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Study: ports not ready to handle onboard captured carbon dioxide

Study: ports not ready to handle onboard captured carbon dioxide

(Posted on 25/03/24)

A recent study commissioned by the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD), in collaboration with Lloyd’s Register and ARUP, has identified low port readiness as a major hurdle bottlenecking the adoption of Onboard Carbon Capture and Storage (OCCS) system as a practicable decarbonisation solution. Whilst the technologies required for offloading onboard captured CO? exist at high levels of maturity, safe operationalisation of captured CO? transfer by trained personnel has not been demonstrated.

The report, titled “Concept study to offload onboard captured CO?,” found that while a limited number of ports possess the infrastructure to offload liquefied CO? (LCO?), they are primarily designed to handle food-grade CO?. The higher purity standards that accompany this use limits the interoperability of facilities to handle onboard captured CO?.

The study examined over ten planned LCO? related infrastructure projects worldwide. Located near, or with transport links from, CO?-emitting industrial clusters, these projects are likely to handle much larger volumes of captured CO? than that from OCCS systems; port infrastructure needed for offloading, storing and transporting onboard captured CO? will likely need to be integrated with these projects for economies of scale. However, as many of such projects remain in concept phase and have not reached Final Investment Decision (FID), ports have not proceeded with offloading infrastructure investments. This chicken-and-egg dilemma highlights the overall infancy of the carbon value chain.

Furthermore, introducing LCO? offloading into already complex port operations will likely impact port efficiency and operational performance. The need for additional buffer zones to address the safety concerns of LCO? handling and storage will also add to existing space constraints at ports and terminals.

This 9-month long study aims to address a gap in the onboard carbon capture value chain. OCCS has recently gained traction as a potential interim solution to help international shipping meet IMO’s emissions reduction targets, with potential deliberations at future Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) sessions. While achieving emissions reductions through OCCS hinges on successfully integrating a shipboard-compatible system within space constraints, equally important is addressing the fate of captured CO? by establishing its utilisation or sequestration pathways.

This study complements GCMD’s Project REMARCCABLE (Realising Maritime Carbon Capture to demonstrate the Ability to Lower Emissions) by addressing the feasibility of OCCS as a practicable, end-to-end solution at scale. For OCCS systems to be operationally feasible, the industry needs to develop a collaborative ecosystem to enable the value chain for managing captured CO?.

By systematically considering the needs of the entire value chain, this study evaluated four concept configurations of offloading infrastructure from a possible 162 scenarios, identified the operational standards and safety guidelines for handling LCO?, developed models for the quantification of costs for scaled-up infrastructure, articulated manpower competency frameworks for offloading operations, and analysed the potential regulatory scenarios needed to address the current uncertainties surrounding LCO? offloading from OCCS.

One of the key considerations is to examine how LCO? can be offloaded safely to the appropriate infrastructure.

The study determined that captured CO? in its liquefied form is likely the most efficient and cost-effective option for onboard storage and transport. Based on this, the study shortlisted four concepts covering key offloading modalities, such as Ship-to-Ship and Ship-to-Shore, serving as building blocks that can be combined to cover a wider range of offloading concepts. (Please see below for the infographics on these four concepts).

In ranking the operability of these concepts, the study identified Ship-to-Ship and Ship-to-Shore transfers using an intermediate LCO? receiving vessel as the most promising modalities for offloading at scale, with captured CO? eventually sequestered or used as feedstock for manufacturing synthetic fuels.

Professor Lynn Loo, CEO of GCMD, said, “While pilots have successfully demonstrated numerous capture technologies onboard ships, it is still uncertain how captured carbon on merchant ships can be safely offloaded, and what the rest of the value chain looks like. This study sheds light on these challenges, and highlights recommendations to holistically address these concerns for parties interested in advancing OCCS / LCO? offloading concepts.”

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