Climate Action and Energy Miguel Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, and Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Minister Kjell Børge Freiberg discussed on February 5 the role of natural gas, and decarbonisation in the industry as well as carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

Energy is one of the main elements of EU–Norway collaboration. “Norway will continue to be a stable and predictable supplier of energy to the EU. I believe natural gas has a key role to play in the European energy mix for decades to come,” Freiberg said in his opening speech, adding that gas has a lot to offer in the transition to a low carbon energy system as the blue fuel is affordable, available, flexible and reliable. It is therefore widely used for heating, in industry and in the power sector, he said.

Norway’s gas exports cover 25% of the European gas use. “Our gas exports to the EU has been record high in the last years. Most of the gas is exported through our extensive pipeline network. This network now goes beyond the Arctic circle!” Freiberg quipped.

EU-Norway energy talks also focused on the efforts needed to modernise the power sector to contribute to the ambition of a climate neutral European economy by 2050. Norway, a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), is a strategic energy partner for the EU, taking part as a full member in the internal energy market. “With the EEA Agreement, we have a common legal framework. The agreement gives stability and a level playing field. This year, we celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the EEA agreement! And our energy relationship is even wider than the EEA Agreement. Access to secure and affordable energy is key, both to social and economic development. At the same time, a large share of emissions comes from the energy sector,” Freiberg said.

Noting that the Nordic power market is closely integrated with Europe, Freiberg highlighted the importance that the EEA Agreement ensures harmonised market rules. “The third energy market package is an important step forward. A decision to incorporate the package into the EEA Agreement was adopted in May 2017. Norway is eager to implement the package: A majority in the Norwegian Parliament has accepted the package. Necessary amendments in Norwegian law have also been approved by the Parliament. The Icelandic parliament must now also give its consent. As far as I know, the Icelandic Parliament will consider the case this spring. I hope there will be no further delays,” Freiberg said.

Norwegian gas

Norwegian gas exports to Europe began in the 1970s. “We have been through a strong growth period since the mid-1990s, and are now at a stable level. Around one-third of our estimated gas resources have been produced. This means that we have a lot of gas left to produce. We expect a high and stable level of gas exports to the EU in the years to come,” the Norwegian Energy Minister said.

He said gas as is an essential partner for the large-scale development of wind and solar power and has far lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal. “And the climate footprint of Norwegian gas is far lower than the world average, because of strict environmental rules on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Replacing coal with gas is a fast and cost-effective way to reduce emissions. We see this demonstrated for instance in the UK, the US and China,” Freiberg said, adding that in a decarbonized Europe beyond 2050, the established gas infrastructure could be used both for biogas and hydrogen made by natural gas reforming. Conversion of natural gas is today the most common and cost-effective process for producing hydrogen. Combined with CCS, it could be an attractive source of energy in a future zero-emission energy sector.

Freiberg noted that Norway has a long tradition for a market-based approach for trade and production of renewable electricity. “Nearly all of our electricity production comes from renewables, mainly hydropower. We are well integrated with the Nordic and European electricity markets. Our large hydropower reservoirs offer valuable flexibility into the market,” he said, adding that new inter-connectors to Germany and the UK are under construction. Wind power is increasing its share in Norwegian electricity production. “We also work to develop offshore wind. One of the world’s first offshore wind farms, Hywind Scotland, had its pilot days in Norwegian waters,” Freiberg said.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Turning to Carbon Capture and Storage, he said that low-emission technologies like CCS are key to reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The industry has been using CCS- technology offshore since the middle of the 1990s. “We have two CCS-projects in operation. We are now developing a new full-chain CCS demonstration project. This includes capture, transport and storage solutions. This new focus is on industries with few other options for large emission reductions. This includes both cement and waste incineration,” Freiberg said, explaining that the plan is to transport CO2 from the industrial sites and store it offshore. “The reservoir will have extra capacity. This allows for more CO2 than the volumes planned from Norwegian sources. The project is European by nature. It includes large European companies like Heidelberg Cement, Fortum, Shell, Total and Equinor,” he said, adding that together they will establish a fundament for a common European CO2 infrastructure.