Japanese majors launch cross-industry initiative for zero-emission ship fuels

Nine Japanese industry majors, including shipping companies and shipyards, have joined forces in the Ship Carbon Recycling Working Group with the aim of studying carbon recycling for the purpose of powering ships.

Illustration; Image by Navingo

Participating members include EX Research Institute Ltd., Hitachi Zosen Corporation, JFE Steel Corporation, JGC Corporation, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Japan Marine United Corporation, Class NK, Nippon Steel Corporation, and Sanoyas Shipbuilding Corporation.

Formed within the CCR Study Group in August 2019, the WG aims to explore the feasibility of the concept of utilizing methanation technology for zero-emission ship fuels.

The CCR Study Group was established with the objectives of proposing effective carbon neutral measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels by offering alternative energies such as synthetic methane, and contributing to the establishment of a new energy supply system by 2050.

“Through its activities, the WG aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in sea transportation, which accounts for 99.6% of Japanese imports and exports, and thereby contribute to the formation of a sustainable society,” the joint press release said.

Specifically, the nine companies plan to assume carbon recycling supply chain of methanation fuel that involves the supply of feedstock CO2, transportation of the feedstock, methanation, and conversion into marine fuel.

As explained by MOL, methanation is a technology for synthesizing methane, the main component in natural gas, by causing a chemical reaction between hydrogen and CO2 in a reactor vessel filled with a catalyst.

It uses emitted CO2 separated and captured from industrial facilities. As the CO2 generated when combusting synthesized methane is considered to be offset by the separated and captured CO2, it is expected that CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced by using hydrogen generated by electrolyzing water with electricity derived from renewable energy.

Under the plan, the stakeholders will calculate the estimated amount of CO2 emissions in the supply chain, and based on these results, identify technical challenges and develop a roadmap for its realization.

The first stage of activities involves:

  • Separation, capture and liquefaction of CO2 emitted from steelworks
  • Transportation of liquefied CO2 by ship to a hydrogen supply site
  • Generation of synthetic methane from CO2 and hydrogen by methanation reaction, and
  • Liquefaction of the synthetic methane and using it as marine fuel

In addition to obtaining an approximate value of CO2 emissions in this assumed supply chain, the group will move forward with identifying challenges and decide whether to proceed with subsequent next-stage activities.