430,000 metres of cables. A mass of dials and instruments. Steel pipes towering to the size of a block of flats. In front of me stood the world’s largest CCS test centre.
Located on Norway’s west coast near Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, it was over an hour’s drive to get to Mongstad – a place five times bigger than I had pictured in my head.
It wasn’t just pipes, cables and chimneys as I had imagined, no. What stood before me was a truly, spectacular feat of engineering. The Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) in Norway.
Covering 63,000m² the vast site has an oil refinery and a gas-fired Combined Heat and Power plant (CHP). And more importantly two CO2 capture plants, with the capacity to capture a total of 100,000 tons of carbon emissions from the power plants beside them.
What struck me from afar was a 60-metre tower that dominated the Mongstad skyline. I later figured it was the one of the plants, where the first test for CO2 starts.
Other CCS testing facilities have been built around the world but as one of the engineers constantly mentioned – and with pride – TCM can be used to test any combination of carbon concentration and adjust the temperature and pressure as they wish.
CCS is seen as one of they key technologies to tackle climate change and help the world meet carbon targets and the facility was definitely proof that Norway is leading the way towards a low carbon economy.
The UK Government has stressed about how important and crucial CCS is for our future energy mix and had talks about getting the technology deployed in the country. But that’s all it has been so far. All talk and no action.
While the Norwegian Government agreed to build the test centre seven years ago and has already celebrated a year since its inauguration, it seems like we’re always a step behind here in the UK. Although the Government revealed two preferred bidders for the CCS competition earlier this year, it won’t be until 2015 that a final investment decision will be made.
That’s just the go-ahead, how long is it actually going to take for the plant to start operating?
Despite our green ambitions we all know fossil fuels will be sticking around for a while. The IEA has predicted they could account for 60% of energy generation by 2030. CCS has vital role to play in limiting that damage by potentially meeting a fifth of the carbon reduction target needed to curb a 2°C rise in global temperatures by 2030.
So we in the UK need to get on with CCS. As the Beatles sort of said we can always get by with a little help from EUR friends! When it comes to CCS we need their help alright.