Carbon capture and storage involves capturing CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere and storing it for millennia (sequestration); usually by injecting it into deep geological formations. The U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) recently reported that North America has enough storage capacity for more than 900 years' worth of CO2 at current production rates.

For several years, CO2 has been injected into geological formations for various other purposes, e.g. maximising and enhancing oil recovery. However, where the long-term storage of CO2 is a relatively new concept there remain stability concerns – especially in relation to the prospect of leakage.

That said, it is hugely encouraging to see that the shipping industry has engaged meaningfully in this arena. The Japanese shipping company “K Line” has joined the international think tank: Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI). Only last year K Line successfully separated and captured CO2 from the exhaust gas emitted from a vessel for the first time in the world.

The shipping industry is also well placed to provide the missing link between carbon capture and carbon sequestration. Often CO2 emission sites are quite some distance from the storage sites, so transportation of CO2 is necessary. Again, Japan appears to lead the way in this area. Japanese shipbuilder Mitsubishi Shipbuilding recently concluded a contract with compatriot shipping company Sanyu Kisen for the construction of a test ship for the transportation liquefied carbon dioxide (LCO2) for the precise purpose of carbon storage.

Whilst ships constructed and operated in Europe and Japan have been used to carry LCO2 within the food industry, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding has stated that this newbuild is expected to be the world’s first LCO2 carrier intended specifically for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The road to carbon neutrality is a difficult one, but it would appear that the shipping industry will be key in getting us there.