Where water turns to snow: South Korean ultra-cold warehouse prepares to store Pfizer's vaccine

By Joyce Lee PYEONGTAEK, South Korea (Reuters) - Some of the rooms in Korea Superfreeze Inc's coldest warehouse are so frigid that a cup of warm water thrown into one will immediately turn into snow. Located 65 km (40 miles) below Seoul and boasting temperatures frostier than an Antarctic winter, the facility would be the best, perhaps only, place in South Korea suitable for bulk storage of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, says company CEO Kim Jin-ha.

Reuters December 12, 2020 00:11:21 IST
Where water turns to snow: South Korean ultra-cold warehouse prepares to store Pfizer's vaccine

Where water turns to snow South Korean ultracold warehouse prepares to store Pfizers vaccine

By Joyce Lee

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea (Reuters) - Some of the rooms in Korea Superfreeze Inc's coldest warehouse are so frigid that a cup of warm water thrown into one will immediately turn into snow.

Located 65 km (40 miles) below Seoul and boasting temperatures frostier than an Antarctic winter, the facility would be the best, perhaps only, place in South Korea suitable for bulk storage of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, says company CEO Kim Jin-ha.

"As soon as we heard about the Pfizer vaccine, we started getting ready... other options wouldn't work," Kim told Reuters, adding that the warehouse's use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to keep temperatures cool trumped electricity.

Warehouses which use electricity would have difficulty maintaining the -70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) required by the vaccine for storage and carry the risk of the temperature rising during a power blackout, he said.

The company, which is backed by Goldman Sachs and SK Holdings Co Ltd, has been in talks with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency since early November and while nothing is yet decided, expectations are high it will land a contract.

The agency has asked Korea Superfreeze to provide plans and cost estimates for storing and distributing vaccines, including how it would handle a scenario where vaccines would be shipped to 260 different locations, Kim said.

South Korea has arranged to buy 20 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The country also has deals for 20 million doses each for the vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc/Oxford University and for another 4 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.

In total, that would be enough to inoculate 34 million people in a country of 51.8 million and shipments are expected to begin no later than March.

Kim said, however, it was not clear to him if the agency would tap the company for vaccines other than Pfizer's which have less onerous cold storage requirements. Moderna's vaccine can be stored for up to six months at -20 C while AstraZeneca's vaccine needs only normal fridge temperatures.

To accommodate Pfizer's vaccine, Korea Superfreeze is planning a dedicated passageway and elevator so there is no interference from outside temperatures. Once it confirms it has a contract, it will begin construction which may take 2-3 months.

The warehouse also has 220 closed-circuit cameras that monitor resting cargo round the clock, Kim said.

He added that South Korea and Japan were the only countries with LNG-powered facilities which can offer storage at these temperatures and that the warehouses in Japan were much smaller and more remotely located due to earthquake risks.

All in all, the Korea Superfreeze rooms capable of storing goods at -70 C add up to 1,600 square metres (17,222 square feet). But just how much of that will be needed remains unclear as the company has not yet ascertained how big the containers carrying the vaccines will be and how much will be shipped to South Korea at a time.

Kim said, however, that some regular customers of the storage facilities might have to be inconvenienced.

"For the tuna and other goods that are being kept here at -60 degrees, we're going to have to ask their permission, compensate them for it and clear them out of here."

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Snow-struck Madrid struggles with cleanup as severe frost grips Spain
World

Snow-struck Madrid struggles with cleanup as severe frost grips Spain

By Elena Rodriguez and Belén Carreño MADRID (Reuters) - Authorities struggled to clear ice and fallen trees from the streets of Madrid on Tuesday and temperatures in parts of Spain hit record lows after a snowstorm wrought havoc across the country at the weekend. Early jubilation at the historic snowfall, which saw skiers gliding through the streets and mass snowball fights, gave way to frustration as most public transport remained stalled and pedestrians avoided the icy streets. "You in Madrid are not ready for this," said Demetrio, a Ukrainian living in Madrid, who did not give his last name.

Trump disavows any responsibility for his supporters' Jan. 6 attack
World

Trump disavows any responsibility for his supporters' Jan. 6 attack

By Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, facing impeachment on a charge of "incitement of insurrection" on Tuesday disavowed responsibility for his supporters' violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol last week and said his remarks before the siege were appropriate.

Renault and Plug Power to develop fuel-cell commerical vehicles
News & Analysis

Renault and Plug Power to develop fuel-cell commerical vehicles

PARIS (Reuters) - French carmaker Renault and U.S. hydrogen specialist Plug Power have joined forces to develop hydrogen-powered light commercial vehicles, they said on Tuesday. The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a France-based 50-50 joint venture by the end of the first half of 2021, targeting more than 30% share of the fuel cell-powered light commercial vehicle market in Europe, their joint statement said