Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg believes the hydrocarbons powerhouse can harness carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) as well as hydrogen production technology to use its vast natural gas resources while also driving down emissions.
Speaking at the launch of the International Energy Agency's CCUS in Clean Energy Transitions report last week, Solberg said that CCUS "is a key to large-scale hydrogen production".
Hydrogen produced from natural gas with most of the carbon dioxide emissions captured — so-called "blue hydrogen" — represents an important industrial technology project for Norway, she said.
As explained in Norway's Hydrogen Strategy Plan, hydrogen is an energy carrier, not an energy source, and must be produced from an energy source — production processes that require energy and involve energy loss. This makes hydrogen more expensive than the direct use of energy sources.
But hydrogen can be stored indefinitely, unlike batteries that lose their charge over time.
Green v Blue
If hydrogen is to be a low- or zero-emission energy carrier, it must be produced with low or zero emissions.
This can be achieved through electrolysis of water – using an electric current to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen – with renewable electricity, which is called "green hydrogen".
Hydrogen can also be produced with steam-reforming processes using natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), called "blue hydrogen".
Norway has the potential to successfully use both technologies, but the government is concerned that the European Union sees blue hydrogen as a short-term measure while favouring green hydrogen – a European approach that could reduce the value of Norway’s natural gas resources.
Several parties involved in CCS projects in Europe and Norway are looking at the opportunity to produce blue hydrogen.
Norwegian energy giant Equinor is involved in several studies in a number of European countries looking at how blue hydrogen could be used by European industry, instead of hydrogen from natural gas and coal without carbon capture.
Various options of supplying blue hydrogen are being evaluated, including producing hydrogen close to the end user and transporting CO2 to storage in the North Sea.
Companies including Equinor are also exploring the option of producing blue hydrogen in Norway, a short distance from CO2 storage sites, and transporting hydrogen through pipelines or by vessel, possibly in the form of ammonia.
Solberg said that, although she believes CCUS will play a larger role in the global energy sector towards 2050, "we count on other countries to follow".
Earlier this week, Norway’s government put its support behind a carbon capture and storage project to secure the world’s first full-scale CCUS value chain.
In a white paper to parliament, the government proposed a NKr25.1bn ($2.7bn) project called ‘Longship’ (Longskip in Norwegian) – in reference to the vessels used by Vikings in raids a thousand years ago – which it would majority finance.
The government proposed Norcem’s cement factory in Brevik as the first site for implementing the carbon capture scheme.
Longship also comprises funding for the huge Northern Lights transport and storage project, a joint scheme of Equinor, Shell and Total.
The Northern Lights project aims to eventually capture and store up to 5 million tonnes of CO2 from heavy emitters around the EU.
Northern Lights will transport liquid carbon dioxide from capture facilities to a terminal at Oygarden in Vestland County. From there, the CO2 will be pumped through pipelines to a reservoir beneath the seabed.