There's a plan to bury Asia's carbon emissions under the ocean

Australia is one of the biggest per-capita emitters thanks to its booming energy export industry. PHOTO: REUTERS

PERTH (BLOOMBERG) - Australian and Japanese companies are studying plans to capture carbon dioxide from industrial emitters in Asia and store it under the ocean floor off the coast of Australia.

Perth-based Transborders Energy Pty is working with partners including Tokyo Gas Co and Kyushu Electric Power Co on proposals to ship emissions from heavy industry in Australia and potentially across the Asia-Pacific region, and use a floating hub - technology currently deployed in the gas sector - to inject the material under the seabed.

Major energy producers have championed carbon capture and storage as a means to curb their emissions footprint, but the method has been slow to gain traction as key projects have been hit by technical issues and cost overruns.

This year about 40 million tons of carbon dioxide will be captured across the world's 21 operating facilities, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a fraction of total emissions of about 51 billion tons. The Australian project plans to capture 1.5 million tons a year.

Global scientists are increasingly looking to deploy CCS technology offshore. The Northern Lights initiative, backed by the Norwegian government, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Equinor ASA and Total SE, plans to store 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year under the North Sea as soon as 2024, with long-term plans to scale up the operation to 5 million tons.

"You're not dealing with competition for onshore land," said Mr Alex Zapantis, general manager, commercial at the Global CCS Institute, a think tank which promotes the deployment of the technology.

"Often there's a lot of good geological data that's been collected for the purpose of oil and gas exploration, that gives you an enormous head start in terms of the primary data necessary to identify the prospective areas."

Developing projects at sea does have a higher cost of drilling, and there's typically a need to install new pipelines, Mr Zapantis said.

Another Australian project, CarbonNet, has ambitions to store as much 5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year in the Bass Strait, off Australia's south-east coast, and aims to be operational by 2030.

Australia is one of the biggest per-capita emitters thanks to its booming energy export industry and the government is promoting nascent carbon capture technology, which has so far only been used onshore, as part of what it calls an innovation-based approach to lowering emissions.

Chevron Corp's Gorgon LNG plant, off the coast of Western Australia, began operation of one of the world's biggest CCS projects in 2019 after several years of delay. Santos Ltd. is working on plans to bury 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year at its Moomba gas processing plant in South Australia.

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