Carbon capture

Northern Lights spotlight: Accelerating industrial decarbonisation with cross-border CCUS

The Northern Lights project is accelerating industrial decarbonisation across northern Europe, aspiring to create a CO₂ storage facility on the Norwegian continental shelf.

By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Apr 11, 2022

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is a decarbonisation solution that is gaining global momentum in support of the Paris Agreement. Almost every nation has endorsed the landmark treaty and committed to pursuing efforts that limit the global average temperature rise this century to well below 2℃. If that target is to be reached, a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is necessary.

Shell and its partners, Equinor and Total Energies, with backing from the Norwegian government, are spearheading an ambitious industrial decarbonisation project called Northern Lights. Labeled “the first-ever cross-border, open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure network”, the initiative targets the mitigation of industrial process emissions through an advanced shipping and subsea-storage system.1 In January 2022, Northern Lights was awarded EU funding for expansion studies.2

The importance of industrial decarbonisation for “hard-to-abate sectors”

Decarbonisation initiatives are imperative for “hard-to-abate sectors”, or industries for which transitioning to renewable energy sources is not technologically or economically feasible. These heavy and heavy-duty transport industries include cement, steel, plastics, petrochemicals, trucking, shipping and aviation. Hard-to-abate sectors are estimated to contribute roughly 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally.3 As such, reaching net-zero emissions from these sectors would have a profound effect on societies’ ability to reach Paris Agreement goals.

One method for improving the emissions intensity of heavy industries is through safely capturing and storing Scope 1 emissions. Scope 1 emissions occur from an organisation’s owned and operated sources or facilities. These emissions are what Longship, Norway’s full-scale CCUS project, intends to mitigate.4 Northern Lights is the open access CO2 transport and storage infrastructure associated with the broader Longship initiative.

Northern Lights project overview

The first step of the Longship initiative involves partnering with industrial emitters that have implemented CO2 capture and ship loading capacities, such as the Fortum Oslo Varme (FOV) waste-to-energy facility. FOV aims to be the first full-scale waste-to-energy plant in the world.

FOV uses Shell Cansolv CO2 capture technology, which has contributed to a capture rate of up to 95% in a 5,500-hour pilot test on flue gas. Northern Lights is handling the transportation and storage of CO2. Most recently, FOV has applied for funding through the EU innovation fund in March 2022.5

Once the CO2 is captured, compressed and ready to be loaded, newly designed Northern Lights ships will safely transport the emissions to on-shore CO2 receiving terminals located within 100 kilometers of the undersea storage location on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. This location is 2,600 metres below the seabed of the North Sea, an area with over 20 years of safe CO2 storage history. In fact, the world’s first large-scale storage project was initiated by Statoil (now Equinor) in 1996 offshore of Norway in the North Sea.6

Phase one of the Northern Lights project is slated to be completed by mid-2024 with logistics and technology capable of capturing, transporting and storing 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The stretch goal is 5 million tonnes per year depending on market demand, CO2 capture capacities of industrial emitters in the region and other factors.

Related reading: DNV GL approves Shell carbon capture technology to bring down emissions from Fortum waste-to-energy plant

Stay up-to-date with CCUS and industrial decarbonisation developments

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is committed to enabling a future with more and cleaner energy. We offer an expanding portfolio of energy transition solutions like the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process and various carbon capture technologies like CANSOLV CO2 to aid in industrial decarbonisation efforts. Our market managers, engineers and molecular scientists work with our customers to decarbonise operations, reduce waste and build a more sustainable future.

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1 “What We Do”, Northern Lights, Northern Lights JV DA, 21 Apr. 2021, northernlightsccs.com/what-we-do/.
2 “Northern Lights awarded EU funding for expansion studies”, Northern Lights, 27 January 2022, https://northernlightsccs.com/news/northern-lights-awarded-eu-funding-for-expansion-studies/.
3 “Mission Possible: Reaching Net-Zero Carbon Emissions from Harder-to-Abate Sectors”, Energy Transitions Commission, 2 June 2021, www.energy-transitions.org/publications/mission-possible/.
4 “CCS Project ‘Longship’”, IEA/IRENA Renewables Policies Database, 23 November 2021, https://www.iea.org/policies/12675-ccs-project-longship.
5 “Fortum Oslo Varme and our Carbon Capture Project”, Fortum, accessed 18 March 2022, https://www.fortum.com/about-us/newsroom/press-kits/carbon-removal/fortum-oslo-varme-and-our-carbon-capture-project.
6 “Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCS & CCUS): We’re storing carbon safely and permanently under the sea bed”, Equinor, accessed 18 March 2022, https://www.equinor.com/en/what-we-do/carbon-capture-and-storage.html.