Norway tackles carbon capture research.
DNV takes risk on research
147-year old group
Norwegian specialist is becoming drawn to energy industry
It is not often a risk-management company develops a taste for hands-on research but Det Norske Veritas (DNV) has decided that experiencing the risks its industrial clients face would help it to offer better advice.
In the past half century, the 147-year-old Norwegian safety certification specialist that first established its credentials as a ship inspector has been increasingly drawn into the energy industry.
Not only does DNV advise on the best way to refurbish ageing offshore oil platforms, but now it also certifies giant floating wind turbines and the effectiveness of new technologies for managing carbon emissions.
These new endeavours for cleaner energy are favourites of the foundation's chief executive Henrik Madsen, who for the past five years has pursued a commitment to "sustainability" as well as safety.
"Fossil fuels will continue to dominate energy supply for several decades but we see an inevitable transition to a low-carbon future," Mr Madsen wrote in DNV's most recent annual report.
"Oil will be recovered from deeper, riskier and more sensitive environments, pushing the need for new technologies and standards. And there will be a need to develop carbon-capture technology for coal and oil-based energy products."
DNV has started its own carbon research programme, which has led to a pilot project to test a process for turning carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.
"The business is just so dynamic and moving all over the place, and there's a need to calibrate globally so we're doing some of the research ourselves," Bjorn Haugland, the chief operating officer of DNV, said in Abu Dhabi last month at the World Future Energy Summit.
DNV's idea is to delve into what its risk-management experts predict will be an industry trend towards using waste carbon dioxide as a chemical feedstock, instead of petroleum-based feedstocks.
One of the more promising methods, the company determined, was an electrochemical process to convert carbon dioxide into formic acid, a substance traditionally used in tanning leather.
Formic acid and its salts are in demand for new uses in fuel cells, oil drilling and removing ice from airport runways, so prices are attractively high.
DNV has been tinkering with the design of electrical cells that can be used to drive a reaction to produce the acid from carbon dioxide. The company's engineers believe they have come up with one that is cost effective.
They consider DNV's demonstration plant one of a new class of industrial processors for carbon dioxide-based chemicals production that could flourish 10 years from now.
"Carbon dioxide utilisation is being increasingly recognised as a method by which global carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced in an economical manner," said Dr Narasi Sridhar, the research and innovation director at DNV.
"This is especially true for industries such as refineries, which cannot implement carbon capture and storage economically."
Dr Sridhar foresees interconnected technologies being deployed to manage industrial carbon dioxide emissions, in the same way petrochemicals complexes today are built next to petroleum refineries.
And carbon dioxide-fed chemicals units could coexist with those clusters.