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Proposing joint Nordic effort for CO2 storage

The Nordic countries will not be able to achieve their own or UN emissions reduction targets without extensive use of CO2 capture and storage. Therefore, Nordic scientists are suggesting, their countries should work together on capturing, transporting and storing large amounts of greenhouse gases in geological structures beneath the North Sea.
Proposing joint Nordic effort for CO2 storage

From left: Gunnar Sand, Marit Mazzetti and Nils A. Røkke of SINTEF, with the roadmap showing how the Nordic countries can cooperate on CCS. (Photo: Bjarne Røsjø, BR Media/NordForsk)

The Nordic countries emit roughly 150 million tonnes of CO2 annually from major industrial companies (those emitting more than 100 000 tonnes annually) and other stationary point sources. Companies making products such as steel, cement and pulp must turn to carbon capture and storage (CCS) in order to substantially cut their CO2 emissions. The largest CO2 emissions from these companies result from chemical reactions that are integral to production methods, which rules out the option of cutting emissions by electrifying the industrial processes.


To achieve their emissions reduction targets, the Nordic countries will need to join forces on CCS efforts to capture and store 20 to 30 million tonnes of CO2 annually from stationary point sources, according to a report released recently at a Nordic researcher conference in Oslo. The authors have spent four years developing a detailed roadmap outlining how such a Nordic joint effort could be designed.


Nordic CCS Roadmap

The Nordic CCS Roadmap describes how a series of terminals could be built to collect CO2 from major point sources on land in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. The greenhouse gas could then be transported by ship to terminals on the Norwegian coast and pumped through pipelines to the Utsira formation in the North Sea. There the gas would be pumped down into geological structures beneath the seabed, removing it from the atmosphere forever – or at least for thousands of years.


“We have calculated a cost of roughly NOK 4.5 billion for constructing this infrastructure,” says Research Scientist Marit J. Mazzetti of SINTEF Energy Research. “This encompasses the collection terminals on land, pipelines out to Utsira, and four wells that could pump 12 million tonnes of CO2 annually down into the storage reservoirs. We calculate it would cost EUR 15 per tonne of CO2 stored. Ship transport is not included in this calculation, but that is minor in relation to the overall infrastructure.”


Dr Mazzetti presented the Nordic CCS Roadmap at the concluding conference for the research project Nordic CCS Competence Centre (NORDICCS), funded under the Top-level Research Initiative. She characterises the storage capacity of the North Sea as practically limitless.


“The only limitation is actually the rate of injection,” she continues. “We calculate that each well could receive about 3 million tonnes of CO2 annually, and it would cost roughly NOK 500 million to drill each well. If we needed more storage capacity than this first stage accounts for, more wells could be drilled. There is room enough to store all of Europe’s CO2 for many years to come.”


The technology already exists

The NORDICCS project was headed by Nils A. Røkke, Vice President of Climate Technologies at SINTEF. He points out that it is not necessary to develop new technology for commencing construction of the infrastructure needed. Technology for capturing CO2 from industrial emissions is already in use, and Statoil has been injecting CO2 into a geological formation some 800 metres beneath the seabed at the Sleipner field in the North Sea since 1996. Although the technology is not yet optimised, he says this must not be used to argue against moving ahead now. CO2 transport by ship is also well established.


“We started up the NORDICCS project with very high ambitions,” continues Dr Røkke. “Now we have not only developed a roadmap for CO2 storage, but also built a Nordic team of excellence in CCS. This will have a long-term impact.”


He explains that the US has led the field of CCS for several years, but now the EU countries are preparing a new initiative on CCS as well as on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). A prime example of CCUS are studies exploring the use of high-pressure pumping of CO2 into petroleum reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the North Sea, i.e. as a means of increasing recovery rates of oil and gas.


CCS part of the climate solution

Dr Røkke also believes that CCS deserves more political attention than it has received in recent years, due in part to the misperception that its technology is part of the petroleum industry.


“But we are not pushing continued consumption of petroleum products,” he says. “Instead, we are part of the climate solution, providing a valuable contribution to solving the world’s climate problems.”


Several speakers at the conference mentioned that the Nordic region is ideal for cooperation on comprehensive CCS. The largest emissions come from industrial companies in Sweden and Finland, two countries with little or no domestic capacity for geological storage of CO2 – while Norway has virtually unlimited storage capacity in the North Sea. In addition, NORDICCS researchers have shown that there is storage capacity at the Gassum field in the Kattegat sea area and off the Faludden peninsula in the Baltic Sea south of Gotland, but capacity is greater in the North Sea.


Ragnhild Skagestad, Senior Scientist at the R&D institute Tel-Tek, headed the efforts of mapping the major Nordic emissions point sources. She explained the practicality of building a network of coastal collection terminals, each located near the largest point sources. It would then be possible to construct pipelines to some of the smaller point sources nearby to better utilise the transport network.


Karen L. Anthonsen of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) presented another important result of the NORDICCS project: the Nordic CO2 storage atlas, which provides a detailed overview of geological structures suitable as CO2 storage options.


No time to lose

There was broad consensus at the conference that because climate change is occurring so quickly, the Nordic countries have no time to lose.


“This is an opportunity for the Nordic countries to undertake a collective initiative on carbon capture and storage, much the same way as Germany has done with solar energy and Denmark has done with wind power,” said Dr Røkke after the conference.


“This project has shown what is possible to do, but as researchers all we can do is present a recommendation,” says Gunnar Sand, Vice President of Projects at SINTEF. “The costs are high, but they are less when the value chain is viewed as a whole. Only when many point sources are linked within an infrastructure for ship transport and a central CO2 storage point do the costs of this climate technology come down to acceptable levels.” Mr Sand was also Chairman of the NORDICCS Steering Group. 


Additional reading:


NORDICCS – What did it bring? Nils A. Røkke’s blog

The Nordic CO2 Storage Atlas


NORDICCS website


Solving the Climate Crisis – A Nordic Contribution (Results from the Top-level Research Initiative)



Text: Bjarne Røsjø