VTT Publish Report on Potential of Carbon Capture and Storage for Nordic Countries

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has published an overview of the potential to apply CCS (carbon capture and storage) in the Nordic countries. The report - commissioned by the Nordic Innovation Centre - gives an overview of the technologies and applications required for CCS in the Nordic countries. This study is a part of the Nordic Top-level Research Initiative - the largest Nordic-funded research programme to date within the fields of energy, environment and climate.

The report maps large emission sources in each Nordic country, lists potential storage sites and gives an overview of current CCS projects. The future potential for CCS in the Nordic countries, evaluated by using scenario analysis, and a regional assessment of the possibilities for CCS application are also presented.

The report shows that CCS technology offers opportunities for the Nordic countries to reduce CO2 emissions since there are both large stationary sources of CO2 and geologically suitable underground formations for its storage in the region. In total, 277 facilities in the Nordic countries each had emissions exceeding more than 0.1 Mt CO2 in 2007. The fossil emissions of these facilities totalled 113 Mt CO2, which corresponds to 51% of the total fossil CO2 emissions from the Nordic countries that year. Power and heat plants accounted for the largest part (45%) of the emissions, followed by oil and gas activities (22%) and iron and steel production (12%).

The capacity for storing CO2 in underground geological formations in the Nordic countries seems sufficient for a large-scale deployment of CCS. The storage capacity of aquifers offshore in Norway was estimated at 85 Gt CO2, while the storage capacity in Denmark was estimated at 2 Gt CO2.

Applying CCS technology to power plants would reduce the CO2 emissions from combustion by 80–90%; however, it would also almost double the production cost of electricity due to the energy requirements of the capture process.

A large part of the CO2 emissions from the Nordic energy sector come from large, coal-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plants, although current CCS development work has focused on condensing coal-fired power plants. As industrial facilities – steel plants and cement plants, as well as oil and gas refineries and platforms – are also major sources of CO2 emissions, CCS solutions for these processes are also being developed.

Three of the four ongoing large-scale CCS projects in the world capture CO2 from natural gas processing. Of these, two are situated offshore in Norway: the Sleipner and Snøhvit projects. Several projects that demonstrate CCS technology in power plants are being planned worldwide.

CO2 emissions from biomass combustion were also found to be considerable. The mapped facilities emitted 54 Mt of biogenic CO2 in 2007, which mostly (76%) originated from large pulp and paper mills in Finland and Sweden. Capturing and storing CO2 from biomass combustion would function as a CO2 sink, i.e. reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, the current EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) for CO2 emissions does not include CO2 originating from biomass. Therefore, there are currently no economic incentives to apply CCS to facilities emitting biogenic CO2. Also, very few studies have been carried out on this subject.

Public opinion on CCS is frequently stressed as being an essential factor in realising the large-scale development and deployment of the technology. Many CCS projects in Europe and the USA have already faced local opposition that has delayed or undermined projects, probably because very few people are familiar with CCS. To date, however, no overview on public awareness has been made in the Nordic countries.

Since most of the known storage potential is located in the North Sea, the deployment of CCS in the Nordic countries would require a large-scale transport and storage infrastructure. According to the calculations in the report, the annual Nordic CO2 emissions could, at best, be lowered by 10–30 Mt (or 5–15%) by 2030 and 30–50 Mt (or 15–25%) by 2050 using CCS technology. This would, however, require the price of the emission allowances to rise from the current level of EUR 10–20/t to EUR 100/t CO2 by 2050.

To date, there has been very little European activity related to CCS infrastructure development; furthermore, policies related to CCS are still at an early stage in the Nordic countries, It is questionable, therefore, whether the current national- and EU-level initiatives are sufficient to develop the necessary infrastructure for CCS deployment in the Nordic region within the required timescale.

CCS - Carbon Capture and Storage

CCS technology is an efficient method for reducing CO2 emissions in the future. In CCS, CO2 is captured at a power plant or an industrial facility, after which it is purified, pressurised and transported to a long-term storage site by pipeline or ship. The development of CCS is currently being strongly pursued worldwide. The large amounts of CO2 that would need to be captured and transported, the uncertainties and responsibilities related to its long-term storage as well as high costs are the main challenges for CCS.

The study on the potential to apply CCS in the Nordic countries was coordinated by VTT and commissioned and funded by the Nordic Innovation Centre. The work was carried out by a consortium comprising VTT, the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, SINTEF and CICERO - Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo.

Top-level research initiative

The Top-level Research Initiative was launched by the Nordic Prime Ministers in 2008, and is supported by various national institutions and agencies. The initiative promotes research and innovation at the highest level. Major importance is attached to a partnership with business and industry to ensure the application and utilisation of research results. The Top-level Research Initiative provides a Nordic platform as a basis for increased international co-operation, both within the EU and beyond.

The Nordic Top-level Research Initiative has launched six sub-programmes. This present study addresses the sub-programme on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Studies of ongoing national activities and priorities are the basis for this CCS call.

The Nordic countries are involved in a number of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) research, development and pilot projects. Coordination and dialogue between national players at the Nordic level is vital for the successful development of Nordic competence. Closer cooperation will strengthen the region’s position as CCS expert and make an important basis for CCS realization. Coordination and cooperation can improve the best methods and technologies, investigate the Nordic potential for CCS and help the region to achieve its CO2 reduction targets. Nordic cooperation can achieve greater results than separate national initiatives on their own.

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