Carbon Management at Your 'Service'

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Three major oil and gas producers have set up the world's first stand-alone company offering carbon dioxide transport and storage as a "service." Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Equinor each have a one-third stake in Northern Lights JV DA, which forms part of Norway's high-profile Longship project, a largely state-funded carbon capture and storage (CCS) development. Producers view CCS as crucial to ensuring the long-term future of oil and gas and help minimize the risk of stranded assets, but the economics are seen as poor. Northern Lights executives, however, say they aim to build up customer relationships and orders to prove it can make money. Cross-Border Benefits Managing Director Berre Jacobsen says it has already signed memorandums of understanding and confidentiality agreements with "lots of interested parties" in Europe. These could result in orders for up to 48 million tons of CO2 to be transported and stored annually -- more than the 40 million tons per year now stored or used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) (WGI Mar.10'21). That would make it the world's first cross-border CO2 transport and infrastructure network. The multiple customer base would reduce the risk of stranded assets: If one went, others could replace them. Northern Lights aims to be operational in 2024. It will focus on CO2 produced from industrial facilities in and around Oslo and other industrial hubs in Northwest Europe (WGI Oct.28'20). The Northern Lights project aims in a first stage to store 1.5 million tons of CO2 annually in depleted oil and gas fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Under a second stage, annual capacity would be expanded to 5 million tons, making it one of the world's largest CO2 storage projects not involving EOR. Stage two has still to be sanctioned, but it moved a step closer last week when the Norwegian government approved the storage development plan for the first phase. Captivated by DAC Northern Lights is also interested in direct air capture (DAC) -- technology to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere and store it underground -- as are Exxon Mobil and Occidental in the US. Northern Lights executives are working with Swiss-based developer Climeworks on the feasibility of building modular DAC units in Norway. They will likely start small, but Climeworks co-CEO Christoph Gebald says they could be scaled up to 1 million tons/yr of capacity. That is huge for DAC, where projects are usually a few thousand tons. It is developing a "modular" technology whereby stackable collector boxes filter CO2 from ambient air and a filter material binds the captured CO2 to its surface. This is heated to 100°C and produces a pure stream of CO2 that is then permanently stored. Climeworks is already building one of the world's largest DAC facilities in Iceland. Fifteen DAC projects were in operation globally last year, and a 1 million ton/yr scheme was under construction in the US. Gebald believes Norway would be a good fit as it has abundant renewables to power DAC units and a proven track record in long-term CO2 storage. The world is likely to need a number of abatement technologies to reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury. Gebald says DAC's main advantage is that it doesn't require huge areas of land, unlike nature-based carbon offsets such as forests. Provided it is near storage sites, it can also be deployed on land unsuitable for other purposes such as farming. The main drawback is costs. Afforestation projects typically cost $5-$50/ton of CO2, and biomass with CCS roughly $100-$200/ton. Gebald suggests DAC technology costs about $200/ton today, but is confident that will drop as the technology is scaled up, "much as solar photovoltaics and wind did." Jay Eden, London

Carbon Capture (CCS), Low-Carbon Policy
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