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Carbon capture’s reliance on dirty shipping fuels threatens its green ambitions

Carbon capture’s reliance on dirty shipping fuels threatens its green ambitions

LONGANET, SCOTLAND – MAY 29: Scientist stand beside a new carbon capture test unit at Longanet power station on May 29, 2009 in Longanet, Scotland. The new technology being tested at the coal fired power station removes carbon dioxide using chemicals and turns it into a liquid which is stored underground. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The green credentials of the carbon capture industry have been called into question after new analysis revealed the huge amount of high-polluting fuel needed to power ships transporting captured carbon dioxide around the world.

Currently, the shipping industry relies on emissions-heavy conventional fuels such as maritime diesel or low-sulphur fuel oil.

Rystad Energy predicts that than 90m tonnes per year of carbon dioxide will be shipped by the end of the decade, requiring a fleet of roughly 55 ships, as an increasing number of oil and gas firms look to capture more carbon emissions to limit the environmental impacts at their projects.

By the end of the decade, the carbon capture industry could emit as much as five per cent of the total CO2 shipped worldwide, Rystad forecast.

As it stands, onshore pipelines are the most common mode for carbon transportation currently, with 330 expected to be operational by 2030, while offshore pipelines will transport captured carbon to underwater storage sites and are expected to play a vital role in the supply chain in the coming years.

However, CO2 shipping is the third piece of the puzzle and the most viable solution for carrying carbon emissions over long distances at a relatively low cost.

Most of the proposed shipping routes, including those in Europe and around Australia, are no more than 2,500km, a relatively short journey.

But planned routes between Japan, Malaysia and Australia would involve sailing more than 5,000 km.

The longest journey announced to date would be between South Korea and Saudi Arabia, a one-way trip of at least 12,000km, as reported by Bloomberg.

Lein Mann Bergsmark, vice president of supply chain research at Rystad Energy, said: “Carbon dioxide shipping is a nascent market now, but it’s set to play a significant role in the global climate solution in the coming years.”

She favoured green solutions for the ramp up in carbon capture, but recognised the cost implications involved.

“Questions remain about the environmental impact of the process. In an ideal world, CO2 tankers would use renewable fuels with no associated emissions. However, these fuels are too expensive now to be economically viable,” she said.

The UK government has committed up to £20bn for carbon capture projects and recently fast-tracked two major projects for approval.

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