N Sea Transition Authority awards 20 carbon licences

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) announced it has awarded 20 carbon storage licences, which it said could store up to 30m tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030.

The 20 licences in total are around 12,000 square kilometres in size.

“The drive to net zero emissions has taken a significant step forward today (18 May) with the offer of awards for 20 carbon storage licences at offshore sites, including some near Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire,” said the NSTA.

“Once the new storage sites are in operation – and in some cases first injection could come in as little as six years – they could make a significant contribution to the aim of storing up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year by 2030, approximately 10% of total UK annual emissions, which were 341.5 million tonnes in 2021.”

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

“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,” said the NSTA.

“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.”

NSTA CEO Stuart Payne 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.”

Gus Jaspert, managing director of marine at The Crown Estate, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome step forward in bringing the UK closer to offshore carbon injection, crucial to meeting the UK’s net zero targets.

“As managers of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The Crown Estate is committed to designing and delivering the required leasing process for CCUS developers, ensuring this works for all marine users and respects our vital coastal environments and habitats.

“We look forward to continuing to work with NSTA and other partners in this sector on developing this important market.”

Colin Palmer, director of marine at Crown Estate Scotland, said:  “The development of the vast carbon dioxide storage available to the UK will be vital to achieving the nation’s net zero targets and today’s announcement is a welcome step towards the greater use of this technology.

“Crown Estate Scotland is working closely with the NSTA, along with colleagues in The Crown Estate, Scottish & UK Governments, and interested project developers to develop appropriate access to seabed and enable greater deployment of CCS in Scottish waters, where it will complement the ambitious programme of offshore wind projects that could help transform the UK energy market.”