There's nothing Norwegians enjoy more than long walks in pristine forests or along sparkling clear waters. Internationally-recognized as leaders in preserving and protecting their natural resources, Norwegian oil and gas companies are expected not only to meet strict environmental rules, but also to use their creativity and technical expertise to come up with solutions to complex problems.
Two of the leading companies in Norway's oil and gas industry, Statoil and Norsk Hydro, are taking important steps to improve the environment around their operations in the Norwegian Continental Shelf and beyond.
|Statoil is investing in the installation of VOC recovery plants on three shuttle tankers, including onboard the Navion Scandia.
Dramatic Improvements in VOC Capture
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) released into the environment during offshore loading is one important environmental challenge faced by the industry. Emissions to the air from the offshore sector include carbon dioxide, methane and non-methane VOCs, as well as sulphur and nitrogen oxides. These contribute to the greenhouse effect, acid rain and the creation of ground-level ozone.
Continuing in a tradition of popular and strong ecological regulation, the latest Norwegian environmental laws require the amount of VOCs released during offshore loading on the Norwegian Continental Shelf to be reduced by 95 percent by 2006.
To meet these requirements, Statoil, in partnership with other companies, is investing in three new onboard plants built for the recovery of VOCs. The facilities are due to come into operation next year, installed on the tankers Navion Scandia, Navion Hispania and Nordic Stavanger. "These plants allow us to meet government demands for a 70 percent cut in environmentally-harmful VOC emissions from 2005," says special advisor Egil Tveit in Statoil's Exploration & Production Norway.
The technology in the plants that is key to the solution is a combination of a condensation unit with steam boilers - which work together to reduce VOC emissions during loading operations to zero. In addition to the new plants, seven VOC recovery facilities are currently installed in shuttle tankers operating on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, while an eighth is under installation.
|Norsk Hydro's project on the island of Utsira in western Norway is the first ever full-scale combined wind power and hydrogen plant.
New Ways to Clean Produced Water
Another important environmental deadline is December 31, 2005, the date set by Norwegian authorities for halting all discharge of environmentally-harmful substances from the country's offshore installations.
Statoil engineers have come up with a creative new treatment technology to meet these high environmental standards. Based on condensate (light oil) injection, and patented by Statoil as the CTour solution, the new process is setting the standard for improved performance in cleaning produced water. Statoil has a clearly-stated goal of achieving zero harmful discharges to the sea by the deadline in question, and CTour is a major step forward towards meeting that target.
Alternative Energy Put into Practice
Seeking cleaner, renewable energy sources is high on the priority list for Norsk Hydro. On the island of Utsira in western Norway - inhabited by a small community of around 240 - Norsk Hydro and Enercon will begin operations on a combination wind power and hydrogen plant in January 2004.
"This will show that it is possible to supply energy to remote areas with poor electricity infrastructure. But good wind conditions are a necessity," says Jørgen Rostrup, head of the Renewables and Hydrogen Unit. "At present, Utsira's power is provided via a cable from the mainland, but the island has the long-term goal of supplying its own electricity."
The research and development work is based on two wind turbines, an electrolyser, a hydrogen storage unit and a fuel cell. The Utsira demonstration project is planned to run through 2006.
In addition to focusing on wind and hydrogen power, Hydro's renewable energy unit also assesses investment opportunities in renewable energy and distributed power generation. They report receiving quite a few inquiries from entrepreneurs and technology companies - Rostrup estimates that up to 200 proposals are sent to Hydro every year. Out of these, eight projects, including one for wave power, have been accepted.
The Energy of New Ideas
A key advantage for the company in carrying out such investments is the tapping into the energy of new ideas. Hydro's actual ownership interest in the projects is small, but they give the company valuable insight into advances in energy technologies. This, in turn, helps keep Hydro one of the Norwegian companies able to innovate for better performance - both environmentally and financially. "We don't invest in these projects solely for the financial return, but also to increase our knowledge," says Rostrup. "A lot of research and development in this area takes place outside the major companies."
Hydro is also exploring the use of cleaner hydrogen fuel in places like Reykjavik, Iceland and Hamburg, Germany. "We want to demonstrate through these projects that hydrogen can become part of our day-to-day life in the future. So we are delighted that there has been so much interest. It's important for us to show what we are able to achieve today, even though the costs and frame conditions prevent this technology from being available on a large scale. We have to show that we have the patience to further develop energy concepts over time so that they can become interesting for larger market segments," says Rostrup.
|Norsk Hydro's hydrogen filling station in Hamburg, Germany is an important element of the European Union's CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe) Project. The project includes the testing of 27 hydrogen fuel-cell buses in nine European cities between now and 2006.