Carbon emissions with sunset

First companies awarded carbon storage licences in the UK

Image credit: Dreamstime

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has announced the list of companies that have accepted licences following the UK’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round.

The UK has awarded 14 companies 21 carbon capture and storage licences in oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers in the North Sea and East Irish Sea, spanning 12,000 km².

The locations could store up to 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, approximately 10 per cent of the UK’s annual emissions, which amounted to 341.5m tonnes of CO2 in 2021.

Shell, Perenco and Eni have all been awarded licences off the coast of Norfolk in sites that could form part of the Bacton Energy Hub. This would be a carbon storage, hydrogen and offshore wind project that 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,” according to the NSTA. 

Other locations are at sites off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside and Liverpool.  

“Carbon storage will play a crucial role in the energy transition, storing carbon dioxide deep under the seabed and playing a key role in hydrogen production and energy hubs,” said Stuart Payne, chief executive at NSTA.

“It is exciting to award these licences, and our teams will support the licensees to bring about the first injection of carbon dioxide as soon as possible. We will also continue to work with industry and government to enable further licensing activity and back the UK’s drive to net zero emissions.”

Ruth Herbert, chief executive at the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said: “With the potential to store almost 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in these new locations, starting to develop these sites paves the way for a cleaner and more sustainable future. The next step is a carbon capture deployment plan to enable us to fully exploit our future CO2 storage capacity.”

Industry body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) said the NSTA’s carbon storage licence announcement “marks a significant step towards reducing the nation’s carbon footprint while providing growth opportunities for energy workers and businesses”.

Overall, the NSTA estimates up to 100 storage licences will be needed in time to meet the government’s target of storing 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by 2030, and over 50 million tonnes by 2035. 

The government has pledged £20bn towards these initiatives, which is considered critical in unlocking the remainder of private investment.

However, earlier this month, an analysis by Wood Mackenzie said the difficulty in securing public and private investment would make it very difficult for the UK to meet its 2030 carbon capture and storage (CSS) targets. 

In the UK the CCS sector could be worth £100bn to the economy by 2050, according to an OEUK report. 

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