(ATTN: UPDATES with meeting between Hyundai Motor chief and SK Group counterpart in paras 8-10)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's five major conglomerates announced Tuesday they plan to invest 43 trillion won (US$38.2 billion) in the hydrogen industry in the latest move to meet the growing demand for the energy source.
Under the plan, SK, Hyundai Motor, POSCO, Hanwha and Hyosung will build a wide range of hydrogen infrastructure, such as production and storage of hydrogen by 2030, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
South Korea said it plans to spare no efforts to support the companies, pointing out their projects will serve as a milestone for its green drive.
"As the supply of affordable hydrogen is crucial for the hydrogen economy, the government plans to establish a system in which it can provide support on all phases from production and transportation to application," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at SK Incheon Petrochem, a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korea's biggest oil refiner SK Innovation.
In detail, SK Group, which has SK Innovation Co. under its wing, plans to invest 18.5 trillion won to establish facilities that can create up to 30,000 tons of hydrogen annually.
SK plans to start the supply of the gas starting in 2023 in the greater Seoul area, powering some 200,000 units of hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Hyundai Motor Group plans to inject 11.1 trillion won for the research and development projects linked to hydrogen cars, while installing more charging stations.
Also, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun held a separate meeting with SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won at SK Incheon Petrochem to boost their cooperation in the hydrogen industry.
SK Group plans to gradually replace its 1,500 vehicles with Hyundai's electric ones, according to Hyundai Motor.
Hyundai Motor also said the company and SK Group will discuss ways to install hydrogen fuel cell chargers and fast electric vehicle chargers at SK gas stations across the country.
South Korea said earlier it plans to build enough infrastructure through 2022 to enable all hydrogen cars to reach charging stations within 30 minutes nationwide.
POSCO will spend 10 trillion won to venture into methods to harness hydrogen instead of coal during its production of steel.
The moves are in line with the government's flagship hydrogen economy drive, which centers on breaking away from traditional sources of power and instead opt for hydrogen and other renewable energy.
The Moon Jae-in government has also vowed to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050, which means effectively reducing carbon emissions to zero.
Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels as automobiles running on the resource only create water in the process of generating power. It can be produced as a by-product of industrial facilities, including petrochemical plants as well.
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