LONDON – Britain’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has opened the U.K.’s first carbon storage licensing round, comprising 13 new offshore areas.
These are located off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire in the northern, central and southern North Sea and East Irish Sea, and they include saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas field storage opportunities.
NSTA expects to issue further rounds in the future, estimating that 100 CO2 stores could be needed to meet the U.K. government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
The CO2 is then transported from where it was produced, via ship or through a pipeline, for storage offshore in deep-lying geological formations.
Areas on offer are said to provide appropriate conditions and proximity both to infrastructure that could be repurposed and industrial clusters pursuing carbon storage to help meet decarbonization aims.
The NSTA took into account issues such as co-location with offshore wind schemes, environmental concerns and potential overlaps with existing or future petroleum licenses.
Six carbon storage licenses are active on the U.K. Continental Shelf, which could collectively meet up to one-fifth of storage needs, the NSTA said, if they reach their maximum potential of up to 40 MM metric tons/year injection rates by the mid-2030s.
The application window for the new round closes on Sept.13, with any new licenses likely to be granted early next year. First CO2 injection could start within four to six years after licenses have been awarded.
However, successful bidders will need to obtain a lease from The Crown Estate or Crown Estate Scotland, depending on the location, before progressing their project.
The right skillset
Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) has endorsed the NSTA’s program, pointing out that developing CCS technologies was a critical part of last year’s North Sea Transition Deal, under which the offshore energy industry committed to work with the U.K. government to achieve net zero by 2050.
Will Webster, energy policy manager at OEUK, said CO2 storage technologies are critical for heavy industries, “which need a lot of energy and so produce a lot of CO2." This applies particularly to the cement and steel industries, petrochemical refineries and power generation.
“The U.K.’s oil and gas sector has a highly skilled workforce used to managing and transporting large volumes of gas safely, and they will have all the knowledge needed to make this technology work," Webster said. “This is a long-term project. We want to be able to store 50 MM metric tons/year by 2035 and continue expanding after that. That means we need a long-term commitment from government, a clear regulatory framework and business models that encourage early investment.”
Keith Wise, operations manager at OEUK, added: “Deploying CCUS will need the same range of skills and experience as the offshore oil and gas industry already possesses. That includes offshore engineering, geological and seismological sciences and many more. “