Shell unveils carbon burial plan for North Sea

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The Independent Online

Plans for the world's biggest project to capture the greenhouse gases produced by electricity generation and store them under the sea in giant oilfields were unveiled yesterday by Shell and Statoil, the state-controlled Norwegian oil producer.

The companies envisage spending $1.5bn (£860m) to build a new gas-fired station in Norway and then pump the carbon dioxide it produces into two oil and gas fields off the Norwegian coast to help enhance production.

Shell and Statoil said the go-ahead for the project, which is due to come on stream in 2010, would depend on government support and could enable Norway to cut its carbon emissions by 2.5 million tonnes a year.

These so-called "carbon capture" schemes have become an increasingly viable way of combating global warming by containing the greenhouse gases produced by fossil-fuel generation and using them to enhance oil production in a more environmentally friendly way.

The station would produce 860 megwatts of electricity - of which about one-fifth would be used to power the carbon capture plant. The remainder would either be sold into the grid or used to meet the needs of the two fields - Draugen and Heidrun - and to help fire up the giant Orman Lange gas field.

Graeme Sweeney, the executive vice-president of Shell, said extra electricity-generating capacity would be needed in that part of Norway to meet demand from offshore operators and local industry, irrespective of whether its own project went ahead.

He added that if the project proved a success, the model could be adopted in other parts of the world, possibly including the UK sector of the North Sea, where carbon capture and injection could give a new lease of life to declining oil and gas fields.

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