than that of diesel equivalents.
  • However, TERI has said that India needs to have updated regulations to permit safe use of hydrogen, at high pressure, across a number of end-use sectors, as well as encourage electrolyzer manufacturing and commercialization, while collaborate internationally on developing hydrogen technologies.
  • TERI is hopeful about hydrogen in the long run with the prospect of the future marginal cost of renewable energy dropping precipitously, green hydrogen produced by the splitting water could be the game changer.
  • Hydrogen supply and distribution in India faces the same barriers that it does in other regions — such as high production costs and complimentary infrastructure requirements.
  • In India, these obstacles could prove to be more challenging to overcome given the scale on investment required versus strained public finances.
  • In order to produce blue hydrogen — which is currently the cheaper, more mature and more scalable of the two carbon neutral production methods, the other being green hydrogen or electrolysis — India would need to import more LNG as domestically produced natural gas is limited, adding to production costs, she added.

What Is Hydrogen Economy Introduction

  • As such, the renewables sector has focused on developing renewable and clean energy resources such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower and biofuels as alternatives to fossil fuels. However, hydrogen is set to make a return to the mainstream as the international community seeks to respond to the world’s energy and climate challenges, particularly in light of the targets set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and recent climate activism around the world.

What is the ‘Hydrogen Economy’?

  • There are several reasons hydrogen is again receiving serious consideration as an alternative energy source. In addition to a global desire for more environmentally friendly fuel sources, improvements in hydrogen technologies, increasing government support for climate-friendly fuel diversification (e.g., in countries such as Japan, Korea and Germany) and changes in global energy policy, in emission standards and in the global technology landscape (such as the rapid deployment of intermittent renewables that require grid-scale storage for system stability) all help to support the argument for developing the hydrogen economy. It is also generally recognized that hydrogen has the potential to decarbonize a range of industries.
  • A rising star of the renewable energy sector, hydrogen is a versatile and environmentally friendly resource which produces only pure water and heat when combusted. Although hydrogen has been traditionally used as a feedstock in several industrial processes (such as ammonia synthesis and the refining of crude oil), recent developments have shown that hydrogen can also be used for a number of applications, including electricity generation, transportation and storing energy from intermittent renewable sources.

How is Hydrogen Produced?

Natural Gas Reforming Process

  • At present, the majority of the world’s hydrogen is produced through the natural gas reforming process, which involves using high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen from a methane source such as natural gas. This method is currently the cheapest and most efficient method by which hydrogen is produced and can be coupled with carbon capture and storage technology to reduce the carbon emissions produced in the hydrogen production process.

Gasification

  • Hydrogen can also be produced by means of ‘gasification,’ which is the process of, for example, releasing gaseous hydrogen compounds from coal or biomass utilizing high-temperature steam and oxygen in a pressurized gasifier. The resulting gas contains hydrogen, which is then reacted with steam to separate the hydrogen. This process can also be coupled with carbon capture and storage technology to reduce carbon emissions produced through the gasification process.

Renewable Liquid Reforming

  • Like with natural gas reforming/gasification, this process involves reacting renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol, with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen near the point of end use.

Electrolysis

  • Another commonly used method of producing hydrogen is electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This method also provides the potential for establishing a zero-emission fuel chain if the electrolysis process is powered by renewable energy generated from solar or wind. In doing so, the process of both producing and then subsequently using hydrogen to generate energy would not produce any greenhouse emissions.
  • It should, however, be noted that, currently, the production of hydrogen from water requires the use of fresh water as the base material. The direct production of hydrogen from seawater requires the development of new technologies to achieve commercial viability. In geographies where fresh water is itself a precious commodity, the production of hydrogen requires a two-step process: (i) the production of fresh water by means of desalination technology, followed by (ii) the application of electrolysis for hydrogen production. Despite this additional step, the process has the benefit of being capable of implementation by utilizing existing and proven technologies.

Extraction from Ammonia

  • Ammonia is a colorless inorganic compound of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH 3), usually found in gaseous form with a pungent odor. Much research has been undertaken into finding methods of extracting hydrogen from ammonia, such as that undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia. The CSIRO has created a metal membrane that filters out pure hydrogen gas from ammonia, which can then be used, for example, in fuel cell vehicles.

The advantages of extracting hydrogen from ammonia are that:

  • Due to its chemical composition, the production of hydrogen from ammonia does not release greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It is much easier to transport hydrogen in the form of ammonia that in a pure gaseous or liquid form (as will be discussed in greater detail below). If hydrogen can be produced from ammonia at the point of need (using, for example, the hydrogen membrane technology from CSIRO), it will be easier and cheaper to organize supply chains to support the use of hydrogen.

Extraction from liquid organic hydrides

  • Technologies for the extraction of hydrogen from liquid organic hydrides such as methylcyclohexane (MCH) are under consideration. MCH is produced from toluene and hydrogen, and both toluene and MCH exist in a liquid form at ambient temperatures and pressures. Hydrogen is removed from the MCH through a catalytic process, and the resulting toluene can be reused as the base for the production of MCH.
  • MCH is also capable of safe storage and transportation using existing technologies. However, at present there is no commercial scale project utilizing an MCH value chain.

Fermentation

  • Fermentation involves converting biomass into sugar-rich feedstocks that can then be fermented to produce hydrogen.

Potential Methods of Hydrogen Production

High-Temperature Water Splitting

  • This method aims to use high temperatures that are generated by sources such as solar concentrators or nuclear reactors to drive chemical reactions that split water to produce hydrogen.

Photobiological Water Splitting

  • This method intends to make microbes, such as green algae, consume water in the presence of sunlight to produce hydrogen as a byproduct.

Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting

  • Similar to high-temperature water splitting, photoelectrochemical water splitting aims to produce hydrogen from water using special semiconductors and energy from sunlight.

Uses of Hydrogen

Power Generation

  • A hydrogen fuel cell produces electricity by combining oxygen and hydrogen, with this combustion process generating electricity and producing only water and heat as byproducts. Small hydrogen fuel cells can power items such as laptops and cell phones, while at the other end of the spectrum, larger hydrogen fuel cells can provide electricity for powering buildings. As such, hydrogen has the ability to generate power on small, medium and large scales, which makes it a very attractive option for helping countries and corporations meet their decarbonizaton targets.

Transport (Fuel Cells Electric Vehicles)

  • Many automobile companies, such as Hyundai, Toyota/Lexus, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, have undertaken substantial investment to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles, which possess both a longer range and much shorter refueling times when compared to electric vehicles. These vehicles are called ‘Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles’ (FCVs) and contain hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen storage tanks that are capable of being refilled in a manner similar to cars fueled by gasoline.

Hydrogen Energy Storage

  • Hydrogen Energy Storage (HES) is the process of storing energy in the form of hydrogen. Stored as hydrogen for use in fuel cells, for example, hydrogen is an alternative to battery storage. Intermittency, one of the key issues facing wind a solar power generation (i.e., the sun doesn’t always shine nor the wind blow), can be resolved either by:
  1. Using hydrogen fuel cells for power generation during periods when power cannot be produced from wind or solar.
  2. Using wind and solar to produce hydrogen, e.g., from hydrolysis, and then utilizing the power per point 1 above.

Production of hydrogen utilizing wind and solar when coupled with hydrogen storage and transportation solutions (discussed further below) effectively also allows wind and solar energy to be “transported” in the form of hydrogen and converted back into electricity (for example, by fuel cell) when needed. The HES process can also be utilized to store energy from other renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

Recent Developments

Advantages of Using Hydrogen

  • As the third most abundant element on Earth, hydrogen can be found in resources including water, natural gas, coal and biomass, meaning that there is no possibility of running out of hydrogen, unlike fossil fuels, which are limited in their supply.

Decarbonization

  • The biggest advantage of using hydrogen as an energy resource is its ability to decarbonize a variety of industries, including the transportation and power generation industries. As detailed above, hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen to produce energy, with the only byproducts of this process being water and heat. This makes hydrogen a very attractive alternative to fossil fuels, particularly given that if hydrogen is produced using energy from renewable resources (as explained above), then not only will industries be decarbonized, but the whole chain of producing and using hydrogen as an energy resource will be one that does not produce any harmful emissions or pollutants. As such, hydrogen possesses significant potential to assist with decarbonizing numerous industries and is, accordingly, an attractive renewables option for many countries and corporations around the globe.

Efficiency Powering Existing Renewables

Challenges Facing Hydrogen

Storage and Transportation

  • Pipeline: This method involves using a pipeline to transport hydrogen, similar to pipelines that are used to transport oil and gas, and is the least expensive way to deliver large volumes of hydrogen.
  • High-Pressure Tube Trailers: This method, which is generally expensive, involves transporting compressed hydrogen by truck, railcar, ship or barge in high-pressure tube trailers and is generally used for distances of 200 miles or less.
  • Liquefied Hydrogen Tankers: This method involves cooling the hydrogen to a temperature where it becomes a liquid. While the liquefaction process is expensive, it enables hydrogen to be transported more efficiently (in comparison to using tube trailers) over long distances by truck, railcar, ship or barge.

Infrastructure

  • A substantial amount of the energy infrastructure currently in place around the world is designed to support the use of fossil fuels, such as oil pipelines and coal power plants. As explained above, specialized equipment and infrastructure is required to transport and store hydrogen, let alone generate power.

Uptake of Technology

  • Furthermore, the uptake in the technology required to produce, store, transport and use hydrogen as an energy resource on both industrial and commercial scales has not been as fast as anticipated given the cost and complexities involved in building such infrastructure. In addition, there has been reluctance to invest in such infrastructure until there has been a wider uptake in hydrogen power, such as an increase in the number of FCVs on the road and/or the number of hydrogen fuel cells being used to generate power. As the costs associated with hydrogen continue to decrease, it is hoped that governments, corporations and individuals will begin to take up and install the technology required to support a hydrogen economy at a faster pace.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

  • Advances in the technology used to generate energy from hydrogen as well as the implementation of strict standards and regulations regarding the use, transportation and storage of hydrogen have helped to reduce these risks and regulate the use of hydrogen so that it is used both safely and in an environmentally friendly manner. However, the perception regarding the environmental and safety problems associated with using hydrogen still persist and will need to be addressed in order for hydrogen to be used on a wide-scale and commercial level.

What Does the Future Hold for Hydrogen?

  • It is clear that hydrogen has the potential to form a substantial part of the global energy mix as countries and corporations strive to meet their climate change and decarbonization targets. The many applications and benefits of using hydrogen to generate energy make it particularly appealing and are core reasons governments and corporations globally are making substantial investments into hydrogen. Hydrogen’s versatility and multiple applications, along with its ability reduce greenhouse emissions, increase energy security and support the deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar make it very likely to play a significant part in the world’s future energy mix.
  • While hydrogen faces various challenges (particularly as to the costs of its production, storage and transportation in addition to the infrastructure required to support its use as an energy resource), recent developments have shown that progress is being made on all of these, providing the foundation for hydrogen to become a widely used energy resource around the globe. Consequently, it appears that the outlook for the future of hydrogen as an energy resource remains promising.

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