BRUNEI-MUARA – Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s Faculty of Integrated Technology (UBD-FIT) will be collaborating with a consortium of Japanese companies to develop a sustainable hydrogen fuel system to power “smart homes” in the Temburong district.

Dr Abdul Kalam Azad, a senior assistant professor at UBD, said the university will work with the Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD) — the consortium that is currently building Brunei’s first hydrogenation plant in Sg Liang — to create a more sustainable power system for the district.

While still in development, the proposed system would be solar-powered, with panels connected to an electrolyzer cell to create hydrogen gas that can be used to generate heat and electricity.

Temburong — Brunei’s most remote and least densely populated district — is currently powered by diesel fuel, with a generation capacity of about 12 megawatts for a total population of 10,500.

A study was conducted by a Japanese think-tank last year to explore how Temburong could be turned into a low-carbon district that is energy self-sufficient. Temburong’s energy demands are expected to double with the completion of the Temburong Bridge in 2019, which will link the district directly to the mainland.

Dr Abdul said that the “smart house” system has the potential for zero carbon emissions and higher electrical efficiency than traditional power sources, making it more suitable for the “Green Jewel of Brunei”. 

UBD-FIT has also been looking into creating electricity stations that can store fuel cells with hydrogen energy, which would then power households in rural areas where there is a lack of electrical distribution lines.

“With these stations, it would be an efficient way to power these households as they would not be producing any carbon emissions,” the chemical and process engineering specialist told The Scoop.

A hydrogen fuel cell range extender from Intelligent Energy is displayed at InterDrone, an international drone conference and exposition for commercial drones, at the Paris Las Vegas on September 7, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

He added that while hydrogen energy has many applications, more funding and better facilities are needed to facilitate research and development.

“Our research on hydrogen energy has been very successful, we have published many papers and even established a patent on one of the materials we have made,” he said on sidelines of a seminar held at UBD-FIT last week.

“However, in order for us to move our research to its industrial applications, we would need more funding.”

Countries like Japan wants to become the first nation significantly powered by the clean energy source, but the high cost and technical challenges associated with hydrogen production have generally slowed its adoption as a carbon-free fuel.

Dr Abdul said UBD-FIT is keen to partner with international organisations like AHEAD because it allows them to share resources and testing materials.

AHEAD is currently building Brunei’s first hydrogenation plant in Sg Liang, establishing a global supply chain of liquified hydrogen from Brunei to Japan.

In a previous report, Deputy Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry, Dato Paduka Hj Matsatejo Sokiaw, said use of hydrogen fuel in Brunei’s transport sector should be encouraged, and that hydrogen-related activity could help build a more sustainable economy.

“The world is still far away from adopting hydrogen as a mainstream energy source but there’s no reason why we cannot be one of the pioneers in the development of this clean energy system,” he said back in April.