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Fuel Cell Development for ASEAN: Flawless and Prospective Potential

By Aloysius Damar Pranadi
20 June 2016

Nowadays, scientist and researchers are challenged to develop and enhance the existence of renewable energy technologies. Not only answering the affordability of those technologies, but the researchers also try to bear the multifarious alternative energy, its promotion and deployment regulation, and more efficient than the existing one. This is the era when renewable energy technology will be developed faster to fulfil human needs.

The development of renewable energy technologies has taken place since the 1950s until today by utilizing the many remarkable theories discovered in 18-20 centuries. Nowadays, over 50 years, the technologies have changed so much to be more effective, simpler and more affordable for the user. Most of them, such as PV, wind, biogas, etc., have been commercialized. Yet, some renewable energy technologies remain under the study and they just existed in prototypes. One of those renewable energy technologies that have been under study is the fuel cell.

Fuel Cell has a definition as an electrochemical device that continuously converts chemical energy of a fuel (hydrogen) and oxidant (oxygen) directly to electrical energy and heat, without combustion. Historically, the first electrochemical theory has been established in 1839 by Sir William Groove. More than 100 years later, General Electric (GE) collaborated with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created hydrogen fuel cell for the electrical power system in NASA Gemini and Apollo space capsules. Just by those discoveries, other fuel cells are discovered in the following decades and in 2000, there are so many applications for fuel cells .

Globally, there are so many fuel cell applications until now, such as

  • Power sources for vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and even boats and submarines
  • Power sources for spacecraft, remote weather stations and military technology
  • Batteries for electronics such as laptops and smartphones
  • Sources for uninterruptable power supplies

Fuel Cell is quite new in ASEAN renewable energy development. The fuel cell is not already applied commercially and it remains understudy for some research centres throughout the region. In Indonesia, Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology has tried to develop fuel cell in the small scale, while one of university in Indonesia namely Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB) has conducted some studies about microbial fuel cell. The fuel cell development in Indonesia is still in the earliest stage of development. As well as Indonesia, Malaysia Government collaborated with some universities (i.e. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia), has conducted some researches for the fuel cell. Singapore has also numerous fuel cell researches in their universities (Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore) and research centres, such as the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC).

Fuel Cell has some types that have been globally developed. Table 1 presents the type of fuel cell and its characteristic.

Table 1. Fuel Cell Types and Their Characteristics

In comparison with the other fuel generations, the fuel cell has no waste, no environmental issues, no social issues and no geographical issues to apply this as electricity generations. It is flawless for clean electricity generation devices. Based on brief talk with Associate Professor Dr Loh Kee Syhuan in Malaysia, the fuel cell has no negative impacts in any sector, the only negative point in fuel cell development is only the most expensive price of fuel cell technology and electricity that produced by the fuel cell in comparison with other fuels. “If someone asked what the negative impacts of the fuel cell, I have no idea to answer, but the price for fuel cell generation is the most expensive one,” he mentioned in 9th Asian School on Renewable Energy while the representative of ASEAN Centre for Energy was asking to him.

In the new stage, there are so many prospective potentials for hydrogen fuel cell development in the ASEAN region. Fortunately, the ASEAN region is blessed by the huge potential of biomass. ASEAN has some great producer for modern biomass energy, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Moreover, coal potential in ASEAN is also enormous. The new fuel cells that have been developed to be integrated with the gasification process in which need the biomass/coal as its fuel. At first, this new type of fuel cell, namely integrated gasification fuel cell (IGFC), has been developed by the United States 2009 and Japan was following the implementation of this fuel cell in 2013.

Based on brief talk with Dr Kinya Sakanishi, the Deputy Director-General of Fukushima Renewable Energy Agency (FREE), the fuel cell has been developed into the new integrated model, namely Integrated Gasification Fuel Cell (IGFC). This model combines the gasification process and fuel cell to improve electricity production by utilizing higher hydrogen production that has been produced from the gasification process. The model is depicted in Figure 1, while the fuel of gasification can use coal or biomass or combined both of them

Figure 1. Schematic IGFC, Gasification with Coal or Biomass collaborated with Fuel Cell.

By this development, this type of fuel cell will have the waste product only CO2 which is produced by the gasification process, the waste is not coming from a fuel cell device. So, once again, the fuel cell produces the cleanest electricity based on emissions. In Japan, there is a small scale of IGFC and still under their research and studies. It is too expensive to extend this kind of electricity generation. According to the biomass potential in the ASEAN region, the IGFC model is the prospective model of a fuel cell to be developed in ASEAN regions.


Photo Credit: Pixabay


  1. Syhuan’s, A. P. (2016, May 26). Presentation. Introduction on Fuel Cell. Bangi, Malaysia: 9th Asian School on Renewable Energy Committee.
  2. (n.d.). Retrieved from Clean Energy Research Centre: http://www.tp.edu.sg/schools/eng/about-eng/centres-of-excellence/clean-energy-research-centre-
  3. Syhuan’s, A. D. (2016, May 26). Brief Talk on 9th Asian School on Renewable Energy. (A. D. Pranadi, Interviewer)
  4. Sakanashi, K. (2016, June 14). Brief Talk on IRENA Regional Workshop for ASEAN +6. (A. D. Pranadi, Interviewer)
  5. Gerdes, K., Grol, E., Keairns, D., & Newby, R. (2009). Integrated Gasification Fuel Cell Performance and Cost Assessment. National Energy Technology Laboratory.
The views, opinions, and information expressed in this article were compiled from sources believed to be reliable for information and sharing purposes only, and are solely those of the writer/s. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and/or the ASEAN Member States. Any use of this article’s content should be by ACE’s permission.