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    Realizing hydrogen economy


    December 7, 2021 - Korea Times

     

      overnment's blueprint is too ambitious to be realisticThe government has announced a master plan to transit toward a hydrogen economy by raising the country's self-sufficiency rate for the supply of clean hydrogen to 60 percent by 2050. However, many academics and industry officials express skepticism about the practicality of the ambitious blueprint.According to the plan unveiled late November, the government will provide 27.9 million tons of clean hydrogen per year by 2050, all of which will be "green" or "blue" hydrogen, not "grey" hydrogen.

      Grey hydrogen is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, emitting carbon in the process. In contrast, green hydrogen is produced using electricity generated from renewable energy, and in producing blue hydrogen, carbon emission is captured and stored.

      The government will domestically produce 5.58 million tons to meet 20 percent of the total demand while producing 40 percent overseas, largely at Korean-invested plants or those using Korean technology, and importing the remaining 40 percent.

      This means the country will have to rely on overseas suppliers for 80 percent of its demand, whether the products are made with Korean or foreign technology. Experts point out that there are various stumbling blocks in liquefying hydrogen and bringing in large amounts of it from faraway countries.

      In the case of liquefied natural gas, a stable international transport system has been established as LNG has a low risk of ignition and explosion. However, liquid hydrogen has a very high risk involved in liquefying, transporting and storage, pushing import costs to a prohibitive level.

      The transportation cost is also very high because hydrogen has an extremely low boiling point (-252.8 degrees Celsius) and critical temperature (-240 degrees). These are far lower than the boiling point and critical temperature of methane the main component of LNG at a respective -160 degrees and -80 degrees, respectively.

      The lower these temperatures, the higher the transportation cost. Moreover, the hydrogen blueprint was excluded from the national strategic technology plan due to different opinions among related agencies.

      For the basic plan to progress smoothly, government support is essential, but the Ministry of Economy and Finance opposed its inclusion in the program. By all accounts, Korea seems to have a long way to go before realizing its hydrogen economy.

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