As Norway looks into the feasibility of an innovative CCS project, HeidelbergCement’s Norcem could become the world’s first cement plant with full-scale carbon capture.

Carbon dioxide emissions are an increasingly pressing issue across industries, and an inevitability for the cement sector. After one failed attempt to make carbon capture and storage economically viable, Norway is back with a groundbreaking project that aims to sequester CO2 emissions from several industries… and countries.

 

Burying the problem

The cement industry has a sustainability problem. According to the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) – a flagship sectoral project of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that counts among its members major players such as Cemex, CRH, HeidelbergCement, LafargeHolcim, and Votorantim Cimentos – the cement sector is the third-largest industrial energy consumer in the world, responsible for seven percent of industrial energy use, and the second industrial CO2 emitter, accounting for seven percent of global CO2 emissions.

With global cement production projected to grow by 12 to 23 percent by 2050, carbon emissions from the global cement industry are expected to increase by four percent. Nonetheless, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project, thirteen of the world’s largest publicly-listed cement companies need to more than double their emissions reductions if they are to limit global warming to below two degrees, as agreed in the Paris climate deal.

What is a company to do when emitting CO2 is almost an inevitability of its production process? It buries the problem. Literally.

 

A groundbreaking initiative

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies may be a pressing topic today, but capturing, transporting and storing CO2 has been done for decades. Since 1996, as a response to high taxes on carbon emissions, Statoil (now Equinor), Norway’s national oil and gas company, has separated and stored over 20 million tons of CO2 underground. Now, Gassnova, the Norwegian state enterprise for carbon capture and storage, has entrusted Equinor with a more ambitious endeavor: the world’s first undersea CCS project to capture CO2 emissions from multiple industrial sources, which would then be stored in the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). According to Equinor, the first phase of this CO2 project could reach a capacity of approximately 1.5 million tons per year. Norway would thus stimulate new commercial carbon capture projects in the country, Europe and more globally across the world. In addition, the project has the potential to be the first storage project site in the world receiving CO2 from industrial sources in several countries.

The initial plan comprised proposals for capturing CO2 from a cement factory, HeidelbergCement-owned Norcem’s Brevik production unit, a waste incinerator from Fortum Oslo Varme, and Yara’s ammonia factory. The carbon dioxide would then be shipped from each plant to an onshore facility on the Norwegian West Coast for temporary storage, after which it would be sent through a pipeline in the seabed to several injection wells east of the Troll field on the NCS. In order to accomplish the storage stage of the process, last year, Equinor signed a partnership agreement with Norske Shell and Total E&P Norge.

 

The challenges of CCS

The Norwegian government estimated the project will cost up to 12.6 billion crowns ($1.6 billion), and announced it would decide whether to invest in 2019. With wind and solar technologies getting increasingly cheaper, carbon capture initiatives may seem like a heavy financial load, since they require significant capital expenditure. Furthermore, this is not the first time Norway gives CCS a try. In 2013, the country abandoned a similar project since it was proving challenging and costly (...)

 

Read the full article in CemWeek 45

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