The three energy giants behind Norway's Northern Lights carbon transport and storage project revealed this week that they have established a subsidiary to explore direct air capture as a means of driving down emissions in the country.
Equinor, Shell and Total said the newly formed company — also named Northern Lights — aims to deliver a carbon transportation and storage service to help reduce emissions from industrial processes and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
It will work on the technology with Climeworks, a Switzerland-based technology company focused on CO2 removal.
“This marks an important milestone in the direction of commercialising critical climate technology,” Borre Jacobsen, managing director of the new company Northern Lights, said in a press conference on 9 March while announcing the agreement with Climeworks.
Borre and Climeworks co-founder Christoph Gebald said that CO2 removal technologies are essential if global temperature reduction targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change are to be reached.
They also claimed that Climeworks’ direct air capture technology combined with permanent storage — as will be offered by the Northern Lights development — is one of the most scaleable forms of CO2 reduction in the atmosphere.
“We look forward to exploring a full-chain carbon dioxide removal project together with Northern Lights,” said Gebald, adding that the company will consider placing its technology at offshore oil and gas installations or onshore Norway.
There is growing awareness of the need to build capacity to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to help companies and governments reach net zero targets by 2050.
Climeworks and Northern Lights will explore the realisation of a full-chain CO2 removal project in Norway, including the possible use of the Northern Lights facilities as part of new negative emissions solutions, addressing the need of companies in non-industrial sectors to become carbon neutral or carbon negative.
Climeworks’ technology runs exclusively on renewable energy and waste heat, and the modular collectors can be stacked to machines of almost any size, it claims.
The company's direct air capture technology can reach a net CO2 removal efficiency of more than 90%, it claims, taking into account full life-cycle emissions.
According to Gebald, Climeworks is looking globally for other opportunities for permanent CO2 storage, including in regions without basaltic bedrocks.
“Northern Lights provides ideal conditions for deep geological CO2 storage in its offshore saline aquifer under the North Sea,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Norway's Ministry of Petroleum & Energy approved the development plan for the pioneering Nkr6 billion ($760 million) Northern Lights project.
The Northern Lights project is the transport and storage component of Longship, the Norwegian government’s Nkr20 billion full-scale carbon capture and storage project.
Northern Lights itself involves the transport of CO2 to a reservoir in the North Sea for permanent storage, with the CO2-receiving terminal located at Oygarden, near Bergen.
It includes the development and operation of CO2 transport and storage facilities, which will be open to third parties.
It will be the first ever cross-border, open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network, offering European industrial emitters the opportunity to store their CO2 underground.
Phase one, with a capacity of up to 1.5 million tonnes per annum of CO2, will be completed by mid-2024.