With countries around the world setting goals for cutting carbon emissions, pressure is growing on the maritime industry to come up with solutions of its own.
A port in Texas and a global maritime company based in Finland are among those working on projects to address both sides of carbon dioxide capture and storage technology.
The Port of Corpus Christi announced in the fall a partnership with the Texas General Land Office to develop a massive carbon storage project using wells drilled off the Texas coast. The project could potentially sequester over 30 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Jeff Pollack, chief strategy and sustainability officer for the port.
And Wartsila Corp.’s Exhaust Treatment division is working on technology to treat carbon dioxide, sulfur (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by ships and store it in tanks for delivery to carbon storage facilities on land.
Wartsila already makes scrubbers for treating SOx and selective catalytic reduction systems (SCR) that capture NOx, but the company is now looking to add carbon dioxide (CO2) treatment to that package.
It would work like this: SOx and NOx are treated with an SCR, then the gas mixture would be cooled down to about 40 degrees Celsius, according to Sigurd Jenssen, director at Wartsila Exhaust Treatment. Then it goes to an absorption tower where a solvent is used to capture CO2. Next, the CO2 is boiled off in a stripping column.
“And at the end of the process you have CO2 gas, which you then need to cool down and liquefy,” Jenssen said.
In October, Wartsila announced a partnership with Solvang ASA, a Norwegian shipping company, to retrofit one of Solvang’s ethylene carriers, the 21,000-cubic-meter Clipper Eos, with a carbon capture and storage system. Wartsila is building an installation on land with a one-megawatt engine with scrubbers, SCRs and CO2 treatment. “So we can really get as close to mimicking shipboard installation as we can,” Jenssen said. Testing is expected to start in January 2022 with installation on Clipper Eos projected to happen at the end of 2022.
Wartsila’s goal is to create a carbon treatment system that could be used in a variety of vessel classes with different degrees of carbon treatment. “We want something that is modular,” said Jenssen of the treatment units. “Because the interest we’re seeing from customers really varies from the ones who are looking to do the bare minimum, so maybe 20 percent capture rates. And then you have the companies on the other side of the spectrum wanting to capture as much as they possibly can, to be as green as possible.”
Once carbon dioxide has been treated it needs to be stored. And the Port of Corpus Christi announced a partnership last fall with the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to develop a massive carbon storage solution offshore in the Texas Coastal Bend. The port “is uniquely situated geographically and commercially to become the nation’s premier hub for carbon management, capture and storage,” Pollack said in a press release.
Creating carbon storage facilities would also mean developing infrastructure to transport and store the carbon dioxide from numerous industries in and around Corpus Christi.
The port owns about 30,000 acres in a combination of upland and submerged land. “So we control the entire geographic transect from our customer fence lines, our target sources, all the way out to GLO-owned offshore waters,” he said.
Carbon dioxide would be injected through wells deep underground into naturally occurring, porous rock formations where it can no longer impact the climate. “Essentially you are taking carbon dioxide, in gaseous form, and you are pressurizing it to get it into what’s called a super critical state, which is essentially a liquid, and injecting it under pressure,” said Pollack. Once underground, the carbon dioxide will remain there for thousands of years.
The state of Texas owns all submerged land within 10.3 miles of the coast, according to the Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) at the Bureau of Economic Geology of the University of Texas at Austin. The GLO administers these lands, including the sale of storage rights. This submerged land is made of thick sections of sandstones layered with shales, according to the GCCC. This geology has great potential to sequester a large quantity of CO2.
Carbon treatment plans will become essential for ports in the future.
“I absolutely see carbon management ultimately as a utility function,” Pollack said. “It will end up being a key differentiator for site selection for industrial development, and I think it at some point becomes an existential necessity for industries of a certain type, that the ports in which they operate” have a solution to carbon storage.