Illustration; Source: Westwood

Is UK at risk of falling short of its CCS targets despite potential to surpass them?

While some are questioning the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the net zero puzzle, as they believe it only serves to extend the life of fossil fuels, many others are embracing this technology as a decarbonization tool to navigate the energy transition journey to a carbon-free world. The UK is perceived to be one of the countries with the potential to exceed its CCS targets. However, Westwood Global Energy Group, an energy market research and consultancy firm, warns that delays, cancellations, and under-delivery pose a significant risk, which could derail Britain’s 2030 targets.

Illustration; Source: Westwood

In the wake of the UK’s first carbon storage licensing round, Westwood’s findings underscore the critical nature of setbacks in government funding, congested license work programs, and challenges in securing access to CO2. The company’s new report, ‘Despite sizable project pipeline, further delays could result in the UK missing CCS targets,’ highlights that Britain is on track to go over its upcoming carbon storage targets, based on currently reported project schedules.

Furthermore, there is potential for up to seven carbon storage sites by 2030 with a capacity of over 45 million tonnes per annum (MTPA), double the lower end of the country’s target. The company’s research uncovers that the UK is also well-placed against its 2035 ambitions and could reach more than double its 50 MTPA target.

Stuart Leitch, New Energies Research Manager at Westwood, commented: “While the forecast carries an optimistic outlook, project targets and reality can often differ. Delays and project under-delivery are not uncommon, and Westwood scenario analysis highlights the importance of the government’s support to ensure the prompt commissioning of projects to reach its own targets.”

The UK's carbon storage project pipeline of announced projects with delay to start-up; Source: Westwood
The UK’s carbon storage project pipeline of announced projects with delay to start-up; Source: Westwood

Westwood also looks into the implications of potential setbacks on the existing carbon storage project pipeline, unveiling that even minor delays will lead the UK to miss its 2030 targets. This research emphasizes the need for timely project completion by modeling a scenario where Track-1 clusters maintain phase 1 progress but have a two-year delay to subsequent phases and all other announced projects are delayed by two years.

Catherine Horseman-Wilson, Senior Analyst – NW Europe at Westwood, stated: “The industry is grappling with a series of challenges, from funding delays and congested work programs, to access to CO2 and co-location and infrastructure re-use difficulties, so the likelihood of delays can’t be ignored.

“The UK has a significant opportunity, with a strong capability to surpass its targets, but contingency planning will be a crucial element in securing its full potential, particularly in ensuring the strict adherence to schedules and maintaining a reliable CO2 supply.”