A cleaner fuel compared with CNG, HCNG will be used to run 50 buses as part of a pilot project for six months from the Rajghat-1 bus depot.
A four-tonne per day compact reformer-based HCNG production plant has come up at the Rajghat-1 bus depot of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and while it was expected to start operations from March, the Covid-19 outbreak put a spanner in the works. The facility is now going to be inaugurated on Tuesday by Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan and state transport minister Kailash Gahlot.
The Supreme Court had last year suggested looking at hydrogen-run vehicles as a solution for Delhi NCR’s poor air quality and while the technology will take some time to appear in the capital, HCNG could be a step in that direction.
It was, in fact, a directive of the apex court in July 2018 that had led to Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) collaborating to put up this first semi-commercial plant as a pilot project for conducting the study on the use of HCNG fuel in 50 BS IV compliant CNG-run buses in Delhi.
In July last year, IOCL, which has developed the technology to create HCNG, and IGL laid the foundation of the plant. Compared to physical blending of hydrogen with CNG, the use of a compact reforming process is 30% more cost effective, according to IOCL. For using HCNG, the present CNG-run buses can be easily used with just a little tuning and separate buses are not required.
The plant was ready by early March this year and was awaiting approval from the Petroleum Explosive Safety Organisation , which comes under the Union ministry of commerce and approves all gas stations and filling stations. The buses that will be run on HCNG also required some tuning even though no major retrofitting was needed. The Covid-19 outbreak, however, brought the plans to a halt.
Mixing hydrogen with CNG physically is a difficult proposition and that is why IOCL came up with the compact reforming process, which reforms CNG and there is no need for mixing. For the pilot project, 50 buses will be filled with HCNG and their efficiency and emissions will be recorded for six months and then submitted to the Supreme Court.
Four tonne of HCNG will be produced at the plant every day and excess fuel that is generated will be used to run a generator, which will generate electricity. To begin with, it is likely that HCNG may cost a few paise more than CNG per unit, but once the production is scaled up to more buses in future, the costs are expected to come down.