In a move strongly endorsed by Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the North Sea Transition Authority has today (September 15) awarded licences to companies to permanently store millions of tonnes of CO2 under the UK seabed through a technology known as ‘carbon capture and storage’ (CCS).
In total, 21 licences have been awarded to 14 companies to store carbon from industry emissions in depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea, covering around 12,000sq km (equivalent to the size of Yorkshire).
The sites could store up to 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, approximately 10% of UK annual emissions in 2021.
Shell, Perenco and ENI have all been awarded licences off the coast of Norfolk in sites which could form part of the Bacton Energy Hub – a carbon storage, hydrogen and offshore wind project, which could provide low-carbon energy for London and the South East for decades to come and help in the drive to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Other companies have been awarded licences to store carbon off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside, and Liverpool.
The announcement marks a significant step towards reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, while providing growth opportunities for energy workers and businesses. OEUK previously reported the CCS opportunity could be worth £100bn to local manufacturing employers by 2050.
The Climate Change Committee have said the development of UK-based CCS is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy and to meet the UK’s climate change targets. It is estimated the UK will need up to 100 such offshore sites if it is to meet net zero by 2050.
OEUK Sustainability and Policy Director Mike Tholen said:
“Carbon capture and storage will be a major tool in the fight against climate change and will drive economic growth. With the potential to store up to 78 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide underneath the UK’s oceans, the UK can lead the way.
“We have an oil and gas industry with the right expertise, skills, and people needed to make this a British success story, and these licences are another step towards achieving that goal.
“If we get this right, it could not only significantly reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, but position us as world leaders in the low carbon space – creating opportunities for UK people and businesses and playing on our industrial strengths.
“We will need 100 such sites or more to reach net zero, so we mustn’t stop here. The companies investing in nascent opportunities like carbon storage will require the cash flow from a stable and predictable oil and gas business to fund these technologies.
“That is why we need continued support from government across the whole energy landscape, and long-term, competitive energy policies that attract the investment and innovation we will need to make sure these solutions are being built in the UK, for the UK.”