Hydrogen plant project paves way for cleaner air

SUNGAI LIANG (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - The drive to produce hydrogen on a commercial basis has led to ground-breaking technologies being developed to create a gas that generates zero carbon emissions, and the demo plant to be constructed at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK) represents one such example of this drive to mass produce hydrogen for a greener future for the next generation, noted Hideki Endo, President of the Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD).

Endo was speaking to the Sunday Bulletin and other local media during the ground breaking ceremony for the demo plant at SPARK yesterday.

“AHEAD has invested more than USD100 million in the setting up, and subsequent running of the operations and management of the demo plant here in SPARK,” said the AHEAD President, citing also the various companies that have contributed various technologies for the project.

These include hydrogen handling expertise from Chiyoda Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation, and ocean transportation capabilities by Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, among others.

These companies and operational processes form part of the supply chain outlined in the proposed project.

While still a new project, AHEAD already has a small local workforce to help ensure the smooth construction and operation of the plant, said Endo, adding that the association “is currently in discussions to further expand the local workforce involved in this one-year project”.

The project is slated to be in operation for one year – from January 2020 to December of the same year.

Queried by the Sunday Bulletin on the future plans for the plant beyond 2020, Endo commented, “We are expecting to have a commercial or semi-commercial supply chain, but it will have to depend on the marketability of hydrogen in the future. Currently there are 3,000 fuel cell vehicles being operated in Japan alone.

He explained, however, that even though hydrogen consumption from fuel cell-driven vehicles is low at the moment, the main consumer of hydrogen will most likely be power generation companies which supply electricity to the population.

Endo added that AHEAD has been in discussions with the Energy and Industry Department (EID) of Brunei Darussalam on the best approach to introduce hydrogen-based fuel usage in the Bandar Seri Begawan area, such as by introducing fuel cell vehicles, buses or small fuel cell generators for power generation.

“Though discussions on this is still currently in its early phase, we hope that some of the ideas discussed will be implemented in the future as part of an initiative to transition to a cleaner alternative fuel and to lower carbon emissions in the country,” he said.

Responding to the safety concerns regarding the highly explosive hydrogen gas for residents in the surrounding area where the hydrogen plant is to be located, Endo said, “With our technologies, by mixing toluene with the hydrogen gas through a process called hydrogenation, which is a part of the SPERA Hydrogen System, we are able to convert the highly explosive gas into methylcyclohexane (MCH) – which is a flammable liquid similar to gasoline – and the MCH will be transported to Kawasaki and distributed to various centres for re-hydrogenation, which means converting the liquid back into hydrogen gas for use.

“While still a flammable liquid similar to the gasoline used every day, the key explosive property of the hydrogen gas is contained within the MCH compound, using the technologies developed by the companies in AHEAD.”

When asked about the association’s choice of Brunei as the first site for the demo plant, Endo explained that the decision was made due to the proximity between Brunei and Japan, and “the availability of natural resources here in the country is also another factor”.

In response to Sunday Bulletin’s query on whether the plant is able to produce hydrogen from energy sources other than crude oil, the AHEAD President said, “While the demo plant is designed to primarily convert fossil fuel into hydrogen, the gas can also be extracted from natural gases as well as byproducts produced from certain manufacturing processes.

“It is possible with hydrolysis technology to convert renewable energy into hydrogen as well; this is another avenue for hydrogen production.”