Coal, politics, samsung and Hyundai
Gwanghwamun Gate, Seoul, South Korea - photo credit - Timothy Ries, http://Unsplash.Io
Welcome to the eleventh edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
South Korea signed the Paris Agreement on the 22nd of April 2016 and brought it into force on the 3rd of December 2016.
According to Annex I of the Conference of Parties twenty-first session (COP21), South Korea was the ninth highest emitting nation of CO2 into the atmosphere based on data submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) ahead of COP21 in December 2015.
The climate action tracker, a consortium of three research bodies rank South Korea’s policies and pledges towards emission reductions as inadequate. The tracker highlighted that South Korea’s emissions per capita are increasing, contra to trends in other Asian countries. It also forecasts that South Korea’s energy use per capita is expected to surpass that of the US by 2035.
UN Climate Change Secretariat’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics for South Korea in 2012 indicates that the largest emitters by sector are energy (87%), industrial processes (7%) and agriculture (3%). When we drill down further on the energy sector segment of the statistics, we note that energy industries account 45% of the energy sector emissions. In a more recent study called ‘Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2016 report’ published by EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research), it reported that coal combustion made up half of all fuel combustion CO2 emissions in 2013.
In 2010, the South Korean government announced that it was developing a national framework for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The announcement included plans for the construction of two large-scale CCS projects, CCS 1 project and CCS 2 project. CCS 1 project is a post-combustion coal-fired power plant project. Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), South Korea’s largest electrical utility, and majority owned by the state is using amine technology at two pilot plants and this technology will then be use at CCS 1. With amine technology, amine and water mixed together to help absorb the CO2 from the flue gas.
CCS 2 project is another KEPCO led project. Unlike CCS 1, this project focuses on pre-combustion/ Oxy-combustion. This project will use a solid sorbent-based process to extract the CO2. This plant is expected to be fully operational by 2023 and will have a capacity to capture up to 1 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.
Large South Korean conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai are also investing in CCUS initiatives. In 2012, Samsung announced that it had taken a 15% stake in a £5bn carbon capture and storage power plant project in Hatfield, South Yorkshire UK. The Hatfield plant is due to be operational in 2020 and will capture millions of tonnes of CO2 for storage offshore in the North Sea oil fields. Co2 that is stored offshore is transported by converted tankers. Hyundai Heavy Industries division of Hyundai group entered into a CO2 ship design joint venture with Danish shipping giant Maersk in 2010. The joint venture is designing tankers for the transport of CO2 that are semi-pressurised and semi-frigerated so that the CO2 will be kept in a liquid form during transport.
The South Korean government have invested in large-scale CCUS projects and large conglomerates are doing likewise. Following the recent presidential election result and the election of Moon Jae-in It will be interesting to see what the impact he will have on South Korean climate change policy as the nation concentrates its efforts towards calming rising tensions North of the border. Moon Jae-in has pledged to stamp out corruption in South Korean political and business circles and is seen as a ‘clean’ and transparent candidate. Whatever his personal views are, he will come under pressure from environment groups to halt South Korea’s rising CO2 emissions per capita and adopt more ambitious CO2 emissions reduction plans in line with the Paris Agreement.