Today is a very exciting day for Norway. Today is the day that they have opened a state of the art carbon capture plant. It is the world’s most advanced and sophisticated plant. The plant aims to test and ultimately determine how “we” can measure and capture CO2 cost effectively. The plant is a joint government/ private partnership. The cost of the plant is approximately $1bn, 10 times more than had been forcast. But it will be worth it. The initial focus of research will be on liquid based solutions.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg did not shy away from superlatives as he formally inaugurated the carbon capture test facility at Mongstad near Bergen, on Norway’s west coast.
“Today we are opening the world’s largest and most advanced laboratory for testing carbon capture technologies… a unique test centre to meet one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
A trumpeter sprayed bright and airy notes, a choir of local children sang, and all appeared to be rosy in the world of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Outside the heated marquee where Mr Stoltenberg and his fellow dignitaries effused, twin towers rose into the damp Norwegian sky, each housing one of the technologies that will be tested first.
“This centre is going to prove how we can capture CO2 cost effectively and efficiently from things like flue gases or refinery processes,” says senior Shell executive Andy Brown as we tour the plant.
“So we can test new substances to capture the CO2, which we can then inject under the subsurface, back into the reservoir, and keep it locked up forever.”
Although Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) is mainly owned by the Norwegian state through its CCS agency Gassnova and its majority shareholding in the oil and gas company Statoil, a number of other companies including Shell have taken a share.
They hope the knowledge gleaned here can take the technology where it needs to be in order to make a meaningful contribution to tackling climate change – and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it should making as big a contribution as renewables.
Taking the long road
We need to reduce emissions, and we need to increase the production of energy, at the same time”
TCM has been a long time coming.
The Norwegian government and Statoil agreed to start building it back in 2006.
The eventual cost came in at around $1bn, 10 times more than had been foreseen.
Many governments, even as rich as Norway’s, might have baulked at the escalating cost.
But the power station at Mongstad that will be one of the facility’s sources of CO2-laden gas has a history of claiming political scalps.
In 2000, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik resigned because while he insisted that the power station then being built must be fitted with CCS, his coalition partners did not agree.
According to Frederic Hauge, president of Norwegian environment group Bellona, failure to build TCM would bring down the present government.
“What we have here is a situation where this government will fall apart if they don’t carry it out, because the socialist party will resign,” he tells BBC News.
“That helps get political momentum.
“Then, we have a huge political acceptance because of the work the environmental movement has done. In very many places in Europe you have an environment movement telling only what they are against; we should do that, but we also have to promote what we are for.”
Having studied CCS, Bellona agreed many years ago that it was in principle in favour of CCS.
Norway’s oil and gas production accounts for about 3% of the world’s fossil fuels, it calculates; and given that economics mean the oil and gas are going to be burned, what other solution is there?