Hong Kong, despite lagging behind other cities in the adoption of hydrogen fuel for road transport, has the potential to become an innovator in leveraging this technology to combat climate change.
According to the investor funding the construction of the city’s first hydrogen refueling station, Hong Kong’s stringent quality requirements for buses and its ability to adopt the best practices worldwide position it as a potential leader in hydrogen utilization. With transport accounting for a significant portion of carbon emissions in the city, the adoption of hydrogen fuel holds the promise of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable practices.
The Hong Kong government has demonstrated strong policy support for hydrogen fuel, allocating HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) in the 2023-24 budget for trials of double-decker buses and heavy vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. These fuel cells generate zero roadside emissions, aligning with the city’s goal of halving carbon emissions by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has also expressed the government’s intention to formulate long-term strategies for the application of hydrogen energy in road transport by 2025.
Hans Energy, a Hong Kong-listed company, is leading the pilot project to construct Hong Kong’s first hydrogen refueling station at a Citybus depot in West Kowloon. This initiative received an “agreement in principle” from the government, and construction is expected to be completed around September. By investing in hydrogen infrastructure, Hans Energy showcases its commitment to sustainable practices and paves the way for the adoption of hydrogen fuel in the city.
Hong Kong’s unique demands, including hot and humid summers and narrow, steep, and winding roads, necessitate customized solutions for buses. Citybus, owned by Bravo and in which Hans Energy holds a stake, received the world’s first tri-axle hydrogen double-decker bus last June. Tri-axle buses, with their ability to navigate Hong Kong’s challenging terrain while carrying heavy passenger loads, showcase the city’s potential to absorb more advanced and tailored equipment.
While the adoption of hydrogen fuel in Hong Kong presents immense potential, challenges remain. Regulations regarding the use and transportation of highly flammable liquid hydrogen need to be addressed before deployment of hydrogen buses can proceed. The government has established an interdepartmental working group to study relevant issues and develop appropriate legislation and technical specifications.
To ensure a sustainable hydrogen supply, Hans Energy has signed letters of intent with potential hydrogen suppliers, including mainland oil refiners that produce hydrogen as a by-product. The company also explores the possibility of sourcing hydrogen from Hong Kong and China Gas (Towngas) while considering cost competitiveness. Towngas has conducted a feasibility study that demonstrates the safe extraction of hydrogen from its underground pipeline network, offering a potential local supply option.
Hans Energy is also engaged in discussions with European and North American companies specializing in hydrogen storage and refueling technology. The goal is to develop innovative equipment that reduces the footprint of refueling stations and enhances efficiency. The potential for exporting such technology to other crowded cities further highlights the opportunities for Hong Kong’s hydrogen sector.
The timeline for the construction of the hydrogen refueling station was extended due to approval procedures. However, the progress made thus far signifies the commitment of both the government and private sector in driving the adoption of hydrogen fuel in Hong Kong. Through collaboration and innovation, Hong Kong can position itself as a pioneer in sustainable transportation and contribute to global efforts in mitigating climate change.