South Korea and fossil gas

From Global Energy Monitor

South Korea has a population of 51.3 million.[1] GDP growth is forecast to remain between 2-3% through 2025.[2]

South Korea is the third largest LNG importer after China and Japan, with a global share of 12.6%.[3] In October 2020, President Moon Jae-in announced plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. According to the plan, fossil gas will be completely eliminated from the country's energy mix in the long run; however, in the medium term, coal and nuclear power will be phased out, increasing the country's dependence on LNG. [4]

This article is part of the Global Energy Monitor coverage of fossil gas

Fossil Gas in the Fuel Mix

In 2021, total gas consumption in South Korea was 62.5 bcm.[5] As of 2019, 46% of gas was used in power plants, 28% in buildings, and 15% in the industrial sector.[6]

Total electricity generation in 2021 was 600.4 terawatt-hours (TWh), of which, 211.7 TWh was produced from coal, 176.4 TWh from fossil gas, 158 TWh from nuclear, 40.2 TWh from renewables, 7 TWh from oil, 3.1 TWh from hydropower, and the remaining 4.1 TWh from other sources.[5]

The gas installed capacity was 41.3 GW in 2020[7]

In December 2020, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy approved the 9th Basic Energy Plan (2020-2034).[8]

According to the plan, the share of renewable energy will be increased to 41.9% of the power generation mix by 2034, with LNG projected at 31.8%, coal at 15.6%, and nuclear power at 10.4%. In 2020, coal was 40.4% of the power generation mix, with LNG at 25.9%, nuclear power at 25.6%, and renewables at 6.5%.[9] The ministry said it will quadruple the production capacity of renewable energy from 20.1 GW to 77.8 GW by 2034.[10]

The plan also calls for the shut down of 30 coal-fired power plants by 2034, of which 24 will be turned into LNG power plants.[9]

In 2018, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea released its 13th Long-Term Natural Gas Supply Plan for 2018-2031. The plan was based off of the 8th Basic Energy Plan, which projects LNG share in power generation at 18.8% in 2030, which is significantly lower than the 31.8% share projected in the 9th Basic Energy Plan.[11]

The 2018 gas supply plan forecasts that gas demand will reach 40.5 mmpta, or 55.8 bcm, in 2031.[11] LNG demand grew at of 5.1% from 2005-2018 but is projected to grow 0.81% annually under the plan. Gas demand is forecasted to fall in the short-term before rising again after 2025 due to new additions of coal and nuclear capacity. Wood Mackenzie forecasts gas demand reaching 42 mmpta, or 57.5 bcm, by 2031, slightly higher than the government's projections.[12]

LNG demand for power generation is projected to be 17.09 mmpta, 23.6 bcm, in 2031. Demand for retail gas is forecasted to reach 23.4 mmpta, or 32.3 bcm, a 1.24% annual growth rate from current levels.[11]

In the most recent NDC submitted in October 2021, South Korea committed to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2018 levels. This includes emissions reductions from land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) activities and international credits.[13]

Fossil Gas Production, Imports, and Transportation

South Korea has minimal indigenous gas production, all of which comes from the Donghae-1 and Donghae-2 gas fields.[14]. The country produced 0.25 bcm of gas, or less than 1% of total gas consumption, from domestic resources in 2019.[15]

The Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) and Woodside Energy are jointly exploring deepwater blocks in offshore Ulleung Basin.[16] A large portion of the continental shelves in South Korea have yet to be explored. According to a recent KNOC study, the Yellow Sea Basin is considered to have the highest potential but there have been no discoveries thus far. [16]

LNG imports stood at 64.1 bcm in 2021[5] as the country experienced a considerable increase in import volume (+6.1 MT or +15%), primarily because of high gas demand in the power and industrial sectors.[3] South Korea's biggest LNG suppliers include Australia (9.69 million tonnes in 2021), Malaysia (4 million tonnes), and Indonesia (2.41 million tonnes).[2]

South Korea has 132.9 million mt/year of re-gasification capacity as of 2021. There are seven operating LNG terminals, five of which are operated by KOGAS. The remaining two are operated by POSCO and a joint venture of GS Energy and SK E&S. [17]

There is no major gas transmission pipeline system in South Korea. Under the long-term natural gas supply and demand plans, KOGAS instituted initiatives to develop the gas transmission system, but in 2015, it was decided that further connecting smaller communities would be uneconomical. Gas-distribution planning is entirely decentralized to city gas companies.[18]

South Korea has no international gas pipeline connections.[19]

Government Agencies and other Key Players in Gas Sector

Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS), is the state-owned gas company, has a monopoly on the domestic wholesale gas market, and imports 90% of the country's LNG.[20]

Power generation companies, such as SK E&S and Korea Midland Power (KOMIPO), also directly import and purchase LNG for their own use. [20]

KNOC is the state-owned oil company and the largest entity in the country's upstream oil and gas sector.


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