SA AIMS to take the lead in the Brics bloc of developing countries in reducing carbon emissions through a five-year, $1bn, Norwegian- managed experimental carbon capture and storage technology.

President Jacob Zuma ended last week's two-day state visit to Norway by committing SA to invest more financial and human capital in developing the technology.

"This (technology) brings a very big hope to countries like SA that have used deposits of coal and this particular technology could be used to develop countries without creating emissions that are going to affect the globe," he said.

To this end, last year energy and chemicals company Sasol bought a 2,2% stake worth $41m in Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM), the world's largest facility for testing and improving carbon capture and storage technologies. As part of the deal, Sasol has seconded some of its engineers for training at the facility, says Nolitha Fakude, the group's executive director for sustainability and transformation .

Ms Fakude has been part of a delegation that accompanied Energy Minister Dipuo Peters last week on a field visit to gauge progress at the TCM facility. TCM is a Norwegian state-driven initiative in the industrial district of Mongstad, an hour's drive from Norway's second- largest city, Bergen.

Carbon capture and storage is a technology that captures carbon emissions before being emitted to the atmosphere. The emissions are processed to release the clean air while the harmful particles are stored safely underground.

Carbon emissions can be captured from a variety of sources including flue gas from power production, natural gas processing sectors, as well as emissions-intensive industrial sectors such as steel, cement and chemical production.

The first phase to test, capture and store carbon emissions is scheduled to start next year. The project is set to be completed in 2016. A final decision to continue the pilot project beyond 2016 will be informed by the outcome of the initial phase.

Industry players say if the technology succeeds, it could cut carbon emissions by up to 25% by 2030.

Knowledge gained from the technology will prepare the ground for carbon capture and storage initiatives to combat climate change, Tore Amundsen, TCM's MD, said last week. "Carbon capture and storage (CSS) is expected to play a large role in global greenhouse gas emission reductions and the International Energy Agency has estimated that as much as one- fifth of total reductions will come from CSS by 2050," he said.

SA is due to host the United Nations conference on climate change in Durban in November and creative methods to curb carbon emissions will feature prominently during the talks.

Norway supports SA's plans to broker a binding deal to ensure the extension of the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in December next year. "The main structures of the Kyoto Protocol, like the so-called clean development mechanism, must be continued as this forms the an important components of protocol," Norwegian International Development and Environment Minister Erik Solheim says.

"SA has made very important commitments to reduce climate gas emissions and the difficulty for SA, as for Norway, is to make certain these commitments are really put into practice," he says.

Developed countries such as Japan, the US and the European Union have been reluctant to commit to ambitious carbon emission targets, casting doubt on securing a second commitment to extend the Kyoto Protocol.

Emerging markets such as China and India have labelled as unfair demands to reduce carbon emissions due to large industrialisation projects that are being undertaken in these economies.

In a last-minute bid to secure a second commitment to extend the Kyoto Protocol, SA will on Thursday host 40 ministers from around the world for an informal meeting to discuss measures to conclude a climate deal in Durban. International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will chair the informal meeting.

By investing in the Mongstad facility, SA hopes to set the scene within emerging markets and become a leader in carbon capture and storage by the time the first phase is completed by 2016.

langenil@bdfm.co.za