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A new study by PMW Technology, working with the University of Chester, naval architects Houlder and Tees Valley Combined Authority, finds that carbon capture using a cryogenic A3C process could achieve marine decarbonisation at 50% of a comparable cost for zero  carbon fuels.

The six-month project was funded under the UK Department for Transport’s (DfT) T-TRIG programme. The DfT has already set objectives for sustainable transport including those in the Marine 2050 Decarbonisation Objectives for Shipping, aiming to achieve zero carbon shipping emissions soon after 2050.

While incremental technical improvements to ship design and operation will reduce carbon emissions, they will not be sufficient to achieve net zero. A scenario analysis undertaken by consultancy Frontier Economics for the DfT looked at the options for decarbonisation and the key finding was the need for a transition to zero carbon fuels.  These were found to have carbon abatement costs of some £180/te carbon dioxide, which would add around £1.3 billion per year to UK shipping costs.

The PMW Technology study, Evaluation of the Marine Application of Advanced Carbon Capture Technology, focused on the use of the A3C carbon capture process which separates carbon dioxide from the ship’s exhaust gases by freezing.

According to the study, the ‘incorporation of the process equipment into the vessel designs was found to be feasible with the simplest arrangements, with opportunities for better layouts from more radical redesigns.’

Vessel stability was maintained without requiring other modifications and the installation of onboard liquid carbon dioxide storage tanks was found to only slightly reduce cargo-carrying capacity.

Ships would deliver the liquid carbon dioxide for geological sequestration at arrival ports.

The project focused on two case studies: the first was an LNG-fuelled 10,200 DWR pure car and truck carrier and the second was an 830 DWT hybrid diesel electric/battery ferry. The analysis addressed the physical feasibility of implementing the carbon capture technology, the impacts on vessel stability and capital and operational costs.

The study did find that the process increased vessel auxiliary power demand. When 90% of vessel carbon emissions were captured the resulting increase in total fuel consumption was less than 17% for LNG and 24% for marine gasoil.

For marine carbon capture to be rolled out on a global basis will require the development of infrastructure and major global ports. The report highlights that: ‘Industrial carbon capture clusters are being developed around the North Sea with widespread interest elsewhere.

‘Oil exporting regions in the US and Middle East already use carbon dioxide injection for enhanced oil recovery, providing effective carbon dioxide storage. Such early application can be expected to be followed by wider international provision.’

Among the report’s conclusions are that the low temperature carbon capture process is feasible for ship application and the overall cost of the proposed alternative carbon abatement strategy for shipping is a ‘decisive 50% lower than for conversion of shipping to zero carbon fuels’.

The study also points to ‘a highly significant finding’ that the infrastructure cost for transfer of the captured carbon dioxide to sequestration ‘was a small fraction of the total cost’.

The report notes that: ‘This unexpected result arises from the low cost of transport of carbon dioxide by sea combined with savings from synergies with the industrial carbon capture clusters.

‘Sharing the infrastructure for industrial carbon sequestration minimises abatement costs and reduces investment costs and risks for all parties.’

Dr Carolina Font Palma at the University of Chester has now been awarded funding to work with PMW Technology to design and build a pilot cryogenic carbon capture process unit at the University’s Thornton Science Park.

The funding will enable the key low temperature separation process to be demonstrated and evaluated in continuous operation. The design is said to be well advanced, with construction planned to be completed by Easter 2021, followed by commissioning and testing of the pilot.

The full report can be accessed here


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