Carbon capture has failed just about everywhere, but Norway - awash with money accrued from the sale of oil and gas from its vast offshore fields - is still trying to promote its image by investing in this less than succesful technology.
The country´s socialist Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg - who has compared the carbon capture project in importance to a Moon landing - was upbeat when he opened the new billion dollar Mongstad carbon capture research centre:
NORWAY inaugurated what it called the world's largest laboratory for capturing carbon dioxide, a leading strategy for fighting global warming.
Located at an oil refinery on Norway's west coast, the Technology Centre Mongstad aims to test French and Norwegian methods of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and burying them underground to prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere.
"We need to find a way to reconcile the need for energy and the need for emission reductions," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said as he inaugurated the site.
"Carbon-capture technology is a key," he said. "This technology may deliver up to 20 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2050."
Built at an estimated cost of 5.9 billion Norwegian krone ($998 million) mainly with state funds, the Mongstad centre is "the world's largest and most advanced laboratory for testing carbon-capture technologies", Prime Minister Stoltenberg said.
The centre is three-quarters owned by the state firm Gassnova, followed by a 20 percent stake held by Norway's Statoil, with the Anglo-Dutch Shell and South Africa's Sasol holding the remaining stakes.
It is testing technologies of the French company Alstom amd those of Norway's Aker Solutions.
Stoltenberg launched the ambitious project in 2007 with the aim of making Norway a world leader in capturing and storing carbon dioxide, a goal he likened in importance to a Moon landing.
But the project has been plagued with delays and cost overruns: the goal of large-scale capture and storage of the carbon dioxide emitted by Mongstad's refinery and natural gas processing plant was initially set to enter operation in 2014, but is now expected to become possible in 2020 at the earliest.
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However, the reality of Norways "Moon landing project" is not at all as rosy as Stoltenberg wants us to believe. Even the country´s energy minister has to admit that the Mongstad centre would not survive without massive government subsidies:
Knowledge alone won’t accelerate the commercial development of CCS, however. The full-scale carbon capture facility planned for Mongstad couldn’t survive without public funds. “It’s heavily subsidized by the Norwegian government,” says Borten Moe, the energy minister. Still, he believes the money is well spent. Long-term plans call for exporting technology to countries with similar emission profiles. Some, including Mads Greaker, a research director at Statistics Norway, have suggested the government will have a difficult time selling its know-how in what remains a shaky market.
Cost inflation is a particular risk. The price tag at Mongstad ballooned by more than 200 per cent before shovels even hit the ground, Greaker noted in a 2009 report. “Our results suggest that capture technologies that are intended as end-of-pipe technologies have a small market potential unless such solutions become cheap,” Greaker wrote.
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