South East Asia’s first

ONE OF ITS KIND… First Southeast Asia Integrated Hydrogen Plant & Refuelling Station is in Kuching. Photo: Nadim Bokhari

The green-blue building standing next to Sarawak Energy Western Region Office at Pending Industrial Estate in Kuching is the first Integrated Hydrogen Plant and Refuelling Station in Malaysia.

Its establishment is a significant milestone for Sarawak as the pioneer of hydrogen development in Southeast Asia.  

The building, which took less than a year to build, was officially launched by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on May 27 this year.

The state government has spent so far spent RM16 million on the project, including RM10 million to help Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) carry out a feasibility study in Nov 2017.

With the construction of the facility, the state government hopes to produce hydrogen and generate greater understanding and ideas on the development of green energy in Sarawak’s transportation sector.

ONE OF ITS KIND… First Southeast Asia Integrated Hydrogen Plant & Refuelling Station is in Kuching. Photo: Nadim Bokhari

The facility encompasses three areas — the main office, hydrogen plant and refuelling station.

Each area is designed with specific equipment according to its function.  

The main office area houses the front desk section, meeting rooms and facilities.

The front desk section holds a customer consultation lounge and a gallery.   

At the back of the building is the hydrogen production plant and next to the plant is the refuelling station.

The plant is installed with two units of electrolysers, two units of ionic compressors and gas storage tanks for medium pressure service and tubes for high pressure service.

At the refuelling station, there are two nozzles with different pressures. Both the lower pressure and high pressure nozzles transfer the gas to the buses and private cars respectively.

During a media familiarisation trip to the plant, SEB engineer Jason Yeo Kok Seng clarified that the facility had met all the safety compliance requirements.

“It was designed and built according to all relevant regulations, codes, standards and best practices referenced from the design and operation of other international world-class facilities.

“Besides installing the fence in the surrounding area, we also have the explosion-proof lights and lightning arrester to protect the insulation and conductors in the system from the damaging effects of lightning,” he added.

The two electrolysers (first and second left) will keep hydrogen gas and release oxygen gas to produce clean energy. Photo: Nadim Bokhari

Green production of H2

There are three main stages in the production of the hydrogen.

Yeo explained the process to produce hydrogen in the integrated plant was based on the electrolysis model.

“After the water is demineralised, water will be electrolysed in the electrolyser.

“At this stage, the electrolysers will separate oxygen and hydrogen from the water through the electrochemical process,” he explained.

With two units of electrolysers, the plant can produce up to 5.4 kilogrammes of hydrogen gas in an hour per day at a purity of 99.999 per cent level.

While demonstrating the splitting process, Yeo said nine kilogrammes of water could produce about one kilogramme of hydrogen gas.

“And the remaining eight kilogrammes comprise the oxygen gas which is released from the electrolysers.

“At the plant, you can hear the sound of the oxygen gas being released from the containers.

“While oxygen is being released to the atmosphere, the hydrogen gas is being purified through its purification system to ensure the gas is highly pure at 99.999 per cent,” he explained.

“Hydrogen has one of the highest energy density values per mass.  Due to its characteristic, the cooling and compression processes play a vital role in transportation, storage and refilling.”

To allow the hydrogen to be efficiently stored and transported, there is a need to increase its energy density. Hence, it has to be compressed heavily to produce CGH2 (compressed gaseous hydrogen).

“Yeo revealed that the two ionic compressors could produce highly compressed gas up to 1,050 bar through its five stages of compression. The CGH2 will then be stored at different pressure storages namely the medium pressure storage tank and the high-pressure storage tank.”

“Yeo explained that the medium pressure storage could store up to 150 kilogrammes of hydrogen at 500 Bar while the high-pressure storage could store up to 19 kilogrammes of hydrogen at 900 Bar.”

“The higher the pressure, the smaller the tank for gas.

“The tallest/biggest tank behind is the low pressure storage tank. Basically, after the water electrolysis process, the hydrogen gas is stored in the low pressure tank.

“The hydrogen gas from the big tank (low pressure buffer tank) will be compressed so that it can be stored in a medium-pressure tank and a high-pressure tank,” he explained.

Malaysia first H2 bus has on the trial run since Aug last year. Photo: Nadim Bokhari

Fuelling Hydrogen Vehicles

Meanwhile another SEB engineer, Aaron Khin said at fuelling stations, the hydrogen was also stored in small tubes which were installed underground.

He explained that the two nozzles were for two different pressures — 350 Bar or 700 Bar depending on the requirements of vehicles

“The 350 Bar nozzle is for the bus while the 700 Bar nozzle is for private cars,” he said.

The technology at the pump dispenser, Khin added, would keep the refuelling times to under four minutes for full refuelling.   

He assured that the facility was monitored and supervised every day.  

“The safety officer in our team actually does all the checks every day to make sure that there’s no leak and everything is safe.

“The safety system also locks the dispenser once it is injected into the fuel cell cars,” he said.

Safety is accorded top priority at the hydrogen refuelling station.  

No handphones usage and smoking are allowed during refuelling time.

A visitor’s pass is a must for visitors to enter the territory and they must register at the security checkpoint upon arrival.

No doubt, in years to come, there will be more of these hydrogen refuelling stations in the state.