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– by Markus Wacket
BREVIK (Reuters) – The Vikings once brought death and destruction to the shores of Europe with their longships.
Now they should convey hope for the states south of Norway – and especially for Germany. With the “Langskip” project, the Norwegians want to collect the greenhouse gas CO2 from the continent and unload it by ship on their coasts. From there it is to be pumped to the North Sea by pipeline and then pressed into the sandstone 2,500 meters below the sea floor – and stay there forever. To do this, the CO2 must first be captured by blast furnaces or chemical plants. This CCS technology (Carbon Capture and Storage) was so controversial in Germany that it has been banned until now. Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants to change that and is therefore traveling through snowy Norway to Brevik. There, as part of “Langskip”, a cement plant is to separate its CO2 on an industrial scale for the first time in the world.
The German concern HeidelbergMaterials came up with the idea of implementing such a project on the coast of Norway with its subsidiary Norcem. In Germany, ten years ago, all attempts by the federal government to make such systems possible in Germany, at least for test purposes, failed. Citizens’ initiatives and environmental organizations were up in arms and didn’t trust the technology, which also hindered the climate-friendly transformation of society. At the forefront of the resistance: The Greens.
This is one of the reasons why Habeck is standing in the snow in Brevik and has the project explained to him. In two years, the plant should be able to absorb almost all of its CO2 emissions. A technically complicated and expensive process. If Germany wants to be climate-neutral by 2045 and keep the industry, Habeck argues, then there is no way around CCS. “We’ve wasted so much time that we have to make this decision clearly: We’ll take what’s available.” And: “Better to put the CO2 into the earth than into the atmosphere.”
BASIC INDUSTRY WITH BIGGEST CLIMATE PROTECTION PROBLEM
While almost everything in the power supply or in transport can be converted to renewable energy in the future, this is not possible in industry. The steel and chemical industries may one day be able to work largely with hydrogen produced using wind or solar energy. In the raw materials industry, however, the cement industry still plays a special role, it will not work entirely without fossil fuels and thus CO2. The Brevik project envisages capturing around half of the CO2, around 400,000 tons per year. Additional gas could be directly bound in building materials, for example, forever.
Thats expensive. “Above all, the investments in the new system technology are very high,” explains a spokesman for HeidelbergMaterials. “For the separation of CO2 in the cement works alone, they are more than double that of a comparable conventional plant.” For Brevik alone, that’s a cost of 400 million euros. The Norwegian state takes over 85 percent of this. The further development of storage technology is also helped with a similar share and billions in subsidies. Because Norway not only wants to become more climate-friendly itself. It also wants to become an export country for technology. And above all later, with “Langskip” you can pay well for the storage of CO2.
Habeck, on the other hand, wants to make CCS technology possible this year, at least legally in Germany. Despite concerns not only in organizations like Greenpeace but also in the environment ministry of party friend Steffi Lemke. He is counting on the fact that the technology is considered safe in numerous studies, no CO2 escapes from the seabed and is not used as an excuse to continue running coal-fired power plants with CCS. And he sees a role model here in the north: “Norway gives me a certain confidence and perspective that this can be safe, usable technology.”
(Assistance: Ilona Wissenbach; edited by Kerstin Dörr If you have any questions, please contact our editorial team at [email protected] (for politics and the economy) or [email protected] (for companies and markets).)
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