2020 was a special year for everyone. For the LowEmission research centre, it meant making rapid adjustments to ensure continued progress despite a disruptive pandemic. Not only did the Centre manage this task, but it comes out of 2020 with even stronger ambitions than before. We sat down with Centre Chair Hege Rognø and Centre Director Malin Torsæter to get a fresh status update.
Nobody knew at the beginning of 2020 how different the year would turn out to be. "We were a bit worried about what the pandemic restrictions would mean for our research, particularly access to labs and such, says Centre director Malin Torsæter. But we’re coming through it really well." She adds that though human contact is sorely missed in certain situations, digital solutions mean busy people can get through a lot quite quickly.
A major development in 2020 was the announcement by the Norwegian government that it would strengthen its emissions reduction target set under the Paris agreement. The target now calls for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels – it was initially set at 40%. "This makes emissions from offshore activities an even more relevant topic to address", says Chair Hege Rognø.
The reinforced targets come together with a suggested raise in the carbon tax to 2000 NOK per tonne of CO2 (from 590 NOK).
"These are positive developments, says Malin Torsæter. It makes our research all the more important and renders emissions reduction innovations even more attractive to use for the industry." She adds that she has seen a steady stream of new operators showing interest in joining the centre.
A popular new activity this past year was the Innovation challenge: a webinar in which certain industry partners were invited to challenge scientists with their real world problems. "This was an exciting and important activity for our partners", says Hege Rognø. The event was a success and will be repeated with other partners.
"The climate challenge we face is global and calls for cooperation. Open and transparent discussion is required. We need many tools, many solutions to reduce emissions", she adds.
Among the many challenges faced by LowEmission scientists is not only finding solutions to reduce emissions, but bringing as many of them to a level of readiness where they can actually be used by the industry. "We're challenged from two sides, says Malin Torsæter. On the one hand is the government, setting new, more ambitious targets and consulting us about what's feasible. On the other hand is the industry – represented in our Technical Committee – always making sure the research is drawn in a direction that will be useful for them, resulting in practical and useable solutions. It's all very positive for our scientists."
"Emissions reduction is important for everyone, adds Hege Rognø. The EU. The whole world. The political pressure and the weight of public opinion in these matters are very present. And that's not just a positive thing; it's the way it should be."