SK Energy to Fly to the Future on Green Wings
SK Energy to Fly to the Future on Green Wings
  • Chun Go-eun
  • 승인 2009.02.20 09:16
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Koo Ja-young, the COO and President of SK Energy

SK Energy stands in the front line of the future that emphasizes the word green. All energy company executives are anxious, even hysterical, about green issues. Mountains of documents and seas of seminars have been created to warn of the crisis of the planet suffering from carbon dioxide emissions. World leaders working in the preservation of the environment will gather in Copenhagen in November this year to find the ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

If the meeting announces a new protocol to replace the Kyoto protocol – the agreement that currently regulates the emission of carbon dioxide - SK Energy has no choice but to assume responsibility for preserving the Earth by investing a large amount of money into green R&D, even though it will not make any immediate profits in this recession.

Is SK Energy, Korea's leading energy provider, ready for the whipping tide It is fortunate that the company can answer yes. The readiness is symbolized in its new company logo which promises the world that SK Energy is committed to the happiness and sustainability of society with its two wings, clean and green. The flying butterfly of its symbol embraces commitment. Its growing investment in R&D indicates that it will not fall behind in readiness. SK Energy has invested 205.1 billion won (US$148 million) in 2008 into R&D, a huge increase from 96.2 billion won (US$69.5 million) in 2005.

Now, SK Energy has finalized the blueprint for its growth and commitment by selecting its Top 5 Plans for Green Growth. This blueprint will help SK Energy change its image from one of the traditional businesses to a future-oriented business. First of all, it will pour one trillion won (US$729 million) into reducing carbon dioxide and creating more green technology. The budget will cover commercialization of technologies and R&D cost.

One of its ambitions is to find ways to catch emitted carbon dioxide and use it to make polymer products, a material that is regarded as environmentally-friendly. SK Energy put its ambition into action by signing an agreement with Ajou University to develop a technology to make polymer products. The university will transfer the property rights of the technology in return for full support from SK Energy.

Its initiative to make eco-friendly fossil energy will be one step forward to sustainability. By doing this, SK Energy hopes to supply petrochemical products and electricity at lower costs and will secure energy independence for the country in times of energy crisis. For the national cause of putting Korea on the list of the best 4 countries producing green autos, SK Energy will be in fullgear to make lithium-ion polymer batteries for green cars. Its deadline realizing the dream of lithium-ion polymer batteries by 2011 is astonishing.

Hydrogen energy and fuel cells are just as important ambitions as lithium-ion polymer batteries. Hydrogen energy, especially, is not only an eco-friendly energy but also a renewable energy source attainable everywhere on the earth. That is why it is called dream energy. Companies in the US are very interested in making dream energy a reality. There remain a lot of unsolved issues on the shelves, such as how to produce hydrogen energy, how to supply it, and how to install the facilities needed to meet potential demand. Despite these hindrances, hydrogen energy is close to being utilized. If one country has hydrogen energy in hand, it can be an unprecedented super power. Each government supports its private sector to develop it for energy security.

The auto industry is the main business that deals with hydrogen energy as a top priority because auto manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to use eco-friendly engines that emit no carbon dioxide. That is why auto companies and energy-related businesses such as SK Energy have pushed for it. The company has made great progress in the fuel processors that make hydrogen. In 2004 SK Energy was projected as a company that will focus on developing hydrogen recharge technology for the auto industry. If hydrogen recharge technology develops, existing fossil fuel engines will be replaced with hydrogen fuel cells. Drivers can recharge hydrogen energy in the cells, not by fuelling gas. To this end, SK Energy is working together with three government-run research centers and four universities including Yonsei University and Korea University. It is becoming a trend that auto manufacturers in the US, Japan and EU cooperate with energy businesses to commercialize hydrogen auto and hydrogen-supplying facilities.

An official in SK Energy Public Relations said that SK Energy is exerting its best efforts to help Korea become an energy independent country. He added that SK Energy can make huge progress by the end of 2009.

Chairman Choi test drives an SK Energy hybrid test vehicle

Hybrid cars are another target for which SK Energy aims. SK Energy is undergoing testing with current hybrid car models before it enters the market. It plans to initiate its first sale in 2010. SK Energy is the third company to have developed lithium cells in 2005 that provide power to engines. In experiments done by SK Energy at the SK Energy Technology Institute, the cells worked at temperatures of -30 degrees to +60 degrees Celsius.

SK Energy proved its leadership in lithium cell research by providing lithiumion polymer batteries to Toyota, a leading auto manufacturer. In March last year, energy experts from the US visited the SK Energy Technology Institute and had a chance to look around the facilities with SK Chairman Choi Tae-won. SK Energy will operate four major manufacturing facilities to produce lithium-ion polymer batteries by 2010. If the plan proceeds as scheduled, SK Energy can take 20% of the world market share.

In order to assume its responsibility for the environment, the company will spare no efforts to work on bio-energy. Biodiesel, bioethanol and biobutanol are on its list of responsibilities. The raw cost of biodiesel is at least twice as high as current diesel, but SK Energy is still pouring its resources into making them more efficient and eco-friendly. Bio-energy is still pricey because it comes from crops. If alternatives are used, they will lower the cost of bio-energy, so there is research being done to find alternative sources of bio-energy.

Initiatives to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and energy consumption are the realities that SK Energy deals with. SK Energy has started its own program among its affiliated factories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sell or Buy the Rights of Emissions is the name of the program. The program works as both a carrot and stick to factories. Each factory tries its best to sell rights, not buy rights for emitting greenhouse gases.

SK Energy is well aware that the world will gather in Copenhagen in November this year to come up with a new environmental declaration that mandates each country to reduce carbon dioxide. Korea is not going to be in the group that must reduce emissions. Kim Jong-su, director of environment and energy, said that the program was designed to lead workers to assume responsibility for reducing gas.

Recently SK Energy has paid attention to purifying polluted environments. It received orders from the Korea Rural Community & Agriculture Corporation to clean up seven military bases that the US had returned to Korea. Purified bases will be used as university campuses. Other efforts to preserve the environment are included in its green energy projects. The operation of Gasoline Hydro-desulfurization Units and Middle Distillate Hydrodesulfurization Units are major action plans.

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