Norwegians are proud of their commitment to clean power, at least internally. Not everyone understands the country’s rather schizophrenic attitude toward fossil fuels. It has tremendous reserves of oil and gas under its control but declines to use them internally. Instead, it sells them to its neighbors. Norway gets nearly 95% of its domestic electricity from hydro, thanks to its abundant rivers and streams. So it was a surprise to many at the beginning of this century when the decision was made to build a natural gas generating plant near Kårstø.
According to long-time CleanTechnica reader Are Hansen, that decision created such an uproar within the country that the ruling Christian Democrats walked out of the government. The Labour leaders that remained in office were forced to specify the use of carbon capture technology in order to placate the voters. That provision proved to be the poison pill that killed the project.
A large and expensive research effort began to find a way to meet the carbon capture requirement, but in the end it was decided there was no way the facility could operate profitably. Opened in 2007, it only stayed in full operation until 2012. In 2014, it was shut down completely. Now it is begin dismantled, its $240 million investment completely wasted.
“As a rule of thumb, the electricity price had to be two times higher than the gas price so that we could make a profit,” says Bjarne Midtun Hervik, the managing director of Naturkraft, the joint enterprise owned by Statoil and Statkraft that built and operated the gas facility. But as of a the spring of 2016, the outlook for gas prices made that calculation appear untenable any time in the next to to 15 years. That’s when the decision to close the plant was made.
Attempts were made to find a buyer for the facility, but no interested parties could be found, which led to the further decision to dismantle it. Its major component, the 330 ton gas turbine, has been shipped home to Hamburg, Germany, where its maker — Siemens — has no use for it other than to use it as a training tool for its gas turbine engineers. The rest of the equipment — the main boiler, the generator, and the gas intake module with pressure reduction equipment — is for sale, but there are no buyers on the horizon.
“As the gas turbine has disappeared, it has proved difficult to find buyers for the rest of the equipment, which is likely to need to be scrapped,” said Ring Tore Teigen, Managing Director of the demolition company at Hellik Teigen, which has been hired to demolish the explosion proof administration building as well as the adjacent workshop and warehouse, according to TU News.
“We are impatient to get this done,” says Hervik. “Before April, everything must be gone. There will hardly be a trace left. Everything must be removed, all the way down to half a meter below ground level.”
It is odd that natural gas is considered a miracle fuel in the United States. Its supporters say it preserves America’s energy independence, creates jobs for US workers, fights terrorism, and is a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future. It’s interesting how in another country it is seen as too carbon intensive and unable to compete against the plummeting price of renewable energy from wind turbines and solar panels. One might think that arithmetic is the same on both sides of the Atlantic, but not even math can overcome the power of knee-jerk ideologues who have been paid handsomely to fudge the numbers to favor their benefactors.