South Korea “betting big” on hydrogen


Sustained public and private investment is setting South Korea up as a key global market for the emerging hydrogen economy, according to a report.

In late January, Intralink published the latest of its reports for the Department for International Trade, covering the hydrogen economy in South Korea and potential opportunities for British businesses. It outlined how South Korea is “betting big” on hydrogen and has targeted it as a strategic industry. It accounts for a third of the world’s installed capacity of utility-scale stationary fuel cells and is planning to embark on a “huge capital investment drive” to build on its early successes.

Its government is committed to reaching net zero by 2050 and through its recently announced Green New Deal, it has earmarked £13bn investment by 2025 in environmentally-friendly mobility. Hydrogen fuel vell vehicles are a clear target here, with South Korea aiming to produce 500,000 for export and domestic use by 2030, resulting in its hydrogen sector almost doubling to £17.3bn. Key players, such as Doosan and Hyundai, who launched the world’s first commercial fuel cell vehicle in 2013 and first fuel cell truck in 2020, are set to drive this growth.

Furthermore, in January 2019, it unveiled a Hydrogen Economy Roadmap which set out targets to 2040. This includes growing the number of fuel cell cars to 79,000 in 2022, before ramping up to 5.9mn by 2040, as well as installing 310 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2022, rising to 1,200 by 2040. It is also aiming to grow the capacity of utility scale and residential fuel cells by 2040 to 15GW and 2.1GW respectively.

Despite making substantial progress in developing or buying foreign fuel cell technologies over the past two decades, the report noted similar progress has not yet been made with hydrogen production or handling technologies. It also cited its National Core Technology Development Plan which sets becoming globally competitive in small scale SMR and electrolysis technologies as key targets in respect to hydrogen production.

This means there are opportunities for western firms, the report continued, with it highlighting the fact the UK and Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding in fuel cells and hydrogen technology which could act as a starting point for British companies looking at the Korean market. Past this, there are further opportunities in hydrogen production, for on-site SMRs and energy efficient water electrolysis solutions; hydrogen handling and transportation; and fuel cells and fuel cell supporting technologies.

There are also areas for collaboration between the UK and Korean governments, such as bilateral cooperation and knowledge sharing for hydrogen policies, plans and roadmaps, collaboration on hydrogen production and infrastructure technologies, and bilateral support for pilot and R&D projects in both countries.