South Korea is studying marine carbon capture: What is this technology and what are its applications?
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South Korea is studying marine carbon capture: What is this technology and what are its applications?

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Author | Elvira Esparza

The Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) has presented a project to explore potential offshore CO2 storage sites. With this initiative, the Korean government plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.8 million tons by 2030.

The aim is to explore the seas surrounding the Korean peninsula to assess the CO2 storage capacity. This plan forms part of the First National Carbon Neutral and Green Growth Basic Plan that aims to capture and store carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Goal: carbon neutrality by 2050

The aim of this project is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.8 million tons by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this, facilities need to be constructed with the capacity to capture one billion tons of CO2 below the seabed. Three different offshore sites around the Korean peninsula are going to be explored for the CCS (carbon capture and storage) facilities to achieve this goal.

In 2021, Korea updated its 2030 national greenhouse gas emission goal, known as Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), from 26.3% to 40%.

This year, the KNOC oil corporation and the Hyundai Heavy Industries Group began developing an offshore CO2 storage platform with the aim of storing around 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is located 58 km from the Ulsan coast and it is set to be inaugurated next year and operate for 30 years.

Seven public and private organizations are taking part in this initiative with KNOC, including the Korean Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning Institute and various Korean universities and companies such as SK Earthon, which is also currently advancing CCS business development in the United States, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Benefits of carbon capture

Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels and industrial processes to be stored deep underground. The captured CO2 is compressed into a liquid state and transported to a storage site. It is finally injected into the seafloor or in rock formations for permanent storage.

The captured carbon can also be reused to manufacture biofuels, construction materials, such as concrete, chemicals and plastics.

Carbon capture and storage is one of the most affordable ways of achieving net zero emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (AIE), it is one of the four key pillars of global energy transitions together with renewables-based electrification, bioenergy and hydrogen.

The main uses of carbon capture are:

  • Decarbonizing heavy industry, which generates more than 20% of global CO2
  • Reducing emissions from power plants and industrial plants while maintaining their production.
  • Hydrogen
  • Extracting carbon from the air

In order to fulfil the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries must develop CO2 capture strategies.

Similar projects in other countries

carbon capture
Northern Lights onshore facility

There are 30 carbon capture projects in the world, 11 under construction and 153 in various stages of development, according to the Global CCS Institute. The CO2 capture capacity of all CCS facilities reached 244 million tons in 2022, a growth of 44%.

Most projects are in the United States, followed by Europe -mainly the United Kingdom, Holland and Norway-, Asia and the Middle East. These are some of the CO2 storage projects currently being developed in Europe under the seabed:

  • The Zero Carbon Humber Project in the United Kingdom will store all the carbon dioxide captured in the Endurance saline aquifer, located 4.6 km below the seabed of the North Sea. This project has a joint public-private sector investment of £75 million, and the partnership includes the National Grid, Drax and Equinor.
  • Norway’s Northern Lights This is a partnership between Shell, Total and Equinor carbon that aims to capture and store CO2 from industrial activities in the North Sea. This will be the first ever cross-border, open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network, and it will offer companies across Europe the possibility of safely and permanently storing their CO2 emissions under the seabed. The initial phase of the project will be operational in 2024 with the ability to manage 1.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

Korea’s initiative to extend its carbon storage projects under the seabed aims to gradually eliminate conventional resources and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Images | Pixabay, Northern Lights


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