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Carbon Capture and Shipping: Will Onboard Carbon Capture Technologies Drive Shipping’s Decarbonization Process?

Shipping’s decarbonization process is in full swing as pressure is mounting for a cleaner industry. Carbon capture could be one of the technologies to help towards the end goal and climate neutrality. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Gibson said that “carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a novel concept. Many of the early facilities were developed to be a direct source capture from power generation or gas processing plants with CO2 storage sites nearby (with first operations dating back to 1972!). There are currently over 20 commercial carbon capture and storage facilities worldwide, whilst many oil and gas companies are looking into developing new projects. Carbon capture is starting to make inroads in the shipping industry as well. Proposals related to onboard carbon capture were discussed during the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held in December 22 and will be further considered at MEPC 80 in July 23. The US government has also expressed a degree of support for the technology. In its ‘US National Blueprint for Transport Decarbonization’, onboard carbon capture systems are listed among ‘promising fuels and technologies’ for the industry”.

Source: Gibson Shipbrokers

According to Gibson, “the development of onboard carbon capture technologies is actively ongoing, with the focus on modifying existing onboard systems for carbon capture or developing and implementing new solutions. For example, Value Maritime has developed its onboard CO2 capture and storage solution and already installed its system on a dozen of vessels, including tonnage owned by well-known market players. More installations are in the pipeline. Wartsila recently announced its first order for its carbon capture and storage ready scrubber system, whilst there is an emerging list of other companies, who have developed and/or are developing their solutions”.

“According to the ABS classification society, the main technologies for CO2 separation include carbon capture using solvents, membranes and cryogenic separation. Ship characteristics such as size, weight, power limitations as well as operational patterns and space considerations are among key criteria which will dictate the type of carbon capture system. Not all of the CO2 can be captured, and the higher the capture rate, the higher the cost and energy involved”, Gibson said.

The shipbroker added that “as it is the case with any developing technology, there are challenges and obstacles to overcome while the economic benefits are yet to be fully understood. It could require significant additional capital and operating expenditure, but once the industry matures, the associated costs could potentially decline. There is also a lack of a unified international regulatory framework, whilst onboard carbon capture requires the development of supporting infrastructure: land-based storage, offloading and discharging facilities, transportation to end user. The ABS states that storing CO2 on board in tanks and offloading at port is a technical challenge that needs to be resolved, as current regulations and infrastructure are in the emerging stage”.

“Yet, the idea of onboard CO2 capture is certainly appealing. CO2 is already a commodity for sale, used in the food industry and in the oil and gas sector for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), whilst there is potential for further growth, transforming CO2 into renewable fuels, chemicals and building materials. Going forward, potentially we could see captured CO2 used as credits in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), whilst there is also potential for generating tax credits under the US 45Q Tax Credit system for sequestered carbon, although here specific criteria must be met. Finally, and most importantly for shipping, onboard carbon capture offers opportunity to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and to help to achieve the IMO’s 2030 and 2050 environmental targets”, Gibson concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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