Ørsted, Aker Carbon Capture, Microsoft in Carbon Capture Collab

The Northern Lights template on the seabed (Photo: Equinor)
The Northern Lights template on the seabed (Photo: Equinor)

Norway's Aker Carbon Capture, Danish offshore wind giant Ørsted, and global technology behemoth Microsoft are teaming up in a project to capture emissions from biomass power plants and possibly storing them under the seabed offshore Norway.

The trio on Wednesday announced the collaboration to explore the technological, regulatory, and commercial possibilities of developing carbon capture at biomass-fired heat and power plants.

"Carbon capture and storage is widely accepted as an important instrument to meet both the Danish climate targets of 70 % carbon reduction by 2030 and to meet the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius," Aker Carbon Capture said in a statement.

By capturing the carbon emitted by biomass-fired heat and power plants and storing it underground, it is possible to not only reduce but also remove carbon from the atmosphere, as carbon from sustainable biomass is part of a natural biogenic carbon cycle, the company said.

Under the memorandum of understanding the partners agreed to explore the possibility to jointly develop a negative emission project at
one of Ørsted's biomass plants in Denmark, and potentially using Northern Lights carbon capture and storage project in Norway where Microsoft is an existing partner.

The Northern Lights project, led by Equinor, Shell, and Total, is part of the Norwegian full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project “Langskip (Longship),” supported by the Norwegian government.

The project will initially include the capture of CO2 from Norwegian industrial capture sources. The Northern Lights project comprises transportation, receipt, and permanent storage of CO₂ in a reservoir in the northern North Sea.

Initially, Northern Lights includes the capacity to transport, inject and store up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Once the CO2 is captured onshore, it will be transported by ships, injected, and permanently stored 2,600 meters below the seabed of the North Sea.

Aker Carbon Capture, Microsoft, and Ørsted will also explore a technology collaboration to integrate Microsoft's digital expertise into a biogenic carbon capture project with Aker Carbon Capture's health, safety & environment (HSE) friendly capture technology; explore ways for Microsoft, Aker Carbon Capture, and Ørsted to jointly accelerate the development of a biogenic carbon capture project; and explore and establish advocacy of policies that help accelerate the negative emission frameworks in European countries

According to the statement released Wednesday, it is the ultimate vision of the parties to drive forward the process of facilitating negative emissions and reaching actual operation of a commercial and technical setup creating substantial negative emissions.

Today, Ørsted has six biomass-fired units and provides around one-quarter of Denmark's district heating. The biomass used as fuel at Ørsted's heat and power plants comes from "sustainably managed" production forests and is surplus wood, such as sawdust from sawmills or residues from trimming or crooked trees. 

This wood is of a too low quality to be used for construction or furniture. The surplus wood can either be left to rot or be burned in the forest, or it can be used for example to replace gas and coal in energy production, the joint statement reads.

All the surplus wood that Ørsted sources comes from growth forests which means that the carbon emitted when the surplus wood is converted to energy is recaptured by the forest within the span of a few years.
A graphic shared by Ørsted related to the MoU with Microsoft and Aker Carbon CaptureWhile Ørsted foresees that technologies based on renewable power will replace a substantial part of bioenergy in the district heating towards 2040, it expects carbon capture at a number of biomass-fired units to play an important role in the energy transition.

"Carbon capture will most likely be an important part of the green transition, and we see opportunities for capturing the carbon at some of our biomass-fired heat and power plants and either store it underground in order to achieve negative emissions or use the carbon for the production of green fuels in Power -to-X facilities. Therefore, we're currently exploring the regulatory, technical, and economic possibilities of carbon capture at our facilities," says Ole Thomsen, Senior Vice President at Ørsted.

Microsoft globally participates in several initiatives to drive the reduction of carbon emissions, and Microsoft has been carbon neutral across the world since 2012 and commits to being carbon negative by 2030. Its stated goal is to promote sustainable development and low-carbon business practices globally through sustainable business practices and cloud-enabled technologies. 

"Partnership across sectors and digital innovation are key in the fight against climate change. The plan to achieve the Danish ambition of 70 % carbon reduction by 2030 relies in part on carbon capture and storage at scale, and we're excited to support this alongside Ørsted and Aker Carbon Capture," explains Nana Bule, General Manager, Microsoft Denmark and Iceland.

"We're very excited to leverage and build on top of our experience from other projects and to enter this new partnership between Aker Carbon Capture, Ørsted, and Microsoft. In Microsoft, we take our ambitious sustainability goals seriously, and this MoU is yet another great initiative that comes out of the Nordic region. We all need to do more and move faster if we are to succeed on reaching our sustainable goals," says Kimberly Lein-Mathisen, General Manager, Microsoft Norway.

"The relationship with Ørsted and Microsoft opens for a potential first-of-a-kind, accelerated biogenic CCS project," says Valborg Lundegaard, Chief Executive Officer of Aker Carbon Capture.

Aker Carbon Capture has developed carbon capture technologies and delivered projects for more than ten years and today has the solutions to support customers across several industries, establishing sustainable business models for the future. "Focusing on HSE-friendly capture, Aker Carbon Capture will bring its leading capture technology to accelerate the delivery of a full biogenic CCS value chain," says Lundegaard.

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