Norway’s biggest oil and energy company, Statoil, was finally being hailed on Tuesday after it announced that it was shutting down its gas-fueled power plant at Mongstad on the country’s west coast. The plant has been hugely controversial since even before it opened in 2010, it has generated heavy losses for Statoil, and its closure set for the end of next year will cut carbon emissions by as much as 300,000 tons a year.
“This is a day of joy for the climate,” said Marius Holm of the environmental foundation ZERO, a major proponent of emissions cuts. “Now the end of relying on gas power plants in Norway has been set.” He claimed that alternative energy remains the solution “for a lasting and emissions-free energy system in Europe.”
Lars Haltbrekken, former leader of Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth and a longtime critic of the Mongstad plant, was also pleased and agreed that the future lies in alternative energy sources. Haltbrekken, now a candidate for a seat in Parliament for the Socialist Left party (SV) wrote in an email to state broadcaster NRK that “a decade-long battle against greatly polluting gas power plants is finally about to be won.” Now it’s the power plant closure that’s “great” instead.
Fredric Hauge of the environmental organization Bellona hailed Statoil’s decision but also warned that the shutdown “just shows what challenges the fossil fuel industry faces.” Hauge told NRK that the closure of Mongstad will cut emissions by 250,000 to 300,000 a year, “and we’re very glad about that. At the same time, however, it’s very important that carbon capture and storage is taken into use for the industrial processing at Mongstad (where Statoil’s major refinery is located and to which gas is transported) when the gas plant shuts down.” The failure by Statoil and the Norwegian government to launch carbon capture and storage at Mongstad has been a major target of complaints for years.
Statoil sent out a press release Wednesday confirming that “the combined heat and power plant” at Mongstad would be “phased out following several years of unprofitable operations.” Statoil said the other operations at Mongstad would continue.
The power plant was developed in 2010, using gas from the offshore Troll field to “improve energy efficiency at Mongstad” and ensure an energy supply to industrial and other customers both in its region and offshore on Norway’s Continental Shelf. Lower electricity rates in recent years, however, have reduced demand for its power and resulted in heavy losses as operations continued.
Now Statoil has agreed with its partners in Troll to terminate the existing agreement as of December 31, 2018. Grete Haaland, a senior vice president at Statoil, stated that the plant will continue to operate as normal until that time, while alternative sources for steam and “safe and stable operations for the refinery will be worked out.”