EU beats Norway on carbon capture

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The European Union (EU) is moving forward with several carbon capture and storage projects that are likely to be operable before the Norwegian government’s own much-vaunted carbon capture project finally cranks up. That means the EU may beat Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on one of his most prestigious projects.

Delays at the Mongstad plant have caused problems for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his government. PHOTO: Statoi/Marit Hommedal

Stoltenberg wanted his government to be the first if not one of the first in the world to cut emissions at a gas power plant through the elaborate plans for Statoil’s plant at Mongstad on Norway’s west coast. He famously called the project the equivalent of a “moonlanding” for Norway.

Not only did Stoltenberg want Mongstad to be first, he  also wanted to develop technology that could be used by the entire world. Now newspaper Aftenposten reports that the EU looks likely to steal his thunder.

The problem is that the Mongstad project has been subject to repeated delays. Last spring the government had to admit that carbon capture couldn’t begin at Mongstad until 2014 and that the project wouldn’t be finished until 2018.

Meanwhile, the EU has launched bidding for no less than eight projects that would involve carbon capture and storage, which cuts harmful emissions by separating carbon dioxide from other gases before transporting it to storage, mostly underground or undersea.

The EU Commission, reports Aftenposten, is requiring the projects aimed at coal-fired power plants to be completed by 2015, three years before Mongstad. The EU also wants research centers set up at each project that can spread their knowledge so the rest of the world can learn from the technology and processes used. If not, support funding from the EU will be withdrawn.

State Secretary Per Rune Henriksen of Stoltenberg’s Labour Party wasn’t letting the EU initiative get him down. “It’s very positive that the EU shares our view that carbon capture and storage are important contributions to the work against climate change,” Henriksen told Aftenposten. “Nothing would be be better than if they manage to meet the deadlines they’re setting up.”

Henriksen claimed that a test center at Mongstad is making “good progress” and that the government plans to present a new plan to the Parliament soon regarding how the government intends to meet the challenges of full-scale capture and storage. The entire project is hugely important, if Norway and its oil and gas industry are to secure environmental credibility by cutting emissions at home.

Fredric Hauge of environmental group Bellona wasn’t impressed. “The EU is investing in various projects with different types of technology, transport methods and storage solutions,” he told Aftenposten, stressing that the EU is concentrating on coal-powered plants. “The result is that we won’t be able to coordinate Norwegian results from the gas plant at Mongstad. If the EU had known how delayed the Norwegian project would be, it probably would have covered gas-powered plants as well. It’s scandalous that Norway is operating in this way.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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