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The launch of the UK’s first carbon storage licensing round has been hailed as an “important day on the path to net zero”.
Andy Samuel, the chief executive of the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), spoke out as the process of areas being offered for carbon capture and storage schemes got under way.
Sites being offered in this round include areas off the coast of Aberdeen, as well as Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire.
The level of interest that has already been expressed suggests there will be strong competition to win the licences.
Meanwhile, it could be the first of many licensing rounds – with estimates suggesting up to 100 carbon dioxide (CO2) stores could be needed if the UK is to meet its target of reaching net zero by 2050.
The carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes this could enable would see CO2 emissions from industry transported – either by ships or in pipelines – before being stored offshore, deep underground in geological formations.
Organisations now have 90 days to make an application, with the NSTA due to evaluate the bids based on their technical and financial criteria after September 13.
It is expected new licences will then be awarded in early 2023 – with the possibility some schemes could be up and running within four to six years of that.
Speaking as the licensing round opened, Mr Samuel said: “This is an important day on the path to net zero emissions.
“In addition to the huge environmental benefits of significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, the facilities will provide opportunities for many thousands of highly-skilled jobs.
“Carbon storage is going to be needed across the world. There is growing investor appetite and we are keen to accelerate development of the carbon storage sector so that the UK is well-positioned to be a global leader.
“The NSTA is ready to work with industry, government, regulators and others to deliver these exciting projects at pace.”
UK energy minister Greg Hands said the Government was determined to “make the UK a world leader in carbon capture”, adding that this “will be crucial in helping us reduce emissions and protect the viability and competitiveness of British industry”.
He said: “This licensing round is an important step in making this a reality, helping support new jobs across the UK and encouraging investment in our industrial heartlands.”
Will Webster, energy policy manager at Offshore Energies UK, said CO2 storage technology could prevent tens of millions of tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
He said: “Carbon capture technologies will be a key element in helping the UK reach net zero.
“It is particularly important for industry, especially 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.”
He added: “The UK’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.”
But Mr Webster added: “This is a long-term project – we want to be able to store 50 million tonnes of CO2 a 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.”