Carbon Capture and Storage: All Talk and No Action?

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Climate | 0 comments

What’s Holding Us Back?

We have the technology and the experience, we know what we are doing and we know that it is safe. Why are we still not capturing CO2?

If everyone agrees that carbon capture and storage should be a focus area, why has it taken so long without CCS (Carbon Capture & Storage) becoming exactly that: a real priority? Is this still a case of all talk and no action?

All of the young politicians agree — they demand full-scale CCS. The current governing parties in Norway Liberal Party (Venstre), Conservative Party (Høyre) and Christian Democrats (KrF agree), the business community including Equinor agrees — Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is something we can, and must, achieve.

Today’s young people are demonstrating with Greta Thunberg leading the way. The momentous speech that Greta gave during the UN climate summit in New York, September 2019, was marked by the theme of us versus them.

“How dare you?” she said, repeatedly. “By you” she meant politicians, world leaders, those who make the decisions the world will live with. “How dare you not contribute to creating a livable world for the next generation?” With these statements Greta received criticism for being too aggressive, too pushy.

Greta started with a school strike for the climate that was prompted by a documentary she saw about CCS. She realized that carbon capture and storage is something that would not happen in her lifetime unless someone prioritizes and fights to put the climate on the agenda. That “someone,” became her. She took action, because no one else has taken that job. For society to move forward, we are completely dependent on innovators, people who stand up and take action.

Personally, I got my eyes open for CCS this spring during a workshop where the goal was to look at the words used when we talk about CCS and technology. What I encountered was an initiative that stood out as so important, but is still neglected from the political agenda. Yes, there is talk of, a certain amount of money is allocated in the state budget for CO2 management and several politicians boast that we in Norway are good at this technology. This technology that we, in this country, have been working with for many years.

The first time the government talked about CCS was Stoltenberg in his New Year’s speech in 2007. That was over 10 years ago. Then, carbon capture was supposed to be Norway’s moon landing. Almost 13 years later, we still have not landed, neither on the moon nor anywhere else. But it’s not because we are not able to. It is because we do not have the drive to implement CCS. It seems to not be a real priority. Why not?

During Arendalsuka in 2019 — which is an annual national forum where delegates from politics, NGOs, industry and the public meet to debate and develop policy for the present and the future — Minister of Petroleum and Energy Kjell-Børge Freiberg spoke at the governmental agency for CCS, Gassnova’s breakfast meeting on CCS. He emphasized Norway’s is a world leader within CCS. As he stated, “We have the technology and the experience, we know what we are doing and we know that it is feasible.”

Again, why are we not making this a real priority?

“Industry players must take some of the risk,” he says. Already in 2017, Equinor (then Statoil), Total and Shell entered into a collaborative agreement to develop the first CO2 storage on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. In September, this year, Equinor signed a letter of intent with seven other European companies to develop a CCS infrastructure. All are taking part of the risk and also taking a larger part of the responsibility to realize CCS. Added to that some of the largest companies in the Norwegian oil & gas industry are already taking part in the risk in developing CCS.

The Minister of Petroleum and Energy further points out that international cooperation is the very key to a breakthrough. The Netherlands has excelled with its “Porthos” project in Rotterdam, a project the EU and several companies have shown great interest in. As mentioned above, Equinor has joined forces with seven other companies in Europe for a letter of intent on CCS. Merkel in Germany, one of the great powers in the EU, believes that in order to achieve the emissions targets, carbon capture and storage is absolutely necessary. Both international interest and willingness to cooperate is there.

Carbon capture and storage is necessary if we are to achieve the emission targets, everyone agrees we need to reach. Industry players have already begun to take responsibility. Internationally, there are several nations that say they view CCS as absolutely necessary. Norway has world leading CCS technology, and experience.

Is the government waiting for absolutely everyone in the industry to take responsibility before they take their responsibility to fund and help realize CCS? Or are they waiting for all the countries in the world to agree to invest in CCS? Is it only then that we will get on the field and invest in CCS? We should get on the field now, because we have the answers, we do know ‘’how to’’ realize CCS.

Historically, Norway is not the most innovative nation. We invented the paperclip and the cheese grater. And now, possibly CCS — A technology that can help save our planet from destruction. Destruction we have and are still very much contributing to. Even Norwegians. We are not climate heroes. At least not before we dare to invest in the technology we have developed and tested for years.

The government has the Royal Flush in hand. Are they waiting for better cards?