The cement industry wants to use CCS, though there are several other options for them to cut CO2 emissions. Photo: Flickr.com / Screenpunk CC BY-NC
Norweigan CCS hype moves from power to industrial processes
The government is unlikely to foot the bill. There are faster, cheaper ways to cut such emissions.
It could create 30–40,000 jobs in CCS in Norway by 2030, and 80–90,000 jobs by 2050, according to Norwegian research institute Sintef in a report1 in April 2018. Including indirect jobs it amounts to 160–200,000 jobs.
Norway is the world leader in CCS, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg famously claimed CCS as “our moon landing” in a 2007 speech.
The moon is not yet quite within reach, though. The actual CCS projects are still only Sleipner, which started in 1996, and Snöhvit in 2008, both from the processing of natural gas. The carbon dioxide has to be separated from the gas anyway, so the separation of 1.7 Mton of carbon dioxide per year this way does not prove much about viability for CCS in other fields.
The big application for CCS was thought to be fossil power. Norway, which gets all its electricity from hydro, and which has very good wind resources, nevertheless built one “CCS-ready” gas power station, Kårstö in 2007. But it was only used intermittently, got no CCS, and began to be decommissioned in 2017. Another gas power “CCS-ready” plant at Mongstad is now also being scrapped, which will save 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year2.
But belief in CCS runs deep in Norwegian society, and hope is pinned on a project called “Full-Chain CCS”, which instead aims to capture carbon dioxide from three industries.
1) A waste incineration plant for district heating and power in Oslo. It burns imported mixed waste with fuel of both biogenic and fossil origin (plastics). It is supposed to store 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and thus become a negative emitter.
The operator of the Oslo plant, Fortum, also runs a new CHP plant in Stockholm, which is fuelled by biomass alone, and by definition does not emit any carbon dioxide at all. The Stockholm plant will cut emissions soon, as it will reduce operation of a coal-powered plant and help to eliminate it by 2022.
Incineration of large amounts of mixed waste is a systemic failure. Plastic packaging should be reduced, reused and recycled to a much larger extent, but the simple solution of just burning it is an obstacle to a responsible solution. Importing waste from the UK means that the UK does not have to face the problem.
2) Yara, a fertiliser producer outside Oslo, wants to produce hydrogen from fossil gas and then store the carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen can also be produced from the electrolysis of water. Yara’s predecessor, Norsk Hydro, did this for some 80 years. This is actually well-known all over the world. The factory also produced heavy water as a by-product, and was subject to the most famous act of sabotage during the Second World War.
The Swedish steel and mining industry has a strategic plan (see AN 4 2016) to replace coal and coke with electrolytic hydrogen, so it does not see the future cost of electricity as an impediment.
3) Norcem, part of Heidelberg Cement, also outside Oslo, wants to store 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide, about half of its emissions.
To find alternatives to Portland cement, one has to look no further than to another page at Sintef, on the development of kaolinite clays, an essentially CO2-free cement3. It is a geopolymer, which emits no carbon dioxide from the process, and is baked at 600–800°C instead of the 1450°C for ordinary cement.
Another way to cut the amount of concrete, and thus cement, is to build lighter bridges with plastic reinforcement instead of iron rebars, as Sintef is also exploring4.
There are other ways. The Gothenburg-based multinational company Thomas Concrete Group used 34 per cent of alternative binders (mainly fly-ash and slag) in 2017. It aims to use 50 per cent by 2020, meaning a 50-per-cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions.
The Norcem project is also of interest for sister Heidelberg company, Cementa, in Sweden. They have published plans for CCS at their factory on the Baltic island of Gotland, despite admitting that the geology is not good. So the plan is to ship the carbon dioxide to Norway5.
Heidelberg has not elaborated on who is supposed to pay for the investment and operation.
In Norway, the cost per ton of carbon dioxide for “full-chain CCS” is calculated at $174, 13 times the May 2018 price in ETS trading. This would generate a deficit of about $2.5 bn, which would have to be paid by the government. Which it looks very unlikely to do.