As part of our technology strategy, we have decided to focus part of our R&D efforts on three areas that are deemed to be critical to addressing climate challenges:

  • Better resource management
  • The development of carbon capture and storage

technologies (CCS)

  • Renewable energy

Statoil's strategy for low-carbon technologies is to utilise existing core capabilities and current business positions to create profitable positions in renewable energy, prioritising offshore wind projects while keeping track of new opportunities. At the same time, we believe it is important to contribute to understanding of the challenges associated with the commercialisation of technologies such as offshore wind or CCS.

Improving carbon efficiency

Statoil continuously endeavours to minimise energy use through the development of technological solutions relating to process design and concept choices (well design, more efficient gas turbines, potential use of heat waste or renewable energy on installations, etc). Electrification of offshore installations from the land-based grid instead of conventional energy generation from topside gas-driven turbines is one of the solutions deemed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

We evaluate electrification for all new developments and modifications of activities on the Norwegian shelf. For example, the Troll A installation is fully electrified from shore. This saves carbon dioxide emissions in the range of 100,000-150,000 tonnes per year. In many cases, however, electrification is too expensive, due to the distance from shore and the necessary on-site energy back-up solutions, as well as possible space and weight limitations on floating installations. 

CCS development leader

Statoil is considered a global leader in the development of CCS. According to the "450 ppm" scenario from the International Energy Agency (IEA), CCS will have to account for 18% of the required global greenhouse gas abatement by 2050 in order to limit the average increase in temperature to two degrees Celsius. IEA analyses suggest that, without CCS, the overall costs of reducing emissions sufficiently to reach the 2050 climate objective will increase by 70%. At present, CCS projects are mainly projects for separating carbon dioxide directly from the natural gas stream or carbon dioxide-EOR (enhanced oil recovery) projects. Since 1996, Statoil has become a world leader in the development and application of such carbon removal technologies, operating some of the world's largest projects in the North Sea (Sleipner), Barents Sea (Snøhvit), and Algeria (In Salah).

Sleipner carbon storage project

On Sleipner, the carbon dioxide is captured from the produced gas and stored in a geologic layer around 1,000 metres below the seabed, where it is trapped and cannot seep out to the atmosphere. By Sleipner's 15th anniversary in August 2011, 12.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide had been injected. The spread of the carbon dioxide underground has been monitored in various research projects partially funded by the European Union. In 2011, the Sleipner carbon storage project was one of three world-class projects to receive an award for global achievement from the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) ministerial meeting in Beijing. The Sleipner project also became a member of the European CCS Demonstration Project Network in 2011. This network is sponsored and coordinated by the European Commission with the aim of uniting public and industry efforts towards the common goal of advancing large-scale CCS deployment. 

In Salah Gas Krechba field

Located in the Algerian Sahara, the In Salah Gas (ISG) Krechba field is the site of an industrial-scale greenhouse gas mitigation operation; the first geological storage of carbon dioxide in the deep saline formation of an active gas reservoir. Since start-up in 2004, more than three million tonnes of carbon dioxide have been stored underground.

In 2005 a comprehensive monitoring programme was established to study the movement of the injected carbon dioxide in order to better predict its behaviour in the reservoir. Statoil, BP and Sonatrach, as well as several R&D groups in Europe and the USA, particpate in the programme. Due to preliminary conclusions on reservoir characteristics (primarily related to capacity), the injection of carbon dioxide was reduced in mid-2010 and suspended in June 2011 as a precautionary measure. The latest well and seismic data are now being evaluated as part of the assessment of the present injection strategy. Pending a final recommendation, the carbon dioxide is being vented in accordance with normal industry standards.

Carbon capture facility at Mongstad

Reaching the emissions reduction potential described by the IEA also means that post-combustion capture technologies must become commercially available. CCS could then be applicable not only to the power sector (coal or gas), but also to industrial applications such as cement, steel etc.

Statoil is currently devoting important R&D resources to demonstrating post-combustion CCS technology on a scale that could contribute significantly to reducing carbon emissions from large point sources worldwide. In cooperation with Gassnova (which represents the Norwegian government in CCS matters), Norske Shell and Sasol, Statoil will in 2012 start up the CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM). The USD 1 billion test centre, which is now 85% complete, is unique in the global context. Two different technologies will be tested on two different exhaust gas sources (CHP and refinery). This makes the findings from TCM relevant to both gas- and coal-fired power plants.

In 2006, the Norwegian government and Statoil also entered into an agreement to build a full-scale carbon capture facility at Mongstad. Early in 2009, Statoil delivered a master plan that set out the best possible basis for the process leading up to full-scale carbon dioxide capture from the combined heat and power (CHP) plant and other substantial sources at the refinery. Since 2009, the project has been subject to some delays, mainly due to immaturity of the capture technology compared with expectations in 2006, but Statoil remains strongly committed to the realisation of this project. 

Core expertise to offshore wind

We are using our offshore expertise in marine operations and offshore maintenance to sharpen our competitive edge in offshore wind projects. Statoil has taken significant offshore wind positions over the last few years. They include a NOK 5 billion investment in the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm in the UK that is scheduled to start operations in 2012, and securing options in the big Dogger Bank licence in the UK.

Statoil has also developed Hywind, the world's first floating wind turbine. The Hywind pilot has demonstrated excellent performance and regularity since it was installed in September 2009. The next step will be the development of pilot wind farms. 

Statoil aspires to play a proactive role in reducing offshore wind costs. In order to do this, technologies and projects based on a clear road map to becoming independently profitable are essential. On this basis, Statoil has chosen to exit its onshore Norwegian wind project portfolio and concentrate exclusively on offshore wind, so that Statoil can utilise its offshore development and operations experience in the best possible way. With the development of larger and lighter units and the realisation of other economies of scale, cost-competitive floating offshore wind may soon be on the horizon. 

In addition to our strong focus on offshore wind, we are pursuing some research activities in biofuels (from algae, wood or wheat straw) and geothermal energy.