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Norwegian research project to ensure safe carbon storage

The Dynamis project conducted by the Norwegian research foundation SINTEF will lay the ground for deciding on the location of the first large-scale power plant with carbon capture and storage capabilities. “This project is the first to combine the production of electricity and hydrogen while capturing the resulting carbon dioxide - a daunting technological challenge” says Jens Hetland of SINTEF Energy Research.

20/04/2007 ::

The development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies plays a key role in reducing global CO2 emissions by way of pumping carbon dioxide resulting from energy production into the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. In order to achieve its ambitious goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the European Union will need a concerted effort in innovation, research and development.

A number of Norwegian research centres are involved in the Dynamis project, one of several CCS research projects initiated by the European Commission. In addition to SINTEF, these include Statoil and Norsk Hydro, Norway’s two soon-to-merge oil producers as well as Store Norske, a private company producing energy from coal, and NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“We will identify and assess the technology available. We must define which technologies are appropriate for different fuel sources, such as natural gas and coal” says Jens Hetland of SINTEF Energy Resarch, the company in charge of the project. As for coal, there are numerous kinds boasting a plethora of physical and chemical properties, adding to the complexity of the project.

Research institutions notwithstanding, the Dynamis projects is comprised of a number of technology companies and energy suppliers from a total 11 european countries, as well as a bank, the latter having been included as a means of ensuring an emphasis on commercial viability.

Dynamis represents the initial phase of the Hypogen project, a wide-reaching European initiative aimed at promoting the production of hydrogen and electricity from clean sources. Its ultimate goal is the construction of industrial-scale facilities capable of producing hydrogen and electricity from fossil sources while sequestrating and storing the resulting CO2 emissions, thus largely eliminating carbon dioxide emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Launched in May 2006, the project is to provide a scientific basis for the European Commission’s decision on the next phase of the Hypogen programme, due in 2009. Dynamis will provide research-backed input on the optimal location of future research facilities as well as the technologies most worthy of continued investment.

“Leading a project of this nature is a great challenge” says Mr Hetland. “This sort of projects calls for professionalism every step along the way. Accordingly, SINTEF Energy Resarch has put in place both the staff and the organisational framework necessary to make sure that is indeed the end result.”

Making sure the carbon dioxide stays put rather then seeping back into the atmosphere is a primordial challenge facing the project participants. Ideally, the stored CO2 would be used to increase the oil and gas extraction from near-depleted fields by pumping it back into the underground wells, thus potentially making now-defunct fields commercially viable once more and extending the life of currently exploited fields.

“Our greatest challenge will be finding ways of making sure companies can opt for carbon capture and storage technologies and still maintain profitability”, says Mr Hetland.

There are technological risks involved as well: The research facility will be a complex structure involving little-tested technologies, yet the European Commission requests that the facility be operational 90 percent of the time throughout the life of the project.

Yet should all go according to plan, by 2012 researchers will be able to capture some 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions at half the price of what is possible with current technologies.

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