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IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme



The study is a first stage assessment of a novel concept of transporting ethane from the USA in dedicated maritime carriers to Europe, which are modified from standard designs to be equipped to carry both ethane and CO2, so that CO2 can be transported back (back hauled) to the USA for use in CO2-EOR operations.

Key Messages


  • In 2016, the USA began exporting ethane first by pipeline to Canada and then by liquefied carrier to Norway in March 2016 and the UK in September 2016. Ethane is used as a key feedstock for plastics production and other industrial uses.
  • It may be technically feasible to convert existing designs of liquefied ethane carriers to be dual purpose and carry liquefied CO2 as well.
  • The driver for transporting CO2 to the USA is the projected increase in the demand for CO2 for EOR in the USA. The study concludes that the single largest constraint to CO2-EOR growth in the USA is the lack of sufficient economically viable sources of CO2 in the USA itself.
  • Whilst ethane is being exported to Europe now the same ships are unlikely to be converted to carrier Liquefied CO2 as well.
  • New ships would need to be built to meet any market demand to back haul CO2 to the USA.
  • Whilst there is a potential near term demand for CO2 for EOR in the USA (if oil process recover to $100/barrel), there is unlikely to be large quantities of transportable CO2 from Europe in the foreseeable future LPG and ethane trades to the Far East from the US Gulf Coast are also now starting and there may be similar considerations on those routes for future investigations of this type.
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