Norway plans deep-sea carbon dioxide storage
June 18, 2009
At a high-level conference in Bergen last month, the oil-rich Nordic nation announced that it would work with Britain to study how the base of the North Sea could be used for carbon dioxide storage for European countries. It will also allocate nearly $200 million toward carbon capture and storage projects in the European Union. Although some environmentalists aren''t yet convinced of the long-term prospects of sequestering carbon dioxide emissions deep under the ocean, the idea has become something of a holy grail in the effort to stop global warming. The joint British-Norwegian study will build a profile for the whole North Sea, assessing each country’s storage potential and projections of likely volumes and locations of carbon dioxide (CO2) flows. The North Sea Basin Task Force, which now includes Norway, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, has previously estimated the Utsira deep saline formation in the North Sea could store up to 600 billion ton of CO2, equivalent to all the emissions of all the power stations in Europe for the next 600 years. Carbon capture is a prestige issue for Norway. It was the first country to store CO2 from an offshore oil platform underneath the seabed, the first to transport and store CO2 subset from an onshore-liquefied natural gas plant, and hopes to be the first to have full scale CO2 capture from a gas-fired power plant. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has equated the importance of carbon capture and storage technology for Norway to what the "moon landing" was for the United States. Norwegian oil company Statoil started storing carbon dioxide in the North Sea''s Utsira formation underneath the Sleipner oil field platform 13 years ago. Since then, the company has pumped 11 million tons of CO2 into the half-mile thick layer of gas-tight rock. Statoil believes that the 430-mile-long formation has the potential to hold three times as much. A major factor leading to Statoil''s decision to begin storing CO2 from Sleipner under the seabed was pure economics: It currently costs them around $30 per ton of CO2 to put the emissions underground, roughly the same price as Norway''s CO2 tax. Norway is the world''s third largest exporter of gas and fifth largest oil exporter. Environmentalists have criticized the country for putting more money into carbon capture so that it can continue to pollute rather than investing in more renewable energy.