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Norway Covets Its Neighbors' Carbon Emissions

Competition is under way to become a carbon importer
Investment in the Mongstad carbon-capture plant: $1 billion
Investment in the Mongstad carbon-capture plant: $1 billionPhotograph by Technology Centre Mongstad

The fjords of western Norway seem an unlikely place to tackle industrial pollution. But an hour’s drive north of Bergen, the Norwegians recently inaugurated the world’s largest test facility for carbon capture, the process of trapping carbon dioxide before it spews from the stacks of power plants and factories. The Norwegian government spent more than $1 billion to build the facility, a tangle of pipes, scaffolding, and cooling towers overlooking the port of Mongstad. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has called it “Norway’s moon landing.”

That’s quite an investment considering the country’s greenhouse emissions are among the lowest in the developed world. But it’s not domestic CO2 the Norwegians are after. It’s their neighbors’. Beneath the North Sea lie vast reservoirs that have been emptied of oil by state-owned Statoil. “The potential to store [waste CO2] in aquifers under the sea is enormous,” says Tore Amundsen, the managing director of the Technology Centre Mongstad.