BELAIT – Brunei has begun exporting hydrogen, with the first shipment targeted to reach Japan’s city of Kawasaki on December 15.

Produced from Brunei’s first hydrogenation plant at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK), the hydrogen will be used as fuel for the gas turbine power generator in Japan’s Toa Oil Company.

The plant is part of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization’s first global hydrogen supply chain demonstration project, which will run for one year from January to December 2020.

The Japanese consortium Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD), which runs the demonstration project, held an opening ceremony for the hydrogenation plant at SPARK on Wednesday.

Over 200 metric tonnes of hydrogen are expected to be supplied to Japan to fuel power plants over the course of the year 2020, which is equivalent to powering 40,000 fuel cell vehicles.

AHEAD President Hideko Endo said five ISO tank containers will be making their 5,000km journey from Muara Port every week, with each container carrying 20 kilolitres of methylcyclohexane, a chemical compound.

Japan’s domestic market requires 300,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2030. By 2050, that number is expected to increase to 10 million tonnes.

AHEAD president Hideko Endo (L), Minister of Energy YB Dato Dr Hj Mat Suny (3R) and Japanese ambassador to Brunei Eiji Yamamoto (4R), at the opening ceremony for the hydrogen demo plant in Sg Liang. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Speaking to reporters, Endo said the Japanese government’s final target is to use hydrogen as a clean energy source on a large scale.

However, the lack of demand for hydrogen meant that the consortium had to demonstrate its viability to power companies. The weak demand for hydrogen was attributed to high cost and technical challenges.

Endo said there had been a recent discussion with Brunei’s Ministry of Energy to use hydrogen as fuel in the transportation sector to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the sultanate.

Minister of Energy YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny Hj Mohd Hussein in his speech said studies have shown that hydrogen is widely used in the transport sector.

The use of hydrogen fuel cells will be explored closely between the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications, he said during the opening ceremony.

The minister said the use of electric vehicles such as cars and buses powered by hydrogen fuel may shift the market and affect the global supply of vehicles. “We will have to be ready too in case that happens,” he added.

Brunei has already made plans to open up the plant to other opportunities beyond the year 2020.

The demonstration plant can host a learning hub on matters related to hydrogen, YB Dato Dr Hj Mat Suny said.

“After the completion of the project, we will have the opportunity to test cross-border hydrogen supply and this hydrogenation plant will also be with us.

“We will continue to support the global drive to envision how to utilize hydrogen energy further and explore its deployment for the nation,” he added.

The minister said in the midst of a global energy transition, there is a growing need to meet demand sustainably by taking into account the impact on the environment and ensuring future energy security.

He added that there has been an increase in renewable energy and different models of supplying energy, but the International Energy Agency states that it is not growing fast enough to meet demand.

The International Energy Agency last year reported that the global energy demand grew at its fastest pace in the last decade. Global energy demand increased by 2.3 percent last year, while carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.7 percent.

The minister said, “Our hope is that hydrogen energy takes off on a larger scale. Hydrogen energy has the advantage of having fewer emissions in comparison to fossil fuels, and would be a prime way to support our climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement”.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mat Suny said the key to mainstream adoption of hydrogen energy is affordability. 

“It is still in its early stages and we hope for a breakthrough in innovation that will help reduce the cost of generation, storage and transportation of hydrogen energy.”

He said when this breakthrough happens, Brunei would have already laid the foundation for energy transformation.