In a small village, close to the westernmost point of the Norwegian mainland, lies the world’s biggest carbon capture technology facility. Technology Centre Mongstad has gathered experts from around the world. Their job is to catch the future.
Carbon capture is at the top of the agenda for many emission-heavy industries. Here, among sea eagles, Atlantic salmon and wild deer, companies from Japan in the east to the US in the west come to test their technologies.
The stunning coastal landscape of the Nordhordland district on the western coast of Norway features a string of islands and heathlands, a reminder to visitors of the importance of reducing their carbon footprint. It is not far from the fjords and receding glaciers, and the historic harbour district in Bergen, one of Northern Europe’s oldest port cities which was already an established centre for trade in the 12th century.
Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) not only gives companies access to its facilities, but also to its extensive expertise and open source technologies. The centre is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2022. Although 10 years might not sound like a long time, it represents an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience in terms of CO₂ capture.
“Sharing knowledge is a key goal for us. Our role in conserving nature is through spreading knowledge and expertise about carbon capture and ensuring that the full-scale projects we see popping up around the world are successful,” says Muhammad Ismail Shah, managing director at Technology Centre Mongstad.
According to Shah, an open source strategy is key to succeeding with carbon capture across borders.
“Multiple long-term test campaigns have been conducted using open source technology, and their results have been shared publicly. Our test centre is globally renowned for its publications that address both the benefits and the challenges of carbon capture.”
The centre is designed to demonstrate and verify commercial technologies. Its state-of-the-art facilities include a site for testing emerging technologies, an amine plant and a chilled ammonia plant. A broad range of technologies can now be tested at the facility.
“The professional environment at TCM is both broad and strong. Here, both researchers and operators work together. Our common goal is to develop technology that is mature enough to enter the market commercially and enable secure carbon capture, including in the future,” says Kjetil Hantveit, modification manager at TCM.
Located next to Equinor’s refinery at Mongstad, the centre has access to two live flue gas sources with a CO₂ content ranging from 4 to 15 per cent. Both the amine plant and the chilled ammonia plant each have the capacity to capture around 100 000 metric tons of CO₂ per year. Meanwhile, the emerging technology site can capture 18 000 metric tons per year.
“At TCM, we demonstrate control of operations and emissions, with over 4 000 online instruments and manual sampling points to collect valuable data. TCM’s internationally recognised capabilities are actively used to demonstrate carbon capture at a large scale,” says Shah.
CO₂ capture technologies need to mature and prove their capabilities as they move from the lab to full-scale, commercially viable alternatives. The test centre thoroughly verifies technologies, while reducing risk related to emissions, energy efficiency and cost. The centre is open to both proprietary and open source technologies that meet its selection criteria.
Testing at TCM provides unique insight into how technology performs under a variety of conditions, with flue gases that can mimic a range of CO₂ content. Its highly skilled staff cooperates closely with clients to optimise the process and achieve a successful test campaign.
The rigorous data quality assurance programme ensures that test results have excellent quality and accuracy. The data can be used to validate internal process models and simulations, which can be used to design large-scale carbon capture and storage projects. The most advanced amine technologies in the market today have all been tested at TCM.
Operating under an emissions permit requires expertise and knowledge about chemical reactions that take place during the process. Emission control is essential when developing sustainable solutions for the future. These are among the topics addressed in TCM’s 65 publications, and counting.
Success is often about asking the right questions. TCM is generating and sharing knowledge about which questions to ask. This facility is a tool for the owners to become knowledgeable about carbon capture.
“At Mongstad, you find expertise that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. The nature around us here is fantastic. I believe it's very important to conserve nature so that future generations can enjoy it too,” says Hilde Bergum, administrator at TCM.
The technology centre is an important tool for combating climate change, in line with Norway’s Paris Agreement commitments. A successful transition to green energy will require close collaboration between all industries when it comes to sharing vision and experience. Demonstrating and testing technologies increases the pace of innovation and reduces costs and risks related to carbon capture.
Key knowledge gained from long-term innovation at the centre will also contribute to meeting the objectives of Norway’s biggest CO₂ capture and storage project to date, the Longship project. TCM provides valuable support to project developers, with operational training and troubleshooting prior to the commissioning of their own projects.
In the coming years, TCM will continue to support the decarbonisation of the global economy and the acceleration and deployment of new technologies to reach the goal of net-zero emissions.
“It’s very rewarding to be a part of something that can change the world. I used to work at an oil refinery, and I think it's really exciting to be taking this path,” says Even Rikstad, process operator at the Mongstad site.
“We are working to develop technologies that can help to solve the climate crisis we are now facing.”