Iceland and Norway’s pioneering CCS technologies play a vital role in securing Europe’s sustainable future

Published 02-02-2024

On 30 January, political leaders and industry experts convened at EFTA House in Brussels for the conference on the Development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the European Economic Area (EEA).

A total of 420 people attended the event, with 150 in-person participants and 270 people joining online through the live stream. The conference was organised jointly by EFTA and the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in cooperation with CEPS and M-Lex, and had speakers explore the future of CCS development in Iceland, Norway and the broader EEA.

CCS refers to various technologies designed to capture, transport and permanently store CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. In Europe, these technologies play a crucial role in the EU's decarbonisation efforts, as evident in initiatives like the European Green Deal, the European Climate Law and other measures established or planned to attain energy and climate targets for 2030. Among the 30 EEA States, Iceland and Norway are at the forefront of developing innovative CCS technologies.

The conference started with a high-level conversation between Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, Terje Aasland, Minister of Energy of Norway, and Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson, Head of Mission of Iceland to the EU. Moderated by MLex Editor Lewis Crofts, the panel discussed the critical role of CCS technology in addressing climate change and meeting European goals of becoming climate neutral, and specifically how new initiatives in Iceland and Norway can play a crucial role in the EU meeting its target.

The economic modelling around the EU’s 2040 climate target plan is clear: without CCUS, we will not meet our 2040 and 2050 objectives in a cost-effective way, said Commissioner Simson in her keynote.

The Net Zero Industry Act aims to establish storage capacity for 50 million tons of CO2 by 2030 in the EU. In Norway, we are in the position to match this number already in the early 2030s – alone, said Minister Aasland in his speech.

The second panel focused on the impact of technological advancements and policy developments. Representatives from Carbfix, the Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action, Bellona Europa and Equinor explored evolving policies and the development of an EEA market encompassing CO2 capture, transport and storage. Eve Tamme, Chair of the Zero Emissions Platform, moderated the session. 

It’s important that we focus on a European perspective. This is not a naive vision – this is a necessity. No country has enough emitters or storage to do this commercially on its own, said Lina Strandvåg Nagell, Senior Manager for Projects & EU Policy at Bellona Europa, referring to the need for establishing a common market for CCS in the EEA.

We have to ensure that existing and new policies are technology-neutral so we are already future-proofing technologies. This is critical because otherwise, we lose momentum, which we simply cannot afford, said Edda Aradóttir, CEO of Carbfix.

We need a robust procedure to provide permits to climate-critical projects. But in my opinion, we can make existing permitting processes more efficient, added Aradóttir.

The programme's second half looked at the practical implementation of common rules for CCS in the EEA. ESA Vice-President Árni Páll Árnason initiated the session with a comprehensive introduction to the EEA Agreement and ESA’s role in ensuring compliance. Panellists then deliberated on the purpose and application of a CCS directive to ensure the safe storage of CO2, and the need to ensure fair and equal market conditions across the EEA. 

 We need regulations. We couldn’t have started without it. The fact that we had the CCS Directive implemented back in 2012 gave a certain predictability for how we could develop this business, said Børre Jacobsen, Managing Director of Northern Lights, while noting that there is still a need for more predictability and simplicity in the regulation of the CCS industry. 

The conference marked the launch of EFTA’s #EEA30Years anniversary campaign, celebrating 30 years since the EEA Agreement came into force.


See high-resolution photos from the conference here.

See recordings of the keynotes and panel discussions here.

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