Limestone and the Sea: Lomar, Seabound debut new tech to sequester sea-vessel CO2 

April 23, 2023 |

The dugout is so old as technology goes, it predates agriculture, fermentation, currency, the wheel, writing, travel by horseback, almost everything except cooking, pottery, and quite a few hunting and skinning tools. Back then, we were tied to the campfire and the kill — then came the dugout, and that was the beginning of shipping, which led to a new breadth of trade by river and sea. Ships were the lungs of the modern economy until the 19th century.

Those lungs have been quite congested of late. After the canoe came sail, then coal, then oil. Trade was expanding, at the cost of climate health and, cough-cough, our health too. 

So we are delighted to share good news this week from the UK. Lomar’s new subsidiary lomarlabs has signed a collab with Seabound, in a bid to reduce emissions and catalyze new, cost-effective methods to capture CO2 onboard vessels.  

This project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3, which was announced in September 2022, funded by the UK Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. As part of the CMDC3, the Department allocated £60m to 19 flagship projects supported by 92 UK organizations to deliver real-world demonstration R&D projects in clean maritime solutions. Projects will take place in multiple locations around the UK from as far north as the Shetland Isles and as far south as Cornwall.

The technology gambit

Seabound has developed a patent-pending compact carbon capture device that can be retrofitted into a ship’s engine exhaust at the funnel. The CO2 chemically reacts with pebbles of quicklime, which then convert into limestone, keeping the CO2 locked in. The limestone pebbles are temporarily stored onboard before the ship returns to port, without any need for energy-intensive CO2 separation, compression, or liquefaction. The pebbles are safe, inert and non-toxic; abundantly available worldwide and reasonably priced. Once back in port, the limestone pebbles are offloaded and either sold in pure form or turned back into quicklime and CO2, for the quicklime to be reused onboard another vessel and the CO2 sold for utilization or sequestration.

Is it really carbon sequestration?

Well, yes and no. Think of it as a way to aggregate hard-to-sequester CO2. Originally, the quicklime was made by combusting limestone to make it, and releasing CO2 in the process. Taking the quicklime to the ship, sequestering CO2, bringing calcium carbonate pebbles back to land and then combusting those, doesn’t sequester CO2, precisely, at any given point there is either some net CO2 emission (after combustion) or it is CO2 neutral, while in stone form. There is good news in the aggregate, however, pardon the pun. That is, over time we have taken CO2 that would have been vented into the sky and turned it into an emission which is collected, controlled, used or stored. If we were to inject the CO2 in storage media, such as stable caves, over time there would be a net reduction in Co2. So, all good, if complex.

The Lomar backstory

Lomar is a leading ship-owning and management group with a diversified fleet of around 40 container vessels, bulk carriers, and chemical and product tankers.  Lomar has nearly 50 years of industry expertise as a leading ship owner and operator, its fleets having moved millions of tonnes of cargo annually. In October 2022 Lomar continued to diversify its fleet with the acquisition of the Bremen-based Carl Büttner Holding GmbH & Co. KG, a 166-year-old shipowner and manager of oil product and chemical tankers, in a deal with an enterprise-value of close to $160 million. It included the acquisition of CB Maritime in Rijeka, Croatia, a specialist crewing agency. The Carl Büttner brands have since been integrated into the Lomar group of companies. Lomar is a maritime subsidiary of the Libra Group, a privately-owned global business group that encompasses 30 operating entities – 20 businesses predominantly focused on aviation, renewable energy (including solar, wind and waste-to-energy projects), maritime (including an infrastructure company and shipbuilding to support the offshore wind sector), real estate and hospitality, and diversified industries and 10 social initiatives housed under Libra Philanthropies. With assets and operations in nearly 60 countries, the Libra Group applies the strength of its global network and capabilities to deliver cross-sector insights and growth at scale, while mitigating risk.

The lomarlabs backstory

lomarlabs works with ambitious entrepreneurs who bring deep tech solutions to the maritime industry and helps them de-risk their technologies and optimize their business models. This venture is spearheaded by former Lomar Technical Director Stylianos Papageorgiou, who has been appointed its Managing Director.

lomarlabs is a venture lab that provides early stage tech companies with the physical infrastructure, support, industry insight, expertise and funding they need to responsibly test, prove and commercialize their solutions; catalyzing their entry into a market that’s rapidly evolving. It draws on nearly five decades of operational innovation at Lomar Shipping to catalyze deployment of deep technological solutions, with a view to solving the maritime industry’s biggest challenges.

The Seabound backstory

Founded in late 2021, Seabound has to date built two working land-based prototypes, secured seven letters of intent from leading shipowners, and raised $5.7M in funding from world-class investors including Lowercarbon Capital, Y Combinator, Eastern Pacific Shipping, and the UK Department for Transport.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Lomarlabs Technical Director Stylianos Papageorgiou underlines: “lomarlabs is advising on engineering and design for this transformative solution, adapting it to the realities of everyday commercial shipping operations. We help formulate pilot tests on Lomar vessels, and fine-tune the business model using our industry insight to help make a viable business. We share our experience and network to develop solutions that have the potential of delivering systematic change for our maritime industry.”

Seabound Co-Founder & CEO, Alisha Fredriksson, states: “We’re excited to be collaborating with lomarlabs for this first-of-a-kind ship-based pilot of Seabound’s compact carbon capture technology. It has already been instrumental working with Stylianos and his team because they’re keen to jump into the technical details with us and to brainstorm creative approaches to iteratively and cost-effectively de-risk this novel technology. Together we aim to demonstrate that the shipping industry doesn’t have to wait to decarbonize in 5-10+ years, but that there are already viable solutions coming to the market now.”

CEO of Lomar Shipping Nicholas Georgiou added: “We are keen on exploring technologies that will unlock maritime innovation and lead to the decarbonization of our industry. With lomarlabs and Seabound’s conjoined efforts, we are excited to accelerate our involvement in the mission towards safer, cleaner oceans and contribute to bringing zero-emission shipping from theory to practice.”

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