UK offers to award 20 carbon storage licences

May 18 2023

20 carbon storage licences at offshore sites, including some near Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire have been offered to twelve companies.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) launched the UK’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round in June 2022, with applications closing in September. The 20 licences in total are around 12,000 square kilometres in size, a little bigger than Yorkshire, the UK’s largest county.

A Carbon Storage Licence allows developers to appraise sites for storage, with an NSTA permit and a lease from The Crown Estate/Crown Estate Scotland subsequently required before storage activity can properly begin.

Once the new storage sites are in operation – and in some cases first injection could come in as soon as six years – they could make a significant contribution to the aim of storing up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, approximately 10% of total UK annual emissions, which were 341.5 million tonnes in 2021.

Ruth Herbert, Chief Executive at the CCSA commented, “Availability of permanent CO2 storage is a key requirement for achieving the UK’s net zero strategy. The CCSA’s Delivery Plan recommended that the government and industry rapidly bring additional storage capacity to a commercial stage of readiness.

“This first carbon storage licensing round from the NSTA is a vital step towards unlocking the UK’s full CO2 storage potential. Given the climate emergency, we hope this will be the first of many such rounds and that further sites around the UK will have the opportunity to apply in the near future.”

The offers come soon after the Chancellor’s Budget announcement that the Government is allocating up to £20 billion in support of developing carbon capture, usage and storage, starting with projects in the East Coast, Merseyside and North Wales.

He added that this would pave the way for CCS as the UK approaches 2050. This first carbon storage licensing round is likely to be the first of many as up to 100 CO2 stores could be needed for the UK to meet the net zero by 2050 target.

The licences include a range of geological store types and were selected following a process which considered attributes such as the geology, proximity to existing infrastructure – as is found at Bacton off the coast of Norfolk – and links to industrial clusters which are expecting carbon storage to help meet decarbonisation goals.

The need to share offshore space with other users of the seabed such as wind developers and petroleum operations was also considered as part of the NSTA’s licensing process, recognising the need for both early engagement and continued collaboration between existing licence and leaseholders where an area of the seabed is a key resource area for different sectors.

The future success of the CCS industry requires close co-operation between a number of organisations, and once a licence has been awarded by the NSTA, the licensee also needs to obtain a seabed lease from The Crown Estate or Crown Estate Scotland before a project can progress. Further consents and approvals will be required ahead of any appraisal activity taking place on carbon storage licences.

Stuart Payne, NSTA Chief Executive, said, “This is an exciting and important day. As a nation, we cannot meet our decarbonisation targets without carbon storage. This is net zero delivery in action."

“The awards we offer today could store around 10% of the UK’s emissions, and through our engagement with applicants, we will have committed work plans in place such as seismic surveys and drilling of wells – we are working with industry to move at real pace."

“The UK’s offshore waters remain the crown jewel of our energy mix, providing energy security, emissions reduction and carbon storage. This will require more and more integration and collaboration in a crowded space, and we are working closely with governments and agencies such as The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to ensure we maximise this amazing potential."

“We look forward to working with these licensees to make these projects a reality as soon as possible and to opening more carbon storage rounds in the near future – my thanks to our teams and industry for their great work, but this is just the beginning.”

North Sea Transition Authority

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