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18 April 2024

Fortifying R&D: First Steps For Green Hydrogen

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On March 15, 2024, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy ("MNRE") raised the flag for a novel initiative under the National Green Hydrogen Mission (hereinafter referred to as the "Mission").
India Energy and Natural Resources
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1. INTRODUCTION

On March 15, 2024, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy ("MNRE") raised the flag for a novel initiative under the National Green Hydrogen Mission (hereinafter referred to as the "Mission")1. MNRE published guidelines for implementation for the research and development scheme for development of green hydrogen energy in India ("R&D Scheme") along with the first call for proposals ("CfP")2 under the Mission. This R&D Scheme aims to develop dedicated research institutions to forge and foster the necessary ecosystem for development of a green hydrogen economy in India.

The Mission was formally notified in detail on January 04, 2023, with a budget outlay of INR 19,744 crore (Indian Rupees Nineteen Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty-Four Crores). The Mission has a separate corpus of INR 17,490 Crore (Indian Rupees Seventeen Thousand Four Hundred and Ninety Crores) allocated under the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition (SIGHT) initiative3 to fund research programmes. In line with the project implementation schedule and the R&D roadmap launched on October 07, 20234, set out in the Mission, the MNRE has notified the CfP and the R&D Scheme. The main impetus of the R&D Scheme and the CfP is to: (i) find affordable, reliable and safe solutions for production, storage, transportation and utilisation of Green hydrogen (ii) scale up the technological advancements to a commercially efficient level, and (iii) build partnership between hydrogen industry, research institutions and the government of India to brainstorm ideas to overcome challenges faced by the domestic green hydrogen industry.

2. SALIENT FEATURES, TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION

The Scheme aims to address the issues faced by the green hydrogen industry in production, storage, testing, compression, and transport particularly in an expeditious manner. The Scheme also aims at identifying and building dedicated infrastructure institutions called 'Centres of Excellence' to ensure continuous transfer of knowledge and inputs between the academic and research institutions and the commercial and industrial enterprises. The projects under the R&D Scheme and the Mission in general will be of the following types:

  1. Mission Mode Projects (having a gestation period of 0-5 (zero to five) years)- Projects in this category aim to leverage the current expertise possessed by the industry, which will be collated and streamlined to build indigenous products including modular electrolysers and Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) based fuel cells. These short-term projects also aim to develop the existing infrastructure to make commercially scalable solutions for biomass hydrogen generation.
  2. Grand Challenge Projects (having a gestation period of 0-8 (zero to eight) years)- These projects aim to develop technology and components which are critical for the sector like membrane electrode assemblies, electrocatalysts, catalyst coated membranes, gas diffusion layers to upskill and develop the existing manufacturing capacities.
  3. Blue Sky Projects (with a gestation period of 0-15 years)- These projects will aim to develop long term capabilities in the field of research and development for green hydrogen ecosystem, like development of third generation electrocatalysts, reversible sold oxide electrolysers and solid oxide fuel cells etc., for the entire green hydrogen value chain from generation to end transportation.

The Mission and the Scheme will be governed by the larger roadmap laid out by MNRE on October 07, 20235, wherein the MNRE has given recommendations of specific areas which can be taken up by the research institutions and other eligible entities under the CfP.

3. ELIGIBLE ENTITIES, PROCESS OF APPLICATION, FUNDING, AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

3.1. Areas of Research, Process and Eligibility

The CfP is open to academic institutions, private institutions or research and development institutions, public sector undertakings or government institutions or industries having the requisite infrastructure.

The CfP has also listed an indicative list of areas for research in its Appendix-II6, which is summarised hereinbelow:

Issues and Areas of Research

Production

  1. Improve the technology, efficiency, durability of conventional alkaline and other forms of electrolysers. Development of high performing electrolyzer membrances, solid oxide electrolyzer materials, increase the life cycle of catalysts and enhance efficiency of photovoltaic electrolysis integration.
  2. Improve performance parameters of sea-water electrolysis, improve the equipment design, and feedstock capability of existing production methods.

Transportation and Storage

  1. development and demonstration of high-density carriers of hydrogen, chemical carriers and explore new pathways for efficient storing and releasing hydrogen.
  2. creation of intelligent networks for distribution of hydrogen by using sensor technologies to optimise transportation and logistics to monitor the changes in real time and create efficiency in distribution operations and develop advanced compression technology for improving compression and transport of hydrogen.

Applications

  1. development of hydrogen fuel based internal combustion engines, fuel cells for high endurance drones, delivery vehicles and surveillance vehicles.
  2. create indigenous solutions for hydrogen refuelling to reduce the capital costs and create components for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

Safety, Cross Cutting, and Integration

  1. Development of indigenous big data and AI tools for analysing risks, finding solutions for prevention of accidents, development of hydrogen sensors, leak detectors.
  2. Creation of models for assessment of risks and ensuring safety, analysis of spontaneous combustion behaviour of pressurised hydrogen leaks

In addition to the above areas of research, MNRE will hold annual conferences with representatives of green hydrogen and power industries and research institutions to identify areas which require concentrated focus. MNRE will also issue call for proposals similar in nature to the current CfP, the interested entities may submit proposals (in the standard format given in Appendix III of the CfP) on the dedicated portal created by MNRE on its website7. The initial proposals will be screened by MNRE itself and the shortlisted proposals will be placed before the specific sectoral sub-committees ("SSCs") chaired by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India8. The proposals will be evaluated on the following indicators:

  1. Quality of proposal and its relevance to the issue;
  2. Clarity of deliverables and quantification of objectives;
  3. Technical feasibility and readiness of technology at the current stage

3.2. Funding, Process of Disbursement and IPR provisions

The salient features of the funding mechanism and intellectual property as laid down in the R&D Scheme and the CfP are as follows:

  1. Academic institutions, universities, and research organizations (both government and non-profit) would be eligible to get funded upto 100% (hundred percent) of the project cost subject to a limit set by the SSCs. Private research organizations and industrial bodies will only be eligible to get funding upto 80% (eighty percent) of the project cost.
  2. The funding will be released on milestone basis. The initial release of funds to be allotted at the time of sanction will be capped at maximum 30% (thirty percent) of total sanction. For the other sanctions, the entities would be required to submit project progress reports on a timely basis. The entities will be required to furnish utilisation certificate for the grants within 1 (one) year of the date of the release of funds.
  3. Overhead charges have been capped at –
    1. For projects costing upto INR 1,00,00,000 (Indian Rupees One Crore) - 8% (eight percent) of the project cost.
    2. For projects costing between INR 1,00,00,000 (Indian Rupees One Crore) to INR 5,00,00,000 (Indian Rupees Five Crores) - maximum of INR 15,00,000 (Indian Rupees Fifteen Lakh) or 8% (eight percent) of the project cost (whichever is less).
    There are further restrictions on consumables and amount of overhead costs. The entities which are selected cannot engage another institution for the implementation of the work.
  4. The intellectual property with respect to the research projects will be vested with the entities and the Government of India in proportion to their contribution in the project. The Government of India will have a royalty free license of the intellectual property and MNRE will have a right to take over the intellectual property arising out of the projects under national interest without any compensation.

4. CONCLUSION

A recent report by National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and Rocky Mountain Institute, from the United States of America, has stated that besides the cost of electrolyzers and electricity tariff, if the union government controls other input costs and taxes like GST, the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) can come down to $3.2/kg9 (three point two dollars per kilogram) which will bring it within striking distance as a grey hydrogen alternative. The green hydrogen sector is currently on its maiden voyage, particularly into unchartered waters, with goals of replacing the fossil fuel alternatives, it will require deep and continued fiscal impetus and industry participation for this endeavour. For India to successfully transition into green hydrogen there needs to be a synergy in rising scale of production, efficiency, economic competitiveness of the renewable energy sector, and to make this transition successful, India needs to leverage its existing capabilities in the field of research and development.

The R&D Scheme and the CfP are currently under valuation by research institutions and industry bodies. As participants submit their bids and begin working on projects, the provisions of the R&D Scheme and the conditions imposed therein, particularly pertaining to funding and intellectual property, will be observed in practical light over the coming years. Industry and academia along with government agencies should aim to work flexibly with each other and foster trust, faith, and reliance amongst themselves. If India positions itself into a technologically opportune position in this novel sector, which is slated to breach a global demand of 200 (two hundred) million tonnes in the next 5 (five) years10, it can reap the twin rewards of economic growth along with a green future.

Footnotes

1. Notification of the Guideline for the R&D Scheme https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3716e1b8c6cd17b771da77391355749f3/uploads/2024/03/20240316152774043.pdf [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

2. First Call for Proposals under Research and Development Scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3716e1b8c6cd17b771da77391355749f3/uploads/2024/03/202403161508843202.pdf [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

3. Announcement of National Green Hydrogen Mission: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1888547 [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

The National Green Hydrogen Mission has been announced by India to augment its nationally determined contribution as announced in the 26th Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Mission aims to develop green hydrogen capacity of at least 5 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) per annum along with an associated renewable energy capacity addition of 125GW. These actions are projected to reduce fossil fuel imports of over one lakh crore and lead to abatement of around 50 MMT Of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

4. R&D Roadmap for Green Hydrogen Ecosystem in India: https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3716e1b8c6cd17b771da77391355749f3/uploads/2023/10/202310131572744879.pdf [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

5. R&D Roadmap for Green Hydrogen Ecosystem in India: https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3716e1b8c6cd17b771da77391355749f3/uploads/2023/10/202310131572744879.pdf [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

6. ibid

7. This website is accessible at https://research.mnre.gov.in [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

8. The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India was established by the union government in November 1999. The Principal Scientific Adviser provides advice to the Prime Minister and the Parliament in matters of science and technology. Since August, 2018, the office of Principal Scientific Advisor comes under the cabinet secretariat.

9. RMI Analysis for green and natural Gas based Hydrogen, Boal Based Hydrogen from TERI and BNEF https://rmi.org/insight/harnessing-green-hydrogen/ [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)].

10. https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1937950 [Accessed on April 11, 2024, 10:00 AM (IST)]

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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