Carbon capture and storage – the road to net zero

Source: press release, 1 February 2023

illustration: NSTA
illustration: NSTA

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has responded to the rapid growth of the UK’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry by setting up a dedicated carbon transportation and storage team.

The team will oversee the delivery of offshore carbon transportation and storage developments, following successful exploration and appraisal. This is another important milestone in the NSTA’s support of the industry on the path to net zero.

The Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget report and the NSTA-led Energy Integration Project found that CCS is vital for meeting net-zero targets. The government has also set a target to capture 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030 for the UK to reach net zero by 2050.

Additionally, a successful CCS industry could support an estimated 50,000 jobs and enable further low-carbon technologies, such as blue hydrogen – producing hydrogen from natural gas whilst capturing and storing the CO2.

In March 2022, the North Sea Transition Authority took on its new name to underline the growing importance of the Energy Transition, alongside the continuing role of oil and gas.

The UK’s first ever carbon storage licensing round was launched in June last year, offering 13 areas for which 26 bids were made. It is expected that licences will be offered for award in the coming weeks.

However, this round is expected to be the first of many, with estimates that up to 100 separate stores could be required for the UK to meet its domestic storage requirements.

A new NSTA carbon storage development team, headed by Alistair Macfarlane, has been established to steward the industry from the point of site characterisation to permit application and beyond as it develops and grows.

The team, which includes experienced reservoir engineers and geoscientists, will work with operators on their development plans, execution of their work programs and, following commencement of CO2 injection, ensuring projects are operating as per the conditions of their storage permit.

The existing Exploration & New Ventures Team will continue to handle the UK storage portfolio, execute licensing rounds, and steward industry exploration and appraisal work programmes from the point of licence award to the end of site characterisation.

Alistair Macfarlane, NSTA Area Manager, says, “The importance of carbon capture and storage as part of the energy transition and helping the UK to meet net zero cannot be overestimated. I am very excited to be heading this team and building a centre of excellence to deliver the regulatory role the NSTA has as efficiently and smoothly as possible to support this growing industry which can play a crucial role in supporting the move towards net zero and providing skilled jobs.”

Jo Bagguley, NSTA Principal Regional Geologist, says, “The NSTA is progressing evaluations of applications in the UK’s ground-breaking First Carbon Storage Round at pace, and we hope to be in a position to make offers of award within weeks. Pending award, many of these licences should result in substantial exploration and appraisal activity over the next several years, resulting in better characterisation of subsurface storage sites that can subsequently be passed into the development cycle.”