Carbon negative shipping ideas

Just for interest - a problem for wood pellet scalability

Interesting proposal. No whisper of biochar in the design specs. It's a pretty standard downdraft biomass gasifier system with gas engine generator - the byproduct of gasification in this scenario is probably ash. But I'm going to have fun with the idea for biochar production - basically, an adapted 'CharGen' on steroids. So here goes... The pyrolysis machine could produce 'wood gas' from biomass pellet pyrolysis for heat. If it was an array of TLUDs, the wood gas production->heat output->variable engine power that could be electronically controlled with a digital potentiometer for variable fan speed controlling the secondary air flow (the primary air flow is very low for biomass pellets until the pyrolysis front reaches near the bottom of the fuel chamber). The fan speed could be controlled with WiFi from the Bridge for engine throttle/control.  Biochar would be the byproduct of gasification. The TLUDs would also need to be stable enough to operate with the 'Motion of the Ocean' and powering Stirling 'heat engines' (eg.Thermo Acoustic Stirling Engine or TASE) for 'Carbon negative' highly efficient mechanical work. Emptying of the TLUDs could be done with a hinged base plate (with air holes) released for the biochar to fall down into a quench bath below. I do wonder though about the volumetric and gravimetric energy densities - how much of the onboard payload/weight would be biomass pellets? But, on the other hand, biomass pellets are almost completely safe to store, transport and handle with predictable heat output which is why I love them for TLUD stoves. 


The group of companies are sourcing the biomass pellets (mostly from sawdust/wood) from the US and Canada. The C footprint of the biomass pellet production and supply chains should be seriously considered. I would suggest that the group of companies build a biomass pellet ecosystem around it's ports, supplied from local/regional  producers. Even better than ag/forestry waste would be kelp farms grown near the ports wherever it can be grown. Kelp is a fast CO2 sequesterer and could be harvested, dried and pelletised. Kelp also makes great mineral rich biochar! I imagine that standardising the biomass pellets would be needed in order to calculate how much fuel is needed for a fixed distance. For eg., a required 'Moisture Content' less than 15% (for clean and efficient pyrolysis) and an acceptable range of energy densities (volumetric and gravimetric) or even Calorific values - which will vary depending on the biomass waste residue type eg.rice husk, sawdust, kelp etc. and variations within each type. Otherwise, there might be some stranded ships! Also, the biomass residues should be certified (and possibly Gov approved) for sustainability eg. 'ASC-MSC Seaweed Standard' for kelp pellets, 'FSC certification' for the wood pellets etc. At port, the biochar from the TLUDs could be collected then offloaded (and hopefully used locally for, say, food production or water filtration) and more biomass pellets collected for the next leg of the journey.


The shipping companies could also earn Carbon removal credits for their biochar production to offset the cost of biomass pellet fuel eg. as well as selling the biochar to biochar companies at the ports for a good price.


I think 'Green Hydrogen' (storage problem eg.metal hydrides, Activated Biochar), 'Green Methanol' (using both 'Green Hydrogen' and captured CO2, in order from the best to worse sources: BECCS, Direct Ocean Capture (DOC), Direct Air Capture (DAC), CCS from fossil operations ($$? - last place)), or 'Green Ammonia' (which can be used in Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) with apposite aftertreatment systems for NOx emissions and unburned NH3 at the exhaust but I understand this is a work in progress - Dr Twiggy Forrest is the expert in this area) are also all interesting options.


At the moment, I see the main issue of 'Green Hydrogen' is the storage, transport and handling - not the electrolyser or catalysts eg. biochar supported electrocatalyst or photocatalyst. This is where it gets complex - read on...


After researching Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC) (blogged previously) combined with 'Green Hydrogen' production, is in my opinion a possible winner, though Iridium based catalysts for dehydrogenation would ideally be replaced with an Earth abundant mineral complex with acceptable properties eg.biochar-MnO2 (is there anything this complex can't do)?


It would work just like Oxygen (think 'Green Hydrogen') is inhaled in the lungs (ports)-> attaches to Hemoglobin in the blood (think LOHC)->circulates to the tissues (shipping engines)->is released from the Hemoglobin (optional fuel cells->mechanical work)->Hemoglobin in the blood returns to the lungs (ports)-> recharges with more Oxygen ('Green Hydrogen')->repeat. This idea stimulated my imagination to look at possible bio-based LOHCs - sure enough, people are working on it. Enter biochemistry. Could a suitable chemical be found in nature, possibly assisted with machine learning, to provide a durable biological 'lock', with ecologically benign properties (in case of spills, onshore or offshore), for the Hydrogen 'key'? Biomimicry inspired by nature!


As it turns out, fast pyrolysis of biomass eg. forestry and agricultural waste (with C negative biochar Inertinite as a by-product which could be returned to the forests and fields) could be used to produce a number of LOHC chemicals, such as glycoaldehyde, acetic acid and acetol, though information is scarce around this research area specific to 'pyrolysis and LOHC'. I should point out too that in this paper, a fluidised bed reactor was used to extract the bio-oil for the LOHC chemicals. There are different biochar pyrolysis kilns around that can also produce bio-oils, which would also be needed for scaling up. These can also be self-powered with excess process heat used to generate electricity to produce the chemicals.


In the case of Oz, both the LOHC from ag/forestry waste and the 'Green Hydrogen' from solar, wind and biomass (LOHC chemicals, biochar, process heat->electricity) powered seawater electrolysis could be produced, combined and exported (the quarry model) but would defeat the point of the LOHC system design that requires H2 recharging (like a solid state battery) and ideally production at ports. The LOHC would not need to be produced at every port but at some point would need to enter the system - at ports. For eg., the LOHC could be produced in regional agricultural/forestry areas with biomass waste streams (with the biochar produced in the process used locally) that are relatively close to ports for entering the fuel system or shipping the LOHC to other close ports where it's needed. In the case of Oz, the LOHC would probably need to be produced in Northern Australia to potentially supply ports in Asia - or it could be locally made.  I see two different timescales happening here - the time taken to consume H2 in the ships and the time taken for the LOHC to eventually break down and need replacement. In other words, the 'Green Hydrogen' production at or near ports is a much larger operation than the LOHC production. I imagine it would take years to build and perfect the system but could eventually work well. Also, there would need to be International quality standards for both the LOHC and H2.


The simplest, safest and most sustainable fuel system is the best. I'm seeing 'packets of energy and data' moving from A to B. Networks between the patterns. How efficient and green can shipping logistics get? I'm leaning towards the biomass pellets now - the overall C footprint could be C negative if a robust and sustainable biomass pellet system such as the kelp farming idea around ports was built. It could create many local/regional jobs near ports around the world and still uses 'New sunlight' (for photosynthesis) and seawater which there is no presumably no shortage of near most ports - but there would need to be a massive feasability study done probably via multiple Universities and the shipping industry for suitable kelp farm sites. I should also mention too that different macroalgae species, preferably endemic, would be needed that are appropriate for each kelp farm's location. Constraints might include local marine ecologies, water temperatures, water pollution, climate etc. The kelp farms could be locally eg.Co-operatives ( farmers in Nepal)/Nationally (Bolivia) owned and managed which is not music to the ears of any Empire hoping to monopolise biomass pellets for shipping, like 'Big Oil' did for fossil-powered transport, power generation and petrochemicals. Besides, it would be a more stable arrangement not subject to one or two Corporations with fluctuating share prices or a global price of kelp biomass pellets. The prevailing business model and economic model for fuel needs to change if we want greener and more stable logistics with a lower C footprint, with the potential for C negative operations, in order to fight climate change.


We need a logistics system that is going to help take us below 350ppm of atmospheric CO2 emission equivalents for a 'safe climate' (the late Phil Sutton) - a target that was lost since the Paris climate summit in 2015 although there are big variations eg.cities, the Mauna Loa Observatory (the longest running one with the most science), on May 21, 2024, measured 427.69ppm of atmospheric CO2 (  Also, according to, "CO2 levels in the atmosphere serve as the single best, real-time signal of whether the world as a whole is on track to a safe future, or needing to do more to get on track".


I guess the kelp biomass pellet idea is not good for the Australian 'Ancient' and 'New' sunlight export quarry for the Global energy sector though there are some great domestic uses for 'Green Hydrogen', such as 'Green Steel' and some interesting solar farm projects, such as 'SunCable'. There is no scarcity of 'New sunlight'. 'Green Ammonia' produced from Australian 'New' sunlight may have a place for replacing or working alongside bunker fuel for ships with ICEs (with a C footprint of getting the fuel to ports) but I make no apologies for having a vision of an updated power and fuel system for new ships - we can build on the Japan/Brit 'Bioship' idea.  Maybe a C negative 'Bioship' could transport 'Green Ammonia' to ports for older ships with ICEs until they reach the end of their service life - or something else? The bioenergy industry is taking off around the world with Oz and the US leading the charge and is more democratised than any other technology area I've ever come across. Kelp farms grown near ports converted to kelp biomass pellets then gasified to produce biochar in the Engine Room TLUD powering TASE's might just be the answer for a greener shipping industry. The urban permies/farmers in the port cities I'm sure could use some of that sea mineral rich biochar in a range of growing systems and when used in soil, increases soil fertility and conserves water (with many other benefits)! And there's all the other more remote ports where the biochar could be transported to rural areas. Shipping could help improve food, water and climate security which I never thought I would say. Something to research, design, build, test, develop and commercialise.



Could activate sea kelp from near-port farms using Hugh McLaughlin's activated Carbon machine. This could then be used for Hydrogen tanks as a storage medium, with the tanks possibly been made in local shipyards. Green Hydrogen could also be produced from the kelp pyrolysis process using waste heat converted into electricity via a Stirling engine.

For Hydrogen electrolysis, a durable molecule could be designed functioning as Iridium 6+ at 5% combined with 95% Manganese eg. A doped activated kelp biochar


As an afterthought, here's an example of an unsustainable shipping and energy operation - it's like looking at a parody of the end of the 'Fossil Age' but unbelievably locked into the future with Australia's 'Future Gas Strategy' which should be strategically transitioning away from 'unnatural methane' - not expanding it's mining and consumption!  Japan now sells more LNG to other Countries than it imports from Australia.  Basically, an LNG reseller - can it get any more unsustainable? eg.mining operations C footprint in Oz, export logistics C footprint from Oz to Japan, export logistics C footprint from Japan to other Asian countries, methane combustion C footprint at place of fuel use.




Any comments or feedback welcome (see below)!
Any comments or feedback welcome (see below)!
Seaweed pellets as a renewable fuel feedstock
Seaweed pellets as a renewable fuel feed
Adobe Acrobat Document 6.1 MB
ASC-MSC Seaweed Standard guidelines.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.9 MB

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