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CCUS: Road to carbon neutrality; how far has S. Korea come in terms of development?
Updated: 2021-11-02 17:05:29 KST
At COP26, countries are putting forward their updated plans in an effort to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
But are those plans, and most importantly the goal of reaching net zero feasible in reality?
For more on this, we have our Lee Kyung-eun here in the studio.

Kyung-eun, let's first discuss if carbon neutrality is possible at all?

Carbon neutrality is basically bringing carbon emissions to zero.
There are several ways to do it.
First is reducing the amount of carbon emissions compared to current levels.
One way to do so is to BURN LESS COALby increasing energy efficiency.
Or by transitioning from coal power plants to LNG or liquefied natural gas power which emits less CO2.
The "coal phase out", which is one of the central goals of COP26, is part of these efforts.

Second is a more dramatic solution producing zero carbon emissions.
That would mean eliminating ALL sources of CO2, like coal, LNG, diesel cars, etc.
And replace them with renewable energies like wind power and electric or hydrogen cars.

The second method is more effective, but the first is more feasible.
Also, the success of the second scenario would largely depend on the weather.
That is why the South Korean government, in its recently-unveiled plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050,…has included both options,… giving the country flexibility.

Reaching net zero seems possible theoretically, but in reality, can carbon be eliminated entirely?

That's a good question, because we have to think of the carbon that already exists in the air.
The two measures we've discussed. are aimed at preventing carbon from being NEWLY released into the air.
And even in such circumstances, there will still be some CO2 emitted like when developing LNG.
Also, hydrogen is actually produced directly from coal.
This is where technology. that absorbs the existing and new carbon emissions comes in.
Known as C-C-U-S or "carbon capture utilization and storage".
It combines two innovative technologies CCS and CCU.
CCS is a process that captures carbon waste. at the source,. like at hydrogen or LNG facilities.
And compress them into a liquid state, which will then. be transported and stored underground safely.
On the other hand, CCU is a system that upcycles the captured carbon. rather than storing it.

Are there some examples of these upcycled carbon-based products that can be found in our daily life?

Actually, a wide range of products.
One of them is fuel, that we can use. for aircraft and cars.
Another is diamonds.
There's a company in New York. called Aether Diamonds.
The company is committed to removing 20 metric tons of CO2. for every carat of diamond they sell.
Also, carbon can be used to make baking soda that we use for washing dishes or baking.
As well as. in concrete, carbonated drinks, plastics, and as a catalyst for growing plants in greenhouses.

How far has South Korea come, in terms of developing CCUS technologies?

South Korea has been actively developing the technologies for nearly two decades now, since Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005.
And LEADING that effort. is KEPCO.
The company has been operating a C-C-U-S plant in the city of Boryeong. for a decade now.
The 10-megawatt-facility is capable of capturing 2-hundred tons of CO2 everyday.
It's like building a massive forest.

"One fully grown tree has been found to absorb 2-hundred-20 kilograms of CO2 each year. Because the facility can absorb 70-thousand tons each year that's equivalent to some 3 million trees."

KEPCO is using the captured carbon to making dry ice. as well as a catalyst for growing plants.
It's also making baking soda, and is planning to transfer that technology. to local firm Lotte Chemicals to commercialize the product on a large scale.
IF turns out to be successful, the project could bring a massive benefit to the local economy.
As South Korea can domestically produce baking soda, instead of importing 100 percent of the product from overseas like it currently does.

"South Korea has now reached the same level as other advanced countries in terms of capturing CO2. But when it comes to utilization and storage, we are still lagging a bit behind."

But the researcher added that developments could be accelerated. following the country's declaration to go carbon neutral.
And some are underway. already.
KEPCO, in partnership with the government, is set to start developing capturing technologies. that can be applied to LNG facilities.
Meanwhile. on the storage front, the government is searching for underground sites that can store up to 400-thousand tons of carbon annually.

Thank you for that report.

Thank you for having me.
Reporter : kelee@arirang.com