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(LEAD) S. Korea to produce urea solution with urea secured through crackdowns

All News 16:30 November 09, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 4-5)

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Tuesday it has identified thousands of tons of urea held by local importers and plans to use them to produce urea water solution, a key fluid used in diesel vehicles to cut emissions, amid its supply shortage.

Special inspection teams began crackdowns on hoarding of urea or its solution Monday and found local importers to have held a combined 3,000 tons of urea, according to the government.

Of the 2,000 tons of urea to be used for vehicles, the government plans to send 700 tons to a local manufacturer to produce urea water solution this week.

With all of the 2,000 tons, it would be possible to make enough urea solution to last for about nine days.

Last year, South Korea imported 80,000 tons of urea for diesel vehicles, an amount sufficient to produce 660,000 liters of urea solution.

This photo, taken on Nov. 9, 2021, shows people waiting in line to buy urea water solution in Iksan, 180 kilometers south of Seoul, as a local producer sold the solution to people amid a supply shortage of it. Urea water solution is a key fluid used in diesel vehicles to cut emissions. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been grappling with a shortage of urea water solution, known as diesel exhaust fluid, and its surging prices in recent weeks, as China tightened exports of fertilizers and related materials, including urea, in October amid a power crisis caused by a coal supply shortage. Coal is the main feedstock for urea.

South Korea heavily relies on China for its supply of urea water solution, as 97.6 percent of its imports came from China in the first nine months of this year.

Of some 10 million registered diesel cars here, about 4 million vehicles, including 2 million freight trucks, need urea solution under the tighter emission rules. In 2015, the government made it mandatory for diesel drivers to install equipment that requires the use of urea water solution to reduce emissions.

South Korea is in talks with about 10 countries, including Vietnam, to import 10,000 tons of urea to help ease the supply shortage, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told parliament Monday.

The country plans to import 200 tons of urea from Vietnam next week and bring in 27,000 liters of urea solution from Australia this week via military aircraft.

President Moon Jae-in ordered his aides to "make utmost diplomatic efforts to secure" urea water solution from foreign countries.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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