OSLO Norway said on Tuesday it would delay again a decision to finance a top carbon capture project, this time to 2016, in a setback for a technology that is seen as key to mitigate climate change.
A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility at the Mongstad oil refinery in western Norway was originally planned to be in place by 2014 but has been delayed several times.
"An investment decision could be taken latest in 2016," the Norwegian oil and energy ministry said in a statement. In May it had said a decision on investments would be postponed to 2014.
CCS may cut the contribution of coal and gas-fired power plants to global warming by trapping and burying carbon dioxide (CO2), but it is untested on a commercial scale.
The ministry said more research was needed on the effects on health of amine technology, one of the techniques to be used at the site. This technology uses an amine solvent, which is a liquid comprising water and amines, to absorb carbon dioxide from flue gas.
The company heading the project, oil firm Statoil, said in a recent report the use of amine technology could pose a theoretical risk of causing cancer, citing a Norwegian research institute.
Statoil said in a statement it "fully supported" the CCS project at Mongstad but that the technology needs to be evaluated from a health perspective before the project can move forward.
"We have run into challenges related to a lack of knowledge about possible health effects when using amine technology," said Statoil research director Eli Aamot. "Alternative capture technologies are also less mature than assumed."
Some environmentalists said the delay was unnecessary. "There is no new information justifying this delay," Erlend Fjoesna, an adviser for the Bellona Foundation, said in a statement.
"Statoil is painting a scary picture of CCS to get the government to postpone the project once again."
The Mongstad project was originally seen as one of the first to start full-scale operation. It is also a prestige project for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who once called it Norway's "moonlanding" project.
(Editing by Jane Baird)