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"The right balance is full speed ahead"

August 23, 2006, 14:50 CEST

"The world's need for energy is increasing dramatically. In order to meet future demand, it is important to continue our efforts at full pace, both with regard to renewable sources of energy and fossil fuels," senior vice president Alexandra Bech Gjørv, head of Hydro's New Energy unit, commented at the ONS conference in Stavanger on Wednesday.

"At the same time, we must do everything we can to handle tackle CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in a life cycle perspective," she emphasized.

The balance between renewable and non-renewable energy

The topic for the lecture was how we can find the right balance between renewable and non-renewable energy. Bech Gjørv opened her lecture by reminding listeners that the world has changed significantly since the 1970s, when we were four billion people and energy consumption was less than half what it is today.

No one knows for sure how much energy we will use in 2050, but with around nine billion people, consumption will be dramatically greater than it is now, and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 80 per cent of energy consumption in 2050 will be from fossil sources. This means a doubling of the production of fossil fuels.

"It will be vital to invest significantly in renewable energy in order to meet the world's growing need for energy. But we won't be able to meet the energy demand using renewable sources alone. This means that in the long term, it will be important to capture and store CO2 from fossil energy sources," Bech Gjørv said.

CO2 as pressure support for increased oil recovery

Hydro is first and foremost an oil and gas company, but it is also investing more in renewable energy, and currently has 10 different wind power projects at various locations in Norway. In addition, Hydro is working actively to find the energy solutions of the future, among other things by taking part in a range of research projects, but also by investing in exciting companies specialising in new technology within oil and gas. Hydro also has more than 10 years' experience of CO2 research.

"In Hydro, we have worked on the challenges linked to CO2 since the beginning of the 1990s. In the first instance, our research activities have been directed at CO2 capture, since this represents around 70 per cent of the costs of capture and storage," Bech Gjørv explained.

She emphasized that Hydro is participating enthusiastically in the Government-led project to create a value chain using CO2 as pressure support in order to increase oil recovery from Norwegian fields.

"We are using all the expertise we have built up over a number of years, to see if a value chain for CO2 can be profitable," Bech Gjørv said.

Big climate challenges

At the same time, Bech Gjørv made clear that using CO2 for increased oil recovery is not the key to solving the climate challenges the world faces, and she is concerned that the Norwegian debate overshadows the important question of how we can capture and store CO2 from gas power stations and coal-fired power stations in the long term.

"Viewed from a European climate perspective, the Norwegian plans to pump CO2 into oil fields only account for around one per cent of Europe's CO2 emissions. The plans to inject CO2 can be a good initiative in order to ensure increased oil recovery, and it can also have a positive climate effect, but it doesn't solve Europe's climate problems," she said.

In the ensuing panel debate, where EU Commissioner Andris Pibalgs and Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Odd Roger Enoksen also participated, Bech Gjørv stressed that we must get as much environmental benefit as possible out of the money we have available.

"It is a moral dilemma – whether we should use the money to purify relatively clean gas power in Norway still further, or whether we should buy CO2 quotas that will reduce emissions more in other parts of the world. Perhaps we ought to do both," Bech Gjørv concluded.