Jens lowers ‘moon landing’ gear

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It wasn’t exactly a small step for Norway, and not yet a giant leap for Norwegian industry  either, but Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg could finally welcome visitors to the formal opening of the country’s expensive technology center at Statoil’s Mongstad power plant on Monday. The long-awaited center, part of what Stoltenberg has called the equivalent of a “moon landing” for Norway, is the first phase of long-delayed plans to test various methods of carbon capture at Statoil’s adjacent Mongstad refinery.

A maze of pipes at Mongstad is part of the efforts to find the "best and cheapest" means of capturing carbon emissions. PHOTO: Gassnova/Regjeringen.no

There’s not much actual carbon capture yet, just testing, but Stoltenberg didn’t spare the hyperbole, calling Monday “a great and important day” as he launched “the world’s largest and most advanced laboratory for testing carbon capture technologies.”

He chose to speak in English instead of Norwegian, given all the foreign guests present for the ceremony. They came from international oil and energy companies, not least Shell and Sasol, Alstom and Norway’s own Statoil, Gassnova and Aker Solutions. Stoltenberg thanked them all, “for making this center possible” and for “contributing important expertise and knowledge on C02 reduction.”

He called “Technology Centre Mongstad,” which has already cost nearly NOK 6 billion (USD 1.05 billion) to build, “important, for Norway and the world.” That’s because “greenhouse gas emissions are increasing at an accelerating rate, and more energy will (yield) even more emissions.” The dilemma, Stoltenberg pointed out, lies in the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the need to increase the production of energy, “at the same time.”

Stoltenberg called carbon capture technology “the key” to reconciling the need for energy with the need for emission reduction. That’s because the world “will continue to depend on fossil fuels for many year to come … and our only option is to reduce emissions from coal, gas and oil.”

Norway, Stoltenberg said, took on the challenge of developing advanced technology to cut emissions, in the hopes it will deliver up to 20 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2050. He conceded the process is costly and difficult “but we must succeed.”

He invited other companies and governments “to work with us at Mongstad,” urging cooperation among scientists, countries and the private and public sectors. The goal, in short, is to find the best and cheapest methods to capture and clean emissions.

Norway already is capturing carbon at its Sleipner oil field and at its Snow White gas project off Hammerfest. What’s needed now is “better and cheaper” technology. The ultimate goal is full-scale capture of all emissions from the Mongstad refinery, but construction of a capture facility has been delayed repeatedly as estimated costs have risen to more than NOK 25 billion. There also have been health concerns, but Stoltenberg remains adamant that the facility will be built, someday.

“We must succeed,” he said. “The costs must come down. The risks must be understood and reduced. Carbon capture technology could become one of the most important contributions to reducing emissions worldwide. We cannot choose between energy and the environment. We need both.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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