IIT developing bio-hydrogen fuel from waste

Aiming to generate clean fuel from waste, a large-scale bio-reactor plant for producing hydrogen on a pilot level would be ready at IIT Kharagpur this year.

PTI| Last Updated: Mar 08, 2015, 13:28 PM IST

Kolkata: Aiming to generate clean fuel from waste, a large-scale bio-reactor plant for producing hydrogen on a pilot level would be ready at IIT Kharagpur this year.

As part of a project funded by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Professor Debabrata Das of IIT-Kgp's department of biotechnology is leading a group of Indian scientists from six institutes to produce bio-hydrogen (hydrogen gas) using waste.

"Our pilot plant of 10 m3 capacity would be ready within 3-4 months for which we are constructing a building inside the campus. Hopefully the pilot plan study would be done within a year and after that we can go for commercialisation of the technology," Das who has been working on hydrogen production for about 16 years told PTI.

He said oil major ONGC has already shown interest for higher scale studies of 100 m3 biohydrogren plants.

With fossil fuel reserves depleting, hydrogen holds the promise to provide clean and eco-friendly energy supply to meet the growing energy needs for transportation and power generation in the coming years.

Large-scale production of hydrogen gas for commercial use is now at R & D stage in India. According to experts, storage would be another challenge as hydrogen has a very low volumetric energy density and requires large space to store.

The National Hydrogen Energy Road Map has projected that one million hydrogen-fuelled vehicles would be on Indian roads and 1000 MW aggregate hydrogen-based power generating capacity be set up in the country, both by 2020.

Although hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels and biomass, IIT scientists are trying to generate the gas from distillery wastewater with a vision of 'waste to energy'.

They are using dark fermentation process under which bacteria can work both in the presence and absence of light.

"We have isolated several organisms - one from the leaf of a particular tree and one organism from high oil containing soil. All are giving very good results," Das said.

Methane would also be produced in the process.

The cost of production would be a critical factor in getting the technology move from lab to factories.

Besides IIT, researchers from other institutes like Allahabad University, Banaras Hindu University, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) Hyderabad, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, and The Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, are also involved in the project.