Emissions to air

Environmental and climate considerations are an integral part of Norway’s policy for the petroleum industry, and the Norwegian petroleum industry has high environmental and climate standards compared with those in other petroleum producing countries.
Environmental and climate considerations are an integral part of Norway’s policy for the petroleum industry, and the Norwegian petroleum industry has high environmental and climate standards compared with those in other petroleum producing countries.
Greenhouse gas emissions Instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Other emissions to air

Environmental and climate considerations are an integral part of Norway’s policy for the petroleum industry. A range of policy instruments ensures that actors in the industry take environmental and climate considerations into account during all phases of their activities, from exploration to development, operations and field cessation.

Environmental and climate standards in the Norwegian petroleum industry are very high compared with those in other petroleum producing countries. This is a result of effective policy instruments and joint initiatives between the authorities and oil companies on research, technology development and increased knowledge.

Emissions to air from petroleum activities originate from the combustion of natural gas and diesel in turbines, engines and boilers, flaring of natural gas for safety reasons, venting and diffuse emissions of gas, and storage and loading of crude oil. These activities result in emissions of waste gas containing CO2 (carbon dioxide), NOx (nitrogen oxides), NMVOCs (non-methane volatile organic compounds), CH4 (methane) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).

The companies operating on the Norwegian shelf are front runners in the use of solutions to reduce or to avoid greenhouse gas emissions

Emissions from Norwegian petroleum activities are regulated through several acts, including the Petroleum Act, the CO2 Tax Act on Petroleum Activities, the Sales Tax Act, the Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Act and the Pollution Control Act.

Requirements for impact assessments and approval of plans for new developments (PDOs/PIOs) are cornerstones of the petroleum legislation. Facilities onshore and within the baseline are also subject to the provisions of the Planning and Building Act.

Emissions from the petroleum sector in Norway are well documented. The industry’s own organisation, the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association (NOROG), has established a national database for reporting all releases from the industry, called EPIM Environment Hub (EEH). All operators on the Norwegian continental shelf report data on emissions to air and discharges to the sea directly in EEH.

Photo: Ministry of Petroleum and Energy

Greenhouse gas emissions

In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum activities corresponded to about 12.5 million tonnes CO2 eq (carbon dioxide equivalent). Emissions from the petroleum sector account for about one quarter of Norway’s aggregate greenhouse gas emissions.

The projections of emissions from oil and gas production are prepared by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and are based on reporting from the oil companies. The definition of the petroleum industry follows the definition of the Petroleum Tax Act. Operations at the onshore facilities, which is linked to further transport of gas, are included in the projections at Statistics Norway (SSB), so that the projections are in line with the emissions greenhouse gas inventory accounts. Emissions from the construction and installation phase, maritime support services and helicopter traffic are included in other industries.

CO2 emissions from the petroleum sector are expected to be reduced somewhat over the next few years.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the petroleum sector

Updated: 08.07.2021

Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025

Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

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Greenhouse gas emissions from the petroleum sector – Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025

The companies operating on the Norwegian shelf are front runners in the use of solutions to reduce and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions per unit of oil and gas produced are therefore lower compared to similar operations in other petroleum-producing countries.

Energy efficiency measures, including the introduction of energy management systems and the installation of more energy-efficient equipment such as compressors and pumps, have helped to reduce emissions from petroleum activities. Combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGT) are one technological solution, in which waste heat from the turbines is used to produce steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity. CCGT plants improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. They are installed at the fields Oseberg, Snorre and Eldfisk.

Since 1996, about 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year has been separated during processing of natural gas from the Sleipner Vest field, and stored in the subsea Utsira Formation. Since 2019, CO2 has also been separated from natural gas from the Utgard field and stored in the Utsira Formation together with COfrom Sleipner. The Snøhvit facility on Melkøya separates CO2 from the well stream before the gas is chilled to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG), and has been doing so since 2008. The CO2 is transported back to the field, injected and stored.

The fields Johan Sverdrup, Ormen Lange, Snøhvit, Troll 1, Gjøa, Goliat, Valhall and Martin Linge are already supplied with power from shore. A joint solution for supplying power from shore to the Utsira High region will be in place by 2022 at the latest, and the fields Edvard Grieg, Ivar Aasen and Gina Krog will all be connected to it. In addition, the onshore facilities Kårstø, Kollsnes, Melkøya LNG and Nyhamna (including the subsea facilities on the Ormen Lange field) are supplied partly or wholly with power from the grid. In addition, the licensees on the Gullfaks and Snorre fields have decided that these fields will be partly supplied with power from floating offshore wind. Hywind Tampen is now under development and is planned to be put into operation in 2022. At present, these fields and facilities account for the majority of Norwegian gas production.

CO₂ emissions from petroleum activities in 2020, by source

Updated: 08.07.2021

Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

Print table Download data CO₂ emissions from petroleum activities in 2020, by source

CO₂ emissions from petroleum activities in 2020, by source

Instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The carbon tax and the Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Act are Norway’s most important cross-sectoral climate policy instruments for cost-effective cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Both of these instruments apply to the petroleum industry, while most other sectors either have to take part in emissions trading or pay the carbon tax.

The carbon tax

Norway was one of the first countries in the world to introduce a carbon tax, in 1991. The tax is levied on all combustion of gas, oil and diesel in petroleum operations on the continental shelf and on releases of CO2 and natural gas, in accordance with the CO2 Tax Act on Petroleum Activities. For 2021, the tax rate is proposed in the Revised National Budget at NOK 1.27 per standard cubic metre of gas or per litre of oil or condensate. For combustion of natural gas, this is equivalent to NOK 543 per tonne of CO2. For emissions of natural gas, the tax rate is NOK 8.76 per standard cubic metre. In the White Paper Climate Action Plan 2021-2030, the Norwegian Government proposes to gradually raise taxes on greenhouse gas emissions to about 2000 NOK (ca. 190 euros) per tonne CO2 equivalent by 2030. The raise in CO2 tax is also proposed to apply to emissions from petroleum activity that are part of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The total carbon price level of maximum NOK 2000 will be kept.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading

Norway’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Act entered into force in 2005, and Norway joined the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in 2008. This means that Norwegian installations in the petroleum industry and other industries to which the system applies are subject to the same rules for emissions trading as those within the EU. The EU ETS is now in its fourth phase, which runs up to the end of 2030.

The EU ETS is a ‘cap and trade’ system, which sets a ‘cap’, or limit, on total greenhouse gas emissions within the system. This cap is reduced year by year so that the emission target for sectors covered by the system is met by the end of the period. Emission allowances are allocated by auctioning or free of charge. Sectors that are considered to be at risk of carbon leakage receive some or all of their allowances free of charge. This applies to a certain proportion of petroleum-sector emissions to which the ETS applies.

The last years the EU ETS price has been increasing. In 2020, the average cost of an emission allowance entitling the holder to emit one tonne of CO2 was approximately 25 euros, corresponding to NOK 255.The average price from the 1st of January to the 31st of May was 42 euros, or around NOK 420 per tonne of CO2.

The combination of the carbon tax and the emissions trading system means that companies on the Norwegian shelf pay approx. NOK 1000 per tonne for their CO2 emissions, which is significantly higher than for most other businesses in Norway and much higher than in other countries with petroleum activities.

Permits and other requirements

Before the licensees can develop a discovery, their plan for development and operation (PDO) must be approved by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. The PDO contains information on how the licensees intend to develop and operate the field. Whenever proposals are made for new field developments or large-scale modification of existing facilities, the operator must as part of the PDO include an overview of energy needs and an assessment of the costs of using power from shore rather than gas turbines to supply electricity.

Flaring of natural gas is only permitted when necessary for safety reasons. Permit for flaring are issued by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

A permit under the Pollution Control Act is required for emissions to air from petroleum operations.

Other emissions to air

NOx emissions

The petroleum sector accounts for less than one third of Norway’s total NOx emissions. The emission level has been relatively stable since 2000.

What do we mean by NOx?

NOx is a generic term for two oxides of nitrogen, NO and NO2. They cause acidification of river systems and soils, which has direct environmental impacts including harm to fish, wildlife and ecosystems. NOx emissions also have indirect impacts because they are involved in the formation of ground-level ozone, which can damage vegetation and materials. In addition, NOx can trigger respiratory complaints. Studies show that the environmental impacts of NOx emissions vary considerably depending on where they take place, and that emissions in urban areas have the most serious effects.

CO2 and NOx emission levels are closely linked. The main sources of NOx emissions from offshore installations are the same as for CO2: combustion of gas and diesel in turbines and engines. The level of emissions depends both on the technology used and on fuel consumption.

Under the revised Gothenburg Protocol, Norway has undertaken a commitment to reduce its overall NOx emissions by 23 % from 2020 compared to the 2005 level. Emissions from the petroleum sector are directly regulated by means of conditions included in plans for development and operation (PDOs) and in permits under the Pollution Control Act.

In 2007, Norway introduced a tax on NOx emissions to encourage cost-effective emission cuts. For the petroleum industry, the tax applies to emissions from large gas turbines and machinery, and from flaring. Businesses that are affiliated with the environmental agreement between the Norwegian state and a number of business organisations on measures to reduce NOx emissions are exempted from the tax.

Most companies in the petroleum sector have chosen to participate in this agreement, and pay a contribution of NOK 16,5 per kg NOx to the NOx Fund in 2018. For companies in other branches of industry, the contribution is NOK 10,5 per kg NOx. The fund’s income is used to support investments by companies that are parties to the agreement to reduce their NOx emissions.

Historical and projected emissions of NOx from the petroleum sector in Norway

Updated: 08.07.2021

Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025

Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

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Historical and projected emissions of NOx from the petroleum sector in Norway – Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025

NMVOC emissions

The petroleum sector accounts for less than a quarter of Norway’s total NMVOC emissions and the main sources of NMVOC emissions are storage and loading of crude oil offshore. Gas terminals are another smaller source of these emissions.

Since the early 2000s, NMVOC emissions from the petroleum sector have been substantially reduced, mainly as a result of investment in NMVOC recovery equipment. In 2019 the total NMVOC emissions were 37 700 tonnes.

Under the revised Gothenburg Protocol, Norway has undertaken a commitment to reduce its overall NMVOC emissions by 40% from 2020 compared with the 2005 level. Emissions from the petroleum sector are directly regulated through requirements on the use of the best available techniques (BAT) and specific emission limits in permits under the Pollution Control Act.

What are NMVOCs?

NMVOCs stands for non-methane volatile organic compounds, and is a generic term for organic compounds that readily evaporate from oil, with the exception of methane. In the presence of sunlight they contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which can cause damage to health, vegetation and materials.

In addition, direct exposure to NMVOCs can cause respiratory problems, and they contribute indirectly to the greenhouse gas effect because CO2 and ozone are formed when NMVOCs react with oxygen in the atmosphere.

Historical and projected emissions of nmVOC from the petroleum sector in Norway, 1998-2025

Updated: 08.07.2021

Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025

Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

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Historical and projected emissions of nmVOC from the petroleum sector in Norway, 1998-2025 – Historical numbers for 1998-2020 and projections for 2021-2025
Updated: 13.08.2021