Northern Lights: First-of-their-kind liquid CO2 carriers launched in China

The first two LNG-powered, wind-assisted CO2 transportation ships for the Northern Lights project, a joint venture (JV) of energy majors Shell, Equinor, and TotalEnergies, have been launched in China.

Liquid CO2 carrier fitted with cargo tank in January 2024. Courtesy of Northern Lights

Northern Lights shared the milestone via social media on April 3, saying the two ships had been officially launched and successfully transferred from the dry dock to the harbor, ahead of delivery expected later this year.

The construction of the first-of-their-kind vessels began in November 2022 at China’s Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co. (DSIC). In early 2024, the first two vessels were installed with custom-built 7,500 cubic meters cargo tanks designed for the transportation of liquefied CO2.

Combining LNG-powered propulsion with wind-assisted technology and air lubrication, the ships are expected to have around 34% lower carbon footprint compared to conventional ships running on marine fuel. 

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Once completed, the liquid CO2 carriers will embark on a mission to load captured and liquefied CO2 from industrial emitters and transport it to the Northern Lights receiving facilities in Øygarden, Norway, from where the CO2 will be injected into the offshore reservoir for permanent storage.

In total, four ships will be delivered to the Northern Lights JV, making it the owner of the world’s largest dedicated CO2 shipping fleet.

Japanese shipping heavyweight K Line has signed bareboat charter and time charter contracts with Northern Lights JV DA for the management of three CO2 ships. The management services for the three vessels will be carried out by the company’s London-based subsidiary K Line LNG Shipping (UK) Ltd.

The Northern Lights project is part of Norway’s efforts to develop a full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) value chain. It comprises the development of a receiving terminal, underwater infrastructure (including the pipeline, subs installations, and wells), intermediate storage tanks, and onshore facilities.

Phase 1 with a capacity to inject up 1.5 million tons of CO2 per year is scheduled to be ready for operation in 2024.

A binding commercial agreement was also signed with Yara International to pave the way for the world’s first cross-border transportation and storage of CO2.

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