Breaking new ground

CM says SEB has been entrusted to lead research on using hydrogen, fuel cell as alternative renewable energy sources

Abang Johari stressing a point during the press conference. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: A feasibility study on hydrogen and fuel cell applications will be conducted to explore the commercial and public application of hydrogen and fuel cell technology in Sarawak.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the study, which will be spearheaded by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), will form an integral part of the state government’s new emphasis to develop the state, leveraging on research and development towards achieving its 2030 vision.

“The state government, under my direction, is forming a Research Council to oversee various sectors including technology. One primary area of focus will be in energy related areas such as alternative energy potential, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells research.

“SEB’s findings and recommendations from the study will be shared with the council and this will guide us in further decision making in regards to the adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technology,” he told a press conference at Menara Sarawak Energy here yesterday.

With abundant clean hydroelectric power resources, the state provides an ideal setting for enabling hydrogen economy in view of impending global demand for hydrogen as an energy source in the near future.

“It is hoped that hydrogen could be the primary fuel of choice for areas such as the transportation sector and energy storage as the technology matures and becomes commercially attractive in the future,” he remarked.

He pointed out that the state is very fortunate to have water, the main raw material to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, in abundance.

“In other countries, when they market salt water, they have to go through desalination, a process which will cause the production of hydrogen to be more expensive.

“For us, producing hydrogen will be a straight process and the water can even be sourced from our dams particularly during low usage when we can convert the water to hydrogen and store them,” he explained, adding that since hydrogen can be liquefied, it can be stored and then exported to buyers.

With SEB entrusted to spearhead the study, Abang Johari pointed out that SEB has since formed a team and will set aside RM5 million to conduct the research.

Asked if there was a time frame for SEB to come up with results from the study, he believed that it can be done within the next three to four years.

“The technology is there already. Right now, it’s the question of calculating what the cost will be like to produce, for instance, 10,000 tonnes of hydrogen.

“Once we got the calculation done, it’s just a matter of setting up the plant,” he said.

Abang Johari at the press conference with Dr Rundi (second left), Morshidi (left), Abdul Hamed (second right) and Sharbini (right). — Photo by Tan Song Wei

Meanwhile, SEB chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi said hydrogen and fuel cells can complement hydropower and extend the use of this alternative energy source in other applications such as the transportation sector.

“We have set up a team under the guidance of SEB group chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili to conduct the feasibility study and will be evaluating a different kind of technology and then looking at the commercial viability of hydrogen and fuel cell technology and how we can bring that to Sarawak in order to increase that layer of low carbon intensity production of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.

“That’s our major focus so that in the future, we have it and with our level of production of our hydropower tagged at an affordable price, I think we can be competitive in the production of liquid hydrogen which can be transported anywhere in the world,” he said.

He added that the SEB research team was already working with a few groups including Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to work out who are the best to bring in to work with them on the technical and commercial viability aspects of hydrogen and fuel cell technology for the state.

Also present during the press conference were Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Morshidi Abdul Ghani and Sharbini.

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