Data Hub

South Korea’s Energy landscape

January 1, 2018 

The primary energy consumption of South Korea, which is one of the world’s leading energy importers, increased from 222 Mtoe in 2006 to 286 Mtoe in 2016, growing at a steadily annual average over a decade. 

The figures only registered an upward spiral since 2006, from 231.9 Mtoe in 2007, to 236.4 Mtoe in 2008, climbing up to 255 in 2010 and steadily surging to 280.2 Mtoe in 2015, as per the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

South Korea’s oil consumption from 2006 to 2016 has witnessed ups and downs, from 107.6 Million tonnes, to being the lowest at 103.1 million tonnes in 2008, 105.0 million tonnes in 2010 and gaining to about 107 million tonnes in 2014 and finally going up to 122.1 million tonnes in 2016.

The country’s consumption of natural gas, which it seeks to embrace as an alternative to coal and nuclear energy, has been patchy through the decade from 2006 to 2016. The country had comparatively lower levels of natural gas consumption from 2006 to 2009, ranging between 28.8 Mtoe to 30.5 Mtoe. The figure kept rising higher till 2012 to 45.2 Mtoe, peaking at 47.3 Mtoe in 2014 but seeing a declinein 2015, where the consumption was just 39.3 Mtoe. South Korea’s natural gas consumption stood at 40.9 Mtoe in 2016.

As for coal consumption, it peaked in the country in the year 2011 with 83.6 Mtoe of coal being consumed across the country. The consumption figures have since remained more or less stable till 2016 where coal consumption was pegged at 81.6 Mtoe, whereas from 2006 to 2007 the figure had been below 70 Mtoe. It must be noted that South Korea is the fourth-largest importer of coal in the world after China, India and Japan and Australia and Indonesia account of the majority of South Korea’s coal imports.

South Korea imports 45 per cent of its coal from Australia and 25 per cent from Indonesia. Russia, Canada and United States are the other major exporters of coal to South Korea, followed by China and others.

Coal is also the major contributor to electricity generation in South Korea, with a 39 per cent share in electricity generation. Fossil fuel sources account for nearly two-thirds of South Korea’s electricity generation, while the share of nuclear power is almost one third. Natural gas, oil and hydroelectricity account for 19 per cent, 6 per cent and one per cent share in the country’s electricity generation capacity.   

South Korea is also making a big shift from coal and nuclear power towards natural gas and renewables. From a measly 0.1 Mtoe in 2006, the country has extended its consumption of renewable energy to 4.3 Mtoe in 2016. The decade from 2006 to2016 saw a very steady increase in the consumption of renewables, affirming the country’s commitment to balance its fuel portfolio.

However, the energy mix of South Korea, which relies on imports to meet about 98 per cent of its fossil fuel consumption owing to insufficient domestic resources, is still majorly reliant on petroleum and other liquids(41 per cent). The share of coal in the energy mix stands at 31 per cent while natural gas and nuclear have 14 and 13 per cent share respectively. The share of renewables for now is just one per cent, according to the BP statistical Review of world energy 2016.



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