by April Streeter, Portland, Oregon on 05.10.10
Science & Technology (alternative energy)
The Norwegians have been big supporters of carbon capture and storage, and the government helped get the public to go along with building of a gas-fired plant near an existing oil refinery in Mongstad partly by promising the new facility would have carbon capture. Norwegians generally consider themselves to be environmentally friendly (over 90% of their electricity is produced from renewables, and they've pledged to be carbon neutral in 2030), so it is a significant blow that the government has decided to "postpone" deciding on carbon capture plans at Mongstad until 2014, which means the CCS itself may be as far off as 2018. Why the delay? The government says technology concerns, but there's also other reports of cancerous discharges from large-scale CCS.
The Mongstad CCS project was considered to be one of the first commercial scale carbon capture sites. Now the decision of whether to put any CCS at Monstad is being pushed to beyond 2013 when the current Norwegian Parliament is renewed. State-owned Statoil promised that an investment decision on Mongstad would be made in 2012. That means Mongstad will continue to emit 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year until CCS is implemented, if it ever is.
That begins to make some environmental activists in Norway see just another excuse in the continuing scandal of Mongstad. The current Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, had promised that CCS at Monstad would be a "moonlanding" for Norway. The postponement also puts pressure on the Environment Minister Eric Sollenberg to revoke Mongstad's emissions permit.
And what about the scary "C" word? Well, the mainstream press has focussed on the political scandal surrounding the "delay" of CCS at Mongstad. In the Swedish press, however, they are attributing the delay in part to a new scientific report on emissions from CCS technology. The government has always said that NOx and CO2 would be reduced from the CCS facility at Mongstad, while ammonia, amines and "reaction products of the amines" would be an air byproduct of the process, and amines, ammonia, sulfuric acid and sulfates would be discharged to water.
The environmental and health effects of amines are not very well known, but a trio of Norwegian institutes along with the University of Oslo released a report early this month according to Sweden's Processnet, in which scientists voiced their concern about nitrosamines and their possible spread into the environment.
The report is based only on theoretical modeling - further tests to susbtantiate the scientists theories are planned. Bellona, the alternative energy and environmental group in Norway that supports CCS says the health risks should be assessed soon in order to not cause any futher delays with carbon capture technology.