The popularity of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has risen rapidly in recent times, with installations beginning in the first quarter of 2023. It is a fact that many ships will continue to rely on conventional fuels in the coming decades, so it is important to take a pragmatic approach to tackling the emission in lieu of a suitable alternative fuel.
Shipboard Carbon Capture
In February 2023, ship management company Eastern Pacific (EPS) announced the successful installation of its first carbon capture and filtering technology on the 50,000 ton dwt chemical tanker Pacific Cobalt.
The system was installed into the ship’s stack and will capture up to 40% of the CO2 emissions, filtering out sulphur and particulate matter from the exhaust gases. As part of the announcement, EPS CEO, Cyril Ducau, told Maritime Executive that shipping needed to “start moving the needle significantly” if it is to achieve a net-zero reality. He commented that the CCS technology from Value Maritime offered them a “concrete solution that can be implemented on existing vessels,” concluding that, “the result is an immediate carbon emissions reduction while removing the need to wait for the development and rationalisation of alternative green fuel infrastructure.”
Carbon Capture as a Service
Not all CCS systems need to be installed onboard the ship. SETH™, which stands for “Ship Emission Treatment in Harbor”, is a concept championed by Florida-based technology firm Greener Process Systems. This patented system captures exhaust gases from the stacks of vessels in port. A tender moors alongside the ship and using a large crane, places extraction hoses over the ship’s stack, diverting exhaust gases through an emission capture and treatment system.
The company claims that this approach allows ship operators to use cheaper fuel grades during port calls, saving them money, while the port benefits from an improvement in port air quality. This could be a particularly useful approach for vessels that are not equipped to use cold ironing facilities.
Assessing Carbon Capture End-to-End
In order for trials of carbon capture technologies to maximise their usefulness on an industrial scale, it is important to test the challenges and benefits across an entire cycle of implementation. Lynn Loo points out that end-to-end trials involving multiple stages of deployment across many stakeholders is highly complex and suggests that the efforts of individual shipping companies conducting isolated trials needs to be augmented with more expansive trials with a broader scope. “I believe GCMD can add real value where there is tremendous complexity in the kinds of pilots and trials one needs to do. As a neutral convener, GCMD can bring people across the sector together to collaborate on sector-wide goals,” she told an audience in April 2023.
The GCMD recently launched a shipboard carbon capture pilot with Stena Bulk which expands the scope to look at what can be done with the carbon once it is captured. Using one of Stena’s medium range (MR) tankers as a test bed, the trial is investigating solutions for the offloading, storage, and treatment of captured Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and seeking ways to close the cycle by making use of captured products.
Loo described the driver for the trials: “In order for a carbon capture solution to work and in order for other companies to adopt it, we needed to not only be able to capture CO2, we needed to liquefy it, store it onboard ships, and offload it. We built a consortium together to look at this pilot from the beginning to the end.”
The team has uncovered some promising results: “We’ve identified an off taker who’s going to take the CO2, make formic acid and use it to make methanol.” However, the process of offloading presented some specific challenges. Loo explained, “There are currently no guidelines for offloading CO2. We issued a call for proposal and appointed Lloyd’s Register to conduct a study with us. We hope that the results from this study will develop a clearer picture of how guidelines should look for the offloading process.”
The maritime industry is at a crucial juncture in its pursuit of sustainable practices, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is emerging as a key player in this transition. From onboard solutions to innovative services like “Carbon Capture as a Service” (SETH™), the industry is actively exploring diverse avenues to curb emissions. Additionally, comprehensive end-to-end trials, such as the one initiated by the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) in collaboration with Stena Bulk, demonstrate the commitment to understanding and addressing the complexities of CCS implementation. As the maritime sector strives for a net-zero future, CCS technology stands as a beacon of hope, offering tangible solutions to reduce carbon footprints and pave the way for a greener, more sustainable maritime industry.