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UK government aims to corner global market in carbon capture

by Mark Cantrell
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The government has set out plans – backed by £20bn of investment – to make the UK a global leader in the carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS) market by 2035.

The plan – named the CCUS Vision – sets out how the UK will transition from early projects backed by government support to becoming a competitive market in this area by 2035, meaning UK companies will compete to build carbon capture facilities and sell their services to the world.

According to the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ), this is expected to boost the economy by £5bna year by 2050, and make the UK a pioneer in this technology while meeting the country’s net zero commitments in “a reasonable way that eases the financial burden on taxpayers”.

Claire Coutinho, the energy security secretary, said: “Thanks to the UK’s geology, skills and infrastructure, we are in a unique position to lead the way on carbon capture technologies.

“That is why we’re making one of the biggest funding commitments in Europe on carbon capture that will cut emissions from our atmosphere, while unlocking investment, creating tens of thousands of jobs and growing the UK economy.”

Lord Callanan, energy efficiency and green finance minister, added: “We need pragmatic answers to the carbon challenge, and with our infrastructure, skills and geology, the UK is in pole position to take advantage of game-changing carbon capture and storage technology.

“[W]e’re publishing a blueprint to deliver a world-leading UK carbon capture industry, so that we have a competitive market in this exciting new technology by the middle of the next decade.

“Backed by an unprecedented £20bn investment, this is also a pivotal milestone in our journey to net zero that will drive economic growth, unlock investment and create tens of thousands of jobs in our industrial heartlands.”

Carbon capture works by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) before it reaches the atmosphere and storing it safely underground – filling the spaces left by oil and gas extraction.

According to DESNZ, the UK holds a strategic advantage compared to other countries thanks to its “unique geology, skills and infrastructure as an island nation”. Furthermore, there is said to be enough space under the North Sea for up to 78bn billion tonnes of CO2.

Among its measures, the plan includes:

  • Moving to a competitive allocation process for carbon capture projects from 2027 to speed up the building of the UK’s CCUS sector
  • Creating the conditions for projects that cannot transport CO2 by pipeline to enter the market from 2025 onwards, using other forms of transport such as ship, road and rail
  • Establishing a working group led by industry to identify and adopt solutions to reduce the cost of capturing CO2

Industry reaction

Ruth Herbert, chief executive of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association, said: “We welcome the CCUS Vision, setting out a long-term strategy for the UK’s CCUS industry to be able to store over 50Mt a year by 2035 to support the decarbonisation of domestic industries and take advantage of export opportunities.

“It is great to see CO2 transport by ship, road and rail will be enabled from 2025 onwards, which will also support longer-term cross-border CO2 transport solutions.”

Hedvig Ljungerud, NSTA director of strategy, said: “The energy transition and the path to net zero cannot succeed without carbon storage. As the regulator, we welcome [the] announcement and look forward to supporting this growing industry as it benefits the UK’s economy and the fight against climate change.”

Louise Kingham, bp’s UK head of country and senior vice president of Europe, said: “We welcome the announcement of the UK government’s CCUS Vision, which sets out a bold plan for making the UK a global leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage, as well as the positive steps forwards announced for both Track 1 and Track 2 CCUS clusters. CCUS has an important role to play in helping the UK deliver on its net zero targets and bp is committed to continuing to make progress on its projects, and helping to ensure this vital industry can deliver on its significant potential.”

Mike Tholen, OEUK sustainability and policy director, said: “The UK is on the brink of a transformation that will allow us to provide carbon capture and storage facilities to industry here and to help our European neighbours. This is good news for tackling climate change and for boosting the UK economy.”

David Parkin, project director at Progressive Energy said: “[T]he CCUS Vision help sets a roadmap for longer term expansion of carbon storage, enabling a much broader range of industries across the region decarbonise and open up storage opportunities across the Irish Sea. This will enable vital industries, such as the cement and lime sector in the Peak District, to decarbonise through CCS in the medium term.”

Main image: namtipStudio/Shutterstock

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