Five European countries open their doors to cross-border CO2 storage

Five northern European countries – Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden – have laid the foundations for Europe’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure by joining forces to conclude arrangements on the transport and storage of carbon across borders.

EU flag (for illustration purposes); Courtesy of the European Commission; Credit: Mauro Bottaro

As the ability to move CO2 across borders is perceived to be essential in the quest to create Europe-wide access to a portfolio of potential storage sites, the arrangements between Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden, made on April 15, pave the way for cross-border transport and geological storage of captured CO2.

While Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden have each established an arrangement on the cross-border transport of CO2 with Norway, Sweden and Denmark have also made a similar arrangement. These agreements allow for the removal of some of the obstacles on the way to a well-functioning carbon capture and storage market in the wide North Sea region.

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Terje Aasland, Norway’s Minister of Energy, commented: “Norway has great potential to store CO2 and I am pleased that other countries will store CO2 in Norwegian storage sites. The capacity is enormous. The climate challenge transcends borders, and it is crucial that we put in place solutions for transport of CO2 across national borders. This is an important day for the climate, for our industries and for the first full-scale European CCS project Longship.”

Northern Lights, which is part of the full-scale Longship CCS project that entails the transportation, receipt, and permanent storage of CO2 in a reservoir in the northern North Sea, has welcomed the bilateral agreements Norway signed with Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden to enable cross-border CO2 storage, as a “very encouraging” development.

This CCS project demonstrates Norway’s efforts to develop a full-scale carbon capture and storage value chain. Owned by Equinor, Shell, and TotalEnergies, Phase 1 with a capacity to inject up to 1.5 million tons of CO2 per year is scheduled to be ready for operation in 2024. The captured and liquefied CO2 from European emitters will be loaded and delivered to the receiving terminal in Øygarden on board two LNG-powered, wind-assisted CO2 transportation ships

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Jacob K. Clasen, Deputy CEO of Danish Shipping, noted: “When it comes to capturing and storing CO2 underground, Denmark is right at the forefront. It’s very positive that the Danish government is also proactive in establishing agreements with our neighboring countries, which can contribute to scaling up the entire CO2 sector and establish the necessary infrastructure. At Danish Shipping, we have members ready with the ships that will help transport CO2. All this can help make Denmark an important European CO2 hub.”

Danish Shipping, which sees Scandinavian CO2 cooperation as a “crucial” step in establishing European CO2 infrastructure, has underlined that the new agreements with Norway and Sweden enable the transport of CO2 across Scandinavia for underground storage. The company believes that CCUS has the potential to become “a new Danish industrial adventure.”

Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgian Minister of the North Sea, remarked: ”Developing new methods to reduce CO2 emissions is crucial for the future of our planet. This is a promising climate technology. The sea can play a key role in this regard. Not only has it always been of great importance in regulating our climate, but it also offers opportunities for carbon capture and storage. Over the past 2 years, we have already concluded agreements with the Netherlands and Denmark. Today, we are taking another important step with Norway to store captured CO2 in their depleted oil and gas fields.”

Alongside renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, the rollout of CCS is seen as the right move to curb the greenhouse gas emissions footprint. In line with this, Zuhal Demir, Flemish Minister for Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism, is convinced that the cooperation between Flanders and Norway will serve as a boost for the future development of the CCUS-value chain since Norway’s “great potential” turns the country into fertile ground for the storage of CO2.

Romina Pourmokhtari, Sweden’s Minister for Climate and Environment, outlined: “Beside extensive mitigation, the capture and storage of CO2 will be necessary to curb the climate crisis. CCS and BECCS will play a key role towards EU’s 2050 objective for climate neutrality and negative emissions thereafter. Sweden has a great potential för BECCS and we already have projects underway. These agreements are essential for Sweden and its industry in realizing a fossil free future.”

The agreements come after Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands took steps to bolster cooperation within the European Union (EU) on carbon capture and storage with a declaration that paints carbon capture, utilization, and storage as a key climate tool.

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Moreover, Norway and the Netherlands inked an arrangement for energy cooperation around the North Sea in 2021, including carbon capture and storage. Similar arrangements were put in place between Norway and Belgium in 2022 and Denmark in 2023, along with a joint declaration with Sweden in 2022. Aside from this, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands penned arrangements for the cross-border transport and storage of captured carbon in 2022 and 2023.

Lars Aagaard, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, emphasized: ”In order to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors, we need carbon capture and storage. In order to reach climate neutrality by 2050 in Europe, we need carbon capture and storage in a larger, international scale. Today’s arrangements are two great steps in the right direction. It’s all hands on deck – and I’m glad to see both Norway and Sweden joining our work towards an international industry for carbon capture and storage.”

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While multiple decarbonization tools are available, CCS is seen as a tool that can capture some of the emissions that are very difficult to prevent. However, getting rid of those emissions by capturing and storing them is considered necessary to reach Europe’s climate goals, thus, this makes carbon capture and storage “an essential climate tool,” according to the Dutch government.

“Storage of CO2 is a cost-effective means of reducing emissions on time to reach the EU climate targets. This cooperation between Norway and the Netherlands on cross-border CO2 transport, is an important step in the development of an open European CCS market,” underlined Rob Jetten, Minister for Climate and Energy of the Netherlands.

“It contributes to the EU climate goals and economic development. I am hopeful that this declaration will soon be followed by concrete project between the Netherlands and Norway.”