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Billion-euro CO2 capture plan could herald new Danish jobs

Billion-euro CO2 capture plan could herald new Danish jobs

| Text: Marie Preisler

Denmark expects new jobs and growth in the wake of the government’s plan for the capture and underground storage of Danish and foreign CO2 in Denmark. Danish businesses have suggested using some of the captured CO2 in new, climate-friendly production processes which could lead to more and better jobs.

The Danish government has presented a new billion-euro proposal called ”Achieving carbon capture and storage”, aimed at developing a Danish industry for carbon capture and storage – also known as CCS. This should put Denmark in pole position internationally when it comes to the green transition and it will create new jobs, believes Denmark’s Minister for Business Morten Bødskov.

“By gathering the resources and creating a clear framework for carbon capture and storage, we prepare the way for a strong Danish industry that will not only reduce our carbon footprint but also create growth and jobs. We aim to explore our competencies and innovation to be at the forefront of the green transition."

Morten Bødskov

Morten Bødskov, Denmark’s Minister for Business. Photo:

That is what Morten Bødskov said on 21 August 2023 as he presented the Danish government’s new CO2 plans alongside the Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Lars Aagaard, the Minister for Transport Thomas Danielsen, and trade representatives.

Large-scale CCS

The proposal, which will now be debated in parliament, outlines how Denmark from 2029 will capture the same amount of CO2 as the entire Danish output – known as full capture. The proposal also says Denmark will be one of the world’s major players in terms of underground storage of CO2. 

So far, the Danish government has allocated 38 billion kroner (€5.93bn) for CCS, and Denmark has just awarded the three first licenses for large-scale CO2 underground storage in the country. The first international CO2 storage agreement in Denmark has also been reached. 

Until now, Denmark has been lagging behind Norway. Storage of CO2 under the Danish part of the North Sea did not begin until March 2023. A framework for CCS will be in place from 2028. Norway has been running large-scale CCS linked to natural gas production since 1996, where CO2 from North Sea gas is filtrated and reinjected into the bedrock.

Norway’s Sleipner gas field was the first large-scale ocean-based CCS project in the world. So far, it has stored some 22 million tonnes of CO2 according to the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland GEUS, an independent research and advisory institution within the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities. 

Reusing CO2 also creates green jobs

GEUS believes Denmark is in a good position to become a big player in CCS because Denmark’s bedrock is well-suited for CO2 storage. GEUS has calculated that there is space for the equivalent of 500 to 1,000 years of CO2 emissions from Denmark – in other words, a gigantic CO2 depot deep down underground with space for CO2 captured from both Danish and foreign emissions.

“This could be good business for Denmark. A rapid development of the CCS market would mean both major investments and many green jobs in Denmark,” wrote the Danish government in its proposal. 

Danish businesses welcome the CCS proposal too. The Danish Chamber of Commerce, the business and employers’ association representing 18,000 members, also believes this will lead to new types of jobs in Denmark. 

“We fully support the government’s plan to spend money on the capture and storage of CO2 in order to reduce the global temperature rise, and Denmark can offer new CCS solutions that will both contribute to a greener world and new export opportunities for Denmark,” says Ulrich Bang, deputy director for climate, energy, and environment at the Chamber of Commerce. 

But he points out that the government must not be satisfied with simply making Denmark a waste depot for CO2. Some of it should be reused in new and innovative, climate-friendly technologies rather than simply being stored.

Ulrich Bang

Ulrich Bang, deputy director for climate, energy, and environment at the Danish Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Danish Chamber of Commerce

This could benefit Danish businesses on a completely different scale than CO2 storage, argues the Chamber of Commerce.

“There are jobs linked to CO2 underground storage, but we could create more value by using the captured CO2 in so-called biosolutions, for instance bioplastics and protein for the food industry. These are things that Danish companies are already well advanced in,” says Ulrich Bang.

The biocompany Algiecel is one example. Together with Novozymes, they are testing whether the use of CO2 through photosynthesis in algae can produce bioplastics, dietary supplements, and protein for food production. 

CO2 you can eat 

Using captured CO2 to produce proteins for human consumption is also the goal of a consortium formed in the summer of 2023, which includes the American Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The consortium brings together knowledge and expertise from Novozymes A/S and Topsoe A/S – two leading companies in biotechnology and chemical engineering – the Washington University in St. Louis, USA, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation CO2 Research Center (CORC) at Aarhus University. The two funds provide a total of 200 billion kroner (€26.8bn) in investments. Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, the Novo Nordisk Fonden CEO, said this at the launch of the consortium:

“By utilising CO2 for food production without involving agricultural land use, this ambitious consortium addresses two of our biggest global challenges: supplying nutritious food to a growing world population and mitigation of climate change. This has the potential to be the first step towards a novel bioeconomy providing a more sustainable, safe and stable food production, reducing the strain on nature’s resources.” 

Ulrich Bang believes the production of foodstuffs and other biosolutions using captured CO2 will demand a new type of workers who are paid more and who will have a better work environment than people in agriculture have today.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce is encouraging the government to supplement the multi-billion kroner CCS drive with for instance one billion kroner for developing the reuse of the captured CO2, and earmark some of it for research and for developing a roadmap for the reuse of CO2.

Norwegian plant a world first

The Norwegian Sleipner field became the world's first large-scale CCS plant at sea. So far it has stored around 22 million tonnes of CO2. In March 2023, the first injection of CO2 was made in the Danish sector of the North Sea, and there are plans for CO2 capture and storage from 2028.

More CCS plants needed

Not enough CCS plants are being built if we are to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement. The International Energy Agency estimates that at least 2,000 large-scale plants must be operational by 2040 in order to have a chance to reach those goals. In 2019, there were 19 large-scale plants and four were under construction.

This means that in order to reach those goals, at least 95 new plants must be built every year globally in the next two decades. The EU Commission has also identified CCS as one of seven necessary tools to reach climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, and it has put aside ten billion euro for the development and running of CCS in the next ten years.

It takes between four to six years to build a CCS plan. The world’s largest, so far, is at sea off the Australian coast and has been operational since 2019. At full capacity, it can pump up to four million tonnes of CO2 underground a year. Like the one in Norway, this plant filters and stores CO2 from natural gas production. 

Source: GEUS 


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