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CCUS: the overlooked technology behind the marine energy transition

The transportation sector accounts for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with 2.9% of emissions coming from the marine industry. Faced with changing regulations and international targets for reducing environmental impact, the race is on for marine stakeholders to decarbonize their assets and activities.

While alternative fuels, such as methanol, hydrogen and ammonia, show long-term promise, they are still undergoing technical development and are largely unregulated. For shipowners, shipyards and equipment manufacturers seeking alternatives, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology is proving a strong solution.

CCUS technology has been available for several decades, but it has only recently become a hot topic in the marine industry. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference notably featured two CCUS-focused events, and governments throughout northern Europe have begun generously funding CCUS projects.[1]

The benefits of CCUS technology

The marine industry’s growing interest in CCUS comes as no surprise, given the range of benefits this technology offers.

  • Availability: Unlike most alternative fuel and propulsion technologies, CCUS solutions are already commercially available for onshore projects, while solutions for commercial vessels are being tested. Shipowners will soon be able to start integrating technologies onboard their vessels and reducing emissions
  • Sustainability: CCUS technology plays a vital role in decarbonization, both as a standalone solution and in greening the supply chain for other clean energies. For example, the production of offshore wind farms requires carbon-intensive building materials and processes. By using CCUS technology in their production line, manufacturers can minimize their environmental impact, and asset operators strengthen the green credentials of their wind farm.
  • Efficiency: Compared to other methods of eliminating carbon emissions, CCUS holds a definite advantage. Carbon offsetting, for example, is an after-the-fact way of compensating for emissions, whose climate benefits are uncertain.[2] CCUS technology offers a long-term solution by trapping CO2 in dedicated storage sites, thus ensuring that harmful emissions are never released into the atmosphere at all

Although it lacks the broad appeal of green alternative fuels, CCUS has caught the attention of one major organization. In its 2020 annual report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that achieving a net-zero energy ecosystem would require a suite of technologies. At the forefront of these technologies, considered an indispensable energy transition solution, is carbon capture, storage and utilization.[3] 
 

How CCUS technology serves the marine industry

For the marine industry, CCUS technology facilitates both CO2 capture and transport.

First, ships fitted with carbon capture technology can catch carbon emissions released from burning diesel or LNG fuel onboard. This is done via the use of scrubbers, which already clean emissions (e.g., SOx, NOx) from exhaust gas and can be adapted to capture CO2. This would enable shipowners to remove significant quantities of CO2 from the exhaust, although achieving more than 90% removal could still pose a challenge. One method is to capture CO2 in a solvent, from which it can be separated using waste heat from the engines and released into a gaseous phase. From there, CO2 can be compressed, liquefied and stored at a specific temperature under medium pressure.

Second, ships can use carbon storage technology to transport captured CO2 to its drop-off point on- or offshore, where a part of it may be reused, or trapped in geological storages. Technology providers have developed safe solutions for storing CO2 during transport at the right temperature and pressure, similar to those for ammonia and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Shipowners can choose among materials for CO2 storage tanks, and optimize onboard space with either a single large tank or several smaller tanks.

While handling CO2 onboard does present certain safety challenges, such as the risk of asphyxiation, these differ little from the risks of other known gases such as LPG. Liquid CO2 is already regularly used in several industries, and while the risks change with the scale of application, they are familiar and controllable. Another challenge to overcome is that of storage and port reception facilities, so that CCUS technologies can be used onboard where there is adequate infrastructure on route and at port of call

Benoît Grovel, Gas Expertise Team Director, Bureau Veritas Group
Benoît
Grovel

Gas Expertise Team Director

Bureau Veritas Group

The question for CCUS technology is not how it will work, but how well. The marine industry has already launched multiple pilot projects aimed at finetuning CCUS, improving its efficiency and useability before shifting to large-scale commercialization. Thanks to this, CCUS can support the marine industry’s short- and long-term decarbonization.

Spotlighting onboard CCUS installation

A key question for shipowners is how to manage the practicalities of integrating CCUS technologies onboard. Value Maritime, a Dutch scrubber manufacturer, is among the industry stakeholders looking for the answer.

In September 2021, Value Maritime announced a project for the installation of CCUS facilities onboard the containership Nordica, a BV-classed vessel. CO2 captured from the ship’s exhaust gas will be stored onboard, or deposited in a CO2 battery. Between the carbon capture and storage systems, the majority the ship’s emissions theoretically can be captured, vastly reducing its environmental impact.

Projects like this deliver key information about the process, challenges and outcomes of installing CCUS onboard vessels. Companies innovating in this area can show the potential of CCUS to help shipowners quickly reduce emissions and reach low carbon targets.

The role of Bureau Veritas in CCUS development

As a classification society, Bureau Veritas is heavily implicated in the safe and rapid development of CCUS technology. Our experts support equipment manufacturers in de-risking the latest technologies. For shipyards, we offer safety assessments on design proposals for redesigning vessels and installing CCUS equipment onboard. Bureau Veritas provides equipment, material and exhaust treatment system approval and helps shipowners integrate piping systems for waste heat recovery, compression and liquefaction onto vessels.

To offer these services, Bureau Veritas is applying its recognized technical knowledge of onboard gas storage, design, and refitting to the world of carbon capture. Our experts have longstanding experience in helping shipowners make the right choices to ensure onboard safety. By transferring our knowledge of onboard gas handling to CO2 storage, for example, we can advise shipowners on potential risks (e.g., crack propagation) and help them sail safely.

[1] https://www.eccsel.org/news/general-news/cop26-events-shine-light-on-important-role-of-ccsccus-in-climate-action/
[2] https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/the-biggest-problem-with-carbon-offsetting-is-that-it-doesnt-really-work/
[3] https://www.iea.org/reports/ccus-in-clean-energy-transitions