Europe’s largest test centre for CO2 capture plant opens


Publish date: May 7, 2012

Written by: Eivind Hoff

Today, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg opens Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) in western Norway. TCM will enable the large-scale testing of different post-combustion CO2 capture technologies – but will not store a single tonne of CO2.

In 2007, Stoltenberg committed his government to the construction of a full-scale CO2 capture and storage (CCS) project by 2014 – likening it to the Apollo project that put a man on the moon in a mere seven years after its launch by US president Kennedy. Five years on from 2007, not even an investment decision has been made for the full-scale CCS project, and TCM – which captures CO2 but then releases it back into the air – is the only tangible result of the “Norwegian Apollo project”.

Mountain climbing

“It probably isn’t a moon landing, but the opening certainly marks the climbing of a high mountain top and is well worth celebrating,” says Frederic Hauge, president of Bellona.

“We are proud, since this would never have happened without Bellona. Bellona’s 2005 report ‘CO2 for EOR’ provided important background for the political decision to build TCM”, said an optimistic Frederic Hauge.

The EU is waiting

The opening is attended by 250 guests from all over the world, including EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

“TCM will create new momentum for CCS in the world”, the Commissioner said in his presentation. “There are 3,000 industrial sources of CO2 where CCS needs to be applied”, he added, pointing to the importance of effective CCS deployment.

The EU has adopted its own funding scheme for CCS demonstration projects – known as the NER300 – which is designed as a competition to attract the most cost-efficient proposals for CCS projects that are mature enough to be up and running by the end of 2016. The competition criteria ensure that a variety of different CO2 capture and storage options will be funded, but make it virtually impossible for CCS on gas-fired power plants to be funded.

Bellona inquired about this in 2009, to which the Commission replied that Norway would build such a plant, which meant the EU did not need to fund gas-fired CCS plants.

“The EU clearly thought the Norwegian government was more trustworthy than it actually was. If the government had been more honest, we think the EU would have stepped in to fill the gap. This makes Norway responsible for a 2-3 year delay in developing CCS for gas plants in Europe,” Hauge says.

The need for demonstrating CCS on gas-fired power plants has increased massively in recent years: According to estimates from Platt’s, no less than 65 new gas-fired plants have been permitted and are due to be constructed in Western Europe – compared to three coal-fired plants.

Research under way

TCM will conduct research on the capture and purification of CO2 from the existing refinery and gas-fired power plant at Mongstad. Currently, there are the two companies, Aker and Alstom that are scheduled to test their technologies for CO2 capture.

Managing Director Tore Amundsen at TCM says that Aker is already starting testing of its technology while Alstom will also soon begin its testing. The two technologies will initially be tested over a period of 14 to 18 months, according to Norwegian press agency NTB.

“This is an important day in the fight against climate change,” says Hauge.

For a detailed coverage and analysis of the opening, see BBC where Frederic Hauge is quoted further.