TotalEnergies aims to send CO2 back to nature's storage

Erhverv 02. January 2024

Morten Gjetting Stage, Head of New Business CCS at TotalEnergies Denmark, is leading TotalEnergies' work with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to capture and store some of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. Photo: Christer Holte.

Editor:

Uffe Lundgaard

Head of Investment and International Relations

Contact Uffe

CO2 is a simple compound of carbon and oxygen, and a completely natural element of nature. Yet CO2 constitutes the biggest threat to the climate and humanity, making it high time to reduce CO2 emissions.

But addressing emissions can’t stand alone, and more importantly cannot be completed quickly enough. We cannot just reduce CO2 emissions- to keep a lid on temperature increases, we also need to capture and store some of the CO2 that continues to be released into the atmosphere.

That is the reason for the major research and initiatives in the field of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – and the energy company, TotalEnergies, is a global pioneer in this field.

“CCS is an inevitable component in mitigating climate impacts – the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency clearly state that we will not reach our climate ambitions without CCS,” explains Morten Gjetting Stage, Head of New Business CCS at TotalEnergies Denmark.

CCS is an inevitable component in mitigating climate impacts.

Morten Gjetting Stage

Head of New Business CCS at TotalEnergies Danmark

“Here in Denmark, we focus heavily on reducing our energy consumption and transitioning to green energy, but there are still numerous industries that can only exist using fossil fuels. In some types of production, such as steel and concrete, temperatures are so high that we don’t yet have technologies to drive them up using electrification and green power.”

CCS is an important part of the equation for achieving climate goals, so TotalEnergies and other stakeholders have taken it upon themselves to lead the way. The French multi-energy giant, that acquired Maersk Oil and Gas in 2017, is a key partner in Project Bifrost – an ambitious collaboration between TotalEnergies (on behalf of the Danish Underground Consortium), DTU, and Ørsted, with support from public research funds under the EUDP (Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program).

The name Bifrost – which in Norse mythology was the rainbow bridge between the human and divine worlds – is a metaphor for the connection between land and sea. Project Bifrost captures CO2 on land and sends it back underground at sea, creating a circular climate economy where CO2 is returned to the oil and gas fields from which it originated. The project specifically focuses on the Harald field in the North Sea, aiming to explore how the solution can work in practice and on a large scale.

“Each element in the process – CO2 capture, transport, injection, etc. – is a known technology. However, the combination of capture, transport, and storage is unknown at this scale,” elaborates Morten Stage.

“Each element in the process – CO2 capture, transport, injection, etc. – is a known technology. However, the combination of capture, transport, and storage is unknown at this scale. ”

Morten Gjetting Stage

Head of New Business CCS at TotalEnergies Danmark

“And when undertaking such projects in the North Sea, one must ensure it works for many years – operating there is very expensive. So now that we are converting the existing facilities to CO2 storage, we are reviewing every single piece of the system. How do we handle it when CO2 needs to pass through? It needs to be examined and tested for every single element, and that’s what we’re using the next two years for – calculating and testing.”

Apart from the old oil and gas fields, brand-new storage reservoirs in sandstone aquifers – underground layers – also play a crucial role in CO2 storage, mainly because they have even greater capacity, and there’s no need to check for leaks as in old wells. Conversely, old oil/gas fields have the advantage of being selected and tested by nature.

“The reason oil and gas were found here is that it moved underground and eventually hit a ‘trap.’ It couldn’t go further because it encountered a specific structure in the underground with a ‘seal’ on top. It’s nature’s pressure chamber – and we want to reuse that,” explains Morten Stage.

Morten Gjetting Stage predicts that Denmark and the Esbjerg area will play a crucial role in the global CCS industry. Photo: Christer Holte.

He also assures that there’s no need to worry about the underwater CO2 storage leaking over time.

“In Norway, CO2 has been pumped back underground during production for many years when there was no use for it. They’ve conducted a lot of monitoring and observed how the reservoirs have evolved over the years, so the technology is in place for this part.”

Going forward, CCS will be a crucial area for Esbjerg's industry and business development. Leveraging our skills and knowledge of working at sea, the suppliers in Esbjerg play a vital role in CCS.

Uffe Lundgaard

Head of Investment and International Relations at Business Esbjerg

In the coming years, the work involves combining and scaling the technology, and significant progress will likely be made towards the volume in the 2030s.

“I believe we need to reach the 2030s before we hit the really large scale. In Project Bifrost, however, we’ve committed to injecting a minimum of 5 million tons of CO2 by 2030 under the right circumstances. At TotalEnergies, we have an ambition of 10 million tons by 2030 at the group level and 30-50 million tons by 2050,” Morten Stage points out.

“Denmark and the Esbjerg area will play a crucial role in this. We also envision a significant shipment of CO2 to the port of Esbjerg and then from there via the Nybro facility and further through the existing pipeline 200 km into the North Sea.”

This means that the entire CCS area also holds the potential for yet another new business adventure for Esbjerg – much like the early days of the offshore industry in the region.

“Much of what I’m talking about is precisely the same as for oil and gas development in the past 50 years – it’s just about transporting a different medium, namely CO2. And just like when oil and gas were a young industry, new ideas will emerge, giving rise to new companies,” says Morten Stage.

“After the first generation, people will figure out smarter ways of doing things, and there’s still a lot of work in maintenance, especially concerning the platforms. We can’t come up with all the good ideas ourselves, but I’m confident that many talented individuals around will look at this and ask: Why don’t we do it this way or that way?” he predicts.

Esbjerg has several key players who can make the value chain work and make it scalable and economically viable.

Uffe Lundgaard

Head of Investment and International Relations at Business Esbjerg

“We will continue to be open to collaborations, and on the CCS map, Denmark will remain important, even though we are a French company. The potential for CO2 capture plays a significant role worldwide, so it’s a global portfolio with the potential to expand worldwide, much like with oil and gas back then. If you’re a good supplier, it doesn’t matter to us whether you’re from Esbjerg or Edinburgh,” concludes Morten Stage.

“With an end date for Danish oil and gas, it’s important that we establish a new business base in Esbjerg,” says Uffe Lundgaard, Head of Investment and International Relations at Business Esbjerg, and continues:

“Going forward, CCS will be a crucial area for Esbjerg’s industry and business development. Leveraging our skills and knowledge of working at sea, the suppliers in Esbjerg play a vital role in CCS. Several companies are already active with products and solutions for CCS. Test facilities also play a major role, as we need to ensure we don’t compromise on safety and quality. Esbjerg has several key players who can make the value chain work and make it scalable and economically viable. That’s why projects like Bifrost are essential; they validate the possibilities in the Danish subsoil and pave the way for a thriving CCS industry,” concludes Uffe Lundgaard.