OSLO, Sept 20 Norway's outgoing centre-left
government dropped plans on Friday for a costly large-scale
project to capture carbon dioxide that it once compared in
ambition to sending people to the Moon.
The International Energy Agency says deployment of carbon
capture and storage (CCS) technology is critical to reducing
carbon emissions, but so far there is no full-scale commercial
plant operating anywhere in the world.
"The development of full-scale carbon dioxide capture at
Mongstad is discontinued," Norway's oil and energy ministry
said, adding that it was still committed to research into carbon
capture and storage.
The plan had been to capture carbon emissions from a natural
gas plant at the site, which also hosts an oil refinery, and
pipe them into underground storage on the Norwegian continental
That would remove the gas from the atmosphere in a step to
slow global warming.
But low prices for carbon dioxide emissions and economic
slowdown in many European nations had dimmed interest in the
technology, the ministry said.
"A full-scale carbon dioxide capture facility is still the
objective. The government has, however, concluded, after careful
consideration, that the risk connected to the Mongstad facility
is too high," Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said.
The government said it would keep a research centre at
Mongstad, testing various carbon capture schemes, with funding
of 400 million crowns ($67.4 million) over four years.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose Labour Party and
coalition allies lost power last week to right-wing and centrist
parties in an election, said in 2007 that Norway would try to
lead the world in carbon capture.
He said that heavy investments would be Norway's equivalent
of a "Moon landing", referring to the U.S. Apollo project that
sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.
"This is one of the ugliest political crash landings we have
ever seen," said Frederic Hauge of the Norwegian environmental
group Bellona of the decision to drop the carbon capture plan.
The statement said that a draft 2014 budget would ask
parliament to enact "the objective of realizing at least one
full-scale carbon capture and storage project in Norway by 2020"
and provide the needed funds.
The government will stand down after presenting the budget
on October 14. The opposition Conservative Party, the big winner
in last week's election, is in talks with possible coalition
partners on forming a government to take over next month.
Norway has promised to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by
at least 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Emissions were
five percent above 1990 levels in 2012, and delays to carbon
capture will make the 2020 goal ever more difficult.
A report by Norway's Auditor General this week criticised
the Norwegian state's total spending of 7.4 billion crowns on
carbon capture and storage projects from 2007-12.
"Substantial cost increases have occurred," it said.
($1 = 5.9321 Norwegian crowns)
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Keiron Henderson)