Boao Forum Special

Cutting down on carbon

By Er Ran (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-09 08:00
Large Medium Small

A new carbon dioxide emissions reduction technology has been developed and successfully applied by South Korea's SK Group.

A spokesperson for SK Group said that it is the group's ambition to become a cleaner energy source by developing this green technology.

The need to reduce greenhouse gases is a hot topic in the international community, and SK has worked hard to develop the emissions reducing technology and incorporate it into a practical application so it can be commercially used.

Emissions right trading

In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, SK introduced an emissions trading system within the company in May 2008, the first such system within an enterprise in South Korea.

After establishing the greenhouse gas emissions calculation system at Ulsan Factory, with support from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, SK did a trial run of the system in 2008. On that basis, in 2009, the Company began officially trading emissions rights between various departments.

The purpose of the system is to limit the company's overall emissions. It also raises employee's awareness about the importance of environmental protection and induces competition between departments to see who can be greenest.

At present, South Korea is not obliged to reduce its emissions. However, SK recognizes its responsibility to the environment. The system has enabled the company to greatly reduce emissions and more effectively manage its environmental protection agenda.

A spokesperson of SK Group said: "The departments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions get extra award, and in this way, they compete with each other, leading to the reduction of emissions of the whole enterprise."

ACO technology

SK is aware of the changes in the world's petrochemicals market, and has developed the new naphtha decomposition technique, using ACO engineering technology (Advanced Catalytic Olefin, a next-generation alkene production technology). It is a complicated technique that has not been mastered even by overseas large enterprises that have leading technologies and patents in the field of petrochemicals.

The generation of petrochemicals in the oil refining process, such as naphtha, ethylene, and propylene, is the most basic and typical process in the chemical industry. In the past, people used a thermal decomposition process to produce naphtha, but now with ACO engineering technology a catalyzer can be used.

The difference between SK Group's ACO technology and the traditional technology is that ACO technology uses a catalyzer-based decomposing process. The ACO technology developed by SK facilitates a type of decomposition, which lowers the high temperature of 850 C needed by the thermolysis to below 700 C. This means lower energy consumption and also a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

SK has support from the Research Team of the Frontier R&D Project of the 21st Century, of the Ministry of Educational Sciences. Since October 2002, it has worked with Korea Academy of Research in Chemistry to develop the catalyzer. In March 2008 the technology was successfully completed.

At present, ACO technology is at the stage just before its commercialized application. SK is working on the construction of a chemical plant where the technology can be commercially used.

The plant will be started officially in the second half of this year. Before that, testing will be carried out, and the plant will be properly prepared for start-up according to the results of the trials.

A green polymer

The technology works by catching carbon dioxide emissions and converting them into a polymer product. It is a production technology leading the way in environmentally friendly plastic creation.

In October 2008, SK and Asian University signed a contract to cooperate on the transfer of new technology and research regarding the production of plastic-based cement products by using carbon dioxide. The research stage for this has officially begun.

The technology has gone beyond just recovery and storage of carbon dioxide, rather it uses the catalyzer to transform the captured carbon dioxide into the polymer, which can then be used as raw a material for producing cement, needed for use in our daily life.

This process will have several positive results. It will start to replace commercial use of traditional plastic-based cement with an environment-friendly version. It will ensure that carbon emissions are reduced, which is important for the company and a topic of importance for the world.

The technology has been tagged as epoch-marking. The resultant plastic cement is a green polymer and when burnt produces water and carbon dioxide, and no other harmful gases. Thus, in case of a fire, damage and environmental pollution would be kept to a minimum.

In addition to the environmentally-friendly characteristics such as degradability, non-toxicity and clean production technique, its transparency and blocking properties are higher than those of traditional resin. Owing to these distinctive strong points, it will hopefully be used widely as a building and packaging material.

(China Daily 04/09/2010 page20)