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Hydrogen economy

Korean conglomerates bet big on hydrogen, launch H2 council

Five big businesses have also vowed to spend $37.2 billion in hydrogen infrastructure

By Sep 08, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Korea's top business leaders launched the Korea H2 Business Summit on Wednesday
Korea's top business leaders launched the Korea H2 Business Summit on Wednesday

South Korea’s major conglomerates are going big on hydrogen, launching a business council and investing heavily in related projects to gain the upper hand in the global hydrogen market forecast to grow to 3,000 trillion won ($2.6 trillion) by 2050.

Chief executives and top officials of the country’s 15 business groups on Wednesday officially kicked off the much-touted Korea H2 Business Summit to foster hydrogen as a clean energy source and build a strengthened value chain, ranging from production, transport and storage to a wide variety of uses.

To foster new growth drivers, five conglomerates – Hyundai Motor, SK, POSCO, Hanwha and Hyosung – have already unveiled plans to invest a total of 43.4 trillion won in building hydrogen infrastructure by 2030.

Separately, SK Group, Korea’s third-largest conglomerate, on Wednesday proposed the business council set up a hydrogen fund to assist member companies in seeking business opportunities in Korea and abroad.

"We hope the Korea H2 Business Summit will work as the leading platform to develop Korea’s hydrogen ecosystem and enhance its competitiveness,” Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun said at the council’s inaugural ceremony.

The private sector's move is expected to spur the government's efforts to adopt a paradigm shift from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy as part of its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The launch of the summit, the Korean version of the Hydrogen Council, a global CEO-led initiative to harness the clean energy source, comes as tougher global environmental regulations on carbon emissions are driving governments and private companies to swiftly embrace the hydrogen economy.

The Korean hydrogen council, set to convene annually in every September, will be co-chaired by Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and POSCO Chairman Choi Jeong-woo.

Hyundai's fuel cell Trailer Drone concept unveiled at the H2 Mobility + Energy Show 2021
Hyundai's fuel cell Trailer Drone concept unveiled at the H2 Mobility + Energy Show 2021

H2 MOBILITY + ENERGY SHOW

Following the launch of the council, business leaders also visited the H2 Mobility + Energy Show 2021, which opened on Wednesday for a four-day run, with over 150 companies from 12 countries showcasing their hydrogen-related projects.

At the exhibition, Hyundai unveiled its fuel cell Trailer Drone concept, a hydrogen-powered container transportation system capable of operating autonomously. Sitting on the fuel cell “e-Bogie,” the vehicle runs more than 1,000 km on a single charge, according to Hyundai.

On Tuesday, the automotive group, which owns Korea’s two largest automakers, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp., announced its long-term hydrogen strategy, including offering fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028.

At its Hydrogen Wave global online forum on Tuesday, Hyundai also shared its vision for future hydrogen mobility across several vehicle applications, from emergency relief and rescue to high-performance sports cars and the H Moving Station, a heavy-duty vehicle equipped with charging facilities for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun (third from left) at the Hydrogen Wave forum
Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun (third from left) at the Hydrogen Wave forum

INVEST IN FUTURE

Hyundai Motor Group has said it will inject 11.1 trillion won into the development of hydrogen cars and fuel cell systems over the next few years to make hydrogen an alternative energy source for other transport means as well, such as trains, ships and urban air mobility (UAM) services.

SK Group plans to invest 18 trillion won over the next five years to expand its hydrogen value chain by establishing related facilities.

At Wednesday’s exhibition, SK E&S Co., the natural gas business unit of SK Group, reiterated its vision of becoming a leading eco-friendly company by producing 280,000 tons a year of hydrogen by 2025.

POSCO said it will invest 10 trillion won by 2030 to expand its hydrogen business and establish supply chains, targeting 5 million tons of annual hydrogen production and 30 trillion won in sales by 2050.

In February, POSCO said it is joining hands with Hyundai Motor to develop technology that uses hydrogen instead of coking coal to produce steel.

Doosan's hydrogen mobility booth at the H2 Mobility + Energy Show 2021
Doosan's hydrogen mobility booth at the H2 Mobility + Energy Show 2021

Hyundai Heavy Industries Group, led by Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings Co., is also betting on the hydrogen economy. In early March, the holding company and Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, agreed to launch a hydrogen partnership in a step toward building a greener business model.

Doosan Group said it is fostering the hydrogen fuel cell business as one of its key growth drivers.

Doosan Mobility Innovation Co. showcased its fuel cell drone, which has a flight time of up to two hours and a 5 kg payload.

Write to Kyung-Min Kang and Jeong-Min Nam at Kkm1026@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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