The government’s signals of more intensive support schemes may show the way.
CLIMIT has taken a new path, and in 2014 chose to grant financial support to help ensure that good ideas actually get off the ground. CLIMIT R&D recently awarded support to four projects with innovative ideas, all at NTNU and SINTEF. CLIMIT Demo has received nine applications so far for conceptual studies, including three projects that were selected for further studies.
"My impression is that there is a solid foundation of expertise in the Norwegian research community. This is a positive surprise, and I am optimistic with regard to what we can achieve," says Sørheim. "The ideas that have emerged are truly new and innovative. Here we are seeing the fruits of a long-term development of expertise that has taken place for more than ten years," he says.
Challenging for Norwegian industry
However, while the research communities are thriving, the industry remains on the fence. To them, the financial risk of developing CCS technology is too high, as long as there is no market.
"The market forms the basis for whether it is the right commercial decision to enter into heavy CCR projects, so we may have to put up with the fact that it is very challenging to involve Norwegian industry for a while," says Sørheim.
Increased support intensity
One of the instruments to promote increased industry involvement could be increasing support intensity, i.e. how much of its research expenses a company can have covered by the Norwegian state. According to the current ESA rules for public support, a company can receive a maximum of 65 per cent of a project's costs. The industry has long awaited an increase to this.
"I believe this is a way to go if it is possible, simply because the commercial basis and framework conditions for the industry are already quite challenging as it is. However, then they will depend on necessary pre-approvals under the public support regulations," he says.
Government's strategy sets important premises for CLIMIT
"As I understand the government's new strategy, the government acknowledges the industry challenge and is determined to look into what can be done to remedy this, including increasing the intensity of public funding," he says.
One of the measures in the government's strategy for CCS work which was submitted together with the 2015 fiscal budget is:
"Consider expanding the CLIMIT research and demonstration programme's ability to support projects with higher funding amounts and a higher percentage of project costs (support intensity), and consider expanding's CLIMIT's ability to support projects with a larger degree of international activities. CLIMIT must be pre-approved again by EFTA's surveillance authority ESA, and this work will take into account a potential expanded framework for CLIMIT."
"There are no major changes for CLIMIT as such in the government's strategy, but CLIMIT must be adapted to the other measures in the strategy. Together with the secretariat, the board will review CLIMIT's strategy in light of the overarching strategy from the government," says Sørheim.
With its programme plan, CLIMIT has encouraged Norwegian research communities to 'think global' and has prioritised projects with international partners. This is a development the new chair fully agrees with.
"International CCS cooperation is crucial. In order to realise the ambitions and goals in the government's new strategy, we must increase international cooperation. We have already started this process in CLIMIT, but these efforts will have to be strengthened in the further work," says Sørheim.
Norway must cooperate on both sides of the Atlantic in order to stimulate progress in CCS. The first full-scale capture plant for CO2 was recently opened at Boundary Dam in Canada, not Europe.
"Much of the research activity within CCS is taking place in the US and Canada. These two countries are natural partners for Norway. However, we cannot forget about Europe. I believe the EU will get more involved eventually when they get back on their feet after the recent financial challenges," says Sørheim.
The government is signalling that it wants to look at possibilities of closer cooperation with a European project, and to contribute financially.