Mongstad CCS project postponed – again

The Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Ministry wrote yesterday in a press release that there is a need for more

knowledge about possible effects on health and the environment by using amine technology, and that the government wants to consider a number of technologies for the capture of CO2 emissions from the gas powered plant at Mongstad – once slated to be a hallmark study in CO2 capture and storage (CCS).

“This delay is, as far as we can understand, completely unnecessary. There has not been any new information on the case which may provide a basis for such a decision,” said Bellona’s Erlend Fjøsna.

There are a series of CO2 capture and storage projects worldwide where similar amine technology has been chosen.

“The problem that Statoil now blows out of proportion is well known already, and measures to deal with it are available and will only get better as research continues,” said Fjøsna.

The crisis maximizing

Statoil continues to place enormous emphasis on the uncertainties associated with the use of amine compounds in the cleansing process. Mixed with other substances amines form nitrosamines and nitramine, which can be harmful in large quantities.

“Statoil has previously highlighted nitrosamines as a health hazard. Recent research supports the fact that this danger is not very realistic, something Bellona has also disclosed earlier,” said Fjøsna.

“Statoil is now choosing to focus on nitramines, a different and far less dangerous amine structure. It is not very credible,” Fjøsna added.

“Statoil is inflating the risk somewhat brutally here. It appears that they exaggerate the risk to further delay the CCS project as much as possible,” he said, continuing that, “Statoil is reluctant to make big investments in CCS technology before it is  outright forced to, and the government does not seem to be willing to play hardball. It makes us wonder whether the government really wants to establish a full scale demonstration plant for CCS at Mongstad.

Steps backward for the climate

The gas-fired power plant at Mongstad is now operational and releasing all of its CO2 into the atmosphere. The original plan was to have CO2 capture technology in place in in 2014 – but that later became 2018, and now the deadline is a pie in the sky.

This will lead to significant consequences for Norway’s climate policies in the years to come. The climate agreement (“Klimaforkliket”) formed in the Norwegian parliament can hardly be achieved without doing something about the large emission point at Mongstad.

Postponement will also have significance for the work on CCS internationally.

Norway failing

In the large EU program for CO2 capture and storage demonstration, which should start around 2015, there is now missing a project for CCS on a gas power plant. Norway was supposed to ensure that this technology is demonstrated on a large scale, but now cannot deliver.

The European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuelled Power Plants (ZEP) is the EU adviser on issues relating to CO2 capture and storage. The chairman of ZEP, Graeme Sweeney, said last fall that Norway had to take matters in hand and manage the challenges of amines:

“Now it must work hard to resolve the amine issue by making the necessary investigations and finding solutions,” Sweeney told Bellona Web in October.

He emphasized that CO2 capture and storage is a joint European project in which we have a shared the responsibility for reaching the goal.

Eating nitrosamines

Amines are one of several possible CO2 capture technologies. When amines are mixed with flue gas from a power plant, they bind to the CO2 so that it can be separated and removed.

Nitrosamines and nitramines formed when amines are mixed with other substances can in large amounts be linked to health risks. But nitrosamines also occur naturally in a variety of foods, and every day many of us eat many micrograms of these compounds.

In the fall of 2009, Bellona wrote a report (downloadable to the right) on amines that concluded the challenges of amines is not insurmountable, but that efforts are required to find solutions.

“We need to get started on using technology as is done in many other countries, and we must help to develop good solutions for CO2 capture and storage,” said Fjøsna.