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Carbon capture and storage on board can contribute to the decarbonization of shipping

27 April 2023

According to a new prel-study from Lighthouse and the Swedish Transport Administration, there are many different promising technical solutions in the works that can make the capture and separation of carbon dioxide on board more efficient. But for it to be profitable, the economic instruments controlling greenhouse gas emissions must continue to be developed.

Since fossil fuels will be used on ships for many years to come, carbon dioxide separation is in general, seen as a prerequisite to meet future greenhouse gas GHG emissions targets. And although there are so far few real installations of carbon capture technology (CC) on board ships and all development projects so far have been done on a pilot scale, the pre-study Carbon capture potential on-board ships states that it is technically and economically possible to install CC on ships under the right circumstances.

- Technically there are no problems, but whether it will have a big impact depends on the economic conditions, says Karl Jivén, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, who led the work on the study.

Actually, it is the same challenge associated with alternative fuels. The decarbonization of shipping will be more expensive for everyone – the question is which technology is most beneficial for you and your ship. This is something that more or less all shipping companies have to think about, and when it comes to technology for capturing carbon dioxide on board, the new pre-study should, according to Karl Jivén, be regarded as a handbook in a way. Different ships have different conditions and may need different solutions.

- Anyone who needs technical information about various solutions can find a lot in the report. The report also contains a methodology for what should be taken into account when choosing and evaluating systems for carbon dioxide separation. I think it is very useful for those who are going to do such a project.

Three post-combustion CC technologies have been identified as most feasible, and promising, for the application on-board in combination with ICEs: absorption by ammonia (NH3), cryogenic separation and membrane separation. However, post combustion capturing with the chemical solvent MEA is the most common technical solution being assessed and described in the literature for onboard capturing. And CC with MEA is also widely used as benchmark process for comparisons between CC technologies.

Today, no one knows what the final disposal will cost, but already the technology for the separation and capture of the carbon dioxide will likely be more expensive than what the emission rights in the EU/ETS will cost (100 euros per ton of carbon dioxide) to begin with.

- 100 euros per ton is not enough to finance this, but it’s also not enough to finance the other alternatives, for example renewable hydrogen, e-methanol or electricity. This means that either the technology for all those solutions must become cheaper or the price of emission rights must be increased or combined with other control instruments, says Karl Jivén.

The pre-study Carbon capture potential on-board ships has been written by Karl Jivén (IVL Swedish Environmental Institute), Selma Brynolf (Chalmers), Jonas Havenstein (Chalmers), Maximilian Weidenhammer (Chalmers) Julia Hansson (IVL Swedish Environmental Institute), Anders Hjort (IVL Swedish Environmental Institute ), Yingying Cha (IVL Swedish Environmental Institute).

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