An hours' flight off the coast of Norway, in the most severe weather amidst 70-foot waves where winds top 130 mph, lies the natural gas drilling superstructure of the Sleipner complex platform.
"Since 1996, Norway's largest petroleum company -- Statoil -- has been injecting 1 million tons of carbon dioxide every year from the Sleipner complex into undersea sediments to keep the potent greenhouse gas from venting into the atmosphere.
Statoil's engineers aren't doing it to save the environment, but to save money. The Sleipner injection facility, which cost about $80 million to build, saves Statoil $53 million every year in Norwegian taxes on carbon dioxide emissions.
In areas such as California -- where lawmakers passed a bill last week to curb industrial carbon dioxide emissions 25% by 2020 -- the Sleipner platform is a harbinger of the future of fossil fuels, in which energy companies and power utilities retool for new greenhouse gas standards.
Almost all energy companies vent excess gas into the air. On the Sleipner platform, however, four turbines compress the trapped carbon dioxide to 80 times the normal atmospheric pressure and inject it into a subterranean plateau of porous sandstone 2,600 feet below the seabed. This vast natural storage tank is sealed by a cap of impermeable shale 2,000 feet thick, the same oil dome that trapped the reservoir of North Sea petroleum in place for eons.
By 2050, experts estimate, carbon-capture and storage operations such as those at the Sleipner platform could account for half the reduction in CO2 needed to stabilize rising emissions in the atmosphere."