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SK Gas Turns to Ulleung Island for Bottled Water

Posted September. 23, 2009 07:24,   


Ulleung Island is known for not only seafood such as ear shells and sea squirt but also fresh cold water 200 meters below the ocean floor.

Panablu Co. uses deep sea water from the island in its bottled water and other ingredients used to make cosmetics and food products. The company’s owner, however, is none other than SK Gas, a producer of liquid petroleum gas.

○ Automated mineral water factory

When a Dong-A Ilbo reporter visited the company last week, no water was seen except bottled water. This is because the company uses an automatic system that blocks air to prevent deep sea water from contamination.

Panablu draws water deep from the ocean using pipes and eliminates salt from the water, leaving minerals and nutrients. The whole process is not visible because it occurs inside a specially designed huge tank.

Then the desalinated water is put in bottles in an automated clean room where a filter removes fine dust from the water. Thanks to the automated system, 20 employees produce about 90,000 bottles of mineral water a day.

Early this month, Panablu began producing mineral water and bittern using deep sea water drawn from 1,500 meters below the ocean. The company is the first to use water from such depths. The deeper the area the water comes from, the cleaner and more nutritious it is.

The high cost of drawing the water, however, deters other companies from using deep sea water.

Factory manager Yoo Seok-pil said, “Ulleung Island is the best place to harness deep seawater since the depth of the sea six kilometers off the coast is 1,500 meters.”

○ New growth engine

SK last year took over Ulleung Mineral, the predecessor of Panablu. Many wondered why a gas company purchased a bottled water manufacturer.

SK, however, had its own idea. Based dim prospects for liquefied petroleum gas, the company’s flagship product, due to limited production and usage, the company began focusing on environment-friendly projects as its new growth engine.

The company also said it could pursue its new businesses in harmony with LPG, which is called a clean energy business.

Among environment-friendly businesses, the company plans to focus on water and waste treatment projects to take full advantage of its refining technology used for LPG and its ability to operate massive equipment.

Panablu fits in with such a strategy. Osmotic treatment, the company’s core technology, turns seawater into potable water by eliminating salt while leaving minerals and nutrients.

SK planning director Lee Dae-hee said, “Panablu’s desalination technology can be used for sewage disposal and waste treatment with a little change,” adding, “The takeover of Panablu will give us an opportunity to expand our customer base to individual customers.”