Norway: sluggish tempo but potential aplenty for CO2 capture and storage

Publish date: September 7, 2023

As the only country in Europe, the Land of the Midnight Sun has two full-scale CO2 capture and storage (CCS) facilities operating. In addition, a large CO2 capture test centre was launched in 2012. This experience is part of the reason CCS is present in climate measures and discourse among industry, politics, academia, and NGOs.  

Since the 1990s, Bellona has worked with research institutes (e.g Sintef), technology providers (e.g Aker Carbon Capture) and emitters (e.g Norcem/HeidelbergMaterials and the City of Oslo/Celsio) to investigate and realise the potential for CCS to slash greenhouse gas emissions in Norway. 

While Norway’s initial CCS focus was on gas power plants in the 1990s and 2000s,. iIn recent years, the political and industrial CCS discourse has dealt mainly with process industries and waste-to-energy plants. 

Longship project: a milestone for Norway and Europe 

The industry and mining sector emitted 11.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2021. Waste incineration emitted about one million tonnes of fossil CO2 equivalents. These sectors combined are responsible for one quarter of Norway’s fossil greenhouse gas emissions. Eighty per cent of emissions come from only 50 emitters. Most of this CO2 can be captured and stored, even though the feasibility and costs vary. 

The most recent milestone for industry decarbonisation in Norway came in 2020 with a project dubbed Longship. Following advice from Bellona, trade associations, workers’ associations, the research community, and others, the national parliament voted to co-fund CO2 capture at a cement plant and waste incinerator. In addition, a consortium with Equinor, Total and Shell would set up the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. Construction of the 27 billion NOK project (€2,4 BN) is underway. The CO2 reception terminal and offshore storage site are expected to be completed in 2024. 

CCS as antidote to apathy 

–Having a CO2 transport and storage infrastructure changes everything. Paired with rising costs of emitting CO2 taxes and with better support schemes, infrastructure gives European emitters a realistic and near-term decarbonisation option. The task now is to scale up CO2 capture as well as storage in Norway and in Europe, says Olav Øye, one of Bellona’s advisers for climate and industry. 

In the prelude to the parliament’s funding decision, Øye wrote and recorded two songs about the aspiring CO2 capture projects at the Norcem cement plant and a Celsio/City of Oslo waste incinerator. 

Global warming can inspire gloomy songs like Billie Eilish’s “All the Good Girls Go To Hell”. But to avoid apathy and doomism, we also need artistic expressions that point to the near-term and scalable solutions to the climate crisis, says Øye. 

CCS support schemes exist, but they are puny 

The Longship project came after a long-lasting Bellona campaign for a multi-source CO2 storage infrastructure. A 2015 Bellona report recommended that Norway develop a CO2 capture cluster in the Grenland-Oslo Fjord area, and a storage hub for CO2 from Norway and Europe on the western coast. Other reports pointed to the CO2 storage potential and barriers in Europe, and to the capture potential and transport and storage systems for industry clusters in the Ruhr, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Oslo Fjord area. 

Norway has developed CCS expertise in various government and state structures. Gassnova is the state’s agency for CCS. It oversees the construction of the Longship project. The state’s main climate tech funding body Enova, similar to the EU’s Innovation Fund, could also play a role in deployment. However, a limited budget as well as priorities in Enova’s mandate have so far constrained its potential to roll out CCS for Norwegian industry.  

In May 2023, Bellona and 18 industry companies submitted a set of policy recommendations for the government. These include support schemes, CO2 storage, public procurement of low-carbon materials, and a framework for CO2 removal from the atmosphere. 

More CO2 storage is under development, but uncertain 

For the development of CO2 storage, the government has an ‘open-door’ policy: A company can point to offshore formations it wishes to explore for CO2 storage. The government then opens a call for applications. Any company can apply and get the rights to explore the site for CO2 storage potential.  

Bellona recognises that this policy has lead to interest and bids for exploration from a number of CO2 storage operators. However, the Foundation has criticised the lack of systemic perspective on CO2 storage, and in particular with a view to Norwegian emitters. 

–Bellona wants the government to take a more active role in ensuring there is enough CO2 storage capacity. This is a necessary complement to the alleviation of the financial risk of investing in CO2 capture. It was this type of holistic and risk-mitigating approach that enabled the Longship project’s final investment decision in the companies HeidelbergMaterials, Celsio, and the consortium of Equinor, Total and Shell. The next CO2 storage projects cannot rely on the government taking such a large risk share, but some is still necessary,. says Bellona’s team leader for CCS in Norway, Eivind Berstad.  

Cluster approach 

In the wake of the Longship project, projects for both CO2 capture and CO2 storage are budding. Several clusters of industrial CO2 emitters are organising themselves to deploy CCS, such as Borg (southeast), Grenland (southeast), Eyde (south), Trondheim fjord (Mid-Norway) and Mo (north).  

– A strong government effort for risk alleviation and CO2 storage would allow many of these emitters to deploy CCS in the late 2020s and early 2030s. For predictability and cost reductions, industry clusters will need access to shared infrastructure for temporary storage and transport of CO2, says Olav Øye. 

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