Wednesday, October 23

Hydrogen buses hit pothole

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Operation held back after contaminant found in hydrogen produced at local plant which may affect bus efficiency

A file photo shows the hydrogen bus during refueling at the station in Bintawa, Kuching.

KUCHING: The three hydrogen buses which recently underwent trial runs in the city in August are not ready for public use due to a temporary halt at the hydrogen production plant and refueling station.

The buses, which were specially delivered from China, were supposed to be accessible to the public and tourists at no charge, starting Sept 15.

Sources told Utusan Borneo (The Borneo Post’s sister daily) yesterday that the buses could not operate because of issues linked to fuel.

This was subsequently confirmed by Sarawak Energy Berhad, which explained the production of hydrogen at its Integrated Hydrogen Production Plant and Refueling Station had been temporarily halted to accommodate improvement of matters discovered during the performance test period.

The energy developer and power utility group explained that during this period, contaminant liquid was observed at the bus receptacle, which may affect the efficiency of the bus in the long term.

“Sarawak Energy has referred this issue for rectification to the system and technology integrator, Linde EOX Sdn Bhd (Linde). The facility is still under warranty by Linde. Experts from Linde are on site to resolve the issue. Linde EOX Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of Linde Malaysia and Linde Group,” said the statement.

It also pointed out the performance test is a robust process that provides for checks to be conducted at the project phase to ensure that all matters detected are fixed.

“This is part of stringent quality control requirements which are crucial during this research and development phase on hydrogen application in tropical environment.Production of hydrogen and supply from the refueling station will recommence after completion of the improvement by Linde,” it added.

A file photo of one of buses during the trial run.

Meanwhile, the source had told Utusan Borneo that the purity of the fuel was put in doubt due to it being contaminated with foreign substances.

“There are no faults on the three hydrogen buses. They can still be operated, but it is impossible to get the buses moving when there is no fuel.

“We are not blaming anyone in this matter but I want to point out that we still feel hesitant in filling up the buses with hydrogen of which purity is still doubted,” said the source, who is close to the hydrogen bus project.

The three hydrogen buses underwent trial runs from Aug 1 to 14 covering routes such as Jalan Abell, Jalan Padungan, Kuching Waterfront to Damai Beach in Santubong, and Jalan Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub to Medan Niaga Kubah Ria.

The trial runs did not include the ferrying of passengers. These buses were supposed to be accessible to the public and tourists at no charge, starting Sept 15, with two buses to be available to the public while the third, for tourists.

It would have made Kuching the first city in Southeast Asia to use hydrogen buses for public transport. With their red and white colour scheme and the words ‘Zero Emission’ and ‘Hydrogen Bus’ prominently plastered on them, the three buses were easy to spot on the streets and drew a lot of attention during the trial runs.

Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), which owns the buses, also announced then that the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (LPKP) had given their approval for the commissioning of the service.

On Sept 9 last year, SEDC and Foshan Feishi Automobile Manufacture Co Ltd China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the supply and delivery of these hydrogen fuel-cell buses to the Sarawak government.

The Sarawak Energy’s Integrated Hydrogen Production Plant and Refueling Station was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on May 27 this year

It was slated as the first of its kind in Malaysia as well as Southeast Asia.

Sarawak Energy Berhad in the same statement mentioned that through this facility, the energy developer and power utility group is researching hydrogen’s potential as part of the energy mix of the future.

Based on previous news reports, the facility includes a plant built by Sarawak Energy that produces hydrogen through an electro-chemical process called electrolysis, as well as a refueling station for Sarawak’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric buses under the ownership and management of SEDC.

The construction and operation of the hydrogen production plant and refueling station was undertaken by Sarawak Energy in collaboration with Linde EOX Sdn Bhd, a subsidary of Linde Malaysia. (The Linde Group is among the world’s leading industrial gases and engineering companies)

The production plant is able to produce 130kg of hydrogen per day at a purity of 99.999 per cent (five 9s) and is capable of supporting and fully refueling up to five fuel cell buses and 10 fuel cell cars per day.

Hydrogen has zero carbon emission with water and heat being its only by products when used in fuel cells for transportation.

The plant was commissioned on a designed and built basis in accordance to all relevant regulations, codes, standards and best practices referenced from the design and operation of other international world class facilities.

The Sarawak government so far had yet to reveal the costs involved in acquiring the buses and building the facility to produce and refuel hydrogen.