x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Norway's Bergen not just a pretty place

The Life: Bergen, Norway's second biggest city, has attractions for the tourist and industrialist alike.

Welcome to Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. Population: 235,046. Chris Cole / Gallo Images
Welcome to Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. Population: 235,046. Chris Cole / Gallo Images

When we landed, the sky was spitting sleet. Once we got into town, down came hail that stung like pebbles. And by lunchtime the sun was bright enough for sunglasses. Welcome to Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. Population: 235,046.

Visitors, striking up conversations in one of the quaint coffee shops or design stores along the marina, will often ask each other if they're headed back to the ship. Every day, cruises deposit a crowd of North Face-clad tourists to drop their kroner on US$10 (Dh36.73) hot chocolates and intentionally worn leather iPhone cases. The colourful wooden houses and cobblestone streets, which frame a modest marina for sailboats, look like something from the Norwegian exhibit at Disney's Epcot.

But Bergen is not only for tourists. On a chilly day this spring, executives from Shell, ExxonMobil and the Opec secretariat boarded a catamaran headed back to Bergen after a bus ride out of the city to visit nearby Mongstad, home to a life-sized lab that is testing carbon capture. Many nations, including the UAE, hope this technology will help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the Earth from spiralling into a global-warming apocalypse.

The technology centre at Mongstad is drawing visitors from all around the world who want to see how what might appear to be a pipe dream can become reality. Norway's Statoil, Shell and South Africa's Sasol have helped to fund the project, which is testing different ways to extract carbon dioxide from industrial emissions. The carbon can then be pumped deep underground or injected into ageing oilfields to force out more crude.

Aboard the catamaran, oil executives sipped on juice and ate Norwegian chocolates. Some ventured to the top deck to shoot photos of the stunning fjords, where handfuls of houses were perched on green hillsides just above the icy blue water. Then came a dash back to Bergen in time for a banquet that evening with Norway's oil minister.


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