Norway opens major facility to test carbon capture

By Nerijus Adomaitis, Reuters

MONGSTAD, Norway — Norway on Monday launched the world’s largest facility of its kind to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS), the so-far commercially unproven technology that would allow greenhouse gases from power plants to be buried safely underground. A 5.8 million-Norwegian-krone (US$1 billion) government-funded center will test two post-combustion carbon capture technologies that could be extended to industrial-scale use if shown to be cost-effective and safe. “Today we are opening the world’s largest and most advanced laboratory to test carbon capture technologies … It is an important project for Norway and for the world,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told the opening ceremony at the Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM), northwest of Bergen city.

The facility will be able unique in that it can test exhaust gases from two nearby sources — a 280-megawatt combined heat and power plant and the 10-million tons per year Mongstad refinery. These produce flue gases with different carbon dioxide (CO2) contents — about 3.5 percent and 13 percent respectively.

Mongstad’s emissions have a similar carbon dioxide content to those emitted by coal fuelled power plants — which scientist say make a particularly serious contribution to climate change. CCS offers the prospect of possibly continuing to burn fossil fuels while avoiding the worst effects by burying the emissions, for example in depleted natural gas fields under the sea, although it will be costly. Stoltenberg said in a 2007 speech that carbon capture and storage would be Norway’s equivalent of a Moon landing. The center has two carbon capture plants with a combined capacity to process 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, making it the largest, Olav Folk Pedersen, the TCM’s technology manager, told Reuters. However, the capacity is only slightly more than a tenth of what Mongstad refinery emits per year. During the testing period all CO2 captured will be released into the atmosphere, thus having no impact on reducing the refinery’s emissions costs.