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Opportunities for Decarbonization Technologies in the Chemical Industry in South Korea

Decarbonizing Industries Plastic Recycling bioenergy electrification Renewable energy circular economy
Senior Advisor

Emma (Yeon-Mi) Lee

+82 2 725 2076
South Korea targets carbon neutrality by 2050. The country has finalized its policy roadmaps to achieve the goal and legislated the Carbon Neutrality Act in March 2022. It also updated NDC target to further reduce its green house gas emissions by 40 percent from 2018 levels by 2030.

In 2021, South Korea was ranked as 10th largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with 616 million tons. This is almost equivalent to the combined emissions of the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Greece. With the introduction of Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by EU and likely to be followed by other countries eventually, industrial decarbonization is critical for the carbon-intensive and export-oriented economy, South Korea. CO2 emissions in South Korea shows a clear growing trend – without intervention, CO2 emissions can reach over 900 Mt by 2030. Total CO2 emissions have more than doubled over the past 30 years.

The emissions from the industry sector account for 53% of the total CO2 emissions in S. Korea with steel and chemical industries leading the growing trend of CO2 emissions, with CAGRs of 4%. The chemical industry is the 2nd largest CO2 emitter among all industries, only after the steel industry, in S. Korea. The petrochemicals sector shows the highest drive for decarbonization in Korea considering legislative and voluntary activities both domestically and globally. The petrochemical industry set the carbon-neutrality target on its own and is expediting carbon-neutral growth in order to create new business opportunities and respond to the changing environment for e.g. the GHG emissions trading system (ETS), strengthened ESG measures, RE100, CBAM, etc. Korean petrochemical industry has the world’s 4th largest production capacity and a global market share of 5%, with an increase in demand and expansion of facility investment. Key petrochemical companies in Korea aim for carbon neutrality by 2050 with actions such as recycling, renewable feedstock, CCUS, and efficiency improvement and show early signs of foreign partnerships for renewable products.

Target Sectors

Chemical industry

Solutions or Products Needed by Customer

  • Recycling technologies especially chemical recycling of plastics
  • Renewable fuels & feedstocks to replace fossil-based ones e.g. bio-naphtha, MTO
  • CCUS technologies
  • Material & energy efficiency solutions
  • Waste heat collection & reuse technologies
  • Various technologies to produce and utilize hydrogen
  • Technologies to convert by-product gases such as methane and CO² generated in the petrochemical process into high value-added compounds
  • Technologies to improve process efficiency
  • Innovative catalyst technologies

TF Activities Available for Finnish Companies

  • BF webinar to introduce how Finland leads decarbonizing industries and Finnish innovations to Korean audience (e.g. companies, industry associations, government officials, etc) April 2023

  • BF online event to introduce the market opportunity and to discuss target activities May 2023

  • BF trade mission to S. Korea to meet with local players Q3, 2023 (TBC) 

  • Tailor-made activities with large chemical companies in S. Korea