Photo: North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA)

Three organisations teaming up to unlock UK’s full carbon capture and storage potential

In a bid to assist the UK in achieving ambitious carbon capture and storage (CCS) targets, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), The Crown Estate (TCE), and Crown Estate Scotland (CES) have decided to renew their collaboration to explore the potential of CCS on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The NSTA revealed last Friday that the three organisations had reiterated their continued commitment to work together to help meet the UK government’s carbon storage targets of 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by 2030 and over 50 million tonnes by 2035. 

The UK’s offshore regulator informed that the UKCS has enormous potential as a critical energy and carbon abatement resource. In line with this, the renewed commitment recognises the pressing need to work together to realise that potential and make a significant contribution to net-zero and work on the emissions reduction targets agreed within the North Sea Transition Deal.

The NSA describes CCS as a rapidly evolving technology that can substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the global economy on an industrial scale, adding that the CCS is also widely recognised as integral to the UK meeting its climate change target of net zero emissions by 2050. 

The country’s regulator believes that a coordinated approach to managing the seabed is critical to enable the UK to unlock the full potential of CCUS in the UKCS, accelerate the path to net zero, and create lasting benefits. Due to this, work is already underway by the three organisations, government, and others to identify suitable seabed areas and subsurface geology for carbon storage, while being mindful of impacts on the marine environment, according to the NSTA.

The three organisations will focus on three specific areas to provide the clarity and certainty needed to progress CCS development at pace. In pursuit of facilitating future planning, the window for nominations to the NSTA for new areas for potential carbon storage – which was opened last year – will remain open until 13 May 2022. Afterwards, the NSTA intends to take a short pause before considering any further areas for potential carbon dioxide storage.

Furthermore, all nominations received within this window and existing licence applications to the NSTA – along with lease applications from developers sent to The Crown Estate or Crown Estate Scotland – will continue to be reviewed and the outcome will be announced by each organisation in due course.

All three organisations are exploring the optimal approach to carbon storage licensing and leasing, including the potential for future leasing and licensing rounds for offshore areas, in order to help meet the government’s targets and industry demand. The NSTA is responsible for the licensing, permitting and stewarding of offshore carbon storage sites, while TCE or CES are responsible for leasing the seabed.

Aside from applying for a carbon storage licence, provided by the NSTA, the developers are required to apply for a storage agreement for lease, granted by TCE or CES for the opportunity to develop carbon storage opportunities.

The NSTA also published updated carbon storage licence application guidance on 29 April 2022, detailing the application process and basis on which applications will be evaluated by the NSTA, including a technical marks scheme. The Crown Estate, on the other hand, published its approach to granting leases for offshore pipeline transportation, seabed and subsurface rights to developers for CO2  on the same date.

These three players have engaged in several ongoing collaborations. In February 2022, Crown Estate Scotland announced the details of its Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) offshore wind leasing process. The NSTA worked closely with Crown Estate Scotland during the design and delivery of INTOG. The collaboration will continue to progress to ensure the delivery of increased and efficient access to storage agreements for leases and carbon storage licences.

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Additionally, the NSTA, TCE and CES are continuing to work together across a range of other projects and cross-cutting issues – including the Offshore Wind and CCUS Co-location Forum – coming together with stakeholders such as the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), RenewableUK and the government to provide strategic coordination of co-location research and activity, helping to maximise the potential of the seabed for these two critical activities.

Moreover, additional cross-sector collaboration through the Energy Integration Project identified that energy integration technologies – offshore electrification, CCS, blue and green hydrogen – could contribute around 30 per cent of the UK emissions abatement needed.

In addition, these technologies are expected to support the expansion of offshore renewables, which could deliver a further contribution of around 30 per cent to the net-zero abatement target.