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Korea petrochemical, steel ‘can’t foot bill’ of carbon neutrality

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The industrial complex in the southern port city of Ulsan where production bases of Korea's major petrochemical companies are located. YONHAP

Korea petrochemical, steel ‘can’t foot bill’ of carbon neutrality

South Korea’s aggressive goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 would cost the nation’s petrochemical and steel industries enormous amounts of money, data showed on August 11.

According to an internal document from the Korea Petrochemical Industry Association disclosed by Representative Yang Kum-hee from the main opposition People Power Party, the domestic petrochemical industry will emit 110 million metric tonnes of carbon in 2050 and it would require 270 trillion won ($230 billion) to curb those emissions.

Specifically, ditching fossil fuels and switching to bio-based fuels and hydrogen would cost roughly 218 trillion won by 2050.

The steel industry is another sector that faces mounting uncertainties. According to data Yang obtained from the Korean Iron & Steel Association, the steel industry would need 109.4 trillion won to apply a technology that melts iron with hydrogen instead of coal.

To roll out hydrogen-based steelmaking infrastructure, it would cost 35.4 trillion won and existing facilities worth 36 trillion would be lost. Not a single steelmaker in the world has yet to commercialise the technology, and it’s questionable whether such massive investments would guarantee a successful development of the technology, industry officials say.

“Private companies bear the burden of carbon neutrality when there’s no available technology, so they’re unlikely to carry out big investments” Yang said.



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