Hyundai Heavy Industries to build an offshore CCS plant

Fight climate change.

Hyundai Heavy Industries is harnessing an emerging technology to reduce carbon emissions.  

By Sunny Um, South Korea correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade

In August, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the biggest shipbuilding company in the world, has announced it is going to build an offshore storage plant to capture carbon dioxide.  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is said to be an essential technology at offshore construction and manufacturing sites to achieve the carbon neutrality goal, which has also been pledged by the South Korean government to accomplish by 2050.

As part of such efforts to achieve the national goal, HHI, their affiliate Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE), and government-run company Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) designed a plan to construct a CCS plant in the East Sea.

“HHI decided to develop this plan as a part of Ulsan’s city development project,” a public relations official at HHI, surnamed Park, told Maritime Fairtrade. 

Ulsan, a city located in the southeast of South Korea, neighboring Busan, has been looking for ways to utilize their gas field located 58 kilometers off the coast, which is slated to close this year since starting operation in 2004. 

In April, Ulsan agreed with HHI, KSOE, and KNOC to build a CCS plant under the ocean floor in the gas field. HHI is in charge of constructing the platform, while KSOE is building a system to inject and process carbon gas. KNOC, which operated the gas field from the beginning, will be a consultant on operational guidelines. 

High hopes of carbon reduction

The development of HHI’s CCS plant won approval in principle from Det Norske Veritas, a Norway-based registrar and classification society, which means it will move on to the construction stage next.

Park said that the CCS plant will start operation in 2025, and will store 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide gas over 30 years.  He added that the detailed utilization of the plant falls under the purview of the Ulsan city.

If this first CCS plant in South Korea is successful, it will be a good showcase for HHI to highlight their experience and provide a similar service to other clients which may want to build such plants.

HHI is confident of the future of CCS plant and said according to the International Energy Agency, “the development of CCS plants is essential for global carbon reduction” and “there will be at least 20 orders worldwide to build CCS plants every year until 2060”.  

Scaling up makes all the difference

While projections show that CCS plants will capture over seven billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, some experts say that CCS plants will not be effective unless governments are committed to build more large-scale plants.

For example, CCS plants operating today capture only 0.1 per cent of global carbon emission. The new CCS plant in South Korea will be able to store only 0.04 per cent of the country’s annual carbon emission. 

According to a report from Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Witness, “the technology still faces many barriers, would only start to deliver too late, would have to be deployed on a massive scale at a scarcely credible rate and has a history of over-promising and under-delivering”.

A promising emerging technology

CCS is one of the emerging technologies to reduce carbon emissions by capturing carbon dioxide exhausted at industrial sites, compresses it, and stores it underground or at platforms installed under sea beds.

There are three steps in CCS technology for it to be effective. The first step is capturing, which refers to filtering carbon dioxide from other types of gas. The second step is transporting the separated gas to storage platforms via pipelines or any other transmissible gateways. Lastly, the gas is injected into platforms for long-term or permanent storage, to prevent it from coming out into the atmosphere. 

HHI’s CCS technology also follows these steps. According to their public relations team, their CCS platform will collect carbon gas from industrial sites and it will then be pressurized, liquified and transferred via pipelines or cargo ships to an offshore platform built in the East Sea.

As it is rather a new concept, there are only about 25 CCS plants worldwide capturing a limited amount of carbon emission as of January this year. Proponents of CCS, however, say that the technology is still promising and necessary for industrial facilities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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