|GS Caltex researchers conduct a project on environment-friendly bio chemicals in the company’s R&D center in Daejeon. (GS Caltex)|
GS Caltex, the country’s oldest private oil refiner, sees a future in the new materials and value-added chemicals sectors, the company said.
“We have two future objectives; one is creating value-added chemicals through oil refining and the other is pioneering new business sectors,” the company said in a statement.
The refiner picked carbon fibers, carbonized materials made from the waste of refined oil, as the best example of a promising new material for the future.
Four times lighter and 10 times stronger than steel, carbon fibers have already began to replace glass fibers and other reinforced fibers in multiple sectors, spreading rapidly to major vehicle industries, including automobile and aerospace manufacturing.
Demands for this innovative material will grow rapidly in the wake of the rapid proliferation of environment-friendly sentiments worldwide as well as rising oil prices, the refiner said in a statement.
The company launched a four-year joint research project with local universities and small-medium enterprises in September 2011, on the development of “pitch,” a base material used in making carbon fibers, and other new technologies for advanced auto parts. The team is also developing ways to substitute metallic parts in the frame and components of automobiles with carbon fibers.
GS Caltex recently forged a strategic partnership with the municipality of Jeonju on creating new carbon materials.
The company succeeded in developing and manufacturing activated carbon fibers in April. It plans to test-produce 60 tons of activated carbon fibers for commercial use, starting 2015.
Besides developing new materials, GS Caltex has been expanding its portfolio outside of its signature oil refining business, pioneering new sectors including oil upgrading.
The company has invested about 5 trillion won ($4.7 billion) in heavy oil upgrading facilities since the turn of the century.
In the heavy oil upgrading facilities, low-quality oil products are refined into high-quality products, such as gasoline and diesel, with the addition of assorted catalysts.
The company began fully operating its refinery upgrading plant in March for commercial use, investing a total of 1.3 trillion won. Now GS Caltex is the country’s No. 1 in refinery upgrading, with daily production capacity of 268,000 barrels and a 34.6 percent heavy oil upgrading rate.
“Korea is a country that does not produce a single drop of oil. It could become one of the world’s leading exporters of oil products only because the country kept diversifying business portfolios through long-term capital investments to build advanced research facilities and plants,” the oil refiner said in a statement.
Since its establishment in 1967, GS Caltex has supplied more than 33.3 percent of the oil products used domestically in the past 45 years.
The company exported products worth a record-high 32 trillion won, which accounts for about 66.6 percent of its annual produce, despite the faltering global economy.
By Chung Joo-won (email@example.com)