South Korea's leading chemical manufacturer, LG Chem Ltd., has outlined an investment of 124.6 billion won ($94.5 million) aimed at augmenting its water treatment material production capacity, with the intention of doubling its business within the next five years, reports The Korea Economic Daily.
On Monday, LG Chem announced its decision to allocate the funds toward the establishment of a new facility in South Korea. This factory will have an annual capacity of 400,000 reverse osmosis (RO) membranes, which can desalinate 1.6 billion tons of water annually. In terms of scale, this quantity would be sufficient to meet the water needs of 16 million people, approximately one-third of South Korea's population, according to the company.
RO membranes, which are used to eliminate salt and other contaminants from water, are also used in wastewater treatment systems.
LG Chem aims to double its RO membrane business, a sector that is anticipated to generate sales amounting to 200 billion won this year, during the next five years coming thanks to the factory the company will build in its production complex in Cheongju, approximately 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Seoul.
Shin Hak-Cheol, LG Chem's Vice Chairman and CEO, said in a statement, "We plan to significantly raise production capacity in Cheongju, the RO membrane production base, through additional investment, to actively target the industrial (water treatment) market following the seawater desalination sector."
"We are also set to develop the business into one—meeting the global megatrend by expanding it to related sectors such as lithium extraction and CO2 separation in the future."
In 2014, LG Chem entered the RO membrane arena through its acquisition of NanoH2O, a US-based manufacturer specializing in seawater desalination materials. As the world's second-largest RO membrane producer, LG Chem has carved a niche in this domain.
LG Chem’s new factory will be built as a smart factory with artificial intelligence (AI) and an automated production process based on digital transformation. This AI system will detect manufacturing line irregularities and ensure quality control, subsequently boosting production velocity by over 25% compared to existing facilities.
In alignment with its sustainability objectives, LG Chem has set the ambitious target of powering all its RO membrane factories, including the new Cheongju facility, entirely through renewable energy by the year 2030.