Plant to make H2 from CO and H2O with sea bugs

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Plant to make H2 from CO and H2O with sea bugs

Korea has built a hydrogen power plant that uses marine microorganisms to produce enough energy to power 2,200 fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) a year.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Tuesday that it has completed construction of the plant in Taean County, South Chungcheong. It will use carbon monoxide to produce hydrogen from water using marine microorganisms.

The project, which began in 2009 and has cost 34 billion won ($29.4 million), is expected to produce around 330 tons of hydrogen per year.

Researchers at the state-backed Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology have been developing the plant’s technology after discovering microorganisms in the deep sea near Papua New Guinea producing hydrogen through carbon monoxide. The institute successfully produced hydrogen in a controlled environment using the technology in 2017.

The plant in Taean will serve as a test bed for the technology for six months, and the government will assess its economic feasibility and safety.

Carbon monoxide gas will be sourced from a nearby power plant operated by Korea Western Power, and the converted hydrogen from the plant will have a purity level of 99.8 percent.

The ministry said the technology could propel Korea’s efforts to establish a hydrogen-based economy without causing environmental pollution.

According to a report from the Posco Research Institute, 96 percent of hydrogen produced worldwide is made with electricity generated by fossil fuels, emitting carbon dioxide in the process.

The efforts fall under the Moon Jae-in administration’s commitment to boost the country’s hydrogen economy, currently valued at 1 trillion won, to 43 trillion won by 2040 and create 420,000 jobs.

The government also aims to increase the production and sale of FCEVs to a total of 81,000 units by 2022, 65,000 for the local market and the rest for export.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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