Northern Lights is not a physically localized hub, but distributed. While other hubs are based on compact industrial clusters linked by pipeline, this Norwegian hub will use ships to connect geographically distant carbon dioxide sources from around Europe. The investment decision was taken in late 2020 and the facilities are now under construction.
In its first phase, 80% subsidized by the Norwegian government, the project aims to store emissions from two sites in eastern Norway: the Fortum waste-to energy plant in Oslo, and the Norcem cement factory in Brevik, which between them will capture about 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Norcem is under construction; Fortum is still looking for full financing.
The captured carbon dioxide will be compressed and liquefied at each site. Specially designed ships will then take it to a temporary storage site in Øygarden in western Norway, from where it will be piped for permanent storage to the Aurora reservoir, a saline aquifer about 110 km from shore and 2.6 km under the seabed. Its storage capacity is expected to be at least 100 million tonnes.
Transport and storage will be handled by the Northern Lights joint venture, owned by three OGCI members: Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies. Gassnova is overseeing the project for the government, ensuring that the value chain from emitters to storage is properly regulated and managed.
For the second phase, Northern Lights is offering commercial carbon storage services to companies across Europe. The receiving terminal, offshore pipeline and injection infrastructure are designed to be extended to accommodate over 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, depending on demand. Northern Lights has identified over 90 suitable capture sites, and there is already interest from industrial site in eight countries, in sectors including steel, biomass and hydrogen. Four of these sites – a hydrogen refinery in Finland, hydrogen and chemicals in Antwerp, a cement plant in France and a biomass with CCS plant in Sweden – have received investment from the EU’s Innovation Fund to support large-scale capture of CO2. Northern Lights is also collaborating with Swiss direct air capture company Climeworks to look at the potential of storing carbon dioxide captured directly from the atmosphere.
The project’s construction phase will bring between 1,500 and 3,000 jobs, with around 170 jobs created directly during operation, alongside many thousands of jobs created and safeguarded in industries that decarbonize through CCS or participate in carbon removals.