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In response to the climate emergency, TotalEnergies has made the development of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) one of its strategic priorities. The aim is to build a new industrial sector at start-up pace by launching numerous initiatives like the trailblazing Northern Lights project.

2.4 Billion Tons of CO2 to Be Stored by 2040

The rapid and extensive deployment of CCUS solutions is one of the key drivers for keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C in 2100. In particular, CCUS will help decarbonize industrial facilities — such as power plants, cement factories, steel plants and petrochemicals complexes — that will continue to emit CO2 despite having implemented environmental programs. To achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century, as set out in the Paris Agreement, 750 million tons of CO2 will need to have been captured and stored by 2030 and 2.4 billion by 2040. This volume of fossil fuel-related CCUS is in line with the projections for 2040 in the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

Aware that the climate objective is of crucial importance to the future of our plant, TotalEnergies has made CCUS a key component of its strategy. It therefore allocates 10% of its total R&D budget to developing breakthrough CCUS solutions that are more cost effective and more energy efficient, to speed up their wide-scale deployment. TotalEnergies is also supporting the emergence of the first commercial hubs, which will drive the industrial scale-up of CCUS over the short and medium term. As an oil and gas major, TotalEnergies has the critical skills required to develop this new sector, particularly thanks to its expertise in such areas as geosciences (for managing the storage reservoirs), drilling and injection technologies, gas processing and transmission, and the management of large, complex, capital-intensive projects.

Northern Lights: Paving the Way for Commercial CCUS

Since 2017, TotalEnergies has been participating, alongside Equinor (operator) and Shell, in the Northern Lights project in Norway. This large-scale, pioneering project to capture, transport and geologically store industrial CO2 emissions represents a major milestone in the development of CCUS. For demonstration purposes, Phase 1 aims to store nearly 40 million tons of CO2 over 25 years (or 1.5 million tons per year). The goal is to develop a viable, reproducible commercial model that will serve as a template for other large-scale projects worldwide.

The Northern Lights project will start by capturing the CO2 emissions generated by two industrial facilities in Norway — a cement works and a cogeneration plant. The CO2 will be shipped in liquid form to a temporary onshore storage site, before being transported for around 100 kilometers by subsea pipeline to its injection site, a deep saline aquifer on the Norwegian continental shelf. Northern Lights has nonetheless been scaled, right from Phase 1, to accommodate CO2 from other industrial sources in Norway and other parts of Europe. In fact, this is one of the project’s key innovations. By offering a carbon transportation and storage service to future customers, Northern Lights may well be the first storage solution in the world to receive CO2 from industrial sources in more than one country.

If everything goes as planned (final investment decision by the project partners in mid-2020 and approval by the Norwegian government in late 2020), Northern Lights should be operational from end-2023. The project has also been designed to include an extension phase (Phase 2), which will enable it to receive and store an additional 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year for new customers across Europe.

Capitalizing on the Lessons Learned for Other CCUS Projects

In addition to contributing their technical expertise to Northern Lights, TotalEnergies’ cross-disciplinary teams have also been tasked with capitalizing on the technical, legal and economic lessons learned from this innovative project. Project pluses and technical difficulties are all part of the essential learning process required to develop business models that are profitable and sustainable for all stakeholders in this promising sector.

Optimizing the design of the ships used for CO2 transportation, for example, is one of the improvement avenues identified thanks to Northern Lights. Exploration & Production’s R&D teams are already working on this issue, in collaboration with Equinor and other industrial and academic partners. They are notably investigating the possibility of low-pressure CO2 transportation, which could be much more cost-effective than the current high-pressure design. It may also be beneficial for the other CCUS projects in which TotalEnergies is investing.

Europe in general, and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in particular, is where TotalEnergies is focusing its investments in the design phase of future CCUS projects. These include:

  • The Net Zero Teesside project operated by BP, with support from the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). This is the first commercial CCUS project in the United Kingdom and the first solution worldwide designed to combine the capture of CO2 emissions from a new gas-fired power generation plant with those from local industrial emitters.
  • Acorn, which aims to reuse existing oil and gas infrastructure to transport and store the CO2 generated by Europe’s first operational clean hydrogen production facility, located at the St. Fergus Gas terminal in the United Kingdom.
  • Aramis, where we plan to convert our depleted offshore gas fields into carbon storage sites.
  • The 3D Project (for DMX™ Demonstration in Dunkirk), which aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of an innovative process for capturing CO2 from industrial activities, with a view to developing the future European Dunkirk-North Sea CCS cluster.

These demonstration projects in and around the North Sea are an integral part of our learning curve. They enable us to test different business models, so that tomorrow we can develop CCUS projects in other regions of the world, thereby combining our efforts with those of all the other committed public and private sector players to meet the immense challenge of a future without CO2 emissions.