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KNOC to focus on energy security, push cleaner fuels goal

(Reuters) - South Korea's state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) is looking to secure more oil and gas, while stepping up energy transition efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030, its CEO said.

The Asian country is the world's fourth-largest oil importer after China, India and Japan, importing nearly all of the 2.58 MMbpd it used in 2020, according to KNOC data. With global energy markets in a flux after Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, energy security has become a pressing issue for KNOC and other national oil companies.

"As a national oil company, our primary goal is energy security. We are looking to expand exploration and development in both oil and gas strategically so in emergencies we can ship them easily," KNOC CEO Kim Dong-sub told Reuters.

"However, we have to be very careful in selecting appropriate projects, because we need efficient investments."

KNOC has assets in 17 different countries. Kim said KNOC is "very happy" with the performance of an Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) drilling partnership, while further investment in Tolmount gas field in the British North Sea, which recently started after delays, will depend on its performance.

The CEO said KNOC is less interested in deepwater area and more on onshore projects due to cost, and is looking for assets that have a high chance of success as well as less country risk.

KNOC declined to disclose its planned investment figure.

It is in the process of selling its overseas assets to reduce its elevated debt levels.

KNOC's consolidated debt was 19.96 trillion won ($15.80 B) in 2021, exceeding assets worth 18.4 trillion won.

It is planning a project to capture 400,000 tpy of carbon emissions from refineries and other industrial plants at Ulsan to be stored at its depleted gas field off the east coast of Korea, Kim said, adding that the pilot project could be completed in 2026.

KNOC has started initial talks with major energy companies for CCS technology at the World Gas Conference last week, he said.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Florence Tan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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