05 Jun 2024
by Jamie Oliver

UK start-up captures over three quarters of carbon emissions in pilot test

With 90 percent of global trade travelling by sea, the sector accounts for approximately three percent of global emission. Has recent start-up Seabound developed an important technical solution to the pollution problem?

Installed on the 240m Sounion Trader, sailing from Turkey to the Arabian Gulf, Seabound claims it captured just over three quarters of the ship’s carbon emissions but has the potential to reach 95 percent. In total, the test successfully captured around one tonne of CO2 per day.

The system, which fits into a typical sea container, uses second-generation carbon capture technology called calcium looping. It takes emissions from a ship’s exhaust and transforms them into solid calcium carbonate (limestone) pebbles that can be offloaded at port for reuse or sold for building materials.

A series of tests were completed on board the ship, which culminated in a carbon capture efficiency of 78 percent and sulphur capture efficiency of more than 90 percent. The pilot scheme, conducted in collaboration with the global shipping company Lomar, is backed by the UK government to the tune of £1.2m as a part of its Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition.

Seabound is now focused on developing its first full-scale carbon capture systems for commercial deliveries from 2025 onwards. Its ambitious plan is to capture CO2 on 1,000 ships by 2030 and 10,000 ships by 2040, representing around 10 percent of the total global shipping fleet.

Founded in 2021 by serial innovator Alisha Fredriksson and ex-Cambridge University scientist Roujia Wen, Seabound has already attracted a number of investors, including California-based Y Combinator, Lowercarbon Capital from Wyoming, US, and Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping.

But it’s not alone in trying to capture carbon from ships. Stena Bulk has partnered with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative to examine how best to capture and store CO2 on ships at sea and Japanese shipping giant Mitsubishi Shipbuilding has started development on a carbon-capture system for vessels.

Small but mightily ambitious

Can a London start-up with no previous experience of the shipping industry realistically hope to compete and win out in the battle to capture carbon on the high seas? Seabound CEO Fredriksson thinks so.

“Because we are small, we are focused,” she says. “Our only focus is developing this breakthrough technology, so we can be creative and more nimble than some of the larger organisations. I mean, we only started as a business in late 2021 and we’ve already completed our first trial.”

From it, Fredriksson says Seabound learned valuable lessons. Initially, the technology was supposed to be a permanent fit, now the idea is to containerise it, making it much more modular, meaning units can be stacked on one another, depending on the requirements. In terms of how long they take to fit, Fredriksson states a couple of days.

The feedback from the shipping industry has been positive, she says, for a couple of reasons. “The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set targets, but owners, and industries that use shipping, are also committed to reducing emissions. Which means there are unexpected opportunities.”

“At first, we targeted cargo ships,” Fredriksson concludes, “But we’ve had interest from companies trading iron ore from Australia to China, and from the cement industry, which is another predictable trade. We’re excited about the potential. The bottom line is that the shipping industry doesn’t have to wait for new fuels or solutions to reduce its emissions in the future – we can start to capture carbon from the existing fleet today.”

Join IMarEST’s Ship Energy and Environment Special Interest Group to discover more on this topic.

Image: Seabound system on maiden voyage; credit: Seabound.

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