The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of Korea announced on December 20 that a total of 12 billion won (US$10.8 million) will be invested for three years to come in research on the commercial production of bio-hydrogen based on marine microbes and by-product gas from power plants.
The ministry and the Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) have worked on bio-hydrogen production by the use of marine microbes since 2009. In 2010, KIOST professors Kang Sung-kyun and Lee Jung-hyun succeeded for the first time worldwide in demonstrating hydrogen production from carbon monoxide, seawater, and the marine microbe of NA1 as a catalyst. Since then, South Korea has succeeded in producing hydrogen by using by-product gas from power plants and improved the NA1 for a higher level of hydrogen productivity.
The ministry is planning to set up a large-scale demonstration plant to commercialize the hydrogen production techniques based on the achievements. The new plant, which will be 100 times larger than the existing pilot plant of the ministry, is slated to use the synthetic gas produced by the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power station of Korea Western Power located in Taean, South Chungcheong Province. Korea Western Power supplies the land for the project as well.
The ministry explained that, once the construction of the demonstration plant is completed in 2019, approximately 480 tons of hydrogen can be produced at a cost of about 3,700 won (US$3.3) per kilogram each year. This amount can be used by 4,800 hydrogen vehicles for one year assuming that each of the vehicles covers 10,000 kilometers a year. For reference, the hydrogen currently supplied based on fossil fuels is priced at 2,200 won (US$1.9) to 4,500 won (US$4.0) per kg.
At present, South Korea’s annual hydrogen trading volume is about 260,000 tons. Once eight commercial plants are built with an annual hydrogen production capacity of 5,000 tons, around 15% of the trading volume can be supplied by means of marine bio-hydrogen.