Korea is situated on the Korean Peninsula, which spans 1,100 kilometers north to south. The Korean Peninsula lies on the northeastern section of the Asian continent, where Korean waters are joined by the western-most parts of the Pacific. The peninsula shares its northern border with China and Russia. To its east is the East Sea, beyond which neighboring Japan lies. In addition to the mainland peninsula, Korea includes some 3,000 islands (1).
The South Korean government is committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The country has above average per capita GHG emission in G20 countries with 13.2 tCO2e/capita in 2019. South Korea has committed to reduce its emissions by 40 percent from a baseline emission of 2018 with a clear plan to phase out coal and a stop on coal financing (2) Korea is looking to build a society that harnesses hydrogen as a source of energy for mobility and power generation.
Korea has overall ~141 GW (8) of total power installed capacity in 2022 with fossil fuel shares over 57 percent (27percent coal and 30 percent Oil & Gas) and 17 percent from nuclear, RE contributes ~19 percent of the total share of installed capacity (3). The power sector contributes to ~40 percent emissions of the country (4).
The East Asian nation plans to source a third of its energy from hydrogen by 2050, making the gas the largest single source of energy nationally. In comparison, countries within the European Union plan to source 14 percent of their energy supplies from the gas within the same timeframe. During FY2021, spending on hydrogen projects by the South Korean government totaled almost USD 702 million, with a further USD 2.3 billion committed to establishing a public-private hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market by the end of 2022.
According to a study by Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI), the hydrogen industry was worth 9.1 billion pound in 2020 and is expected to almost double to 17.3 billion pounds in 2040 (5). Seoul government mentioned that by 2050, its aim is to achieve self-sufficiency covering 60 percent of the 28 MTPA annual demand by tapping green hydrogen produced overseas. It’s also ensuring security of import lines by investing in 40 dedicated foreign hydrogen supply channels (6).
The country will provide 3.9 million mt/year of hydrogen in 2030 -- 940,000 mt/year of grey hydrogen, 750,000 mt/year of blue hydrogen and 250,000 mt/year of locally produced green hydrogen -- while importing 1.96 million mt/year of green hydrogen from overseas, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. By 2050, South Korea will provide 27.9 million mt/year of hydrogen -- by producing 3 million mt/year of green hydrogen and 2 million mt/year of blue hydrogen, while importing 22.9 million mt/year of green hydrogen from overseas, without any grey hydrogen (7).
The South Korean government for its part has launched plans to rapidly develop the nation’s hydrogen capabilities. Its Hydrogen Economy Roadmap of Korea aims to grow domestic annual consumption from 130,000 tons in 2018 to almost 5.3 million tons by 2040. Alongside the development and deployment of large-scale stationary fuel cells for power generation, the roadmap aspires to have almost three million FCEVs on the nation’s roads by the same date together with 1,200 new hydrogen refueling stations, up from 310 today.
Equally significant could be the Hydrogen Economy Promotion and Hydrogen Safety Management Law of 2020, which provides the industry with an overarching legal framework that outlines the requirements and expectations in areas including subsidies, loans, tax exemptions, and health and safety matters.
SKE&S and Plug Power Giga-factory in Incheon, South Korea.