Carbon Capture and Storage for Marine Vessels

Hannu Jääskeläinen

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Abstract: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies have been considered to reduce GHG emissions from marine vessels. The main CCS technology being developed for use on ships is the chemical absorption of CO2 using various amine-based solvents. CSS demonstration projects show that the process is associated with a considerable fuel economy penalty and a corresponding increase of operational costs for the ship operator.


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies involve the capture of CO2, primarily from large point sources like power generation. The captured CO2 could be utilized in a range of applications or else injected into deep geological formations such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or saline aquifers. Most climate policy centers consider a wide-scale deployment of CCS/CCUS technologies to be necessary to achieve ‘net zero’ GHG emission goals and to decarbonize sectors with hard-to-abate emissions [5968].

Carbon capture technologies still require much work to be deployed on a wider scale. As CCS processes require high energy input, they tend to have a significant negative impact on the efficiency and the economics of the associated industrial process. The existing experience shows that CCS technologies also present a range of technical and scalability challenges [5753]. In the United States, CCS demonstration projects resulted in varying levels of success, in spite of sizeable government subsidies [5969].

The idea of using CCS to reduce CO2 emissions from marine vessels is commonly discussed as an option to meet the IMO greenhouse gas reduction objectives such as the 2030 goal of a 40% reduction in carbon intensity. Other options for these objectives include low carbon fuels, vessel efficiency improvements and operational efficiency improvements.

There are several approaches for CO2 capture and storage from the combustion of carbon-based fuels.

Amine-based technologies have a high technology readiness level but suffer from some significant disadvantages. For land-based power generation, these amine-based absorption technologies result in a nearly 30% drop in net power production, an 11% drop in efficiency and, due to the low concentration of CO2 in the flue gas, increase the cost of power production by approximately 60–70% for new infrastructure and by 220–250% for retrofitting [5966].

While application of these amine-based technologies to marine vessels is technically feasible, the outlook from a cost perspective varies from optimistic [5959] to pessimistic [5957][5958]. The more optimistic outlooks either neglect to fully account for the total system costs or use simplified costing assumptions. Further development to limit energy consumption and costs is required before carbon capture can be considered a viable option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels.

Amine-based CCS Process

Marine vessels typically employ a low- or medium-speed engine for propulsion and several generator sets for auxiliary power. Some may also employ a boiler that utilizes waste exhaust heat or that burns additional fuel. All this combustion equipment contributes to carbon dioxide emissions from the ship and a carbon capture system should be designed to handle their collective exhaust gas. Chemical absorption using an amine solvent requires additional energy input in the form of heat and electricity that imposes a fuel consumption penalty and additional CO2 emissions that must be captured.

Figure 1 shows an amine-based system that could be used to capture carbon in marine vessels [5957]. With heavy fuel oils, exhaust cleaning to remove sulfur is also required.

Figure 1. Components for a carbon capture system for marine vessels

HTF = Heat transfer fluid, such as steam from a fuel-fired boiler.

(Source: Oil and Gas Climate Initiative [5957])

First, water quenching is used to lower the temperature of the exhaust gas to approximately 40°C, a temperature at which carbon dioxide is readily absorbed in the next stage by monoethanolamine (MEA), a first-generation amine solution widely used in carbon capture applications. In this system, a blower compensates for back-pressure induced by the overall system to avoid negative performance impacts on the two-stroke propulsion engine. The cooled exhaust gas then enters the absorber column where it is exposed to the amine sorbent and carbon dioxide is absorbed into the solution. Most of the volatile amine carried out of the absorber is removed from the exhaust gas by the water wash and returned to the column.

The carbon dioxide-enriched amine is then pumped from the bottom of the absorber and sent through a heat exchanger to scavenge energy from the carbon dioxide-lean amine returning from the stripper. At the bottom of the stripper the temperature of the amine solution is increased to about 120°C at 2 bar. A reboiler raises part of the amine solution to the boiling point to introduce sufficient vapor to strip the carbon dioxide from the solvent. Concentrated carbon dioxide and water vapor exit the top of the stripper and are then cooled and flashed to remove residual water and amine, which is returned to the main loop. The almost pure gaseous carbon dioxide is then sent to a final quench station where remaining impurities are removed and finally to a liquefaction system, Figure 2, where it is compressed, liquefied and pumped into holding tanks at a pressure of 16 to 20 bar [5958][5957].

Figure 2. An example of the liquefaction and storage step of CO2 capture and storage

(Source: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

The major energy consumers in the process are the heat required in the reboiler and the electricity required for the liquification plant’s compressor and chiller. Depending on the vessel’s needs, some of the heat required for the reboiler could be supplied using waste heat from the engine. Any additional heat would be supplied by a fuel-fired boiler. The electricity consumption, however, will be an additional load on the auxiliary engines and will result in additional fuel consumption. Engines burning LNG can save on liquification costs by using CO2 from the stripper to vaporize LNG supplied to the engine [5961][5965].

The energy penalty of the process is dependent on the solvent used in the absorption process. Monoethanolamine (MEA) requires around 3.5 GJ/t-CO2 captured. Solvents requiring less energy have been identified such as Siemen’s amino acid salt which requires 2.7 GJ/t-CO2 and an amine mixture by Mitsubishi that requires less than 3 GJ/t-CO2 [5965]. Other solvents are also under development [5962].

In addition to the increased fuel consumption, loss of cargo capacity and the structural design of the vessel need to be considered. The need for onshore infrastructure to offload and dispose of CO2 and suitable market mechanisms would be required for carbon capture to be a viable option.