Possible Amine-Related Health Risks Stall Large-Scale CCS Project

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy last week called for an evaluation of “alternative solutions” to execute a large-scale carbon capture plant whose construction is under way at the Mongstad refinery on the country’s western coast, after “theoretical studies” indicated health and environmental risks related to amine technology.

The studies were part of documents submitted in connection with an application for an emission permit for the project by energy company Statoil, the government said in a statement last week.

“Statoil interpret[s] the result of this work as a possible increased health risk related to the use of amines. Theoretical studies have earlier indicated health and environmental risks related to the amine technology,” it said. “Because of the increased uncertainty related to the amine technology, the government will evaluate alternative solutions for the project execution of the large scale plant.”

Norway has worked with Statoil to establish the carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant at the refinery since 2006, and the government said it continues to commit to the technology’s development “based on acceptable technical and environmental standards and a sound economic basis” because CCS is a central part of Norway’s policy on energy and climate change.

The government conceded that alternative technologies could result in higher costs and a longer planning phase for the project. After a “thorough evaluation” of the matter, the ministry said it would consult the Norwegian parliament before Christmas.

“We must be certain that all health-related factors associated with emissions from the amine process have been clarified and verified,” said Statoil project manager Petter Bryn earlier this year. “Therefore, we are devoting considerable resources in the next few years to securing more knowledge, as well as developing good methods for sampling and analysis.”

The $897 million Mongstad project involves construction of a Technology Center followed by a large-scale plant. Construction of the Technology Center, where two capture technologies (amines and chilled ammonia) will be tested on two exhaust gases containing different concentrations of CO2 is reportedly 50% complete. Testing was planned to start in early 2012. The final investment decision has now been delayed to 2014.

One source of emissions is the existing catalytic cracker facility at the Mongstad refinery. The other is emissions from a gas-fired combined heat and power plant (CHP) due to be put into operation this year. “The choices of technologies were made by the Technology Center project on the basis of assessments of the technologies’ potential for improvements, possibilities of implementation as retrofit solutions, possibilities of full-scale application, technical maturity, environmental burden, and the possibilities of capture from sources such as coal, natural gas, and refining,” the ministry says on its website.

Sources: Norway Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, POWERnews

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