S. Korea to Increase Overseas Crude, Gas Spending by 34%

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest crude importer, plans to increase by 34 percent its investment in 2012 to develop overseas oil and gas fields as it seeks to to reduce reliance on energy imports.

The country will spend $11.8 billion next year to develop overseas crude and gas fields, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in an e-mailed statement today. The investment is part of the nation’s plan to own crude and gas assets capable of producing 20 percent of its overall energy consumption next year, the ministry said.

The government plans to “aggressively” develop energy resources, the ministry said, adding that the competition to acquire assets may “intensify next year” amid rising uncertainty over global supply and demand outlook. The government will fund $7.8 billion of the proposed investment, with private companies contributing the rest.

South Korea is aiming to cut back on imports of crude and metal resources, which account for more than 60 percent of its overall imports. It is targeting that overseas metal assets owned by Korean companies will be able to supply 32 percent of the country’s overall needs.

Korea National Oil Corp., the state-run energy developer, will continue oil and gas exploration projects in Iraq and in the Ulleung Basin off South Korea’s eastern coast next year, the ministry said. Korea Gas Corp., the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas, aims to continue exploring gas in deepwater wells off the coast of Mozambique, and plans to make a bid for a fourth round of exploration rights in Iraq in March.

State-run Korea Resources Corp. will focus on buying coal and copper assets, the ministry said.