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World’s 1st by-product hydrogen fuel cell power plant built in Korea

July 28, 2020 - 17:55 By Kim Byung-wook
The world’s first by-product hydrogen fuel cell power plant built by Hanwha Energy in Daesan, South Chungcheong Province (Hanwha Energy)

Hanwha Energy said Tuesday it has completed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell power plant that generates electricity using waste hydrogen left over from petrochemical facilities.

The 255 billion-won ($212.4 million) power plant built at 20,000-square-meter site in Daesan petrochemical complex in South Chungcheong Province will deliver by-product hydrogen from Hanwha Total’s petrochemical plants via underground pipelines to generate 400,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to power 160,000 households every year.

A ceremony was held on Tuesday at the site to celebrate the construction. It was attended by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, Vice Trade Minister Chung Seung-il and Hanwha Energy CEO Jung In-sub, among others.

“South Korea supplies 40 percent of hydrogen fuel cells globally. Based on superior technology, Korea will increase production capacity of hydrogen fuel cells to 15 gigawatts by 2040 and nurture the industry as a major exporting industry,” the prime minister said.

Unlike conventional hydrogen fuel cell power plants that use hydrogen extracted from liquefied natural gas, the process of which emits carbon dioxide, Hanwha’s 50-megawatt power plant utilizes waste hydrogen that would otherwise be burnt away or discharged into the atmosphere, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Once waste hydrogen arrives at the power plant via underground pipelines, the hydrogen will meet with oxygen, triggering an electrochemical reaction that generates electricity and leaving behind only pure water without emitting any pollutants such as sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gases witnessed from thermal power plants.

“By building the by-product hydrogen fuel cell power plant, Hanwha Energy will support state-led drive for boosting hydrogen economy and contribute to local economy,” Hanwha Energy CEO Jung In-sub said.

For the power plant, Doosan Fuel Cell, the hydrogen fuel-cell unit of Doosan Group, supplied 144 units of 440-kilowatt fuel cells developed by its own technology. It will be responsible for the maintenance of the hydrogen fuel cells for the next 20 years.

Hanwha Energy will run the power plant while Korea Power Exchange will purchase electricity generated from the power plant. Also, Korea East-West Power Co. will provide renewable energy subsidies per 1 megawatt-hour of electricity.

“The hydrogen fuel cell power plant will become a pivotal point for us to secure a technological edge in the global fuel cell market,” Doosan Fuel Cell CEO Yoo Soo-kyung said.

“Doosan Fuel Cell will endeavor to bring up the ratio of domestic parts for its hydrogen fuel cells to 100 percent and create a robust industrial ecosystem by seeking shared growth with partners.”

Hanwha Energy holds a 49 percent stake in the project, followed by Korea East-West Power Co. with a stake of 35 percent, Doosan Fuel Cell with a 10 percent stake and financial investors with 6 percent.

By Kim Byung-wook (