Ten years ago, Norway’s first attempt to capture and store carbon dioxide – known as the country’s “moon landing” – was scrapped with huge cost overruns.
Now, as concerns about global warming grow, the Scandinavian country is revisiting the pattern. This time it is trying to cut greenhouse gas emissions with a NKr 25 billion ($ 3 billion) carbon capture and storage (CCS) plan dubbed “Drakkar», After the Viking ships.
The expensive flagship project is crucial for Western Europe’s largest oil producer, as it aims to find ways to cut emissions and keep its economically important heavy industry alive, officials and analysts say. If successful, it could be replicated elsewhere in Europe.
“Norway has been working on this for decades. They see this as one of their big deals to the world, ”said Stuart Haszeldine, CCS professor at the University of Edinburgh.
Ben van Beurden, Managing Director of Shell, said it was difficult to “overstate how essential Norway’s support was for the CCS. “This puts Norway at the forefront of something that will only gain importance,” he added.
But there are also risks involved. The country’s first CCS attempt “was a disaster,” according to Per Brevik, head of sustainability in Northern Europe for HeidelbergCement. Its focus on coal and gas-fired power plants proved redundant as they could just as easily switch to renewables, Mr Haszeldine said.
This time around, in an effort to avoid ‘moon landing’ mistakes, CCS is focusing on industries such as cement, glass, paper, and fertilizers that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide in their processes. of production.
Cement accounts for around 6-8% of global emissions, but only a third is related to energy. The rest is the result of the calcination process in which the limestone is crushed and burnt, and there is currently no viable alternative.
“This can be a success for Norwegian technology and businesses,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the Financial Times. “It can also be an example that Norway has tried but no one has followed,” she added, speaking at a cement plant in Norcem in the seaside town of Brevik, owned by German HeidelbergCement, which must be the pilot of the Longship project.
The Norwegian government will cover around four-fifths of the costs of the CCS pilot project in Brevik and provide most of the NKr 3.3 billion needed to build a carbon capture plant there by 2024. Norway could also help fund a second project in a waste incineration plant but – in an effort to learn the lessons of the ‘moon landing’ and share the risk of the project – only if the EU also invests.
As part of Longship, Norway is also supporting Northern Lights – an initiative by oil companies Equinor, Total and Royal Dutch Shell – to transport and store carbon dioxide under the North Sea seabed from projects such as Longship . Other companies will also be able to use the storage, which Mr. Haszeldine said would be the first commercial use of CCS as a service.
CCS has offered Norway “new industrial possibilities” by using both its drilling expertise to provide carbon storage in the North Sea and potentially enabling the use of natural gas to produce hydrogen, “this which means that some of our natural resources will live longer, ”Ms. Solberg added. .
But it will take time for this to become profitable, and critics are concerned about the increased carbon taxes needed to fund the Longship project.
Norway said on Friday its carbon taxes would triple more than on non-oil companies by 2030 as part of its efforts to cut emissions to half of their 1990 levels by the end of this decade .
The cost debate reflects how Norway has long struggled to reconcile its role as major oil producer with its image as a country taking bold action against climate change. It recently opened its largest oil field in decades and issued a record number of Arctic exploration permits, even as its generous support pushed sales of electric cars last year to more than half. of all new vehicles, a world record.
“It’s sort of a Norwegian paradox – we are certainly one of the biggest oil exporters in Europe. At the same time, we are doing almost everything we can to undermine the demand for our own product, ”said Sveinung Rotevatn, Norwegian Minister for the Environment.
For now, there is optimism about what the future may hold for us. Ms. Solberg stressed that Longship is not just about a project, but the maturation of the technology, with the hope that HeidelbergCement and other companies will use it elsewhere as well.
“This means that there are good reasons to say that it will not be a symbolic project, that we will have a sequel,” she added.
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