Dhe weather sometimes plays a trick on the energy revolution, the use of solar and wind power. But not the responsible Federal Economics and Climate Protection Minister. Robert Habeck defied the weather on his energy journey through Norway on Friday. For two and a half hours, his car parade fought its way through thick snow and fog from Oslo to Brevik in the south of the country, where the green politician took a look at the latest climate protection technologies.
After Russia’s failure, Norway has grown to become Germany’s most important energy supplier and should remain so in the post-fossil era, then with wind power and climate-friendly hydrogen. In addition, the kingdom is willing to absorb carbon dioxide from Germany. This occurs in industry or in the production of “blue” hydrogen from natural gas. With the help of the so-called CCS technology, the CO2 separated, liquefied, transported in pipelines or by ship and then stored underground, at best far out at sea, where natural gas and oil were also stored for thousands of years.
With protective vest, helmet and thick winter jacket
In Brevik, Habeck learned what modern CCS and hydrogen technologies look like. The world’s first industrial plant for capturing CO is located there2 in cement production. Not far away in the Heröya industrial park, the Nel company is building electrolysers for the production of hydrogen, which is almost non-existent in its natural form on earth, using a highly automated process.
The Norwegians have a long history of producing hydrogen. As early as 1929 they had a production facility with an output of 167 megawatts, which is still a record today; the largest plant of our time in Spain creates less than 30 MW. The neighboring Norcem cement plant has actually been in Brevik for more than 100 years – and thanks to the CCS ambitions it is now one of the most modern of its kind.
Wearing a protective vest, helmet and thick winter jacket, Habeck trudges through the snow on the construction site. The units for capturing the CO are built in the shadow of huge concrete towers2, which is then to be cooled, compressed and stored in large tanks. The site has its own seaport, from which the greenhouse gas is transported by ship up the coast towards Bergen. A 120-kilometer-long pipeline then pumps it into the injection station at sea. At a depth of more than two kilometers, under thick layers of gas-impermeable slate, the liquid spreads out in porous sandstone. Both former gas deposits and geologically comparable formations are suitable.
Approval is still missing
The process has been used in Norway for more than 20 years for CO2Separation tried and tested in oil and gas production and absolutely safe, assures Aslak Hellestö from the responsible company Northern Lights. The partner and customer Norcem hopes that the new method will significantly improve its carbon footprint. From next year, when the plant goes into operation, half of the previous output should be saved, 400,000 tons a year. Between 2021 and 2050, emissions per tonne of cement are to be increased by almost 30 percent to 400 kilograms of CO2 to decrease. The Norwegian state will bear 80 percent of the investments of 1.5 billion euros in the first phase. Both Nel and Norcem have a lot to do with Germany. Most of the machines used here come from Germany, and important customers are also located there. During Habeck’s visit, Nel announced that it had entered into a letter of intent with Berlin-based energy company HH2E to supply two 60-megawatt electrolysers. The contract is considered to be the most extensive to date for the production of green hydrogen from green electricity.
Norcem’s connections to Germany are even closer. The company is a subsidiary of Heidelberg Materials, formerly Heidelberger Cement, one of the leading European manufacturers – and one of the largest CO2-Issuers. On the occasion of Habeck’s visit, the Chairman of the Board of Management, Dominik von Acht, explained that his group was pursuing the most ambitious reduction targets in the production of building materials. The separation, storage or use of CO plays a role here2 a key role. Greenhouse gas-free cement production and the circular economy are also “without alternative for Germany if we want to be climate-neutral by 2045”.
However, the CCS technology is not yet approved in Germany; the federal government would rather have the troublesome gas transported abroad. This is also due to resistance from Habeck’s own camp, the Greens and the environmental groups. When asked about this contradiction, the minister in icy Norway said the technology was necessary, mature and safe. Where it is used depends on local circumstances and business issues. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be in Germany.” There will certainly be a lot of discussion on the subject over the next six months. “But this won’t be a conflict that goes deep,” hopes the Economics Minister.