Gas-fired power under threat

June 14, 1999, 15:05 CEST

Nitrogen oxide cuts imposed by the Norwegian authorities are so stringent that they will prevent gas-fired power stations being built in Norway.

This view comes from Knut Barland, environmental vice president in Statoil, on the basis of the emission permit issued to Naturkraft by the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) for two gas-fired stations in western Norway.

Statoil, which is a shareholder in Naturkraft, is concerned that an over-hasty decision by the government to approve the stringent emission limits set in this permit could effectively block the development of these and similar facilities.

"While the volume of nitrogen oxides released in Norway needs to be reduced, we should opt for the cheapest and most effective measures to achieve such cuts," Mr Barland maintains.

As a case in point, he cites new technology for ferries in western Norway which could cut these emissions at a cost of just NOK 10 per kilogram of nitrogen oxides.

Corresponding measures in a gas-fired power station while seeking to meet the SFT's environmental requirements would cost NOK 60 per kilogram.

"That gives less environmental benefit for the money," Mr Barland observes. "If we're going to achieve big reductions, we must concentrate our spending where it gives the best results."

He adds that ferry traffic in Norway is one of the biggest sources of national nitrogen oxide emissions. The gas-fired power stations planned by Naturkraft at Statoil's Kårstø and Kollsnes gas pipeline landfalls will add two per cent to local emissions of these pollutants.

And the latest measurements from Norway's institutes for air and forest research indicate that local environmental carrying capacities can accommodate an increase on this scale.

The SFT's permit requirements refer to observations made more than a decade ago, Mr Barland notes. They are no longer representative for the gratifying improvement in acid precipitation affecting Norway.

"So the technology chosen by Naturkraft is also environmentally acceptable in terms of nitrogen oxides," Mr Barland observes.

The Ministry of the Environment is currently considering an appeal against the SFT permit from Naturkraft's shareholders, which also include Norsk Hydro and Statkraft.

This appeal should be seen in the light of last autumn's Storting (parliamentary) debate on emission trading with greenhouse gases and the government's energy White Paper, Mr Barland notes.

Nitrogen oxides can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is hazardous for plants, animals and humans. The biggest source of these pollutants in Norway is acid precipitation from other countries.