The next 'moon landing?' Norway plans deep-sea CO2 storage.
The oil-rich nation believes a half-mile thick rock formation could store the next 600 years, or so, of CO2 emissions from Europe. Some say the science is not so clear.
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At a high-level conference in Bergen last month, the oil-rich Nordic nation announced that it will work with Britain to study how the base of the North Sea could be used for carbon dioxide storage for European countries. It will also allocate nearly $200 million toward carbon capture and storage projects in the European Union.
Although some environmentalists aren't yet convinced of the long-term prospects of sequestering carbon dioxide emissions deep under the ocean, the idea has become something of a holy grail in the effort to stop global warming.
The joint British-Norwegian study will build a profile for the whole North Sea, assessing each countries' storage potential and projections of likely volumes and locations of carbon dioxide (CO2) flows. The conference in Bergen, where the plan was announced, took place in advance of December's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
The North Sea Basin Task Force, which now includes Norway, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, has previously estimated the Utsira deep saline formation in the North Sea could store up to 600 billion ton of CO2, equivalent to all the emissions of all the power stations in Europe for the next 600 years.
Utsira is just one of many subsea geological structures being considered as storage sites for carbon emissions. Scotland, for example, announced last month that the Scottish area underneath the Northern and Central North Sea could store emissions from the United Kingdom's coal-fired power plants for the next 200 years, making it comparable to the capacity offshore Norway.
Carbon storage the next 'moon landing?'
Carbon capture is a prestige issue for Norway. It was the first country to store CO2 from an offshore oil platform underneath the seabed, the first to transport and store CO2 subsea from an onshore liquefied natural gas plant, and hopes to be the first to have full scale CO2 capture from a gas-fired power plant.
Norwegian oil company Statoil started storing carbon dioxide in the North Sea's Utsira formation underneath the Sleipner oil field platform 13 years ago. Since then, the company has pumped 11 million tons of CO2 into the half-mile thick layer of gas-tight rock. Statoil believes that the 430-mile-long formation has the potential to hold three times as much.
"The reservoir quality underneath Sleipner is very good for CO2 storage and has a potential to hold large amounts," says Øistein Johannessen, Statoil's new energy spokesman. "But Utsira is characterized by sand with different origins and qualities, many with no connection between them. To estimate how large volumes Utsira may store, we need to do more studies of the reservoir."