“Government Notifications Will Boost Hydrogen’s Advent As Fuel Of The Future”

By Jay Cheema

Recently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (“MoRTH”) has notified amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 2020 wherein it has issued standards for safety evaluation of the vehicles propelled by hydrogen fuel cells.

The suppliers and manufacturers of such hydrogen fuel cells vehicles now have standards available to test the vehicles, which are at par with the international standards. MoRTH has further issued the specifications for Hydrogen Enriched Compressed Natural Gas (“H-CNG”) for use of 18 percent mix of hydrogen for automotive purposes as per the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The objective is to promote the adoption of such eco-friendly and energy-efficient hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and H-CNG, since the reserves for natural gas are available in abundance as India has long term gas supply contracts.

This is a definite and positive step taken by the central government, but the states need to develop substantial support infrastructure needed for such vehicles. Currently, the production of hydrogen fuel from fossil fuels (Grey hydrogen) is cheaper than Hydrogen made using water and renewable energy (green hydrogen), and further the cost of production and transport of hydrogen fuel to stations is correspondingly high. For hydrogen safety there is a need for extensive development of safe vehicle storage systems.

However, the Government of India can push for expansion of the Bharatmala Pariyojana megaproject into a Hydrogen Bharatmala Pariyojana, wherein hydrogen gas storage and refueling infrastructure can be set up on a large scale. Since, Oil Marketing Companies have a vast network of existing retail outlets which could be utilised to promote hydrogen dispensation, wherever possible. Similar augmenting policies can be built via partnerships between energy companies and metropolitan governing institutions in India.

The advent of green hydrogen as a clean and green alternative to conventional fuels is promising, as it too offers high octane ratings, energy content and further a large base source for production. Generally, the refineries use hydrogen to reduce the sulphur content of motor fuels, use natural gas and naphtha to produce hydrogen.

 Countries like the US, Germany, Japan, South Korea and China have  already deployed and run a fleet of hydrogen-fueled cars and buses in their respective countries. Further, the French government aims to use hydrogen in industrial processes and transportation and has a plan worth 7 billion euros to achieve the same with the objective to cut their CO2 output in 2030 by the equivalent of the annual emissions of Paris.

Given the commitments made by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Paris Convention in 2015 to reduce the emission intensity and reduce our dependence on conventional fossil based fuels, the inclusion of HCNG as an automotive fuel by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is a promising step in this direction. Further, this move will provide the right impetus to the diversification of the mix in our energy basket.

Jay Cheema is a Partner- Projects, Energy & Natural Resources at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas ,the largest full service law firm in India

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