South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a meeting in Riyadh on January 18 to bolster ties between the two countries beyond construction and infrastructure into more future-oriented fields such as hydrogen.
During the talks, the two leaders agreed to build a hydrogen ecosystem where Saudi Arabia supplies carbon-neutral hydrogen and ammonia while South Korea helps the Arab nation operate hydrogen-powered cars and hydrogen facilities like fuelling stations.
South Korea is one of Saudi Arabia’s key strategic partners for its Vision 2030 policy of reducing the country’s dependence on oil and developing its public service sector. Under a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060, Saudi Arabia aims to ramp production of hydrogen to an annual 400 tonnes, the world’s highest level, by 2030.
Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, contributing more than 30 per cent of Seoul’s crude oil imports last year, according to data by the Korea International Trade Association (Kita).
“Saudi Arabia, which has the potential to produce clean hydrogen such as green and blue hydrogen, and South Korea, which has strength in hydrogen utilisation based on hydrogen-powered cars and fuel cell technology, must cooperate to lead the global hydrogen economy,” President Moon told at a business forum held later in the day.
He also urged Saudi Arabian business leaders to expand cooperation with South Korea in sectors related to public health and digital technology as a way to cope with a post-pandemic era.
On the occasion of the high-level talks, a total of 14 preliminary agreements were signed to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries on areas of manufacturing, energy and public health as well as hydrogen.
S-Oil, South Korea’s number-three oil refiner, alone signed four agreements with Saudi Aramco, the state oil giant, to boost research and investment into renewable energy. S-Oil plans to import blue hydrogen and blue ammonia, both using natural gas, from Saudi Arabia to build related infrastructure and nurture new business opportunities.
Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction also signed an agreement with the Saudi Arabian Industrial Investment Co and Saudi Aramco to build the kingdom’s largest foundry and forging plant by 2025. A joint venture, called TWAIG Casting & Forging, will be set up to produce an annual 60,000 tonnes of machine parts used in petrochemical plants and equipment for shipbuilding and offshore industries.
President Moon also met with Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Saudi Aramco who also heads the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund. During the meeting, Moon stressed that cooperating with South Korea’s hydrogen-related companies would present investment opportunities for Saudi Arabia.
Moon and first lady Kim Jung-sook are currently on their eight-day trip to three countries in the Middle East. Following their visits to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the couple arrived in Egypt on January 19.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK