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23rd Aug 2019

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Norway to move ahead with CO2 capture

  • Cement factory Norcem is the Norwegian government's favourite participant of the CCS project (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The Norwegian parliament is expected to adopt a revised national budget on Friday (15 June) which includes around €29.5m in funding for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.

CCS involves preventing CO2 gases from being emitted into the air – where it would have contributed to the greenhouse gas effect – and instead storing it underground in liquid form.

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  • Yara ammonia plant already captures CO2, to sell off to drinks companies (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The technology is rarely used in Europe, even though its use is indispensable according to future climate scenarios.

"Most governments are nervous about the risks of being 'first movers'. Norwegian leadership provides them with an example to follow and is hugely welcome," said Chris Davies, a former MEP from the UK.

Previously, CCS project proposals would involve being set up by a single party, for example a coal-fired power plant. This method has proven untenable, as all EU-funded plans in that fashion have failed.

The CCS community has now realised that the chain should be cut up, with other entities responsible for the transport and storage part of the CO2.

Norwegian MPs will vote on Friday on the budget, proposed by the minority government last month.

It would include funding needed to move the CCS scheme to the so-called Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) phase, which is normally the last phase before a final investment decision.

The opposition Christian Democrat party – whose support is needed for a majority – told EUobserver that it would vote in favour of the budget, after having reached a deal with the three coalition parties.

Initially, the Norwegian plan for a 'CO2 highway' was to involve a cement factory, a waste incinerator, and an ammonia factory.

The Norwegian government has dismissed the participation of the ammonia plant, operated by chemical company Yara.

"Yara does not have as strong a commercial motivation as the other participants to prioritise CO2 capture at its facility," said the government.

It also noted that the "learning potential" was lower, since Yara already captures CO2 – which it sells to companies that create fizzy drinks.

Moreover, Yara was considering changing its fuel to liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would already reduce CO2 emissions.

"A decision of whether to change the feed gas to LNG, will be taken by the end of 2018. This timeline is incompatible with the timeline in the demonstration project," said the Norwegian government.

Meanwhile, the participation of the Klemmetsrud waste incinerator by Fortum Oslo Varme was also uncertain.

"The government wants "quality assurance" of new information from Fortum before it decides on funding," said Olav Oye, of the Norwegian pro-CCS green group Bellona.

"This means that it is not up to the Parliament, but rather to the whims of the government whether to allow Fortum to continue. This is unfortunate, since Bellona so far has seen no convincing argument for excluding Fortum from the CCS project," said Oye.

"Norway and the world needs both of these projects, both for robustness of the CCS value chain as well as for boosting the CCS prospects of the specific sectors of cement and waste incineration," he added.

Norwegian MP Tore Storehaug of the Christian Democrat party however seemed convinced that both the cement factory and the waste incinerator will receive FEED funding.

He told this website that following the government's budget proposal, his party has stressed that both 'pre-projects' were needed.

"After the negotiations it is clear that there is money to start two pre-projects and we are happy to have reached an agreement that Klemmetsrud will start its project as soon as the control of the new information has got the thumbs up," said Storehaug.

Norway's state-owned CCS company Gassnova recently showcased the three sites in a tour to CCS experts, and EUobserver.

It said in a press statement that interest in Norway's experience with CCS is increasing.

"Through the Norwegian project we can establish an infrastructure for storing CO2 that will benefit the EU and the UK; therefore, it is important to get more partners involved in this important work," it said.

Former MEP Chris Davies was one of the CCS experts on the recent Gassnova tour.

Now a CCS advocate and consultant, Davies told EUobserver in a written statement that Norway is currently the only European country using CCS in practice – by capturing CO2 from its offshore drilling.

"The EU should by now be a world leader in CCS, but we dropped the ball, wasting a decade, and today our CO2 emissions are increasing not declining," said Davies.

"Most governments are indifferent or even hostile towards the technology, but the reality is that the Paris goals cannot be achieved without extensive CCS deployment," he noted.

Elsewhere in Europe though, plans for similar CCS chains are underway. The Rotterdam port for example expects an investment decision in 2019.

Investigation

After spending €587 million, EU has zero CO2 storage plants

The EU has spent at least €587 million so far on carbon capture and storage, and was willing to spend millions more. However, after a decade not a single power plant in the EU is currently using the technology.

EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo

A long-standing cooperation between the EU and China on carbon capture and storage has fallen off the political agenda – with the European Commission not having any comment available when asked for an update.

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