If you translated the costs of carbon capture and storage using the European CO₂ allowance price, it would total around 3,000-5,000 NOK/tonne. That is 15-25 times the European allowance price. No commercial player would be able to carry out such project without financial backing, says Ole Martin Moe, COWI's Project Manager of the carbon capture project at Klemetsrud. Photo: Ragnhild Heggem Fagerheim

Carbon capture may solve the climate crisis – but how do we get there?

Climate change Insights

05.06.2019 / Ole Martin Moe

Today’s technology and energy sources are nowhere near enough to fulfil the climate goals in the Paris agreement. Meanwhile, carbon capture may be a key part of the rescue plan. Here is an example of how it could be done.

Three years after signing the Paris Agreement to prevent average global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius, the world continues its urgent search for cost-effective methods of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Even with the large rise in the use of renewable energy, it is unlikely that the world will make it without the development and rapid adoption of new, advanced technologies.

Carbon capture is defined as one of the methods we have to use in order to fulfil the goals of the Paris Agreement and the revised UN sustainable development goals. The basic idea is to collect carbon dioxide gas and confine it underground.

But how do we get there and what are the major challenges?

Successful pilot facility captured up to 98 per cent CO₂

At Klemetsrud, just by the E6 near the Norwegian capital of Oslo, you find the energy recovery plant of Fortum Oslo Varme. It receives waste from the municipalities around Oslo, from businesses and industries, as well as sorted domestic waste from the UK.

What cannot be recycled is incinerated, and the energy generated during the incineration process is recovered to be used for district heating and electricity. Even though the flue gas is thoroughly cleaned off all environmentally harmful components, waste incineration generates considerable CO₂ emissions.

The energy recovery plant at Klemetsrud releases around 400,000 tonnes of CO₂ each year, and the fossil share of these emissions corresponds to around 14 per cent of Oslo’s CO₂ emissions. They represent the largest emissions from one single actor in the capital – equivalent to the annual emissions from 200,000 cars.

In 2016, we started working on a carbon capture project at Klemetsrud. In February, the newly established pilot facility succeeded in capturing its first CO₂. It has demonstrated stable operation ever since, capturing 90-98 per cent of the CO₂. In other words, the results are very promising!

The pilot carbon-capture facility at Klemetsrud. The preliminary results are good. Photo: Forum

And Fortum has achieved its goal: to show that carbon capture is possible. In the future, they will also be able to implement the technology at other energy plants. However, it is not easy for the parties with the largest emissions. An important reason is that, today, there are few financial incentives for embracing – and implementing – the technology.

We will get back to the financial motives later on. Because how does carbon capture actually work?

Fortum Oslo Varme’s incineration plant at Klemetsrud. The CO₂ emissions correspond to the annual emissions of 200,000 cars. Photo: Einar Aslaksen/Fortum.

CARBON CAPTURE AT KLEMETSRUD EXPLAINED

We return to the Klemetsrud plant for an answer.

The plant works as follows:

  1. When waste is incinerated at the plant, flue gas and CO₂ rise up. The flue gas goes into a 40-metre high cylinder.
  2. From the top of the cylinder, a liquid – amine – is added. When the flue gas rises up, the amine binds to the CO₂ molecules. The CO₂ molecules drop to the bottom of the plant. Some 95 per cent of the CO₂ is captured.
  3. The liquid continues into a distillation column where it is heated, separating the amine from the CO₂ molecules. The result is clean CO₂.
  4. The amine is returned to the production and the CO₂ is removed. It must be cooled down to -20 degrees Celsius and compressed to a pressure of 15 bar – about 15 times higher than the pressure in our atmosphere.
  5. In a parallel process, the amine is cleaned to ensure compliance with the Norwegian Environment Agency’s requirements for emissions.
  6. CO₂ comes in several shapes – gas, liquid and as dry ice. We must now identify the right shape to ensure that it stays liquid and does not become dry ice. When CO₂ is liquid and at the right pressure, it is stable.
    The CO₂ is then stored at a small storage at Klemetsrud before being transported to Oslo Port by electric lorries or vehicles running on biofuel. At Oslo Port, there will be dedicated loading stations where vehicles are filled and emptied under controlled conditions.
  7. The cargo is transported by ship to Øygarden outside Bergen. There, at high pressure, the CO₂ is pumped offshore to be stored permanently in geological formations located 1-3 kilometres below the seabed for millions of years.

Looking towards Canada for inspiration

There are few reference projects regarding carbon capture. In Norway, no full-scale plants are operating – however, plants are in place for capturing CO₂ from gas production in the Sleipner and Snøhvit fields. Two preliminary projects are being undertaken, based on different technologies: One at Fortum Oslo Varme at Klemetsrud and one at Norcem in Brevik. Gassnova owns the two ongoing Norwegian projects, which are financed by the Norwegian government.

In addition to the capture projects, a parallel project is being carried out in the context of Northern Lights, aiming to handle transport and storage of the captured CO₂. This is also financed by the state through Gassnova.

Whether any or both of the two capture plants will be implemented in full scale depends on the results of the preliminary projects, which end on 1 September 2019.

There are also few international reference projects regarding carbon capture. Canada has one of two full-scale plants connected to a coal-fired power plant. Since 2016, Canada has applied the same technology that Fortum Oslo Varme is exploring. In COWI, we have benefitted from the experience from the Canadian plant.

We have been given access to operational data from the plant, and have been made aware of some challenges that we can learn from when planning our own plant. It inspires confidence to see that the technology we have chosen actually work. The exchange of knowledge has been useful and giving. We also plan to have others learn from our plant later on.

– We must undertake a vast shift before we have transitioned to renewable energy sources. So, we have to address our emissions, says Ole Martin Moe, COWI's Project Manager of the carbon capture project at Klemetsrud. Photo: Ragnhild Heggem Fagerheim

Carbon capture is expensive

Releasing CO₂ costs money.

For each tonne of CO₂ that is released into the atmosphere, the sector liable to allowances must pay a fee by buying emission allowances in the EU, the so-called EU ETS. The European ETS price for CO₂ emissions is more than EUR 20/tonne. In comparison, the price of capturing and storing the same CO₂ is much higher. And there are costs related to transport and storage.

The total price of capturing, storing and transporting CO₂ for the entire chain at Forum Oslo Varme’s plant at Klemetsrud for a five-year period is estimated at NOK 11.8 billion. This corresponds to a ETS price of NOK 3,000-5,000/tonne – 15-25 times higher the European ETS.

This means that carbon capture is currently not financially profitable.

Hopeful that pilot facilities will lower carbon capture prices

Today, the Norwegian state is financing the carbon capture plants that are planned in Norway, and I believe that the price of carbon capture can be reduced considerably in the long term. No commercial player would be able to carry out such project without financial backing. Norway wants to finance these projects to demonstrate that carbon capture can be done and to kickstart a process that will lower the costs of such plants. Once you succeed in large-scale operations and replication of plants, the price will go down significantly. You will probably not reach the same price level as the ETS, but perhaps the double – i.e. around EUR 40-50/tonne for the actual capture plant.

On the inside: In this furnace hall, the waste from Oslo and Akershus is incinerates. Photo: Morten Brakestad/Fortum

The potential is enormous. Europe numbers 450 incineration plants similar to that in Klemetsrud, so there is much knowledge to be gained from a successful project. Many countries also still use landfills to store waste. That practice is being abandoned for environmental and spatial reasons, which means that the number of incinerator plants is likely to increase.

I’m optimistic. This is a great opportunity for Norway to be a front-runner. We just have to continue working on it and thinking of the long term. It will improve our environmental profile, which has been characterised by oil, the source of our prosperity. We can remedy some of the damage we have caused and contribute to making this technology accessible to others.

An optimist, so far: With a successful pilot facility in operation and hopes for further development of carbon capture projects in Norway, Project Manager Ole Martin Moe still believes. Photo: Ragnhild Heggem Fagerheim

FACT BOXES

What does our climate goals say?

(Sources: UN, the Paris Agreement, Meld.St.1 2017-2018)

  • The Paris Agreement took force on 4 November 2016.
  • The goal is to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere at a level that prevents any harmful and adverse, man-made impact on the climate system.
  • All countries must prepare a national plan for how to reduce greenhouse emissions. The plan must include a reduction target. Each country must update these every five years, starting in 2020.
  • The countries agree that, at the end of this century, the global temperature must not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to the level in the pre-industrial age.
  • Also, the countries must do everything in their power to keep the increase in temperature below 1.5 degrees.

A Norwegian white paper from 2017 estimated the total emissions to drop to 51.8 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents in 2020 and to 48.3 million tonnes in 2030. Part of the reduction included in the forecast will be a result of electrification of vehicles, new technology and a shift towards more sustainable energy production.

About the expert

I graduated as civil engineer in marine engineering from NTH (now NTNU). I’ve had a long career in the shipping and offshore industries. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many interesting projects as project engineer and project manager.

The most exciting projects are those that can take us a step further and provide good solutions to small and large challenges for our customers and society. I joined COWI three years ago and have since worked on a range of projects for our industrial customers.

How to solve our climate problems is an interesting and huge task. Therefore, it is immensely inspiring to be part of the Fortum Oslo Varme’s carbon capture project, which is one of the areas that I believe should be invested in in order to fulfil the climate goals, which we said we would.

Clean, renewable energy is the other side of the solution, and we are involved in large, interesting projects in hydropower, biogas and hydrogen. I have faith that we can solve our climate problems, but it takes a coordinated effort in a number of disciplines. It’s motivating to be part of a team that holds the resources and competencies within several of these disciplines.

Get in contact

Ole Martin Moe
Prosjekt- og markedsleder
Industry and Process, Norway

Tel: +47 920 92 351