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?
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!
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.
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.