Denmark gives go-ahead for CO2 storage in North Sea

For the first time, Denmark has granted permits to store carbon dioxide (CO2) under the North Sea seabed on a large scale. The Danish climate and energy ministry announced this on Monday.

Two projects are involved: French energy group TotalEnergies (Bifrost) and a consortium of British chemical giant Ineos and German oil company and gas producer Wintershall DEA (Greensand).

The projects are expected to store up to 13 million tonnes of atmospheric CO2 – a greenhouse gas – more than two km under the Danish part of the North Sea by 2030.

Once captured at source, for example, on industrial sites, the CO2 must thus be transported (by ship or old gas pipelines) to be stored in reservoirs (geological cavities, depleted oil and gas fields, etc.).

“Milestone in green transition”

Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Lars Aagaard talks about “a milestone in our green transition” that will allow Denmark to reach its climate targets faster. Denmark estimates that it has a storage potential of 22 billion tonnes or between 500 and 1 000 years of Danish emissions.

In September, it already signed an agreement with Flanders and Belgium for the international transport of carbon dioxide, which means that it will be able to store its CO2 emissions underground. With the industrial clusters in Antwerp and Ghent, Flanders has excellent potential for CO2 capture, but Flanders itself had few possibilities to store CO2 in the ground.

From Zwijndrecht to the Danish coast

The permit or Bifrost project won by TotalEnergies covers an area of more than 2 000 km², about 250 km from the Danish west coast. The site includes the Harald gas field and a saline aquifer that could accommodate the stored volumes.

For the pilot project, CO2 captured by Ineos at its Zwijndrecht plant in Belgium was shipped via the port of Antwerp to the company’s Nine West oil platform near the Harald gas field. It was injected as a liquid into the former oil field under the seabed. TotalEnergies has the aim of trapping 5 million tonnes per year by 2030.

Greensand had already received approval from the Danish Energy Agency two months ago for a pilot project storing up to 15 000 tonnes of CO2 in a former oil field in the North Sea. Project Greensand should allow the storage of 1,5 million tonnes of CO2 by 2025 and up to 8 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. For this, Project greensand will receive 26 million euros of Danish state aid.

Transitional measure

Carbon capture storage (CCS) technology has been championed at an early stage by the American politician and environmentalist Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, among others. Besides Denmark, Norway is also considered a pioneer of the project.

Geologists also stress that the safety evaluation of CCS is clearly positive. In their view, CCS is a transitional measure that allows short-term reductions in emissions. However, they admit that the technique is not the most sustainable solution and stress that renewable energy development must accompany it.

According to them, the technique is also needed because “worldwide energy demand continues to rise and to switch to a totally different energy system will take several decades.”

Environmental organizations not happy

However, the technique of CCS has already come under fire by environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, which see it as a means of continuing investments in fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy.

They also believe that the technology is still costly, in its infancy, and may not be reliable, which could lead to leaks where CO2 enters the atmosphere in large quantities.

Some 40 billion tonnes of CO2 are emitted each year globally. Of that, some 2 billion tonnes of CO2 are currently removed from the atmosphere every year, mainly by forests. New technologies achieve only 0,1%.


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