Hydrogen (HCNG) : The fuel of the future - Seeker's Thoughts

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Hydrogen (HCNG) : The fuel of the future

As much as two-thirds of deaths from air pollution in India can be attributed to exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles which were responsible for nearly 385,000 deaths in 2015. 

On-road diesel vehicle was responsible for nearly half of the health impacts of air pollution from vehicles worldwide in 2015.

The global cost of these transportation attributable health impacts in 2010 and 2015 was approximately USD one trillion.

Exhaust from a vehicle is a major source of outdoor air pollution worldwide. The health impacts are immense but unevenly distributed, both geographically and among a various segment of the transportation sector, such as light-duty and heavy-duty vehicle shipping, and off-road machinery.

Pollution is the most concerned issue for the countries. The rising level of pollution has been a reason for damaging nature and natural resources. Its impact on humans and the whole ecosystem is like a slow poison. Humans are the main cause of rising pollution

Another major source of pollution is industrial petrochemical smog. The factory process includes a wide range of activities like cleaning, painting or others, a chemical used in these processes evaporates, but they can react with sunlight and other pollutants, creating the peroxyacetyl nitrates, or commonly known as petrochemical smog. This toxic is very dangerous because it can last days or even weeks.

According to the World Health Organization, the rise in air pollution is already causing harm to human health. To curb pollution, Delhi government is planning to Push HCNG fuel in CNG buses by blending of HCNG hydrogen-enriched and CNG (compressed natural gas).

What is the Supreme Court’s suggestion to fight air pollution by adopting hydrogen fuel?

The Supreme Court pulled up the central government over deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR and asked to explore hydrogen-based fuel technology, based on case studies of how japan tackled its pollution crisis using the gas.

Hydrogen as a fuel has long been touted as an almost magical solution to the air pollution crisis. The only by-products or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water making the fuel 100% clean.

Globally 70 million tonnes of hydrogen fuel is produced today and nearly all of it is consumed by different industries.

Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles are already in sue across multiple sector around the world.

In many Scandinavian countries, as well as the UK, public buses have been running on hydrogen for a few years. There are three hydrogen cars in the market — the Toyota Mirai, the Hyundai Nexo, and the Honda Clarity.

China uses hydrogen fuel cell-powered trams while Germany runs hydrogen-trains. Hydrogen is used in bikes, cycles, scooters, trucks, aeroplanes and most other forms of transportation. NASA even launched space shuttles with hydrogen fuel. 

Now Japan and recently China are seen to be making an ambitious push for it in transport too. If they succeed, they would have successfully scaled up the infrastructure and developed the supply chain in their regions

What is HCNG?
Hydrogen as a resource is the most promising fuel for the automotive sector. Being number one on the periodic table, it is one of the most combustible as well very powerful. It’s the same fuel that’s used to power for space rockets. 
The reason Indian government has been considering the use of this fuel, blended with natural gas, is because- it has very few emissions and high in the performance of the vehicles.
HCNG- is a mix of hydrogen and CNG. This fuel contains 18 percent of hydrogen while the rest of it is compressed natural gas. The hydrogen is extracted from methane and is blended with CNG to create a gas, which has far fewer carbon emissions than CNG.


What is CNG?
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is methane stored at high pressure. CNG as a fuel can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel and propane/ LPG and its combustion produces fewer undesirable gases then the other mentioned fuels. Combustion is a high temperature exothermic chemical reaction between a fuel and an oxidant that produces oxidized products.

Why Indian government is pushing for hydrogen-based fuels?

Apart from the fact that HCNG is a cleaner source of fuel, it is more powerful and gives more mileage almost 4-5 percent higher.
Many researchers have shown that the thermal efficiency of both natural gas and HCNG increases when the load it carries increases simultaneously, which makes it an ideal fuel for high load applications and heavy.
The reason is not just to push to the HCNG the government aim to promote companies who are willing to offer vehicle that are fully running on hydrogen fuel cells as well. in 2015, Tata Motors had launched its own bus powered by hydrogen fuel cells dubbed star bus Electric/ hybrid.
Note- Indian oil corporation has a laboratory of its own that produces HCNG and its India’s first Hydrogen filling station.

What would be the challenges for implementation of HCNG?
Hydrogen might be one of the most available gases on the planet, but there are challenges that stand in the way of using hydrogen as a fuel source.
The biggest challenges in using HCNG for buses is determining the most optimized hydrogen/compressed natural gas ratio. The most obvious challenge is the lack of proper infrastructure to make and distribute a fuel like this. Also, just like other gaseous fuels, both natural gas and hydrogen are lighter than air which means that is there is a leak it will quickly disperse into the air. So proper storage options are also challenging.

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Lastly, the current cost of hydrogen is higher than that of natural gas which means HCNG is going to be more expensive than CNG.

Advantages of HCNG- The fuel of Future
HCNG reduces the emission of CO(Carbon mono oxide), and CO2 up to 70% and enables up to 5% savings in fuel. Hydrogen economy will be far more sustainable than any other fuel. Engines can be calibrated to release lower amounts of NO. Moreover, engines need minimum modification to run on HCNG. 

No doubt, HCNG remains the ideal fuel for high load applications and heavy-duty vehicles as it gives better performance due to higher octane rating of hydrogen.
 Blending of HCNG with CNG would be helpful to curb pollution for the world as well as India. India is currently one among the top most polluted country in the world after China. Several countries are using HCNG to fight with pollution. Therefore HCNG is a welcome step for India to make greener and pollution free.