Sarawak creates history with hydrogen initiative

Abang Johari (in driver’s seat) test drives the Hyundai Nexo with Sarawak Energy chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi (right) while Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing gives the thumbs-up.

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By Nigel Edgar

KUCHING, May 27: Sarawak today became the first region in Southeast Asia (SEA) to have an integrated hydrogen production plant and refuelling station. The facility was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg this morning.

It was built by Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) in collaboration with Ireland-based gas and energy company Linde EOX Sdn Bhd at a cost of RM15 million at Syarikat Sesco Berhad’s Western Regional Office in Bintawa here.

The facility comes complete with hydrogen production units and hydrogen refuelling stations to refuel the state’s much-awaited hydrogen fuel cell powered bus and two hydrogen fuel cell-powered SUVs Hyundai Nexo, which are now part of Sarawak Energy’s corporate fleet, adding to its existing four electric-powered Nissan Leaf and 24 electric bikes.

The Hyundai Nexo is capable of churning out 120kW with 395Nm torque with a full tank of 156 litres of hydrogen. It has a range of about 666km.

Abang Johari (right) and Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing (second from left) inspecting the Hyundai Nexo as Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili (left) and others look on.
Abang Johari (left) trying his hand on refuelling the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Hyundai Nexo.

The hydrogen bus, meanwhile, is expected to be able to be driven legally on the road after next week when the Road Transport Department updates its ruling to include hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses.

This makes Sarawak also the first region in SEA to have hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles legally on its roads.

The operation of the bus would be managed by the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).

Abang Johari told a press conference that with the successful launch of the integrated hydrogen production plant and refuelling station, he planned to set up five three-in-one refuelling stations throughout the state to provide not only the traditional fossil fuels to vehicles but also electric charging for electric vehicles and hydrogen to hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles.

“It is a matter of efficiency and cost. I have directed Petros (Petroleum Sarawak Berhad) and SEDC to set up the three-in-one fueling stations providing fossil fuel, electricity and hydrogen throughout the state. That’s our next move.

“I have identified five locations. We will start by the end of this year and around next year, all would be set up. This would be the first in the country,” he said.

When asked on the estimated cost to build one three-in-one refuelling station, he cited that the cost to build Sarawak Energy’s integrated plant was about RM15 million, which also included research and development (R&D).

“Since the stations are three-in-one (smaller), it would be significantly cheaper than that,” said Abang Johari.

As for the cost of refuelling hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles, he said the price had not been determined yet as the initiative was still under R&D.

Abang Johari (fifth from left) together with Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing (fourth from left) and Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom (third from left) posing for a photo-call with stakeholders near the hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus.

While the production cost is said to be high at the moment, Abang Johari gave assurance that when the technology became readily available and production cost drops, the cost to fill up a hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle would be much cheaper. — DayakDaily