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– We have bold ambitions on renewable power

Ulrik Olbjørn, Project Manager of Clean Hydrogen to Europe, Equinor.
By Linea Bancel|Published 30 November 2021|Category: News, Valley Voice

Valley Voice – a column where our cluster members are in focus. This week we talked with Ulrik Olbjørn, Project Manager of Clean Hydrogen to Europe at Equinor. Olbjørn will be part of the Hydrogen session Ambitions for the hydrogen industry in Norway at Energy:Connected’21 on December 8th.

– In my view, access to clean (but dirty in terms of CO2 emissions) energy has been the most driving force behind the world’s progress in terms of prosperity. So while we need to decarbonize the energy system quickly – energy needs to be affordable and reliable too! says Olbjørn.

Olbjørn has been in Statoil/Equinor for 25 years and since the end of 2020, he has been part of the Low Carbon Solutions team in Equinor.

1. What are you doing right now?

Some weeks ago our CEO Anders Opedal launched what we call Norway energy hub. This is the companies vision to transform the NCS to a sustainable future supporting our and society’s net zero goal. Three or actually four pillars.

  1. Emission reduction on our O&G operations
  2. 10 GW of offshore wind
  3. 40 Mtons of CO2 safely stored on the NCS
  4. Ambitions to start blue H2 production at a scale in Norway that both can deliver H2 to Norwegian market but also exports of H2 to Europe. Our vision is annual exports equivalent or a bit above half of Norway’s power production!

I am in the fortunate position to be responsible for the fourth pillar as project leader for what we call Clean Hydrogen for Europe (CHE). On top of this initiative, we also are involved in liquid H2 production at Mongstad with BKK and Air Liquide and blue Ammonia in Hammerfest with Horisont Energi and Vår Energi. Outside Norway, we have even more H2 projects ongoing.

2. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the future?

Net zero is probably one of the biggest transition challenges in this century! IPPC reports are clear that humans are impacting climate and without stronger actions, we could see an increase of 2-3 degrees compared to pre-industrial time. In my view, the access to clean (but dirty in terms of CO2 emissions) energy has been the most driving force behind worlds progress in terms of prosperity. So while we need to decarbonize the energy system quickly – energy needs to be affordable and reliable too! I am afraid that the energy crunch we see today may actually increase during the winter months if the winter is cold!

I see two threats to the energy transition going as quickly as necessary.

1. If energy becomes non-affordable for energy-poor households and countries – voters might elect less progressive politicians

2. The NIMBY Not in my backyard effect. There is a big resistance to having large power cables, windmills, solar panels, etc. in the vicinity of people. There is also a real concern when it comes to the preservation of nature. To solve reliable, clean, and affordable at the same time implies that we must seek the best solutions, and countries and industries need to collaborate in creating the energy system of the future. The companies that are able to position themselves to be a part of the solution can reap big awards – look to Tesla!  Without net zero policies, EV’s might have been a small niche segment for technology nerds! Look at the value of Tesla today! Furthermore, Tesla has moved the car industry towards EV’s!

3. How is Equinor working to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?

I must say that I am proud of working in Equinor. We are part of the problem by extracting and marketing fossil fuels but we certainly have the ambitions, the people, and competence to rebuild the energy system in a better way! Our CEO launched the ambition of becoming net zero scope 1,2 and 3 by 2050 quite early. Many more companies have followed since. We are continuously working on reducing: 1. methane slip in our value chain for natural gas, and 2. The energy consumption and use of fossil fuels in our operations. This is however not enough and we, therefore, have good experience and bold ambitions on renewable power and CCS. Finally, we want to become a large provider of both clean H2 (blue and green).

4. What keeps you awake at night with regards to the energy transition?

I normally sleep well but like many others, I am not convinced that the transition is going fast enough. The challenge of scaling up renewable power production, clean H2, and Carbon Capture technologies is enormous. The pace at which we are emitting CO2 implies that we are burning the carbon budget quicker than I care to think about. We need to move beyond ambitious targets to bold actions. With that, I mean getting real net zero projects up and running fast!

5. What do you think will be the most valuable thing about being a member of Energy Valley?

I am a strong believer in collaboration. I get most of my ideas by reading and meeting other people working with the energy transition. Energy Valley provides a perfect meeting arena to meet those people! Working in Equinor’s office in Fornebu makes it easy to participate and also engage with other industrial players over lunch or coffee.

6. Is there any book that has inspired you in the way you lead?

One of my previous bosses gave the whole management team the book “Jytte fra marketing er desværre gået for I dag” by Danish author Morten Munster. It is about behavioral design and is both funny and inspirational!

7. Which Energy Valley member do you want to pass the baton on to?

I would like to challenge the new CEO of Aker Offshore Wind Philippe Kavafyan to take on the baton!

Thank you, Ulrik!