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S. Korea Fuel Purchases Soar

March 16/ 12:02

Seoul. South Korea’s move to shut coal-fired generators to control air pollution at the same time as nuclear reactors are going into scheduled maintenance is resulting in surging fuel oil imports, as utilities burn the dirty feedstock to meet power demand.

South Korea’s Trade Ministry said in February it would suspend five coal-fired power plants, with a combined capacity of 2.32 gigawatts, from March to June, part of a broad campaign to reduce pollution, Reuters reported.

That plan may backfire, at least in the short run. A cold winter has raised power and heating demand, forcing utilities to burn more fuel oil to meet demand.

A byproduct of the crude oil refining process, fuel oil’s biggest use ahead of power generation is as a shipping fuel.

“In the near term, fuel oil imports will increase to make up for the shortfall in coal-fired generation capacity,” said Pat Markey, managing director of consultancy Sierra Vista Resources.

Fuel oil imports by power producers into Asia’s fourth largest economy have jumped to 200,000 tons in March so far, up from 92,000 tons in February, tender data compiled by Reuters showed.

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