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India looks to roll out hydrogen roadmap in pursuit of cutting energy imports

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Singapore — India aims to roll out a roadmap for hydrogen as well as provide incentives to attract private sector investment as New Delhi looks at ways to scale up production in an effort to reduce costs and make it affordable to end-users, government officials and experts told the India Energy Forum by CERAWeek.

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Speakers at the three-day virtual event said that there was an urgent need to speed up policy formulation as New Delhi sees an ideal opportunity in hydrogen to meet a substantial part of the country's energy needs in the future and reduce its dependence on fossil fuel imports.

Related podcast: Energy Transition in the time of COVID-19

"We will come up with some schemes that will create a large market for hydrogen. In addition, emphasis will be on green hydrogen," Tarun Kapoor, secretary in India's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, told the forum. "We need to bring in policies so that people are encouraged to use hydrogen even though hydrogen is a little bit expensive."

Kapoor said the government was considering schemes that can provide incentives to the private sector to scale up production. And once it is produced, some of the state gas distribution companies can potentially procure that hydrogen by providing some initial subsidies.

"India is dependent on energy imports. Therefore, we are keen to develop anything that can be produced within the country and hydrogen is one of the answers to that," he added.

India's ambition to come out with a clear hydrogen roadmap comes at a time when the 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 they say have an edge over other non-fossil fuel sources.


A clear roadmap will also help India join other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, like Japan, South Korea and Australia, where governments have come out with their long-term visions and targets to be achieved over the next few decades.

Reliance Industries, the country's biggest private refiner, has pledged to be a net carbon-zero firm by 2035. The company says it also has proprietary technology to convert transportation fuels to valuable petrochemical and material building blocks. And at the same time, it has said it will replace transportation fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen.

IOC earlier in October launched its reformer plant that will produce hydrogen-spiked compressed natural gas, or H-CNG, a fuel Indian energy policy makers are betting can play a major role in the transport sector in the coming years.

To produce H-CNG, the entire CNG of a station will pass through this new reforming unit, where some methane gets converted into hydrogen, with the outlet product having 17%-18% hydrogen. IOC officials said emission levels would come down for vehicles using H-CNG as fuel. The oil ministry has also launched trial run of buses that will run using H-CNG as fuel.

"There's a lot happening on the hydrogen front. IOC has done trials on H-CNG and has launched buses on the commercial scale. They will now do experiments to produce hydrogen from four different pathways. And not just IOC, but even the state-owned power producer National Thermal Power Corp. is running some trials."


Bashir Dabbousi, director of technology strategy and planning at Saudi Aramco, told the forum that India provided a solid business opportunity to expand cooperation in the field.

The first blue ammonia cargo of 40 mt was recently shipped from Saudi Arabia to Japan to be used for power generation, with 30 mt of the CO2 captured during the process designated for use in methanol production at SABIC's Ibn-Sina facility, and another 20 mt of captured CO2 in the process being used for Enhanced Oil Recovery at Aramco's Uthmaniyah field.

Japan started Oct. 26 a series of test runs to burn blue ammonia shipped from Saudi Arabia, beginning with co-burning at a gas turbine as part of a pilot project, following recent receipt of the maiden cargo.

Dabbousi said that India also provided a solid potential to ship similar cargoes.

"The shipment to Japan is a live demonstration of feasibility of supply chain transport -- the ammonia will be used for power generation with zero carbon emissions. This is very important for Saudi Aramco as India is a very important customer of Saudi Aramco and provides similar opportunities to grow our business there," Dabbousi said.

He added that ensuring safety would be a key in ensuring that hydrogen sees big growth in volumes in the future and Saudi Aramco was increasingly working toward that goal.

Kenneth Humphreys, principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy at the US Department of Energy, told the forum: "Hydrogen will help countries assure their energy independence and reduces the dependence on any individual energy resource. It also prepares for an energy future that may be very different."