Hydrogen power will see significant opportunities in the heavy-duty transportation market — Anand Chordia, Air Products

With the Indian government pushing towards hydrogen-powered vehicles, Air Products India, a global player in industrial gases, is gearing up to face the future. Speaking to the MD, Anand Chordia, we understand more about hydrogen and how India’s infrastructure needs to be developed.

anand chordia, md, air products india

India is pushing towards clean mobility and is exploring all possibilities. One major push is towards electric vehicles that have seen a significant improvement. With carmakers such as Tata competing in the mass market segment, MG and Hyundai aiming at a more premium customer base, and numerous startups focusing on the infrastructure, electric vehicles are slowly gaining popularity.

However, the big question remains — what’s the future of the heavy-duty transportation market? One way the government is trying to tackle this is with hydrogen-powered energy. To understand how the transition can be better, who the first adopters will be, how hydrogen can be harnessed safely, and most importantly, to know if the country’s ready, Express Mobility spoke to Anand Chordia, the Managing Director of Air Products India.

For those who are not familiar with Air Products India, the company manufactures industrial gases. The company is well-known globally for liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply, process technology, and equipment. The company develops, engineers, builds and operates some of the world’s largest industrial gas projects, including gasification projects that convert abundant natural resources into syngas to produce high-value power, fuels, and chemicals.

Anand adds, “We want to be the provider of choice for grey, blue, and green hydrogen solutions to address significant energy and environmental challenges, moving us all towards a cleaner energy future. We’ve developed a broad range of hydrogen supply and fuelling infrastructure options to enable the successful commercialization of these vehicles around the world.”

Air Products currently has its presence in 50 countries. The company is investing in existing and emerging markets. “We are looking at making significant investments in India over the next few years. We continue to expand our in-house Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) capabilities in India. To complement our Pune EPC centre, we opened our second EPC centre in Vadodara, in June 2020 during the pandemic,” said Anand.

He added, “The Indian government has set a target to gasify around 100 MT (million tonnes) of coal by 2030. About four projects have currently been identified as part of the government’s ambitions for coal gasification, opening a huge potential for the growth of this sector, and Air Products is well-positioned to support investment opportunities in India on the ‘Build Own Operate’ (BOO) model.”

In order to align with the government’s ambitions and prepare the country for hydrogen-powered vehicles, Air Products is carefully evaluating the possibilities. Anand said, “We have over 60 years of legacy in this market, operating over 100 hydrogen production plants, 1,100+ kilometres of pipeline, 250+ hydrogen fuelling projects,30+ hydrogen electrolyzer projects and ~50 fuelling patents worldwide.”

He added, “We are building our business to meet the needs of the hydrogen economy and investing to help the world transition to a clean energy future. We were the first mover in refinery hydrogen onsite supply and again now, through world-scale blue hydrogen projects like Alberta and carbon-free hydrogen projects like NEOM. We have the technology, know-how and capital to do this at scale.”

Hydrogen, when used as fuel is flammable and can be dangerous if not handled properly. Anand said, “Hydrogen is produced by the steam reforming of natural gas, the electrolysis of water and the dissociation of ammonia. Hydrogen is also a by-product of petroleum distillation and chlorine manufacture. The primary method of hydrogen generation is steam reforming of natural gas.”

“The steam reforming process produces syngas, which is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Regardless of the method of production, the product stream is separated into its components. The hydrogen is dried and purified. This gaseous hydrogen can be used as a gas or compressed and cooled to sufficiently low cryogenic temperatures using heat exchangers, along with reciprocating and tube expanders, to form liquid hydrogen both enable transportation and other markets.”

Before we conclude by saying that the government is supporting the transition and we have companies to manufacture hydrogen, so let’s move on, we also have to take into consideration the infrastructure. Does India have the infrastructure and is the country ready for the transition? Anand said, “Transitioning to hydrogen-powered vehicles, will require the development of hydrogen manufacturing plants and hydrogen fuelling stations across the country. However, unlike battery-operated vehicles, the fuelling time for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is quicker and easy.”

The company offers a line of customisable equipment for hydrogen fuelling, designed to be installed easily, and can be used with any hydrogen source. Anand added, “Our hydrogen stations have proven technology and include compression, storage, and dispensing. Cars, trucks, vans, buses, scooters, forklifts, locomotives, planes, cell towers, material handling equipment, and even submarines have been fuelled with Air Products’ hydrogen fuelling technologies.”

Speaking about how the government speed up the process of transitioning to hydrogen, the Managing Director said, “With the Indian government announcing the ‘Green Hydrogen Mission’, momentum is building across the private and public sectors. It is important to help shape the policies and partnership frameworks. It is imperative to develop a policy that is technology agnostic and focuses on rapidly developing end-use markets.”

Expressing his opinion on which segment will adopt hydrogen as a source of power first, Anand said, “We see significant opportunities in the Heavy-duty transportation market — vehicles like trucks, buses, and ships. The qualities of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle become more apparent as the vehicle is larger and carries a heavier load. In short, the batteries become very, very significant if you try to run a large truck or bus on batteries.”

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