On the freezing shores of the North Sea, a “graveyard” under construction is encouraging climate scientists: the site will soon store a small fraction of the CO2 emitted by European industry, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
Long considered a technically complex and expensive solution with little utility, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is now all the rage on a planet that is trying to cut emissions despite the climate emergency. In Oygarden, on an island very close to Bergen. (western Norway), the terminal under construction will in a few years receive tons of liquefied CO2 transported from the Old Continent by boat after being captured at the outlet of the factory pipes.
From there, the carbon will be piped into a geological cavity 2,600 meters below the seabed. With ambitions that he will stay there indefinitely.
The main producer of hydrocarbons in Western Europe, Norway will also have the greatest potential for CO2 storage on the continent, in particular… in its depleted oil fields.
– Commercial agreements –
The Oygarden terminal is part of the Langskip plan, the Norwegian name for Viking ships. Oslo financed 80% of the infrastructure, allocating 1.7 billion euros for the development of CCS in the country.
Two facilities in the Oslo area, a cement plant and a waste-to-energy plant, must eventually supply their CO2 there.
But the peculiarity of the project lies in its commercial aspect, since it also gives foreign industrialists the opportunity to send their own carbon dioxide there.
To do this, energy giants Equinor, TotalEnergies and Shell have formed a partnership dubbed Northern Lights, which will be the world’s first cross-border CO2 transport and storage service when it goes live in 2024.
Two important milestones for CCS in Norway have been reached in recent days.
On Monday, Northern Lights partners announced the first cross-border commercial agreement that will cover the transport – by special boats – and the annual capture of the 800,000 tons of CO2 captured at the Dutch fertilizer maker Yara plant from 2025. .
The next day, Equinor, together with the German company Wintershall Dea, presented a plan to build a 900-kilometer pipeline to transport CO2 from Germany to a storage facility in Norway. A similar project with Belgium is already under development.
– Not a miracle solution –
However, CCS is not a miracle cure for global warming.
At the first stage, Northern Lights will be able to process 1.5 million tons of CO2 per year, and then the capacity will be increased to 5-6 million tons.
By comparison, the European Union emitted 3.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, a year aggravated by the pandemic, according to the European Environment Agency.
But both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency consider this tool necessary to stop the rise of the thermometer.
Among conservationists, the technology is not unanimous. Some fear that this is causing an increase in the exploitation of fossil fuels, that it is diverting precious investments from renewable energy sources, or even the risk of leakage.
“We have always been against CCS, but inaction due to the climate crisis is making it increasingly difficult to maintain this position,” explains Halvard Raavand, representative of Greenpeace Norway.
“Public money is still better invested in solutions that we know are effective and that can also cut ordinary people’s bills, such as home insulation or solar panels,” he stresses.