Norway opened a $1 billion carbon capture and storage plant, Technology Centre Mongstad, the largest in the world.
The project, a joint venture between the Norwegian government and oil companies Statoil, Shell and Sasol, has had cost over-runs and delays since it was announced in 2006 for a 2010 launch.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg calls it an important project for Norway and the world. Other potential projects in Europe have stalled because of lack of funding.
Carbon capture removes carbon emissions from industrial processes and permanently buries it way underground.
There are actually two carbon capture plants and together they can process 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The plan is to test two technologies that trap carbon to see if either is cost-effective and safe enough to be scaled for industrial use.
Carbon emissions will be captured from a nearby 280 megawatt (MW) combined heat and power plant and a refinery. Their emissions have different levels of carbon dioxide, 3.5% and 13% respectively.
Both post-combustion techologies remove 85-95% of carbon. One uses ammonia to trap carbon, the other using an amine chemical. The main objective is test their performance, track costs, and increase technical know-how regarding operation of an industrial-scale plant, according to Nature News.
The test only includes the capturing part of the equation – there will be no attempt to store the carbon. After it’s captured, it will be released into the atmosphere.
After this demonstration stage, full-scale carbon capture was planned by the end of 2014, but that’s been delayed to at least 2018 because of costs.
Carbon prices have to be much higher to justify the investment – at the moment Europe’s cap-and-trade permits cost less than €7 per ton of carbon.
This could be the last gasp for carbon capture. Few countries are showing interest in experimenting with such expensive, unproven technology at this point, even though it seemed to be a solution that would allow dirty plants to keep emitting.
One interesting project, The Texas Clean Energy Project, which announced the first power purchase agreement for a commercial-scale carbon capture coal plant in the US. The demonstraton project comes online in 2015.
And the first large scale carbon sequestration project in the US is now operating in conjunction with an ethanol plant in Illinois.