The Norwegian government has announced its backing of the pioneering Northern Lights carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, which will ‘ship in’ CO2 collected from industrial sites around Europe by shuttle tanker for injection it into an empty oil & gas reservoir beneath the North Sea.
Being developed via a joint venture between oil majors Shell, Total and Equinor, the project – which forms a plank in the Nordic nation’s wider ‘Longship’ scheme to expand its CCS sector – is now clear for launch of its lead-off NKr6.9bn ($800m) phase, slated for start-up in 2024 with a capacity of up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
“CCS is important to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement [to keep global heating to 2℃ of pre-industrial temperatures],” said Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy Tina Bru. “Working together with the industry, the step-by-step approach has confirmed that the project is feasible.
Advancing ‘Longship’ through Northern Lights, she added, would also generate “jobs and value creation” within the country’s wider industrial and maritime sectors and help in “safeguarding jobs during a ‘Just transition’ to a low-emission society”.
“‘Longship’ is the largest climate project ever in the Norwegian industry and will contribute substantially to the development of CCS as an efficient mitigation measure,” she stated.
Northern Lights is heralded as being “the first of its kind” – an “open-source” infrastructure project that will make it possible to transport of CO2 from industrial capture sites around Europe across to a terminal in Øygarden for temporary storage before being carried by pipeline for injection into a reservoir 2600 metres below the seabed.
“I think the Norwegian government has shown great vision and backed that vision with commitment and that adds up to leadership … on a global scale,” said Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, at a virtual media briefing.
“Northern Lights stands out for doing something that no other carbon capture project has done. It is carbon storage as a service.
“Northern Lights is designed to provide a service to industrial emitters who can now take action on emissions that can’t be avoided. This is key to bringing real progress towards tackling climate change. Shell will play our part in making this a reality.”
Equinor CEO Anders Opedal stated: “Northern Lights is a true pioneering project and the first of its kind offering a solution to cut emissions from industrial sources in Norway and Europe. With all necessary approvals in place, we are ready to start construction of what will be an important part of the climate solution.”
Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné said: “The development of the CCS value chain is essential to decarbonise Europe’s industries. We are a long-standing partner of Norway, a pioneer country which has more than 20 years of experience in CCS, and today we thank its government for making possible the final investment decision to develop Northern Lights.
Phase one of the project, which will use a giant saline aquifer south of the Troll offshore oil & gas field in the North Sea for storage, was conditionally cleared for investment by the three oil companies in May after injection well tests.
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) underlines that to meet the Paris Agreement’s target “almost all new investment will need to be zero-carbon or be offset by the early retirement of another emitting facility — or would require new technology like CCS or hydrogen”.
According to the IEA, over 450 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be captured globally for use or storage each year with an “incentive” of less than $40 per tonne of CO2, a price point that could be reduced by “increased investment in and deployment of CCS, especially where there are opportunities to act at low cost”.