Carbon capture and storage a key to a greener future

(17.06.2009) Carbon capture and storage – in which the North Sea will play a key role -- has the potential to transform coal into an environmentally friendly fuel that will enable the world to make the transition to sustainable energy production, attendees at an international conference on CO2 capture and storage in Norway were told Wednesday.

 

Illustrasjonsbilde/FOTO

If the world succeeds in safely sequestering gigatons of carbon dioxide, “coal will not be a dirty fuel,” said Erik Lindeberg, chief scientist at SINTEF Petroleum Research, at the 5th Trondheim Conference on CO2 Capture, Transport and Storage, held on June 16-17. “Instead, it will be an attractive transition energy source” that can help the world gear up to exploit wind, solar and wave power more effectively.

Lindeberg was one of five keynote speakers at the conference, hosted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and SINTEF’s jointly operated Gas Technology Centre. More than 300 researchers from across the globe travelled to Trondheim for the two-day event.

Two gigatons and counting
Lindeberg reiterated what most of the attendees already knew: that meeting global goals for controlling greenhouse gas emissions in the next few decades will require European nations to capture and store as much as two gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, or half of what Europe emits today. Lindeberg said undersea reservoirs will play a deciding role in meeting this demand – particularly the abandoned oil and gas reservoirs in the North Sea. “Large scale EU CO2 storage capacity will rely on offshore aquifers,” he said. “The North Sea has natural capacity for this storage.”

Moving 2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to the North Sea could be done with 10 large pipelines, Lindeberg said, or about the equivalent of what is already in use by the petroleum industry there. All told, assuming costs of 40 euros per tonne of CO2, carbon capture, transport and storage could become a 80 billion euro per year industry, he said. If storage alone represents 15 per cent of those costs, it will amount to a 12 billion euro per year industry -- or about the same value as Norway's current oil exports.

A hotbed of CCS research
NTNU and SINTEF hosted the conference as an outgrowth of a number of different carbon capture and storage cooperative research projects that have been funded in Trondheim, both by the Research Council of Norway and by various European Union initiatives. The biggest of these is called (appropriately enough) BIGCCS.

Nils Røkke, conference chair and SINTEF's vice president, climate change technologies, says that NTNU and SINTEF together command roughly 20 million euros per year in funding for carbon capture and storage research. As a result, Trondheim "is the largest R&D community in the world right now for CCS research", he says.

The conference website contains more information about the programme and links to previous conferences.