Maersk Tankers has become the first major operator to announce plans to enter the market to transport captured carbon dioxide.
One of the world's biggest owners of oil and gas tankers has become the first major operator to announce plans to enter the market to transport captured carbon dioxide. Maersk Tankers, part of Denmark's AP Moller-Maersk, said demand for the service could be vast - around 750m tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted from large power plants around the North Sea alone.
That amount would fill around 380 tankers of the kind Maersk envisages using for the new market.
Most previous plans to transport captured carbon dioxide have focused on using pipelines to move it from power stations and other producing sites to underground reservoirs.
The technique is designed to prevent carbon dioxide emissions entering the atmosphere and worsening global warming.
Maersk announced its plans at an international scientific conference on climate change near its Copenhagen headquarters. The meeting was part of the preparation for the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
The market would require new tankers with a mix of the capabilities of Maersk's existing liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas carriers, Martin Fruergaard, senior vice-president of Maersk Tankers, said. The gas would need to be both refrigerated, as happens on LNG carriers, and kept under pressure, as is LPG.
"It's a natural move for us," Mr Fruergaard said.
Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, an industry body, said it seemed to be a practical idea to move captured carbon dioxide by ship.
"I'm convinced there's a place for it in local delivery," he said.
While movement in ships would itself produce carbon dioxide, that was true of any method for moving the gas, Mr Chapman said.
Maersk said that ships could be more flexible and better for moving small quantities of carbon dioxide than pipelines. They could also be used to take the captured gas to places such as Saudi Arabia, with significant space for storing the gas in old oil reservoirs, but too distant from producing centres to justify a pipeline.
The company has no immediate plans to order ships to enter the market because there remain question marks over the carbon capture technology necessary to provide the gas.
Mr Fruergaard said it would take about two years from ordering to have a vessel built. As a significant North Sea oil producer, -Maersk owns large undersea reservoirs that might be suitable for storing the gas.