Norway Aims to Become a Low Carbon Country

OSLO, Norway, May 9, 2005 (ENS) - The Norwegian Government has appointed a commission to consider how Norway could become a low greenhouse gas emitting society. The commission will work on the basis that the national emissions of greenhouse gases should be reduced by 50 to 80 percent by 2050 to help limit global climate change.

Jorgen Randers professor of policy analysis at the Norwegian School of Management will head the seven member commission.

"By establishing this commission, the government wants to get a better understanding of the changes that are necessary for Norway to become a low emissions society within a 50 year period, said Environment Minister Knut Arild Hareide.

The commission's main task will be to outline different scenarios for how the national emissions can be reduced by 50 to 80 percent within the next 50 years by developing and utilizing new technologies.

The commission will assess economic costs and other consequences attached to the different scenarios. In doing so, the commission will also compare Norway's situation with other countries.

Jorgen

Jorgen Randers is an expert in using system dynamics and scenario planning to study the time development in systems, from global ecological footprint via industry sectors to concrete businesses. (Photo courtesy Norwegian School of Management)
The commission will work in close dialogue with the civil society, and experts will be included in the process. The commission's conclusions are to be presented in an official report at the end of 18 months.

Based on the commission's conclusions, the government will initiate a process aimed at outlining long-term national goals for emissions of greenhouse gases, Hareide said.

Hareide recognizes that fossil fuels will dominate the world’s power generation for years, so, he said, a sustainable energy policy must include options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil energy production and use.

Norway is a major producer and exporter of energy. In 2003, the country was the third largest net oil exporter in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, and second largest net exporter of natural gas to continental Europe.

Nearly two-thirds of the country’s total primary energy consumption is met by hydroelectric power, with oil, natural gas and coal accounting for the remainder. Norway also generates limited amounts of power from wind and other renewables, which amount to less than one percent.

Addressing delegates to an energy seminar on April 26, Hareide said Norway has unique and positive experiences with capture and storage of the main greenhouse gase, carbon dioxide (CO2).

Hareide

Knut Arild Hareide has been Norwegian environment minister since June 2004. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"As a small country, our national efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases will have minimal impacts on the global climate," Hareide acknowledged, but he said that by taking an active role in developing technologies for carbon capture and storage, Norway might be able to promote solutions that other countries and regions can utilize.

"Hopefully, this could help make a much needed difference - even in a global perspective," he said.

Norway has experience with geological storage of CO2. Since 1996, about one million metric tons of CO2 have been stored annually from the offshore gas field Sleipner West.

"This single project equals two percent of our national emissions of greenhouse gases. Even on a global scale, this represents a unique project on aquifer CO2 storage and the sole ongoing geological storage experience of that time scale," Hareide told the seminar delegates.

There are unique possibilities to use CO2 for enhanced oil recovery on the Norwegian continental shelf, the minister said.

"Injection of CO2 to enhance recovery of fossil fuels could become a key storage opportunity, as it might generate revenues that offset parts of CO2 capture and transportation costs," Hareide said. "By using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, not only the future carbon price, but also the price on oil and gas, will determine the economics of carbon capture and storage projects."

oil platform

Norwegian oil rig in the North Sea (Photo courtesy )
The minister proposes that Norway could receive carbon dioixde from other countries. "Studies have indicated that all the CO2 emissions from Europe over the next 200 years could be injected and stored in oil wells and aquifers in the North Sea," he told delegates.

Hareide believes that Norway might become a recipient of CO2 from other countries around the North Sea.

"To explore the possibilities for such a co-operation, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has taken an initiative towards the North Sea countries and the European Union. We hope to intensify this co-operation in the years to come," the minister said.

In 2004, the Norwegian government established a national fund of 240 million euros (US$307 million) to stimulate the development of technologies for CO2 capture and storage related to the use of natural gas. Combined with other measures, this fund will enable Norwegian government and private companies to reinforce the development and possible use of carbon capture and storage technologies.

By being at the forefront of the technological development, both industry and research communities might find new business opportunities, says Hareide, but he emphasizes that all possible precautions should be taken to ensure that the environment is not harmed by the carbon capture and storage operations.

"We have to take all possible precautions to make sure that the marine environment is not adversely affected," Hareide said, "On this, as on all other environmental issues, the precautionary principle should be our guiding principle."

"We have to be confident that the method of storage is safe and that the risk of leakage is minimal," he said. "But we should bear in mind that the CO2 is likely to be stored in geological structures that have contained oil and gas securely for millions of years."

"We also have to take into account that the alarming effects of climate change are clearly starting to show," Hareide said. "With that knowledge in mind, we have to decide what is the best solution for the environment as a whole."