Indian Oil will soon announce its foray in energy storage: S S V Ramakumar, Director, R&D
“We are working on improving the efficiency of a lead-acid battery and some new generation India-centric chemistries”
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is close to announcing its foray in energy storage batteries, S S V Ramakumar, director (research and development) tells ETEnergyWorldin an interview. He elaborated on the company’s plans to set-up three ethanol producing facilities at the Panipat refinery, an overall plan to increase adoption of hydrogen-CNG (H-CNG) as a fuel, and research in other unconventional mobility solutions. Edited excerpts:
You are planning to set-up two different ethanol production plants at the Panipat refinery, one through the ligno-cellulosic route and the other through conversion of refinery off-gases, could you elaborate on these projects?
So, we are planning to produce ethanol using refinery off-gases, we have partnered with LanzaTech for this project. Refinery off-gases primarily constitute carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which adds to the carbon footprint of the refinery. This is a first of its kind project in the whole world. LanzaTech has its biogas fermentation technology, which has only been tried to convert steel-mill off-gases to ethanol, we will be replicating it for refinery off-gases. After the success of this plant we would want to have such units across all the refineries.
Refinery sector is responsible for 6 per cent of emissions in overall energy emissions, the project serves twin purposes; reducing carbon footprint and producing fuel-grade ethanol, which can be blended with petrol.
We selected Praj Industries as a technology partner for converting paddy straw into ethanol. Parallelly, we have developed our own second generation (2G) ethanol technology, we are going to set-up a 10 tonne per day demo plant in Panipat refinery, if this is successful, we will be using our own technology to set 2G ethanol plants across the country
The second generation route to produce ethanol requires an enzyme for hydrolysis, this enzyme is primarily imported and a select few players produce this enzyme, so there is a monopoly in a sense. Now this enzyme constitutes of about 30 per cent to 35 per cent of the overall cost of 2G ethanol production. So, we have developed our own enzyme which has been scaled up and is on dot in terms of performance, moreover, our enzyme will be 30 per cent cheaper. So, we will have three ethanol plants in Panipat one through refinery off-gases and the other two using agriculture waste as a feedstock.
The company has plans to enter the energy storage segment, does this go beyond lead-acid batteries?
We will be soon announcing our foray in the energy storage segment, as of now i cannot divulge more information on this subject. All I can say is that our focus is a bit of both; working on improving the efficiency of a lead-acid battery and some new generation India-centric chemistries.
What is H-CNG? How is IOC’s technology different?
So, we have developed this compact reforming technology. Elsewhere in the world people are spiking CNG with hydrogen to reap the benefits of extra fuel economy and reduction of tail-pipe emissions by 70 per cent except NOx… Our technology ensures that you don’t have to physically blend the hydrogen. Indraprastha Gas (IGL) is the supplier of CNG to various bus depots in delhi, so we take the mother CNG into the reactor and post reactor product will be an automatic H-CNG mixture where hydrogen percentage is controlled as per requirement, this is a patented technology and we hold the patent.
Supreme Court directed that we should do a wide-scale trial in 50 buses in Delhi. So, Delhi government and Delhi Transport Department has given Rajghat as the bus depot to us, there we are constructing a four-tonne-per-day reactor, coming November this reactor will be up and running, this will cater to H-CNG needs of 50 buses per day. From November 2019 to February 2020 we are going to run the 50 buses on H-CNG, we will be measuring for emissions and fuel economy in the six-month period and the emission data will be validated by a third-party laboratory called International Centre for Automotive Testing (ICAT) at Manesar.
As it is a new fuel it took some time to get statutory clearances, we had gone to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to get it designated as an auto-fuel, most of the clearances have been received.
What is the larger plan here?
City gas distribution (CGD) networks are being expanded, IOC along with its joint venture partners have won 22 GAs to set-up CNG networks. So, wherever we will set-up this network we will offer H-CNG as fuel… a greener fuel compared to CNG. Like you get different variants under petrol — premium, super unleaded — you will also get a variant in CNG.
The company has been working on hydrogen fuel-cell technology, how is the progress?
Last month, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy floated an Expression of Interest seeking participation in running four buses equipped with indigenous fuel-cell stack to be fuelled by hydrogen. We would be interested in participating in the project. As commercially indigenous hydrogen fuel-cell technology is not present, the EOI serves as a means to trigger its use.
IOC is going to submit a proposal where we are working with two more partners: One is a fuel cell manufacturer and an academic partner. We have the first hydrogen dispensing station and the expertise to produce hydrogen from different pathways, therefore, we are strategically placed to enter this project.
If we are granted the award, we would want to run more than four buses, depending on the grant available. Wherein the fuel stack is indigenous, hydrogen will be produced by IOC through renewable route and we will be running the trials. We already have a testing facility for fuel stacks, we also have retrofitted bus running on hydrogen fuel-cell technology. However, the fuel cell is imported.