KUCHING: Sarawak plans to channel more funds towards research and development (R&D) initiatives to meet the aspiration of becoming a hydrogen exporter.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the first integrated hydrogen production plant and refueling station in Sarawak – also the first of its kind in Malaysia and Southeast Asia – is the outcome of a RM10 million R&D fund allocated last year.
He said for this year, RM50 has been set aside for various R&D initiatives, including efforts to develop a hydrogen economy and the agriculture sector.
“The Sarawak government is developing towards hydrogen economy; we believe that in the next 10 years, we will make the process (electrolysis) cheaper.
“With cheaper process, we can become an exporter of hydrogen,” he told a press conference after launching the facility at the Sarawak Energy Western Regional Office in Bintawa, here yesterday.
Abang Johari said the Sarawak government will carry on its R&D on the production of hydrogen given that there is a demand in the global market for this commodity.
According to him, an undisclosed country has indicated its interest in importing hydrogen from Sarawak, adding the said country is in the midst of negotiating a deal with the state.
With this, he expressed confidence that hydrogen, after hydroelectric power, will emerge as a new source of revenue for Sarawak.
To a question, the chief minister said the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) is initiating efforts to set up five 3-in-1 (petrol+electric charging+hydrogen fuel cell) refuelling stations across Sarawak, beginning next year.
He said these 3-in-1 refuelling stations will also be the first of its kind in the country.
“A full tank of fuel cell can enable a hydrogen-powered vehicle to travel 666km. Although hydrogen-powered vehicles are more expensive for the time being, I believe the cost will be cheaper over time,” he said.
At the launching of the facility, Abang Johari also unveiled the state’s first hydrogen-powered buses.
However, the buses have yet to acquire a permit from the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to operate due to existing laws, something which the chief minister said would need to be amended to include regulations on such buses.
“They (JPJ) have to update their laws. I think Sarawak is too advanced. They are having meetings now to look into this. I think by next week, we should have the permit (for the buses to operate),” he said.
Among those present at the launching were Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing and Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.