Denmark: late but bullish CCS bloomer

Anholt_Full_Farm_view Credit: Ørsted

In a recent article, we looked at Norway’s CO2 transport and storage landscape. Norway’s soon-to-be-completed Northern Lights CO2 storage site influences industry decarbonisation elsewhere in Europe too. In May 2023, Danish energy company Ørsted signed an agreement with Northern Lights to ship and store 430 000 tonnes of CO2. Illustrating the importance of available storage in stimulating a market and addressing the “chicken and egg problem” so prevalent in the CCS value chain. 

Ørsted has won a competition for Danish state funding for CCS, and Northern Lights’ CO2 infrastructure enabled Ørsted to design a bankable, full-scale project, from capture to transport to storage. 

The funding decision came shortly after the inauguration of the Greensands CO2 storage site. CO2 was shipped from Belgium and injected into a depleted oil field off the Danish coast. The site is still not ready to receive large volumes of CO2. But the political ambitions are bold.  

–Since our subsoil contains a storage potential far larger than our own emissions, we are able to store carbon from other countries as well, Danish climate minister Lars Aagaard said in March. 

State initiatives for capture and for storage 

Denmark’s energy agency estimates that between 6 and 14 million tonnes of CO2 can be captured annually in 2030. The Danish state has set up a scheme to fund CCS in industry, waste incineration, and combined heat and power plants. Green think tank Concito called the first funding decision an important first step, but their analysts also highlighted that the total CCS potential is much larger. 

The Danish government expects to invite emitters to bid in another CCS funding round in June 2024, and then in another round one year later. 

As of August 2023, the state had awarded three CO2 storage licenses (dark, blue fields on map below) to the companies Ineos, Wintershall DEA, and TotalEnergies.  

Source: Nordsøfonden

European CO2 hub? 

The broad CCS enthusiasm is Denmark is a recent phenomenon. The first political landmark CCS decision came in 2020, when the government and most opposition parties agreed to strengthen green transition policies for industry and energy, including funding for CO2 capture and storage. Further decisions have allowed for studies of CO2 storage onshore and offshore. 

Denmark’s new role as a potential CO2 storage hub for Europe is further underlined by the country’s hosting of the European Commission’s CCUS Forum in Aalborg in November this year.  

Cities can be CCS pioneers 

Bellona has long been an advocate for stronger CCS policy in Denmark.  Throwback to January 2020, when Bellona published a joint CCS and CCU recommendations report with the cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Oslo. The report suggests that cities use their ownership and procurement policy to incentivise low-carbon services and materials, and facilitate CO2 transport and storage infrastructure for industrial hubs. 

The City of Copenhagen led the project. The city’s main energy-to-waste plant ARC was, and remains, one of Denmark’s top candidates for CCS deployment. 

– The project was a fascinating exercise, because we wanted to weave together scientific, technical, economic, social, legal, and political aspects into one report. It is rewarding to co-write in-depth reports with those who have ambition and skin in the game, says Olav Øye, senior adviser for industry and climate at the Bellona Foundation. 

Develop supply and demand for low carbon materials 

As an investment case, CCS is less straightforward than electric cars or rooftop solar panels. The procurement approach is therefore a key aspect of Bellona’s work with cities. 

– CCS only provides a common good (less global warming), but it requires individual investments. That makes it more challenging to develop business models for materials and services that can apply CCS to reduce emissions, says Olav Øye. 

In Scandinavia and elsewhere, Bellona provides input and urges the European Union and its member states to use regulation to reduce emissions from materials such as cement. 

–Demand for low-carbon materials is a missing piece in industry decarbonisation policy, says Øye. 

There is progress, however. With legal effect from 2025, Denmark has set a maximum emissions limit for new buildings of 12 kg CO2 equivalent per square meter per year. Crucially, the limit includes materials as well as energy consumption over a 50-year period. The City of Copenhagen purchased goods and services for 15,7 BN DK (two billion euros) last year. 

–Clean construction markets are also a key topic for Bellona’s work in neighbouring Germany, says Øye.