In an almost entirely unforeseen move, Sarawak Energy over in East Malaysia has launched their first integrated hydrogen production plant and refuelling station. It's a pretty big leap considering we are barely handling the development of an electric car infrastructure, and many parts of the world haven't even considered moving into the hydrogen fuel cell car market yet. The production is about as simple as it gets with high school science being applied (electrolysis) to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
The hydrogen fuel is to be used for a number of hydrogen fuel cell buses under the ownership and management of the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation. For now, the plant is able to handle up to five fuel cell buses and ten fuel cell cars per day, which doesn't exactly sound like a lot of vehicles. All of these vehicles will require about 130 kilogrammes of pure hydrogen to operate in total. Fuel cell vehicles don't produce any emissions besides water, which makes them similar in nature to electric vehicles.
Partnering up with Sarawak Energy is Linde EOX Sdn Bhd, which is one of the leading industrial gas and engineering companies around the world. While we may be used to chemical engineering processes being in the oil and gas sector primarily, this kind of project is one that heads in an entirely different direction and requires different fields of expertise. Sarawak Energy is using this launch as a pilot program, having purchased a pair of Hyundai NEXO hydrogen fuel cell SUVs.
While it's great to be pushing for new technologies and developments and be early adopters, there are some perils. For one, hydrogen fuel cell technology has been around for an incredibly long time, but it isn't something that has quite taken off despite numerous pilot programs and studies from various manufacturers. The electric car, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles remain the more popular choice the world over, and whether countries can stomach developing a hydrogen infrastructure after investing millions on an electric one is a bit of a stretch.