Researchers have suggested that using LNG carriers to transport liquified CO2 may help cut the costs of carbon capture.
Carbon capture technology is seen as one of the most viable means of managing CO2 emissions in carbon-intensive industries.
However, among the many challenges that carbon capture faces is the matter of transporting the captured CO2 emissions from the source to the permanent storage site or facility where they can be repurposed.
Pipelines offer one possible solution, although only for short distances, as distances that exceed approximately 100 miles drive capital costs up and make this option far too expensive to scale.
So to help find a solution for this problem, researchers at the University of Houston, Texas have suggested making use of LNG carrier vessels.
A lucrative business opportunity within arm’s reach?
In a recent article, they emphasized the business potential for LNG carrier operators to have their ships filled up with liquefied carbon dioxide on their backhaul routes.
They referred to the idea of using the same LNG cryogenic tanks to transport CO2 from carbon capture facilities as ‘dual-use shipping’.
And indeed, they may have stumbled upon a promising opportunity that could transform the carbon capture industry and help advance the decarbonization of the planet to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
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The carrier ships can be transporting LNG one way and on their return journey, they can carry captured carbon in the same specialized tanks.
Once they reach their destination, the CO2 can be injected deep underground, for example, in an abandoned oil or gas well near the LNG loading terminal.
Specifically, the researchers at UH examined the possibility of trading CO2 as a commodity between regions with the potential of sequestering large quantities of carbon, such as the US Gulf of Mexico, and major LNG importers in East Asia, such as Japan or South Korea.
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Right now, LNG carrier vessels take 25 days to travel that distance one way, and then return cargo-free that same amount of time, while incurring the same fixed costs and fuel costs dropping only some 20% for sailing an empty ship.
Instead, the researchers propose those ships be laden with captured CO2 from industrial emitters in Asia and transported back to the Gulf of Mexico for permanent storage.