The first well has been completed on a giant carbon capture and storage (CCS) project off Norway that could help unlock development of a Europe-wide network of ships and pipelines transporting and locking away vast volumes of liquefied CO2 beneath the North Sea floor.

The Northern Light project’s so-called 31/5-7 Eos south well, spudded at the Troll oil & gas field by developers Equinor, Shell and Total, has been drilled to determine the “suitability” of a reservoir in the Johansen formation for industrial-scale CO2 storage.

“This is an important milestone in realising the possibility of a CO2 storage on the Norwegian continental shelf,” said Geir Tungesvik, Equinor’s senior vice president for project development.

“The preliminary results from the well so far have been positive. The drilling results will now be further analysed before concluding.”

Huge volumes of data have been collected through coring, logging, sampling and a production test at the well, proving a sealing shale layer and “good quality” sandstone in the reservoir, which is located some 2,500 metres below the seabed.

The Northern Lights partners are now further analysing these results before taking a final decision on the project, slated for this spring. If sanctioned, the well will be main injection site for storage of CO2.

In line with a “vision to stimulate necessary development of future CCS-projects through sharing”, the partners have agreed that the well data can be “freely shared with external parties and the information will therefore be available for download”.

Although it is generally agreed there are few technological barriers to developing CCS, there are only 20 large-scale projects in operation — including a £20m ($25.6m) scheme launched in the UK North Sea — due to the absence of policy frameworks supporting investment in CCS.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) underlines that to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, “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”.

By IEA calculations, existing energy-using infrastructure — including fossil fuel-driven power plants, industrial facilities and buildings — will emit a total of 55 billion tonnes of CO2 through to 2040, which equates to almost 95% of emissions permitted in the SDS.

According to the agency, 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”.