Southeast Asian energy companies are emerging as pivotal players in the quest for net-zero carbon emissions. Their strategic investments in cutting-edge technology and a diversified portfolio of clean energy assets, including hydrogen, are setting the stage for a sustainable energy future. In this transformative journey, Malaysia stands at the forefront, aligning its efforts with the government’s commitment to promote green hydrogen and accelerate climate action.
Hydrogen, often dubbed the “fuel of the future,” holds immense potential as a versatile energy carrier. Its applications span from combustion and electricity generation to industrial processes, making it a cornerstone of the future energy landscape. Hydrogen’s significance lies in its ability to pave the way to a lower carbon future, mitigating the impacts of climate change.
However, hydrogen doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. Globally, hydrogen is classified into different categories based on production methods and energy sources.
Grey Hydrogen: Produced using fossil fuels like natural gas and coal, grey hydrogen is a carbon-intensive option that releases carbon dioxide (CO2) during production.
Blue Hydrogen: Similar to grey hydrogen, blue hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels but incorporates carbon capture technology to prevent CO2 emissions.
Green Hydrogen: The pinnacle of clean energy, green hydrogen, is produced by splitting water through electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources like solar and offshore wind. It’s the cleanest form of hydrogen, emitting zero carbon emissions during production.
While green hydrogen is hailed as the cleanest option, it faces a significant hurdle—cost. The production of green hydrogen, especially during the electrolysis process, has been historically expensive.
Addressing this challenge head-on, Petronas, a leading global energy company, has embarked on a groundbreaking journey. In collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Petronas has developed a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser. Notably, this achievement marks the creation of Southeast Asia’s first commercial hydrogen electrolyser, a domain primarily dominated by Europe, the US, and East Asia.
Colin Patrick, the General Manager responsible for hydrogen result delivery and Borneo opportunities at Petronas, highlights the critical factors in hydrogen production—efficiency and cost. Striking the right balance between these factors is pivotal for success. Petronas’ PEM electrolyser achieves approximately a 20% increase in efficiency compared to existing PEM technology in the market. This translates to lower production costs, a key enabler for widespread green hydrogen adoption.
Petronas’ foray into green hydrogen aligns with Malaysia’s vision for sustainable growth. Malaysia envisions green hydrogen as a new pillar of growth, both for Petronas and the nation itself. Sarawak, in particular, plays a strategic role in catalyzing the production of lower carbon hydrogen.
Colin Patrick, who played a pivotal role in advancing hydrogen production during his secondment to Sarawak Energy Bhd in 2018, spearheaded Southeast Asia’s first hydrogen production and refueling station. His efforts laid the foundation for Sarawak’s prominence in the green hydrogen economy. Sarawak’s favorable energy mix, with 75% of its electricity generated from hydropower, provides a robust foundation for green hydrogen production.
Sarawak: A Hub for Green Hydrogen
Green hydrogen is already in use in Sarawak, primarily in decarbonizing the transport sector. It’s set to power an autonomous rapid transit (ART) fleet in Kuching, slated to commence operations by 2025. Sarawak’s proactive pursuit of a green hydrogen economy has attracted foreign partners from South Korea and Japan. Collaborations are underway to construct Sarawak’s first hydrogen plant in Bintulu.
Colin envisions a collaborative future where government agencies, local authorities, and industry players join hands to foster green hydrogen production. Malaysia’s recent announcement regarding the construction of a mobile refueling station in Putrajaya marks the first step of hydrogen’s expansion into Peninsular Malaysia.
To accelerate the momentum in hydrogen production, a robust supply chain is crucial. Securing the delivery of specialized components, often produced in South Korea, Japan, and China, presents a significant challenge.
Moreover, designing viable business models to spur green hydrogen adoption is equally important. Petronas is collaborating with Sarawak to explore various options, including hydrogen generation as a service and the development of an electrolyser assembly plant. These efforts aim to advance local industry capabilities in producing complex components.
Syaharudin Hassan, Petronas’ Group Procurement Head of Industry Shaping and Collaboration, emphasizes the need for industry collaboration to ensure a resilient and competitive ecosystem. Together, these initiatives will harness efficiency, drive innovation, and create opportunities for local companies to expand into new markets.
As Southeast Asia emerges as a key player in the global shift towards sustainable energy, green hydrogen takes center stage as a transformative force. Petronas’ pioneering efforts, in collaboration with Sarawak, are not just about green hydrogen production but building a sustainable hydrogen ecosystem that can shape the future of energy. With these innovations and partnerships, the region is poised to lead the way towards a greener and more sustainable world for all.