Unleashing the power of location-centric hydrogen solutions

In an insightful conversation with Mr. Pushkar Deo, Founder of Hythane Labs, featured in an exclusive interview with IBT, he emphasized on the imperative need for location-centric solutions in the green energy landscape. Mr. Deo highlighted the distinct challenges faced by various regions and advocated for innovative methods like Catalytic Methane Decomposition.

His visionary approach revolves around tapping into local resources and optimizing hydrogen generation. This interview, a compelling exploration of the future of hydrogen, delves into Mr. Deo’s perspective on green energy, government collaboration, and the pivotal role of his company in driving sustainable practices.

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IBT: What inspired you to establish Hythane Labs and what would be your future goals with Hythane? 

Pushkar Deo: We need to comprehend the concept of Hythane. Hythane is a blend of hydrogen and methane. The current industry is exploring solutions for both green hydrogen and methane. It is crucial to understand how to handle methane effectively and safely. We aim to identify alternative methods to conventionally treat methane, contributing to decarbonization and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, methane is more potent than carbon dioxide, making its capture and utilization a priority for generating exceptionally clean fuel, which is considered the fuel of the future. Hence, our company, Hythane, is dedicated to dealing with hydrogen, including green hydrogen, turquoise hydrogen, and super green hydrogen, along with various approaches to managing methane. This involves blending methane to effectively equalize and decrease carbon dioxide emissions wherever methane is utilized. This is why it’s called “Hythane.”

Regarding our lab, it signifies a laboratory where research is conducted. Our research primarily focuses on identifying new technologies and developing solutions for generating clean fuel. When thinking about clean fuel, hydrogen often comes to mind. However, we challenge the notion that electrolyzers are the sole method for generating hydrogen. We believe that the solution should be location-centric rather than universal, and our laboratory is committed to researching technologies that enable effective hydrogen generation through diverse feedstocks and methods.

Before establishing this company, I worked for a multinational corporation (MNC). After an extensive tenure there, I realized the importance of dedicating oneself to promoting a green and clean environment. By starting this company, our objective is clear – to work collectively towards the global challenge of achieving net-zero emissions. We see our role in the future as significant, developing technologies and engineering solutions not only for our own promotion but also to support other MNCs and EPC companies in their journey towards green hydrogen. Our focus is on providing optimized solutions for effective green hydrogen production, driven by the motivation to meet the growing demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

IBT: Could you share some examples of successful projects in these areas also highlighting the impact of your engineering solutions on sustainability?

Pushkar DeoAbsolutely, we’re a relatively young company, having been in operation for one and a half years. Despite our short existence, we’ve engaged in conceptualizing projects for nearly 15 to 20 clients and established successful collaborations with esteemed academic institutions. A recent highlight is Mumbai University’s Physics department expressing interest in forming an MoU to support their research, particularly for PhD and doctorate students. Our project portfolio primarily includes electrolyzer projects, given the prevalent focus on green hydrogen generation. What truly distinguishes us is our proficiency in mathematically modeling electrolyzers, enhancing the robustness of our data sheets. We’ve dedicated considerable time to developing simulation models, empowering us to challenge vendor proposals and optimize designs.

Leveraging over a decade of experience in hydrogen environments, especially in heavy water plants, our founder possesses a unique understanding of hydrogen and its safety aspects. Having dealt with systems under high pressure, this expertise provides us with valuable insights. Our commitment to optimization stems from extensive engineering exposure, enabling us to swiftly deliver projects based on proven designs. We prioritize experience-based engineering over guideline-centric approaches, resulting in satisfied clients who value our prompt delivery and cost-effective solutions. A significant focus for us is on green ammonia, a crucial component of urea production vital to India’s agriculture. Despite the challenges, ammonia’s versatile properties make it a promising fuel, offering potential benefits for both industry and agriculture.

In essence, our blend of experience, mathematical modelling capabilities, and commitment to green technology positions us as a reliable partner for those embarking on green hydrogen and ammonia projects.

IBT: Steam methane reforming is a key process in hydrogen production, right? So what innovative approaches or technologies does Haythane Lab employ to enhance the efficiency and environmental sustainability of SMR for green hydrogen production?

Pushkar DeoSMR, or steam methane reforming, inherently produces gray hydrogen due to its limitations. SMR is most effective at high capacities, and the process involves reacting steam with methane to produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. The carbon monoxide is then converted to hydrogen through the water shift reaction. However, when methane is sourced from fossil fuels, it contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. To address this, a shift to biomethane can maintain a constant CO2 level, making SMR more carbon-neutral. Even though CO2 is released, capturing and utilizing it in fertilizer units can contribute to a circular economy.

There’s an opportunity for carbon capture in SMR operations using biomethane, creating a carbon-neutral cycle. Additionally, an innovative technology called thermal decomposition of methane by a company called Paganism India Private Limited offers a disruptive solution for SMR. This technology breaks methane into hydrogen and carbon, with the carbon converted into valuable carbon black. This not only contributes to a carbon-negative cycle when using fossil fuel-derived methane but also results in super green hydrogen when derived from bio-based sources.

In the context of government-owned fertilizer units in India, there’s a call for immediate consideration of carbon capture technologies. Decarbonization mandates from the government should encourage these units to explore technologies that align with their budgets while contributing to agriculture and reducing urea imports.

IBT: What are some of the main challenges and opportunities associated with the widespread adoption of green hydrogen and green ammonia both in terms of technological advancement and integration into existing energy infrastructures?

Pushkar Deo: In the opening statement, it was emphasized that a one-size-fits-all solution for hydrogen generation cannot be applied globally. Electrolysis, while an established technology, may not be suitable everywhere, especially in regions facing water shortages. Instead, location-centric solutions are crucial, such as Catalytic Methane Decomposition (CMD), a method that decomposes methane catalytically, generating hydrogen and carbon black. CMD offers benefits like carbon black as a byproduct and an attractive solution for gas-rich countries like Qatar.

Highlighting the uniqueness of India’s resources, such as vast landmass, abundant biomass, and stable solar and wind conditions, the speaker advocates for optimizing hydrogen generation through various methods. The example of goshalas (cow shelters) generating biogas, which can be converted to hydrogen using CMD, demonstrates the potential for local energy production. Additionally, utilizing municipal waste for hydrogen generation is presented as a means of both environmental cleanup and local resource utilization.

The speaker challenges the industry’s tendency to follow established technologies without considering local resources. Proposing the idea that if the energy sector were governed by farmers, it would be a golden era, the emphasis is on tapping into abundant biomass resources locally. The discussion concludes with the speaker mentioning ongoing research in plasma technologies for effectively utilizing biogas and exploring different ways of generating thermal heat, including the use of microwaves and plasma.

IBT: To what extent do you believe that government collaboration and partnerships are essential for accelerating the deployment of green ammonia technology in India? What specific measures or initiatives do you think would further promote its adoption and integration into the national energy landscape? 

Pushkar DeoThe government’s commitment to decarbonization is evident through recent policy releases, including a state policy for green hydrogen in Maharashtra. The speaker emphasizes the need for an open tendering process that focuses on the capacity of hydrogen rather than specifying the technology, allowing for innovation and flexibility. The mention of being selected under the Maha 60 Accelerator program, a collaboration between the Maharashtra government and Cornell Ivy League University, reflects government support for startups and entrepreneurs, providing financial and administrative assistance.

The speaker underscores the importance of government mandates to accelerate decarbonization in industries. While acknowledging that the chemical process industry prioritizes profits, the speaker advocates for regulations that mandate specific feedstocks and emissions levels. The comparison to emission standards like BS 4 and BS 6 highlights the potential effectiveness of such regulations. The speaker proposes converting unorganized industries into organized ones through environmental audits, offering subsidies, and investing in solutions to address carbon emissions.

Drawing attention to the positive environmental impact observed during the COVID-19 lockdown, the speaker stresses the need for both supporting small entrepreneurs with subsidies and imposing strict laws on large government-owned industries. The argument is made that these industries, despite high profits, should invest in decarbonization to benefit the environment and the community.

Pushkar Deo is an expert in Process Engineering consulting with over 32 years of professional experience. Throughout his career, Pushkar has successfully delivered numerous process engineering projects across various sectors. Before his current role, Pushkar was working as a Deputy Director at Aker Solutions, where he displayed his skills as a process engineer and a superb manager. As a Managing Director of Hythane-Labs, Pushkar fosters an environment that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and innovation among his team. His wide-ranging experience, as well as his interests and commitment to sustainable engineering, make him an excellent entrepreneur and an influential figure in the Process Engineering industry. 

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