Mission to South Korea – October 2013

Written by Mike Edwards, UKCCSRC Strategy and Business Development Manager

In October 2013, Mohamed Pourkashanian (University of Leeds), Jon Gibbins (UKCCSRC Director), Trevor Drage (University of Nottingham), Ben Anthony (University of Cranfield), Matthew Billson (Department of Energy and Climate Change CCS Team), Richard Smith (Howden), Alfredo Ramos (PSE Enterprises), Niall MacDowell (Imperial College), Hyungwoong Ahn (University of Edinburgh),  Penny Cunningham (University of Leeds) and myself all participated in a mission to South Korea from the UK. The aim of the mission was to explore exciting joint research and business opportunities in Clean Coal Technologies and leverage-able CCS Projects. 

Our mission was primarily enabled by Leeds’ energetic leading on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Strategic Programme and Bilateral Programme Funds. We (as the Centre, or the Network, in earlier times) have run missions on the back of these, or similar, programmes in the past.

One of our key objectives was to enhance academic, government and industrial coordination capacity to develop clean coal and CCS technologies in South Korea; an exciting motivation for us all. First order benefits that we were particularly enthusiastic about were (1) to further South Korea to meet its 2020 emission reduction targets and help them attain leading green growth regionally and globally, and (2) to build Britain’s prosperity by working to increase exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth whilst further underpinning the energy security and climate change targets of both nations. With all this in our sights, we set off for South Korea.

Although we were all grateful for the hard work by Leeds on much of the initial organisation, we were also all very grateful for the tireless work on Korean side. As we counted down to departure, many emails and phone calls (despite the near half day time difference) gave way, during the mission, to excellent stage management by the Seoul FCO’s two key staff, Eun-Jeoung Kim (aka E.J.) and Sulgi Koo. We all really thought EJ and Sulgi were irreplaceable.

The two flagship events within the mission that we all attended were (1) the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI) International Conference in Seoul and (2) a really informative and fun UK-South Korean workshop that took place in Daejeon. Daejeon is a dynamic city that has a well-deserved reputation as the City of Research and Innovation. This is in no small way due to Daejeon having one of Asia’s highest densities of academic and commercial research infrastructure. We were impressed!

The Daejeon workshop featured a full day of enjoyable and informative talks and discussions on science and strategy followed by an evening local culture social event. Our primary Korean hosts were the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER). Also in attendance were the Korea CCS Research Centre (KCRC), Korean CCS Association (KCCSA) and individuals from other groups – lots of interesting people to speak to. The format of the talks worked well, alternating between the Korean side and UK side, and we felt this progressively led to a strong picture of progress and forward objectives. This culminated in a chaired discussion where the most profitable potential joint outcomes were hotly considered by us all.

In Seoul, two of our group (Jon Gibbins and Matthew Billson) were invited to present at the GCCSI. The four-language simultaneous translation seemed to work well. In fact, it worked so well for Matthew and Jon that even the occasional UK-ism led to smiles amongst the very strong turnout of, not only South Koreans, but also many from mainland China, Taiwan and Japan.  We all felt that the GCCSI programme had a good balance of technical talks as well as reflection on the nation’s/region’s political and commercial status of CCS. We had a good opportunity to see more of Asian (mainly South Korean) Research and Innovation from the conference exhibitors. One of us (Alfredo Ramos) was exhibiting with PSE’s South Korea office.

In addition to these key meetings, many of us held multiple side meetings – at ministerial, academic and industry levels. Some of these meetings were planned well in advance while a couple of others were simply initiated on the fly to capitalise on opportunities that arose as the trip and discussions unfolded. Again, we were all really grateful to have EJ and Sulgi being so effective in enabling these short notice meetings.

EJ and Sulgi continue to be a great help to us post-mission, as we follow up actions on several different UK-Korea initiatives now move forward. Once the agreements on these actions become firmer, we can talk about them more fully so watch this space.

In all, a very productive trip!