CCS in Norway – still a long way from the goal

The CCS project at Mongstad in western Norway was finally cancelled in 2013, causing sarcastic comments about “The Moon landing that failed”. The then Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg invited these comments by hailing the start of the project in 2006 as the Norwegian equivalent to the real Moon landing. The present Norwegian government, led by Erna Solberg, still has as its official goal to establish one full-scale CCS demonstration plant by 2020, not necessarily in Norway. The slow development of CCS projects in the EU frustrates the Norwegian government’s efforts to finance CCS abroad. Domestically, it is supporting several small test projects, all of which are due for completion by 1 June 2016. A decision will be made after the national elections in 2018 about which project to follow up. If a plant is to be up and running by 2020, an investment decision for a full-scale CCS plant must be made in 2016. Bellona, a long-term supporter of CCS, concludes that the goal of a full-scale CCS plant by 2020 will not be reached.

The long-term storage of CO₂ in geological formations in the North Sea seems like a better prospect. The government has given the Norwegian oil company Statoil the task of finding suitable areas for long-term CO₂ storage facilities at three different locations in the Norwegian part of the North Sea. This search should also be completed by 1 June 2016. 

Professor Peter M. Haugan at the Institute for Geophysics, University of Bergen, Norway, has previously stated that finding safe storage for CO₂ in the North Sea is very costly and may take anywhere between three years at the best, and 10 years in difficult cases. There is no guarantee that the process will find a safe storage site that satisfies the EU directive for CO₂ storage. It is therefore difficult to envision that five months of exploration will lead to the finding of three new safe storage facilities. 

Statoil is optimistic about the long-term prospects for CO₂ storage beneath the North Sea, but also cautious. According to Statoil, there are no large commercial CO₂ storage facilities anywhere in the world. Further research is needed on a number of issues. All existing CCS plants use the captured CO₂ either for EOR – Enhanced Oil Recovery – or in industrial processes. There are at present no large-scale CCS plants anywhere in Europe that may need a place to store CO₂. The price of CO₂ emissions in Europe is also far too low to make a commercial CO₂ storage facility economically viable. The CO₂ price must be at least 50 USD/ton, while at present it is just 6 USD/ton CO₂.

Norway has entered into an agreement with the EU, with the intent of becoming a full member of the EU Emission Trading System – the ETS. About half of Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions are already part of the ETS. The Norwegian ambition is to become a full member of the EU “Climate Bubble”. An agreement may make it easier for Norway both to finance CCS in the EU, and get credit for its obligation under the EU common obligation. The details of this agreement have not been concluded, but will have to wait until the EU has reached its own decision about the future of the ETS in late 2016/early 2017. 

The Norwegian emission mitigation plan has in the past relied heavily on CCS and buying emission certificates from other countries. Recent developments may indicate that there is no major deviation from this line in the policies of the present government.


Tore Braend

About the author: Tore Braend is an Energy and Climate Policy Specialist and Consultant who lives in Norway. He has for many years worked as an expert for environment and development NGOs and other institutions and has participated in many scientific and governmental hearings.

Carbon Capture and Storage in Norway –
The moon landing that failed, 2nd Edition,
By Tore Braend, Published in March 2016

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