Parliament slams Mongstad failure

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Parliament slammed the former Stoltenberg government’s handling of full-scale carbon capture and storage plans at Statoil’s Mongstad plant on Norway’s west coast, in a damning report delivered on Thursday. Billions were spent on the emission reduction plans but no agreement was ever reached, and the project was dumped when the government was voted out last year.

Carbon capture efforts at Statoil's Mongstad have become much more expensive as the project that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg once called the equivalent of Norway's "moon landing" has been repeatedly delayed. Industry officials don't think new climate measures will be realized. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

State of the art plans to develop full-scale carbon capture and storage capabilities at Statoil’s Mongstad plant never came to fruition, despite NOK 8 billion being spent on the project. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

Norway’s large oil and gas industry means the country has high levels of emissions per capita. The former Labour, Centre and Socialist Left party coalition announced groundbreaking plans to develop technology for carbon capture and storage at Statoil’s controversial Mongstad facility in 2007. Former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said it would be “Norway’s moon-landing,” but the project never eventuated despite a NOK 8 billion (USD 1.3 billion) investment.

“The costs have become too high and the project more uncertain,” said Ola Borten Moe, the then oil and energy minister when he announced the project was dumped 11 days after the election last September. The new government demanded an investigation into the former coalition’s handling of the plans, questioning how costs could blow out so far with no reduction to emissions.

“The Parliament finds the former government’s work with the full-scale CO2 capture and storage at Mongstad reprehensible,” wrote the Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Kontroll- og konstitusjonskomiteen) in its report. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported the conclusion was the strongest criticism Parliament can deliver, short of demanding a government’s resignation.

Fundamental disagreement
Stoltenberg, who at the time had just been appointed as a UN special envoy on climate issues, Moe, and former environment minister Bård Vegar Solhjell were accused of giving evasive responses during a hearing in January. They were questioned over their roles, and whether they had kept Parliament sufficiently informed.

A majority across the Conservative, Christian Democrat, Liberal, Green and Socialist Left parties deemed on Thursday that fundamental disagreement over the progress and implementation of the project was a major contributor to its failure.

The committee leader, Labour politician Martin Kolberg disagreed with the finding. “The majority in the committee have found points of criticism that are based on the knowledge we have today,” he said. “The conclusion that is found in a setting based on what you have learned along the way is wrong.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate