Brunei enters new era of green technology

|     Danial Norjidi     |

A SIGNIFICANT development recently took place in Brunei Darussalam as a ground breaking ceremony was held for the construction of the world’s first global hydrogen supply chain demonstration plant at a project site located at Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK).

The ceremony was held by the Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD), which was created by four companies, namely Chiyoda Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui & Co Ltd, and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha. AHEAD is funded by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO).

As was reported following the ground breaking ceremony that took place on April 21, the plant is a collaborative project between the governments of Brunei Darussalam and Japan and a direct response to growing global concerns on greenhouse gas emissions and how these emissions have adversely affected the planet as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The ceremony marked the commencement of the construction of the demo plant and represents a large bilateral step forward for Brunei and Japan in terms of investment into the next generation of clean energy alternatives.

Ambassador of Japan to Brunei Darussalam Motohiko Kato said, “Backed by Japanese technology as well as support from the Bruneian government and Japan, Brunei will enter a new era of environmentally friendly energy that will sustain the future generation.”

He added that the project will also help establish further ties between Brunei and Japan, and provide Brunei the opportunity to take advantage of hydrogen to preserve its beautiful environment.

Director of Advanced Energy Systems and Structure Division, Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Department, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan Masayoshi Yamakage noted that the Paris Agreement has encouraged the transition to de-carbonisation and that hydrogen represents a key technology to realise that transition.

He also shared that the Japanese government formulated a ‘Basic Hydrogen Strategy’ in December last year, and this project is very important in realising a ‘hydrogen society’.

Yamakage added that the success of the project is dependent on the close cooperation between Brunei and Japan, and that realising the innovation is the first step towards a hydrogen society focussed on promoting global de-carbonisation.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Industry, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw, and guest of honour at the event also spoke on the project, and expressed his hope that hydrogen related activities will grow in Brunei to help diversify and develop its economy in the mid to long term.

“I also would like to encourage the use of hydrogen fuel, especially in the transportation sector, and encourage the involvement of educational institutions to promote and raise awareness of this fuel,” he said, adding that while the world is still far away from adopting hydrogen as a mainstream energy source, there is no reason why Brunei cannot be one of the pioneers in the development of this clean energy system.

The ceremony saw the guest of honour and the invited guests take part in an official blessing for the plant. The deputy minister also signed a plaque to commemorate the ground breaking ceremony. Following the ceremony, a short presentation was delivered that outlined the demo plant’s construction and expected plans during its operation.

The demo plant is scheduled to be completed in September 2019 and will begin operations by 2020. Hydrogen will then be transported in liquid form by ship to Kawasaki, Japan for a year. Once in Kawasaki, hydrogen gas will be extracted from the liquid and supplied to consumers.

More information about the project was shared by President of AHEAD Hideki Endo during an interview. He noted that the demo plant to be constructed at SPARK represents an example of the drive to mass produce hydrogen for a greener future for the next generation.

Endo noted that while it is still a new project, AHEAD already has a small local workforce to help ensure the smooth construction and operation of the plant. He noted 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. Speaking 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.

Endo also explained the association’s choice of Brunei as the first site for the demo plant, saying that this 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”.

On the plant’s ability 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,” he added.