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Some of the biggest industrial companies in Japan are working on a project that could trigger a wave of investment into one of the most controversial forms of carbon capture: methanation.

Shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd. (MOL) is leading a working group of nine Japanese companies including steelmakers Nippon Steel Corp. and JFE Steel Corp. to assess the viability of producing and using methane to power “zero-emission ships” instead of liquefied natural gas or other fossil fuels, including a fleet of new vessels that would transport carbon dioxide for processing.

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