BV: Carbon capture is not a silver-bullet solution, it must be used with other decarbonization strategies

Carbon capture technology is not a silver-bullet solution and it must be used in conjunction with other decarbonization strategies to achieve the industry’s emissions reduction goals, a new report finds.

Classification society Bureau Veritas (BV) has released a new report which assesses the technical viability of current carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology within the marine market and highlights the vital role that shipping can play across the entire CCS value chain.

The technology report, titled “Onboard Carbon Capture: An Overview of Technologies to Capture CO2 Onboard Ships”, details the current state of play regarding a wide range of emerging CCS technologies.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) GHG 2020 study, total shipping (international, domestic and fishing) was responsible for 1,076 million tons in CO2 emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, which represented 2.89% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions during that same year.

These emissions largely came from the combustion of fossil fuels by the ships’ machinery (engines, auxiliary engines, boilers, etc.). Following a business- as-usual scenario, emissions from international shipping could increase by 50% to 250% by 2050, according to IMO.

IEA 2020

Although it is possible to further improve the carbon intensity of ships with current technologies, IMO highlights the need to find new solutions, in addition to energy-saving devices and voyage optimization, in order to achieve the decarbonization targets it has set for international shipping.

In this respect, the industry seems to have a general consensus that the adoption of “sustainable fuels” is the key to ushering in a new era of green shipping. But the production of most sustainable fuels is still in its infancy and the shipping industry is unlikely to benefit from a significant uptake of their availability, at an affordable price, in the short to medium term, according to BV.

The new paper explores the technical and commercial viability of implementing CCS technology onboard vessels, highlighting the results from key feasibility studies that showed achievable capture rates between 82% and 90%.

The report also details the challenges to the wider adoption and integration of CCS technologies, such as regulatory frameworks that are yet to be consolidated at a global level, as well as from an operational perspective.

Concerns have been raised regarding the available space onboard vessels to accommodate CCS technologies, as well as the safe handling of CO2 onboard.

When assessing the feasibility of carbon capture technology onboard vessels, it is vital to do so within the context of the entire CCUS value chain, taking into account the potential challenges related to the management of the captured CO2. With sufficient regulations and infrastructure in place, the maritime industry could benefit from the development of a truly circular CO2 economy, whilst contributing to the industry’s ambitious decarbonization targets,” Marcos Salido, Environmental Project Manager (Strategy & Advanced Services) at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore said.

Carbon capture technologies in the spotlight

The technological options for capturing CO2 are vast and vary according to both the process stage at which the CO2 will be separated and the separation method. Among these options, post-combustion carbon capture using amine solvents is the most mature method and is considered the benchmark against which other carbon capture options are evaluated. It is also the technology that has been the most studied to date for marine applications, BV noted.

For onboard carbon capture to make sense, it needs to be assessed in the context of the overall CCUS value chain, and aspects relating to the handling and disposal of captured CO2 need to be taken into account, such as the infrastructure needed to handle and process CO2 in ports; the availability and location of CO2 storage sites; and the conditions under which this CO2 is to be stored.

According to the report, for CCUS applications, larger CO2 transport capacities will be required for transport by ship compared to the capacity of existing carriers used to transport CO2 for the food and beverage industry.

Applied Energy 2021

Although large-scale liquid CO2 carriers can benefit from the knowledge gained from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industries, the full implications of designing larger carriers accounting for their operational pressure and temperature requirements have not yet been fully assessed. Recent orders show the design of vessels ranging from 7,500 cbm to 22,000 cbm.

A fleet of 55 CO2 carriers will be required by 2030 to meet the upcoming demand from offshore storage projects, according to Rystad Energy.

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Some companies are bringing forward technologies capable of capturing carbon in alternative forms to CO2, which could be easier to handle and dispose of, or could represent another source of revenue. For example, pre-combustion carbon capture technologies that form solid graphite, or calcium looping technologies that form calcium carbonate, also known as limestone. Although these technologies present their own challenges and advantages, according to BV.

The report concludes that overall, the carbon capture technology could offer several benefits to
the shipping industry, but it needs to be combined with alternative fuels and other decarbonization solutions for the maritime industry to reach its decarbonization targets.