IMO to Discuss Role of Carbon Capture to Meet GHG Targets at Key Meeting Next Month

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday November 22, 2022

The issue of how the IMO views carbon capture systems as a means of cutting GHGs as part of its emissions reduction targets will be up for discussion at a key committee meeting next month.

Carbon capture - be it on-board a vessel or remotely via direct air capture - is a polarizing technology; it is attractive as it can reduce the overall carbon footprint while enabling the continued use of existing carbon-based fuels. Critics say it is a distraction from the ultimate goal of moving away from fossil fuels.

The UN body does not yet have a firm position on the technology's status, but some submissions on carbon capture from member states will be discussed at the Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in December, an IMO representative told Ship & Bunker on Tuesday.

A proposal from the South Korean delegation calls for carbon capture systems to be included in the IMO GHG regulatory frame work, including EEDI, EEXI and CII "to remove regulatory barriers to innovative technology and to provide a level playing-field and cost-effective opportunity for the decarbonization of the shipping industry."

The proposal suggests amending the calculation formulae for these measures to allow for carbon capture systems to be reflected.

"Regarding the zero GHG emission by 2050, it is necessary to provide technical tools to substantially reduce GHG emission from international shipping before the commercialization of zero-emission ship technology," the South Korean delegation said in the proposal.

"CO2 capture system is a technology that can cost-effectively reduce the GHG derived from the fossil fuel-propelled ships.

"It will be a means to minimize negative impacts such as rising logistic costs before sufficient supply of alternative fuels is achieved."

Proposals from China, Liberia and the ICS also suggest allowing carbon capture to play a role in shipping's decarbonisation.

Carbon capture technology has seen growing interest over the past two years as a means of achieving decarbonisation, particularly in the short term.

Earlier this year engineering company Wärtsilä suggested to Ship & Bunker that an abatement cost of EUR 50-70 per tonne of CO2 from on-board capture units was achievable, including capital and running costs but excluding what happens to the captured carbon once it has been delivered to shore.

The technology is attractive because it allows for continued use of conventional fuels in the short term while technological and infrastructure issues are being ironed out for the zero-carbon fuels. But opponents of the technology tend to view it as a means of avoiding the real work to be done on decarbonisation in favour of continuing with fossil fuels.

For on-board units, the need for extra storage space on board ships to hold the captured carbon emissions is also a limitation on which shipping segments the technology is suitable for.

Direct air capture, where CO2 is removed from the air using remote on-land facilities and then attributed to a vessels ti offset its emissions, dispenses with the need to mange the captured carbon but would add around $300/mt to the cost of the bunkers. 

The MEPC 79 meeting is due to be held at the IMO's London headquarters from December 12-16.